Skip to main content

Featured Post

Book Review: On Philosophising, Philosophers, Philosophy and New Vistas in Applied Philosophy, by Dr. Sharmila Jayant Virkar

A little bit of context before you begin reading this book review. I have recently enrolled for an MA in Philosophy at the University of Mumbai. Philosophy is something I have been getting interested in, over the past few years, as those of you who have been reading my blogs and Instagram posts would know. During the pandemic, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do next, and this is what I eventually came up with. It has been a challenge, getting back into academics as a student at this age, especially in a subject I have no academic background in. However, it has also been very exciting, especially thanks to my wonderful classmates (who, surprisingly, are of all age-groups, including some quite near my own) and my teachers, who have been very supportive and understanding. How well I will do is something that remains to be seen, but so far, I am enjoying this new journey and look forward to where it leads. Now that you know the background , you probably get an idea of how

Suchindram - Of Indra's purification, and other stories

Moving on from Kanyakumari, let me take you to one of the most beautiful temples we visited on our Southern Jaunt - Suchindram. This is a special post for me, since its about what I love the most - a temple and its stories. However, even more importantly, this is the 1000th post on the blog! Besides, I have now been blogging for over 8 years, and it has so far been a fantastic journey, with too many highlights to mention here. As I pen this thousandth post, I would like to thank all of you, my readers, for it is you who have made this journey memorable. Meanwhile, I hope and pray for many more journeys, and stories to share with all of you.....

Vishnu (left), Shiva (center) and Brahma (right) on the gopuram of the Suchindram Temple



Suchindram. What can I say about this amazing temple, that hasn’t already been said before? The legends are many, and oft repeated, and as for the architecture, better and more knowledgeable people have written pages on it. I spent a little more than an hour there, and while inside, simply stared around me in wonder, awed by the impressive work, spellbound by the intricacy on display. And no, I did not click any photographs either.

So, once again, what do I write?


Let me begin with the stories, for the stories are what interest me the most.

One of the oldest stories of the temple is where the town gets its name from. It is said that this is where Indra worshipped Shiva, and was released from Gautama’s curse. Suchi means purification, and thenceforth, the town came to be known as Suchindram – the site of Indra’s purification.

Another story is closely aligned to the legend of Kanyakumari. He is the Lord who falls in love with the virgin goddess, and the truant groom who turns back on the way to the wedding, because the cock has crowed. The cock of course is Narada, doing the Gods a favour by stopping the union of the Lord and his beloved, for the virgin goddess is the only one who can slay the demon Banasura!

There are stories galore, but let me tell you one more – sometimes considered the most important one, related to the lord who resides here. He is called ‘Sthanumalayan’, a form of the trinity – Shiva (Sthanu), Vishnu (Mal) and Brahma (Ayan) (See first pic). The story goes back to the time of the sage Atri and his wife, Anasuya, who was considered the epitome of chastity. The gods decided to test her and arrived at her doorstep, begging for alms, when the sage was out. When she offered them food, they refused, saying they would only accept alms from someone who wore no clothes. Anasuya thought for a moment, and then, bringing water from her morning’s puja, sprinkled it on the three visitors, turning them into babies. She then proceeded to feed them. The sage arrived to find his wife with three children, divined the reason, smiled, and went on with his prayers. Meanwhile, the goddesses were worried at the prolonged absence of their husbands, and eventually arrived at Atri’s ashram, where they recognized in the three children, their husbands. They accepted the greatness of Anasuya and begged her to restore their husbands, which she did. However, the gods stayed back here, at the foot of a tree, as three lingams, a constant reminder of their descent on earth, and the greatness of Anasuya.

The lingam in the main sanctum is considered to be a form of all the three gods, and thus his name. Besides, the temple also houses the original lingams at the base of the tree, and shrines to Lord Vishnu, and a wide variety of deities.

One of the most popular deities in the temple is Anjaneya, or Hanuman, whose 18 feet tall monolithic statue is one of the prime attractions here. The statue is an ancient one, which is believed to depict Hanuman in the manner he showed himself to Sita in the Ashoka Vana at Lanka. It is said that this idol was buried during Tipu’s attack of this region in 1740, and subsequently forgotten. The statue was re-discovered only in 1930, and installed here.

Incidentally, the main offering to Anjaneya here are white butter and betel leaves. These offerings are so huge in quantity, that the statue is almost always covered with white butter. It is hard indeed to see that it is made of granite!

So much for the stories. As to the architecture, I can only reiterate that there is so much to see here and appreciate, that a short visit like mine is barely enough to scratch the surface.

The most impressive and unique feature of the temple, according to me of course, is the interesting depiction of the Navagrahas, which are depicted, not on a platform, as is usual, but on the ceiling! Lamps are lit on the base as an offering to them.

The musical pillars are another huge attraction here, but sadly, they have been so misused, that they are now covered with iron grills. This is true not just for these musical pillars, but also for the many, many monolithic compound pillars (multiple pillars carved out of a single one, from a single stone) in the temple. Some of the more beautiful depictions of the Gods as well as Dwarapalakas have also been covered with grills to prevent people touching them.

The temple is a massive one, with rows and rows of pillars, each one more beautiful than the other, and shrines to almost every deity you can think of. There are also stories associated with many of the minor deities, but there is no way I can do justice to any of them, so I will not even try to. This is one of those temples you must visit and experience the divinity and the beauty for yourself.

The only part of the temple I have photos of, are the gopuram, which is said to be among the tallest in South India. It is visible from across the town, and so covered with detailed figures, that it is difficult to identify every one of them. Here is a glimpse, to give you an idea.





Finally, before I end this post, I should clarify that this post isn’t meant to be a complete resource of information about the temple. It is just my impression, from the short time I spent there. For more information and any queries about the temple, please head over to the temple website. It is quite detailed and even has contact numbers.

Information:

  • Location: Suchindram is about 13 Km from Kanyakumari. There are frequent buses from Kanyakumari as well as Nagercoil.

This post is part of my series on my #summertrip 2015, and I hope to take you along with me as I recount stories from my month long trip, which took me across the country. To get an idea of all the places I visited, and what you can hope to read about, click here

Related Posts:
  • Kanyakumari


Comments

  1. Glad to know in detail about Suchindram temple. Congratulations on your 1000th post!

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a lovely religious post about Suchindram temple.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm glad to read your 1000th post! Thanks for bringing one of the ancient temples of South India in the focus. I'm sure people will love to know the wonderful history of the Suchindram Temple. Also, the stupendous pictures show the beauty of the temple and its excellent craftsmanship.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Thanks so much for stopping by. Please leave a comment for me so that I will know you have been here....

Popular posts from this blog

The Havelis of Bikaner - A Photo Post

The lanes are narrow , twisting and turning amidst buildings old and new. Crumbling old structures with intricate workmanship stand side by side with art deco buildings, and more modern constructions, which follow no particular style. Autos, bicycles, motorcycles and vans rush past, blowing their horns as loudly as possible, while cows saunter past peacefully, completely unaffected by the noise. In the midst of all this chaos, children play by the side, and women go about their chores, as we explore these by-lanes of Bikaner, and its beautiful Havelis. Facade of one of the Rampuria Havelis

Gokarna Part II – The Five Lingams

We continued our Gokarna trip by visiting four other Shiva temples in the vicinity, all connected to the same story of Gokarna. The story of Gokarna mentions the Mahabaleshwara Lingam as the one brought from Kailas by Ravana, and kept at this place on the ground by Ganesha. (See my earlier post- Gokarna – Pilgrimage and Pleasure). However, the story does not end here. It is believed that, in his anger, Ravana flung aside the materials which covered the lingam- the casket, its lid, the string around the lingam, and the cloth covering it. All these items became lingams as soon as they touched the ground. These four lingams, along with the main Mahabaleshwara lingam are collectively called the ‘ Panchalingams’ . These are: Mahabaleshwara – the main lingam Sajjeshwar – the casket carrying the lingam. This temple is about 35 Kms from Karwar, and is a 2 hour drive from Gokarna. Dhareshwar – the string covering the lingam. This temple is on NH17, about 45 Kms south of Gokarna. Gunavantesh

The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan