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Ladakh - Planning The Trip

Over 2000 Km by road, in around 10 days. Stunning landscapes, wonderful people. That sums up our Ladakh trip. But how did it actually work? How did we make it happen? Read on to find out!  Leh, the capital of Ladakh , is accessible by air and road. Flying into Leh is the easiest, and time-saving option, while the road is the time consuming one, but with the added advantage of driving past some of the most beautiful landscapes in our country. Each option has much to recommend it, and we chose the road for just one reason – altitude sickness. Altitude sickness was one of my biggest concerns, since I suffer from motion-sickness. Yes, I do travel a lot, but that is despite my condition, and, over the years, have learnt how to handle it. I struggled with it when we visited Nathu-La in Sikkim, and wondered if I would be able to manage a week at the even higher altitudes that we would encounter in Ladakh. This was the reason we stuck to a basic plan, of only 9 days in Ladakh, though we

Diwali Tour Part 15 – Saptha Vidanga Sthalams

Muchukunda Chakravarthi was a great and valorous king. He was once approached by Indra for help during the war between Devas and Asuras. Muchukunda gladly agreed to help the lord of the Devas, and joined in the war. Finally, with Muchukunda’s aid, the Devas succeeded in routing the Asuras, and Indra was extremely grateful to the king. He offered the king a gift of his choice, and Muchukunda, a devout man, asked for the lingam worshipped by Indra. Indra was stunned. He did not want to part with his precious lingam, but the king wouldn’t accept anything else. He finally decided on a deception, and showed Muchukunda seven lingams and asked him to choose the one he wanted. Muchukunda was a smart king, and prayed to Shiva to identify the correct lingam. Shiva was pleased and helped him identify the original lingam prayed to by Indra. Indra was so impressed by this that he gifted all the seven lingams to the king. Muchukunda returned to earth with the seven lingams and installed them at various places in his kingdom. The original one he kept at the temple at Thiruvarur, and the others at Thirunallar, Vedaranyam, Thiruvaimur, Thrirukkaravasal, Thirukkuvalai and Nagapattinam. These seven temples are collectively known as Saptha Vidanga Sthalams. Vidanga means something that has not been chiseled out. These seven lingams are believed to be divine – not made by chisels. Normally, it is the top portion of the lingam – the ellipse which is believed to be swayambhu. The base – avudayar- is made by hand. In all these seven lingams, the whole lingam – the base as well as the top portion – form a single piece, and are believed to have appeared just the same way, without being made, and hence the name. All the seven lingams are of different sizes, though they are made of the same material – maragatham – or emerald. However, it looks more like Jade than emerald, as it is translucent. The biggest one is at Thirunallar, while the one at Thiruvarur is of medium size. However, it must be mentioned that these two are the only two of the original lingams left. I am not too sure of the originality of the 5 other lingams, because at 2 temples, we were told that the originals had been stolen ages ago, and the lingams presently there had been installed by saints in their place. At one temple, the new lingam was to be installed the next month. We were unable to see the lingams at the remaining 2 temples, and hence cannot say anything. The two lingams at Thiruvarur and Thirunallar are however worth a trip.

An interesting thing about all these temples is that the Vidangar is believed to rule over all the planets, and the Navagrahas are seen in a single file facing the lingam. In some temples, they are in the usual 3X3 matrix, but all of them still face the lingam.

At all these temples, the main deity of the temple, the stone lingam has a different legend connected to it, as the temple is obviously older than the legend of the Vidangars. The Vidangar is considered the main deity and the Utsavar is Somaskandar – Shiva and Parvati with Muruga in the centre. The man deity is also called Tyagesar or Thyagarajar at all these temples.

The Vidangars are taken out from a secure safe in the Somaskandar sannidhi at the Abhishekam times twice every day (the time varies from temple to temple). At all other times, the Vidangar is kept under lock and key. You can see the lingam only if you visit the temple at the exact time. No amount of pleading can get you a darshan at other times. Only at one of the temples, the priest offered to show us the lingam if we paid him money. At all the other places, they were very strict about the rules.


Thiruvarur

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The temple at Thiruvarur is absolutely huge, and to describe it, I will need to write a blog solely about it. However, that can wait, for the Vidangar is the main deity here.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The deity in the main sanctum of the temple – the one you can see at all times of the day – is Valmikanathar. This is a swayambhu lingam, a stone covered with ant hills of white ants. It is believed that Vishnu performed prayers to Shiva at this place. The abhishekam to the deity is performed at 8 AM and 5PM everyday, and the ant hills remain unaffected!

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

This is the most important of the Vidangars, and it is a rare treat to watch the abhishekam to this beautiful lingam. As the milk flows over the translucent green stone, amid the chanting of mantras, even the atheist will feel some kind of attraction which might actually be devotion and faith. The Vidangar abhishekam takes place at 8:30AM and 5:30PM everyday. Go there an hour earlier and talk to the priest. You can see the other deities in the temple and stay for the abhishekam, which takes less than 5 minutes. Go early so that you do not miss this unique event.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The goddess has a separate temple to herself, which is built according to the Srividya Mantram. She is named Kamalambal, and sits in the yogic posture of meditation, one leg on top of the other.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The temple is a marvel of architecture as well as sculpture. The list of beautiful works here can just go on and on. In brief, the other deities are Runa Rana Mochanar, who is believed to save us from debt and health problems; Mahishasura Mardhini, who is exceptionally beautiful; Kaatchi Koduthavar or Rishabha Vahana devar – Shiva as a cowherd – a beautiful piece of art; two forms of Saraswati – one an idol and the other an Akshara Peetham – a figure of Saraswati made from the Srividya mantram. There are two shrines to Chandikeswarar – one is the normal one, who is in all Shiva temples, and the other is the Yama Chandikeswarar – the one who performed Yama’s duty during his absence (when he was punished at Thirukkadaiyur).

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

This is the only temple celebrating ‘Nithya Pradosham’. In all Shiva temples, the Pradosha puja on the specific days during the evening is a special puja, when the lingam is bathed with various materials. Here, this abhishekam takes place everyday at evening during the Pradosham time.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

Right opposite the temple is a lake with a temple in the centre. Every day, after 5:30PM, the lingam in the temple is worshipped to. From 5PM, a boat service is available to take devotees to this temple.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

This temple is worth spending a whole day in. start early in the morning with a visit to the shrines, which itself will take hours. Then spend some time in a museum inside the temple complex. After lunch, when the temple is closed, have a siesta, and then proceed for a boat ride and the evening puja in the temple on the lake. The day will be over before you know it!


Thirunallar

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

I have already described Thirunallar among the Navagraha Sthalams. You can read about it here.

The Vidangar at Thirunallar is the largest one among the seven, and is about a foot high including the avudayar. This is called the Naga Vidangar. The abhishekam is performed everyday to this lingam at 6:30AM and 5:30 PM. This temple being more popular, the abhishekam is a crowded affair. If you want to have a good look at the lingam, reach early and grab a vantage point!


Nagapattinam – Thirunagai

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

Nagapattinam is full of temples, but the temple of the Vidangar is the Kayarohanaswamy temple. It is better known as the temple of Neelayadakshi.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The main deity in this temple is Kayarohanaswamy – it is believed that the lord blessed his devotee Sage Pundari to attain moksha with his body. The rishi also asked for moksha for his descendants, and till this date, when anyone from the sage’s family passes away, the body is brought to the temple gate, where the lord’s clothes and garlands are brought to adorn the body, thus blessing it.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The goddess here is Neelayadakshi – the one with the blue eyes. She is in the form of a pubescent girl, and is believed to be one of the Shakti Peethams. She is also considered to be one among the five most important goddesses, all in different stages of life. These are – Visalakshi (Kashi – Child), Kamakshi (Kanchi – young girl), Neelayadakshi (Nagai – pubescent), Kamalambigai (Thiruvarur – young woman) and Meenakshi (Madurai – married woman).

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The Vidangar in this temple is the Sundara Vidangar and the Abhishekam is performed at 9 AM and 8 PM everyday. However, this one is not one of the original lingams, which was stolen ages ago, and recently replaced by a Gomedakam lingam.


Vedaranyam – Thirumaraikkadu

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

Vedaranyam is the place where Shiva blessed Sage Agasthya with a vision of his divine marriage as it took place in the Himalayas. The main deity here is Vedapureeswarar, and behind the lingam is etched the scene of the marriage as witnessed by the sage.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

This is a beautiful temple and is dotted with shrines to various deities. There are a number of beautiful statues in bronze, representing the 63 Nayanmars, Bhishandavar, and also Rishabha Vahana Devar.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

In this temple, the Vidangar is known as Bhuvani Vidangar and the abhishekam is performed at 8:30 AM and 6:30PM everyday. We were unable to see the priest at this temple, and hence cannot provide any information regarding the Vidangar.



If you visit Vedaranyam, do visit Kodikkarai, the easternmost point of our country, also known as Point Calimere, 11 Kms from Vedaranyam. The sea is absolutely wonderful, and if you can persuade the fishermen to take you for a boat ride, there’s absolutely nothing like it! The beach is dotted with shells and it was hard to drag Samhith from them. We have returned with a bag full of shells collected by Samhith. There is also a bird and deer sanctuary near the beach which might be interesting to visit.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

Thiruvaimur

Thiruvaimur is on the road from Thiruvarur to Thiruthuraipoondi, about 5 Kms from Thiruvarur. The main deity in this temple is Vaimurnathar. The lingam is extremely small, and is always kept covered with a kavacham. His consort is Ksheera Vachana Nayaki.



The Vidangar here is the Neela Vidangar, and the Abhishekam is performed at 9:30AM everyday. However, this again is not the original one, but an emerald one substituted long ago for the one that was stolen. In addition to this, a Spatika lingam has also been installed. The priest in the temple offered to show us the lingam even though it was not time for the abhishekam, if we agreed to pay security money for the darshan.

An interesting thing about this temple was the presence of Ashta Bhairavars – eight forms of Kala Bhairavar.


Thrirukkaravasal

Thrirukkaravasal is about 12 Kms from Thiruvarur, barely 15 minutes from Thirukkuvalai. The main deity here is Sahasra Nethra Natha Swamy, and his consort is Kailasa Nayaki.



The Vidangar here is Aadi Vidangar and the Abhishekam is performed everyday at 9:30AM and 6:30PM. This again is a lingam substituted for the original, which has been long lost. This one was installed by the Paramacharya of Kanchi during a visit.



An interesting shrine in this temple is the one of Mahalakshmi, where she faces 3 Bhairavars. There is also an image of Dakshinamoorthy with the kundalini represented on top of the head, which is rare. He is known as Gynaana Guru.


Thirukkuvalai

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

Thirukkuvalai is about 5 Kms from Kachinam, on the road from Thiruvarur to Thiruthuraipoondi. The main deity in this temple is Brahmapureeswarar, a small swayambhu lingam, kept covered with a kavacham. Abhishekam to the moolavar is performed only on every Amavasya (new moon days). His consort is Brihannayaki.


The Vidangar here is Avani Vidangar and the Abhishekam is performed everyday at 9AM and 6 PM.


This completes a visit to the Saptha Vidanga Sthalams. It is possible to cover all the temples in a day, juggling a little in order to see as many lingams as possible. To see all the lingams, it might take a couple of days at least, depending on the time you spend at each temple. Among what we saw, the abhishekams at Thiruvarur and Thirunallar were the best and really worth seeing. Thiruvarur is the best plece to use as a base to see all these temples.

Comments

  1. Very nice post . . .
    Great information on Saptha Vidangars.

    But couldnt find the name of the vidangar in Thiruvarur. Please mention that if you know.



    Thiruvarur - ?

    Thirunallar - Naga Vidangar
    Thirunagai - Sundara Vidangar
    Vedaranyam - Bhuvani Vidangar
    Thiruvaimur - Neela Vidangar
    Thrirukkaravasal - Aadi Vidangar
    Thirukuvalai - Avani Vidangar

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Thiruvarur Vidangar is known as Veedhi Vidangar Performing AJABA Nadanam.

      K K Viswanathan kkv298@gmail.com

      Delete
  2. Hello Sister

    Two small correction.

    Muchukunda brought "Thyagaraja" not Lingam from Indra.

    Second, In Tiruvarur, evening Pooja is called "Sayaraksha" and it is done to Lrod Thyagaraja and not to Lingam.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @ Mayuram Swami - Two things -
    1. The tyagarajar idol is different with a differnt story. It is the Maragatha lingam kept inside the safe which was brought by Muchukunda. Even the priests confirmed this story.

    2, the sayaraksha puja is different. The puja i spoke about is the special puja to the lingam which few people know about.

    ReplyDelete
  4. thiruvaraur - veedi vidangar

    ReplyDelete
  5. Is it possible to cover the abhishekam of all the seven vidangars in three days time. What should be the base - thivarur. And what should be the travel sequence

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is possible, but since I have not done it myself, I cant suggest a possible sequence. but yes, tiruvarur as a base is a good idea

      Delete
  6. Is it possible to cover the abhishekam of all the seven vidangars in three days time. What should be the base - thivarur. And what should be the travel sequence

    ReplyDelete

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