Friday, August 31, 2012

Visit To A Unique Temple in South India!

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o82ztRiCJ8k

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

26 comments :

ashok said...

Interesting...never heard of a yama temple before!

Sandhya said...

ASHOK: Deity is unique. Architecture is very simple, I felt, after seeing many temples with astonishing architectures, here, in our Tamilnadu. 5 storied Gopuram. The pillars are also with simple designs. But this is an ancient temple, which is a great attraction.

SG said...

Thanks for introducing this beautiful temple. Just a doubt. I thought sadhabishekam is at 80th birthday. You have mentioned 70th birthday.

Roshmi Sinha said...

Nice post, Sandhyaji!

There may have been many Yamadharmaraja temples in the past, but most of them probably have been destroyed by the marauding hordes that came in from the west.

"'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!"

I think these are all later day additions and ‘amendments’ – if you know what I mean; that came about when our faith became very ritualistic.

"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."

Hidden within most of these stories and legends (perhaps) are actual stories and clues of creation and/or other important events that happened in the past – since time immemorial. We have not been able to decipher.

Sandhya said...

SG: Yes, that is 80th birthday! It was my mistake. Will correct it now. Thanks a lot for informing me, SG Sir.

Des said...

That's a lot of information, Maami. I should also get to know the historical information about temples I visit. But these days, I rarely visit Temples.

One thing I don't like about the ritual of this temple is - Why commit sins and then try washing it off?

As one of the above commenter has said, the stories do include some historical (important) info found by our ancestors, but we are not able to understand it fully!

Perhaps such information might give us answers to important questions like formation of the earth, time, space, etc, which science is finding too difficult to solve.

Destination Infinity

Destination Infinity said...

That's a lot of information, Maami. I should also get to know the historical information about temples I visit. But these days, I rarely visit Temples.

One thing I don't like about the ritual of this temple is - Why commit sins and then try washing it off?

As one of the above commenter has said, the stories do include some historical (important) info found by our ancestors, but we are not able to understand it fully!

Perhaps such information might give us answers to important questions like formation of the earth, time, space, etc, which science is finding too difficult to solve.

Destination Infinity

Swaram said...

Sakkath post Sandhya :) I luv visiting and reading about such places too. Such an informative and interesting post :)

Zephyr said...

I have visited this temple when we had gone to Kumbakonam several years ago. But unlike many pilgrims and travellers, I don;t remember to record the details and legends behind them. I should begin to do it. Thanks for taking me back there :)

KParthasarathi said...

A very detailed and interesting write up that gives all the information and the special features of this holy place.I could see a touch of humour at some places in your post that brought smile.After reading this post I get a feel of having visited the place.Thank you.
If you haven't written about Gunaseelam, pl do so for our benefit.

manjujoglekar said...

What an interesting post, Sandhya! I had not heard of a temple for Yamadharma before.

Such lovely stories and legends, too, about the temple. I enjoyed reading them. :)

manjujoglekar said...

What an interesting post, Sandhya! I had not heard of a temple for Yamadharma before.

Such lovely stories and legends, too, about the temple. I enjoyed reading them. :)

Sandhya said...

ROSHMI SINHA: Have you visited Hampi? I felt very sad looking at the destruction by the Mughals. Whatever is remaining itself is overwhelming.

Haha, maybe you are right, Roshmi!

I am always fascinated at your thought flows, Roshmi. It sounds logical.

Thank you, Roshmi.


DISTINATION INFINITY: Try to visit ancient temples, D.I. They are interesting.

Oh, we commit sins, knowingly and unknowingly, D.I. These legends make people repent for their wrong doings. It will prick their/our conscience!

We never had good historical writers like the Europian or Western countries had and we don't give much importance to history. Nothing is documented properly.


SWARAM: Thank you, Swaram!


ZEPHYR: I have started doing it only now, after I started writing blogs, Zephyr! Thank you!


K.PARTHASARATHY: I had written about Trichy temples once and Gunaseelam temple information can be seen there: http://maradhimanni.blogspot.in/2009/03/temples-trichy-ii.html

If you visit temples in the Kumabakonam-Mayavaram area at a stretch, you tend to forget or differentiate between temples to remember them!

Thank you, Partha Sir!


MANJU: Thank you, Manju!

murthi sathya said...

Dear Manni,wonderful biog certain things are known by reading ay how thank u very much for the information given to others.70th birth dAy is called Beema Ratha Shanthi
m.sathyamurthi

Toby in India said...

Hello dear Sandhya, another well written and documented story you wrote. It gives me long-distance introduction in the wonders of temple life and HinduGods. Thanks for that. I hope all is well with you and your family. I will wait for the next blog. Warm greetings Toby

kanagu said...

Never thought there would be a temple for Yama with such an interesting legend.. thanks for sharing :)

Even Ganga has a legend in this temple. Very interesting :) will try to watch the link attached :)

Rahul Bhatia said...

That was really interesting, Sandhya:)

Sandhya said...

M.SATHYAMURTHY: Welcome to my blog!

I know! I forgot about it when I wrote it!

Thanks for the comment.


TOBY: Nice to see your comment here, Toby! All are fine here. Back to work? When are you coming here again?


KANAGU: Seeing you after a long time, Kanagu!

The video is not very clear but should take effort to understand what he says. He says what I have written here.


RAHUL BHATIA: Thank you, Rahulji!

Hema said...

I have heard about this temple only through kumudam jothidam.. he would suggest it as a parigara sthalam for good health and also for those who have lost their lives.. and he had also given a mrithyunjaya slogam for shiva sung by markandeyar, which is also very popularly recited at this temple, being there is a connection between, yama, markandeyar and shiva.. you can find a copy of it when you go there..

Bikramjit said...

maybe god willing one day .. If Yamadharmaraja lets me live that long .. will try to visit the temple ..

so much info , thank you , bookmark this page

Bikram's

Sandhya said...

HEMA: The Kurukkal didn't mention about Mrithyunjaya, Hema. Did you see the video. He said the same things to us. Mrithyunjaya japam etc. is done at Thirukkadaiyur. My relatives did their Shashtiaaptha poorthi at that temple.


BIKRAM: Yamadharmaraja has heard your prayer. He will make you visit him sometime, Bikram!

sm said...

heard about this temple
thanks for the pic
first time see this pic

Sandhya said...

SM: Pictures were borrowed ones! I had forgotten to take my camera and find it difficult to take pictures in sunlight. The mobile screen is not visible! Normally, no temple allows, i.e. ancient temple, allows people to take pictures of the deities. So it didn't strike for me to take Yama's picture. The small sannidhi was outside and we were waiting for the door to open after lunch! Hmmm...learning lessons!

Ajay Kumar said...

India's four southern states to be specific Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu pull in various national and global tourists all through the year as they award a plenty of extensively lovely voyage ends like temples in South India Tour

P.N. Subramanian said...

Very interesting account of this Yama's temple. I was not aware of this. May be I visit this temple ub October and the informations contained here would be handy. Thanks.

Sandhya said...

AJAY KUMAR: Welcome to my blog, Ajay Kumar!

South India is famous for ancient temples which have got good architecture.


P.N.SUBRAMANIAN: Please visit this temple and write your views!

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