A temple on the banks of a river is not an unusual sight. However, this one is special, because the village this temple is located in, is the village my ancestors belonged to. I first visited this temple in 2001, after years of searching for my roots. I can only describe as indescribable – the curious feeling of finally coming home – that I felt on setting foot in this village. This is the village of Kadathur, located between Udumalaipettai (Udumalpet) and Palani, home to the Arjuneswarar Temple.
The Lord here is a form of Shiva, and he gets his name from Arjuna of the Mahabharata, who is believed to have worshipped him here. It is also believed that the Pandavas spent some time in this area during their exile, and the village also gets its name from an incident which occurred during that period. It is said that Duryodhana once seized cows with the idea of inciting the Pandavas, and kept them hidden on the other bank of the river. The place came to be known as ‘kara (river bank) thozhuvu (stable)’, or Kara thozhuvur and over the years, the name evolved to Kadathur.
|Nandi in his Mandapa|
Cows seem to have a close relationship with this village, for the discovery of the lingam of Arjuneswarar, is also linked to them. At one time, Kara Thozhuvur was famed for its cows, and the cattle were taken to the palace everyday so that fresh milk could be provided for the royal family. It was noticed that all the cows but one gave ample milk, and on closer observation, the cowherd realized that one cow discharged its milk every day at the foot of an Arjuna tree (called Marudha maram in Tamil). The king ordered the roots of the tree to be dug up, and when the axe struck the root, blood started oozing out. The king immediately staunched the flow with his golden ring, and then carefully cleared the area, which brought to light an ancient lingam underneath. The lingam still bears the marks of the roots of the Arjuna tree under which it was buried, which is probably the actual reason for the name of the Lord here. Incidentally, the lingam is huge, easily over 5 feet in height, including the avudaiyar or base, and is said to be the tallest lingam in the Coimbatore area.
In Tamil, the Lord is called Marudha Vaneswarar, since he was found under a marudha maram. Since the roots of the tree have medicinal properties, worshiping the lord here is believed to cure one of many ailments. It is especially believed that a king was cured of diabetes, by praying to the Lord, so today, with diabetes growing more and more common, the temple is attracting a growing attention, offering a cure to the disease by worshipping the Lord.
Though legends place the earliest temple here around the 10th century, it is Vikrama Chola who is mentioned as the king who discovered the lingam, which dates it to around the 12th century. What do a couple of hundred years matter though, when the temple is easily over a thousand years old!
The temple is also a simple but beautiful one, built in such a manner that the Lord looks over at the Amaravathi river as she flows alongside, and no matter how low the water level, he can always see her from the sanctum. Besides, it is said that the first rays of the sun reflect from the water and fall on the lingam, each and every day of the year! I have yet to see this, never having visited the temple early in the morning, but it surely must be a beautiful sight, especially in the monsoon, when the Amaravathi is in full flow!
|The Amaravathi, as seen from the sanctum. |
Unfortunately, this was peak summer, and the river was almost dry.
|A slightly different, and better view of the Amaravathi|
The Lord’s consort here is Gomathi Amman, and she has a separate shrine on the right side of the Lord. She is about 5 feet tall, and so beautiful that on my first visit, I simply stood and watched her in awe! Outside her shrine is a huge ant hill (again over 5 ft in height), believed to be the residence of snakes. Ant hills are considered sacred, and its presence only enhances the importance of the deity and the temple.
The temple also has other shrines – of Ganesha, Subramanya, Chandikeswara, and Vishnu. Especially interesting is the Dakshinamurthy, made of marble, and brought from Kashi (Varanasi). Though the Marble Dakshinamurthy is somewhat of an attraction in the region, where deities are only made of black stone, I was more fascinated by the quaint sculptures of the saints who accompany him.
The temple was being renovated when I visited, readying it for the Kumbhabhishekam (temple rejuvenation), which is supposed to be held soon. The restoration work has also brought to light various inscriptions on the temple walls. While I am all for the renovation of the temple, I only hope they will preserve these inscriptions, and also the original carvings and sculptures.
Walking around the temple, praying to Arjuneswarar, I was acutely conscious of another Arjunan – my grandfather, who had been named for the Lord himself. He was the last from the family to visit the village, that too, more than half a century ago, and his mother, my great grandmother, was the last from the family to actually live here, even if only for a few years. I wondered if this is what he had in mind, when he gave me the same name as his mother – that I would one day, walk along the same path my namesake had, almost a century ago! My grandfather’s thoughts are something I will never know, but that very first day that I set foot in that village, I knew, that I had, in a manner of speaking, come home!