Diwali tour part 6 – Kumbakonam

Long long ago, during the great deluge, Brahma collected all the seeds of creation in a pot of nectar, which floated down the water, and finally came to rest at one place. The story goes on, with Siva appearing as Kiratamurthy (hunter) along with his wife Parvati, and shattering the pot with his arrow. The nectar spilled over, creating a pool, and the broken pot took the form of a Shiva lingam. Since the lingam originated from a pot (Kumbham), and was the fist form taken at the beginning of creation, this lingam came to be known as Adi Kumbheswarar and this place is known as Kumbakonam (Kumbham = pot, and Konam = crooked, for the pot broke crookedly). The pool formed by the nectar is the holy Mahamagham tank, where, it is believed, the nine holy rivers come to take a bath and purify themselves once every 12 years. This is celebrated on a grand scale, and thousands and thousands of devotees arrive here to have a dip in this sacred pond on that day.

For a small city, Kumbakonam has an amazing number of temples, most of them huge. On almost every road, you come across at least a couple of them. It is not surprising, for there are a number of temples connected to the legend of the pot of nectar, and there are others which are related to the visions and experiences of the large number of holy men who came to this holy city in their quest for knowledge or liberation.

There are six major Shiva temples in Kumbakonam, all related to the pot of nectar shattered by Shiva as Kiratamurthy. These are:

1. Adi Kumbeswarar – the pot of nectar itself,

2. Nageswarar – the bilva leaf in the pot fell here,

3. Someswarar – the thread tying the pot (also known as Kudanthai Kaaronam)

4. Abimugeswarar – the coconut in the pot,

5. Gautameswarar – the sacred thread (also called Yagnopaveeteswarar), and

6. Bana Pureeswarar – it was here that Shiva broke the pot with an arrow (Baanam).

(An interesting thing about this legend is the similarity with the legend of Gokarna, and the lingam that Ravana brought from Kailas. For more details, see my blog on Gokarna)

There are other Shiva temples which are not directly connected with the pot of nectar, but important nevertheless for other reasons. Some of them are:

1. Kasi Viswanathar – an Abhimana Sthalam, temple of Nava Kannigais

2. Kalahastheeswarar – this temple has a unique idol of Shiva as Nataraja, dancing the Ananda Tandavam along with his wife Parvati.

This is not only a city of huge and popular Shiva temples, but there are also an equal number of temples dedicated to Vishnu. The most important of these are:

1. Sarangapani Temple

2. Chakrapani Temple

3. Ramaswamy Temple

4. Varaha Perumal Temple

5. Varadaraja Perumal Temple

There are also other Vishnu Temples in Kumbakonam, such as:

1. Gopalaswamy Temple

2. Veda Narayana Perumal Temple

3. Koorathazhwar Temple

4. Sara-Narayana Perumal Temple

5. Ramanujar Temple

6. Navaneetha Krishna Temple

7. Pattabhi Rama Temple

8. Srinivasa Perumal Temple

9. Krishnan Kovil

There is also a temple to Ganesha which is on a first floor level, accessible by steps, known as the Ucchi Pillayar Temple.

Here, I have mentioned about 23 temples which I came across while searching for information about Kumbakonam. This is by no means a complete list of temples in this holy city, for it is believed that there are more than 80 temples here, all of them ancient, with a story of their own.

Here are the temples we visited, in the order in which we visited them.


Kasi Viswanathar Temple

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip
This temple is very close to the Mahamagham tank, and the lingam here is a swayambhu. The importance of this temple is the belief that it is here that the Nava Kannigais (nine maidens representing the nine rivers – Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Kaveri, Godavari, Narmada, Krishna, Tungabhadra and Sarayu) arrive to bathe in the Mahamagham tank once every 12 years. The interesting thing about this temple is the presence of a sanctum dedicated to the Nava Kannigais, as soon as we enter the temple. Here, it is believed, one must first offer one’s respects to them before going on to pray to the main deity Kasi Viswanathar and his consort Visalakshi.
From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

Nageswarar Temple

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip
The main deity here is Naganathar – the lingam is a swayambhu, believed to be the bilva leaf in the pot of nectar, which was turned into a lingam by Shiva himself – and his consort is Periyanayaki.

The most interesting thing about this temple, something that both Samhith and I liked very much was the presence of 3 statues – the king, the queen and the prince, all on elephants, adorning the entrance to one of the sanctums.
From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip
From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

Sarangapani Temple

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip
This must surely be one of the most beautiful temples in Kumbakonam. We visited this temple late in the evening, and were in a hurry to get back, but given the choice, I would have spent hours, or maybe the entire day here.

The temple is shaped like a chariot, complete with wheels, and elephants and horses pulling it. The beauty of the temple architecture has to be seen to be believed.

The main deity, Sarangapani, is actually the Utsava Moorthy, holing a bow in his hand (in Sanskrit, saranga means bow). His consort is Komalavalli Thayar.

The Moolavar (deity in stone) is Pallikondar – reclining on Adisesha, with his head at a higher level than his feet. He is flanked on both sides by Sridevi and Bhudevi, and the Seven Rivers (Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri) pay obeisance at his feet.

While circumambulating the temple, there is a sort of basement, or underground sanctum of Patala Venkatachalapathy.


Ramaswamy temple

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip
This temple, known as the southern Ayodhya, has beautiful idols of Rama and Seetha depicted in coronation posture. Lakshmana stands next to Rama, holding a bow and arrows; they are flanked by Bharatha holding an Umbrella and Shatrughna holding a fan. This is the only temple where I have seen idols of Rama, Seetha and Lakshmana along with Bharatha and Shatrughna.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The walls of the temple are decorated with beautiful paintings depicting the Ramayana. Every scene is painted, right from the birth of Rama to his coronation. I wish I had time to study each and every painting in detail, but failing that, I succumbed to temptation, and clicked a couple of photographs of the paintings. They will remind me to make another trip to this beautiful temple, at leisure.

Adi Kumbeswarar Temple

The main temple of Kumbakonam is truly huge, and the entry is through a long corridor which seems to be the main marketplace of the city. Even at 8PM, this market was bustling, and the beautiful brassware and earthen toys on display beckoned to me, as did shops filled till the ceiling with glass bangles. Truly, Kumbakonam deserves much more time than I had estimated!

The main deities Adi Kumbeswarar and Mangalambigai are housed in separate temples, each of which is beautiful, and have been much written about. There is not an inch of pillar or wall which is bereft of decoration. The kind of sculptures seen here are truly wonderful.

Someswarar Temple


The main deities here are Someswarar and Soma Sundari Amman. This is believed to be the place where the thread tying the pot fell. However, the most interesting thing about this temple is not the main deity, but the idol of Muruga, which is in the outer Pragaram of the temple. This idol of Subrahmanya is unique, for he is depicted wearing Sandals (padukas), something not seen anywhere else. This is one of the less-visited temples, and the priest was only too eager to show us around. He was delighted when we asked him about the Padukas, for he said that not many people knew about it. Incidentally, it is thanks to Outlook Traveller and their book of 101 Pilgrimages, through which I came to know about this.

Chakrapani Temple

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip
This is another interesting temple in Kumbakonam, and the last one we visited. Here, the main deity is Chakrapani, depicted in the Sudarshana Chakra, with eight arms, holding different weapons in each arm. His consort is Sudarshanavalli Thayar. Brahma, Surya and Agni are depicted as worshipping the lord. According to legend, Surya once competed with Vishnu to decide who was brighter. Vishnu appeared in the form of a Chakra and put down the pride of Surya.

The best way to visit all (or at least most) of these temples is to hire a local auto or a small car. Avoid using huge cars or Tempo travellers to go around the city, for they are sure to get stuck somewhere, and lose valuable time. We visited all these temples within 2 ½ hours in an auto.


Where to Stay and Eat

There are a number of good hotels in Kumbakonam, and many agree to bookings on the phone without any down payment. We stayed at the Kasi International, where we have stayed earlier too, and had a wonderful experience. The hotel is good, and worth every penny we pay for the rooms. Incidentally, we found rooms in Kumbakonam cheaper than the ones at Mayiladudurai or Thiruvarur. The hotel has a good network of auto and car drivers, who took us around the city at a reasonable rate. Right opposite the hotel is the Mami Mess, where the lady of the house herself cooks food, and has helpers to serve guests. This is one of the best places to eat at Kumbakonam, for the food is authentic south-Indian, home made, wholesome and affordable. This was one place where Samhith enjoyed eating, for he found all his favourite food here – idlis, puris, pongal, and even milk, just the way he likes it.

Comments

  1. pretty cool stuff here thank you!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice blog.In south india has many temples.especially tamilnadu.Kumbakonam travels is a pioneer in the travel industry of tamilnadu.The 'Temple City of India'. We are in the industry for the past few years .We own a fleet of vehicles, which includes all latest model A/c and non A/c cars,bus,indica,indigo,innova,tempo traveler, with dedicated staff and world class services at any time.

    ReplyDelete

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