|Shri Vanjiyam Vaanjinathar Temple, Nannilam near Kumbakonam.|
I have never heard of a temple for Yamadharmaraja until now...the god who takes our lives. My brother in law had heard about this temple in a TV show, During this year's temple visit, we combined this temple because it is believed that this place is equal to Kashi Vishwanath Temple in North India. This temple, Shri Vanjiyam Vaanjinathar temple, is also called 'poorva janma paapa parihaara sthal/Mukthi kshetra', means, if we visit this temple, the Lord Shiva will excuse all the sins we and our ancestors have made through many generations! We thought we will give it a try! Anyway, Yama is sitting nearby and it will be easy for him to pass on the instructions! And I love to visit the ancient temples of our country, esp. in South India, which are famous for their beautiful architecture. We can feel the vibrations of years of prayers here. My husband is from Lalgudi, Trichy and I always felt that my in-laws would have walked through the praharams (the walking space around the main temples) like we do now! Now, let me write about this unique temple and the legends surrounding it.
Shri Vanjiyam temple is situated at Nannilam, 35 Kms. from Kumabakonam via Thiruvarur-Nannilam route.. It took around 6 hours by road, from Chennai plus time for breakfast and lunch. The temple is supposed to be 2,600 years old. The main deity is Lord Shiva and the Shivalinga is facing both west and east and has got two Nandis (Shiva's vaahana - transport!) on both sides. The legend is that during the great Pralaya (the great deluge), the Linga which was facing west until then, turned to the east to facilitate Surya (the Sun god) to worship him! So pooja is performed on both sides. The Linga is Swayambhu linga (formed by itself) and is one of the 6 Shivasthalams along the Cauvery river. This Linga is the oldest among the 64 Lingas in the world.
The goddess of the shrine is Mangaladevi. She is in a standing posture. It is believed that this goddess is Durga in the morning, Lakshmi in the afternoon and Saraswathi in the evening. She is dressed up accordingly. Morning in red saree, afternoon green and white saree in the evening. Navaraathri pooja is special here.
|Yamadharmaraja at Shri Vanjiyam Temple|
Now, comes the interesting part. This temple was specially created (as per legend) for Yamadharmaraja by Lord Shiva. Yama once got very frustrated because he thought he had sinned by killing so many people for a long time, though it was his duty. He thought that people feared him because of that. He wanted everyone to like him like they did Ganesha! He took advice from Brahma and did penance at the bank of cauvery river at the Gandharanyam (sandal wood forest). Lord Shiva was pleased and ordered for a shrine exclusively for Yama, where even Ganesha who is worshipped first in all the Shiva temples will be done so after Yama is worshipped. As per Yama's wish Shiva also resided there and Yama became his vaahana (transport) on the salvation day when Lord Shiva granted his wish which was on Maasi maasam (Tamil month which comes from mid February to mid March) Bharani nakshatra (one of the 27 stars of Hinduism). On this day special poojas are performed at the shrine. Chitragupta, who is the ledger keeper for Yama also is sitting beside him at the shrine (the small deity on the left). The deity faces the South.
Because Yama did penance at the Sandal forest, the Sthala Vrukha is Sandal wood tree. Normally, Lord Shiva is worshipped with Vilva leaves, but here, it is Sandalwood tree leaves. The priest asked us to keep the leaves in our locker (he gave the leaves to us after the archana pooja).
This temple has got a huge tank which was dry when we went there and is called Gupta Ganga. River Ganga was once worried because she thought that so many people bathed in her water for taking off their sins (Poorva janma paapa parihaara) and all those sins were accumulated there. She approaches Shiva for advice. He asks her to take a bath at Vanjiyam tank to purify herself. It is said that only one part of her is in Kaashi and the rest 999 parts are in this Gupta Ganga where she got herself purified. So, a dip in this tank will purify us from all the past sins. Doing Tharpana for our pithru (Hindu ritual for their dead ancestors) is said to be special in this place.
This temple is famous for celebrating Shashtiaptha Poorthi (completion of 60th birthday) and Sadhaabhishekam (80th birthday). The other place to this ritual, is Thirukkadaiyur. This is one of the 7 Pithru Kadan Nivarthi Sthalam (absolution of ancestral debts). We can perform Thila homam etc. for our ancestors like we do at Rameshwaram, Kaashi, Gaya, Thiruvenkaadu, Triveni Sangamam, Thilarpanapuri etc. It is also said that one visit to this temple is equal to 100 visits to Kaashi.
The temple is open from 6 am to 12 pm and then opens at 3.30 pm (to 8 pm). We reached there at 2.30 and so waited until it was opened. The priest asked us to visit the Gupta Ganga Tank first. This is the way the gods should be visited here. Then he took us to Yama's shrine. We did archana there with coconut, banana etc. He gave us vibhooti. He asked us not to take home, vibhooti or the coconut. So, first importance is given to Yama! A small sannidhi was there for our Lord Ganesha (Vennai Ganesha - butter Ganesha) at the entrance to the Shiva sannidhi. We just folded our hands in front of him because we had to run behind the Kurukkal! Normally, Ganesha is important in all the shrines! People apply butter on his stomach here and after the pooja, consume it and all the stomach ailments will get cured, it seems.
Then he took us to the Shiva sannidhi. The Linga is quite huge. The Kurukkal (priest) narrated the sthala puraanam (story of the temple). You can have a look at the video of the Sthala puranam which is in Tamil here:
Then did archana at the Mangalambika shrine. Next was Raahu Kethu sannidhi. This temple hasn't got the navagraha sannidhi. But separate sannidhis for Shani and Raahu Kethu. Raahu and Kethu are in a single vigraha. A human body below the head of a pancha mukha sarpa (5 headed snake). This temple is one of the Raahu Kethu paapa parihara Kshetra, like Thirunageshwaram. Special poojas are performed during Raahu Kaala.
Yoga Bhairava Sannidhi is also special here. He is in a sitting posture without his vaahana, the dog, which is rare. Pooja is performed with Vanni leaves to this deity. It is believed that these leaves if consumed, cures our nervous problems.
The inner praahaaram has got the statues of 63 Saivaite nayanmars/saints.
Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi had a disagreement once and they came to Lord Shiva for advice. Lord Shiva united them together here at Vanjiyam. Vaanjai means 'love'. So this place is called Vanjipuram/Vanchipuram...Shri Vanchipuram or in Tamil, Thiruvanchipuram. If you visit this temple, you will get married soon if you are not yet married!
We saw a Sannidhi for Mahishaasura Mardhini who will protect us from all evils. Worshipping her with 108 lotus flowers during raahu kaalam is special here. Separate sannidhi for Lakshmi also was there.
Normally, poojas are stopped in the temples if some death happened in or near the temple. But they are not stopped in this temple!
Three more holy tanks are there and if we take dips in those tanks, we will be relieved of Naga dosha, Brahmahattya dosha etc. We didn't visit this area, so, am vague about this.
Like Vaideeshwaran koil, the compound wall is very high and there are two walls. I noticed, Nandis were there on top of the compound walls like Vaideeshwaran temple, but in pairs with some distance in between! I think people were not fat like us in the earlier days because most of them did 3, 5, 7, 9 and 21 pradakshinas (rounds) every morning...early morning. They stayed healthy. Most of the ancient temples in Tamil nadu are huge.
While coming back via Tricy, we came across one more temple, Thiruvattur Shiva temple, which is also very ancient and huge temple. But it was closed. Will wait till next year to visit this place!
We went straight to Shri Vanjipuram from Chennai and then went to Trichy and stayed in a hotel (Ramya's, which was very good and their breakfast with so many items...hmmm, I still remember the taste!). Next day we visited our Gunaseelam temple, Vayalur temple etc. and came back home.
Shri Vanjiyam has got a vegetarian mess at Sannidhi street. I think, you may have to inform them earlier if possible. Otherwise you can stay at Thiruvarur hotels and visit here.
The temple phone no. is: 04366 228305
Mess phone no.: 91 98947 26839
Picture courtesy: Shamala Krishnan