Abodes of Skanda (contd.)
Description: Sri Kumarar Koyil is located in Ilanji near Tenkasi. Nearby, in the village of Panpoli is the hill temple of Tirumalai Kumarar. The name ilanji stands for Magizham, the stala vriksham of the temple. Ilanji is located at a distance of 5 km from Tenkasi and 3 km from Kutralam.
This temple is closely linked to Kutralam, in terms of the legends associated. Both these temples are associated with the legend of Agastya muni, proceding to the southern lands from the Himalayas, following Shiva's command - to balance the tilt of the earth with his weight; the earth had tilted dangerously following the assembly of all living beings at the Himalayas to witness the divine marriage between Shiva and Parvati. Following Shiva's bid, Agastyar is believed to have reached Kutralam, the site of the present day temple to Kutralanathar, which then was a Vaishnava temple, into which he was refused entry. Agastyar is then believed to have worshipped Murugan at Ilanji, and then proceded to Kutralam in the guise of a Vaishnava devotee and by a miracle converted the image of Vishnu to that of a Shivalingam. The name Kutralam comes from the legend that the image was shrunk (kurukkudal) into that of a Shivalingam.
The presiding deity here is Kumaran, enshrined in the central sanctum, flanked by his consorts Valli and Deivayanai. There are also major shrines to Iruvaluga eesar (believed to have been worshipped by Agasthyar) and Iruvaluga Eesarkiniyaal. There are also shrines to Kanni Vinayakar, Shenbaga Vinayakar, Kasi Viswanathar, Visalakshi, Kutralanathar , Kuzhal Vaimozhiamman, Chandikeswarar, Bhairavar, Venugopalar, Suryan, Saneeswaran, Agasthyar, the Saptamatas, the 63 Nayanmars and Ayyanar.This temple with 2 prakarams has two entrances. The sanctum faces the east; there are the Ardha mandapam, the mani mandapam and the maha mandapam in front of the sanctum. A three tiered gopuram covers the entrance to the inner prakaram. Shiva's shrine faces east while Ambal's shrine faces south. Much of the current structure of the temple dates back to the 15th century.
The name Iru valuga Eesar arises from the fact that Agasthyar made a two Shivalingams out of the white sands (valugam) of the Chitra nadi flowing nearby and then combined the two into one Shivalingam, which now adorns the sanctum. Since the Shivalingam is fashioned out of white sand, no abhishekam is performed. Offerings of Shenbaga flowers to Shiva are considered to be very special here.
Festivals: Five worship services are offered each day here. Skanda Sashti is celebrated in great splendour here. During this festival, Subramanyar is portrayed as Bhrama, Vishnu, Shiva, Maheshwara, Sadasiva and finally again on Shiva on the 6 days of this festival. The final day of this festival involves the enactment of Surasamharam. This portrayal is tied to the legend that Subramanya here manifested himself as the trinity Bhrama, Vishnu and Shiva - when asked by the sages Kapila, Kashyapa and Durvasa the question as to who was the greatest among the trinity. Chittirai Vishu (Tamil new years day) and Kartikai asterism in the month of Aadi are also celebrated here. Interestingly, In the annual festival at the Kutralanathar temple, Shiva appears as Bhrama, Vishnu, Rudra, Eswara, Sadasiva and Subramanya. Also in Kutralam, Aippasi Vishu (the transition of the sun to Libra, its weakest house) is celebrated, as is Chittirai Vishu (the transition of the sun to Aries, its strongest house).
Significance: This ancient Murugan temple located at Ayikudi near Sengottai near Tirunelveli-Tenkasi-Kutralam, has been revered by the Tiruppugazh hymns of Arunagirinathar.
This small temple enshrines Balasubramanyar - the youthful form of Subramanyar, seated on a peacock. This image was discovered buried in this spot, and the temple was constructed upon unearthing the image in the 13th century. It has been renovated later by the royalty of Travancore. Balasubramanyar has been installed under five trees, amidst five Gods - Ganesha, Shiva, Parvati, Vishnu and Surya. The festival image here goes by the name Muthukumaraswamy.
Worship services carried out here, resemble those of Kerala. Paal Payasam is the prasadam offered here, especially to children nearby, and local belief has it that Balasubramanyar partakes payasam as one among the several children. Skanda Sashti is celebrated in great splendour here.
Significance: This ancient Murugan temple is located at Valliyur, near Nanguneri, near Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari. It has been revered by the Tiruppukazh hymns of Arunagirinathar.
The presiding deity here is Subramaniyar, and the sanctum enshrines an image of Murugan with that of his consort Valli. The temple has a rock cut sanctum - carved out of a hill and several mandapams surrounding it. There are also shrines to Natarajar and Dakshinamurthy here. The Saravanapoikai tank is located adjacent to the hill. The diamond studded Vel held by Subramaniyar is of great beauty.
Legend has it that Indra and Agasthyar worshipped Subramanyar here. Legend also has it that the Saravanapoikai tank was created when Murugan struck his spear to the ground, upon being requested by his consort.
History: Legend has it that this temple was first discovered by a Pandya King who came here on a hunting expedition after visiting the Perumal temple at Tirukkurunkudi and that the temple was expanded by his descendents. Valliyur was under the governance of Kulasekhara Pandyan of 13th century, who fortified the village.
Festivals: Giri pradakshinam is considered to be of importance here as in Tiruvannamalai, Kunnakkudi and Palani. Seven worship services are carried out each day. Skanda Sashti is celebrated with great splendour here as are the float festival in the month of Kartikai and the annual festival in the month of Chittirai.
Significance: The ancient Subramanyar temple at Vallimalai is associated with colorful legends and it has been revered by the Tiruppukazh hymns of Arunagiri Nathar. Vallimalai is located near Vellore, 16 km north of the Shivastalam Tiruvallam, on the Chennai Bangalore highway.
Legend has it that this is the site at which Valli was born and married Murugan. A similar legend holds at the Velimalai temple near Kanyakumari. Valli is depicted in the form of a playful maiden here. The natural springs on the hill are said to be associated with Valli.
This rock cut hill temple is built on top of a small hill accessed through a flight of 300 steps. Much of the temple is within a cave. The cave temple is in three levels successively increasing in elevation.There are also shrines to Vinayakar and Kasi Viswanathar here. The construction in this temple is attributed to the Pallava rulers and to the Madurai Nayak rulers.
Festivals: The annual Bhramotsavam is celebrated in the month of Maasi. Padi Utsavam is celebrated on Tamil new years day in the month of April, and the asterism of Kartikai in the month of Aadi is also celebrated here.
Significance: The Subramanyar temple at Kangeyanallur is over a half a millennium old and it has been renovated and rejuvenated in the 20th century. It is held in great reverence locally and it has been closely associated with Tirumuruga Kripananda Vaariyaar, noted exponent of tamil scriptures. Kangeyanallur is located at a distance of 5 km from Vellore.
The presiding deity Subramanyar in a standing posture is flanked by his consorts Valli and Deivayanai. There are also shrines to Vinayakar, Shiva, Arunagirinathar, Dhandapani and Arumukhaswamy here. The temple has two prakarams, two entrances.
The Kartikai asterism is considered to be of importance each month here. Skanda Sashti, Aadi Krittikai and Thai Krittikai are some of the other festivals celebrated here. The annual festival Bhramotsavam is celebrated in the month of Maasi.
Also located in Kangeyanallur is the historic Kangeeswarar temple dating back to the period of the Cholas, as testified by inscriptions here. Much of the present structure is the result of renovations in the 20th century. The annual Bhramotsavam here is celebrated in the month of Pankuni, one month after that at the Subramanyar temple; other festivals celebrated here include Arudra Darisanam, Aani Tirumanjanam and Maha Shivaratri.
Significance: The hill temple of Subramanyar at Chennimalai, is a hoary shrine associated with colorful legends. Chennimalai is located 25 km south of Erode in Kongu Naadu and is known for its association with the Tamil Siddhas (Siddhargal). The Chennimalai Murugan temple is built on a hill accessed through a flight of 1000 steps, and through a motorable road. At the bottom of the hill is the Kailasanathar temple, which is the scene for the annual festival here.
Another major hill temple in the area is Tiruchengode, enshrining Ardhanareeswarar and Chengottuvelavar. Tirumuruganpoondi is another Saivite shrine in the area, considered to be of great significance to Murugan.
Legends: This hill is associated with the same legend as the Tiruchengode hill nearby; a fierce tussle of strength between the wind God Vayu and the serpent king Adi Seshan resulted in the flying off of a few of the peaks of the Himalayas, one of which is Chennimalai. It is believed that Vishnu worshipped this sacred hill in Krita Yugam, when it was then known as Makutagiri, and that it was worshipped by Lakshmi in Treta Yugam when it was known as Kanakagiri and that it was worshipped by the Ashta Durgas in Dwapara Yugam when it was known as Pushpagiri. In the current aeon, it is known as Srigiri or Chennimalai and it has been worshipped by Siddhars. Pinnakku Siddhar, one of the 18 Tamil Siddhar is believed to have lived here;there is a shrine to him here. There is also a cave here on the hill, considered to be the abode of Pinnakku Siddhar and this cave is said to have an underground passage leading to the Bhoga Siddhar cave in Palani malai.
Legend also has it that two princesses Amritavalli and Sundaravalli performed penances to be reborn as Valli and Devasena the consorts of Subramanyar.
Deities: The presiding deity here is Subramaniyar, in the form of Dhandayutapani. The image is an unfinished one. Legend has it that Shanmukhar was enshrined here originally and that it was divinely ordained that Dhandayutapani should be installed and worshipped. An artiste was asked to complete his unfinished image of Dhandayutapani for this purpose; local legend has it that when he attempt to chisel at the image, blood gushed out of it and that he was forced to install the image as it was, unfinished below the waist.
History: This temple is said to have been built by Sivalaya Cholan of the Kongu Chola clan. It was renovated later by local chieftains in the area.
The hill: The hill is replete with shrines, mandapams and theerthams (tanks) all associated with interesting legends. Enroute to the main temple are temples to Indra Vinayakar Senkazhuneer Pillayar and Aadi Vinayakar. Near the Senkazhuneer Pillayar temple are the Markandeya theertham and the Kumara theertham. There are also shrines to Kadambavaneswarar, Skanda and Idumban enroute to the main shrine. There is also a shrine to the guardian deity Malaikkaavalar - Muthukumara Saavan bearing two swords, in the posture of guarding the hill. There is a tree enroute, known as the Turatti tree, said to be capable of warding off evil influences.
The temple: The main temple with a single prakaram has shrines to Subramanyar, Markandeswarar-Imayavalli and Viswanathar. At the entrance to the temple is a shrine to Vinayakar. In front of the Subramanyar's sanctum is the Ardhamandapam, and immediately in front if it is the Mahamandapam. The Mahamandapam enshrines a festival image of Subramanyar facing south. The sanctum faces east. The sanctum to Markandeswarar enshrines Shiva facing east and Imayavalli facing south. The sanctum to Viswanathar enshrines Shiva, and the ardhamandapam in front of it enshrines his consort Visalakshi facing south.
There are steps leading to the Valli-Deivayanai shrine from behind this temple. Behind the Vali Deivayanai shrine is siddhar shrine mentioned above. Valli and Deivayanai are enshrined without their consort Murugan, symbolizing the legend mentioned above.
Festivals: Seven worship services are offered each day here. Kartikai asterism and new moon days in each month attract several here. The annual festival is celebrated at the Kailasanathar temple at the bottom of the hill in the month of Thai.
Significance: The Kongu country of Tamilnadu in the Coimbatore - Erode area has three hill shrines to Murugan associated with the Siddhars or the enlightened souls. Sivanmalai is associated with Sivavakyar, Marudamalai with Pambatti Siddhar and Chennimalai with Pinnakku Siddhar. It should also be mentioned that Palani, one of the Aarupadai Veedu shrines of Murugan is associated with Bhoga Siddhar. It is believed that there is a secret passage between the Bhogar cave in Palani and the Pinnakku Siddhar cave in Chennimalai. Sivanmalai is located 5 km away from Kangeyam and 40km north of Daarapuram near Coimbatore.
Arunagirinathar, the saint poet of Tiruvannamalai has sung of Sivanmalai in his Tiruppugazh, where he refers to this shrine as Pattiyalur.
Legend has it that Murugan married Valli against the wishes of her kinsmen who pursued the couple to Sivanmalai; all of the tribal huntsmen who fought with the couple were slain. An ahast Valli requested Murugan to restore to life, a long list of her kinsmen and Murugan obliged and restored all the Vedars to life.
The hill: It is believed that this hill is a piece of the Sanjeevani hill carried by Hanuman from the Himalayas to restore Lakshmana to life, with the medicinal herbs that grew on it. Another hill nearby associated with the same legend is Udiyurmalai and both these hills are believed to have rare medicinal herbs. Precious and semi-precious stones have also been mined out of this hill. Sivanmalai was ruled by the Kongu Chieftains until the 13th century, and then by the Vijayanagar monarchs and then the Nayaka rulers of Madurai. The temple: The temple is built on a hillock and is accessed through a flight of 200 steps. The main shrine enshrines Subramanyar and Valli.
Festivals: Kartikai asterism and new moon days in each month are considered to be of significance at Sivanmalai. Skandasashti is celebrated in great splendour as in other Murugan temples. Other festivals here include Thai Poosam, Aadi Kritikai and Pankuni Uthiram.
Significance: The Veerakumaraswamy temple at Vellaikkoyil is a Murugan temple built along the lines of village temples in Tamilnadu dedicated to guardian deities such as Ayyanaar. The 18 siddhas of Tamilnadu are held in great reverence here. (Sivanmalai is associated with Sivavakyar, Marudamalai with Pambatti Siddhar and Chennimalai with Pinnakku Siddhar.
Veerakumaraswamy occupies the central sanctum here; there are also shrines to Muthukumaraswamy, Kanniaathaa and Karuppannasaami. All images are made of clay. As with most other temples dedicated to guardian deities, life sized images of a file of horses are seen at the entrance to the temple.
This temple was formerly associated with animal sacrifices. The annual festival here is celebrated in the month of Maasi.
Mandiragiri (Senjeri Malai, Mantragiri)
Significance: Mandiragiri is located in Malaippalayam near Udumalaippettai and Pollachi is an ancient shrine to Murugan, revered by the Tiruppukazh hymns of the saint poet Arunagirinathar of Tiruvannamalai. Arunagirinathar refers to Mandiramalai as Tenserigiri.The Perumaal malai Vishnu temple is located nearby.
The temple: This temple is built on a small hill, accessed by a motorable road, as well as a flight of steps. The [presiding deity Mantrachala Perumaan is Subramanyar, enshrined with his consorts Valli and Deivayanai. Other shrines here include those to Ganesha, Shiva, Parvati and Vishnu. Water springs by name Idumban Sunai, Darbai sunai and Theertha sunai are seen on the hill.
Festivals: The annual festival here is celebrated in the month of Thai.
Significance: This hill temple to Murugan is located at Marudur in the foothills of the Nilgiri hills. The Irular tribe of Nilgiris hold this temple in high regard.
The temple: The presiding deity here is Kuzhandai Velayudaswamy, enshrined in a west facing sanctum. There is a Vinayakar image worshipped at the base of the hill. Tirumalai Nayakar of Madurai is believed to have built this hill temple. The annual festival is celebrated in the month of Thai.
Significance: This is one of the most important Murugan shrines in Tamilnadu, and is visited by thousands of pilgrims year round, especially on Krittikai days each month. This simple hill temple on the Marudamalai hill 10 km away from Coimbatore is one of the Murugan hill temples in this region associated with the mystic Tamil Siddhars. Sivanmalai is associated with Sivavakkiyar, Chennimalai with Pinnakku Siddhar, Palani with Bhoga Siddhar and Marudamalai with Pambatti Siddhar.
Legend has it that Pambatti Siddhar, was originally a snake charmer and was initiated into the world of philosophy by a Siddhar by name Sattai munivar. Pambatti Siddhar is said to have performed several miracles, and written extensively on herbal medicine. His songs are addressed to snakes.
Antiquity: This temple is over 800 years old, as it has been referred to in inscriptions in the Tirumuruganpoondy temple near Avinashi. Tirumuruganpoondy is a Tevara Paadal Petra Stalam and is at least 1200 years old. Marudamalai is also referred to in the stalapuranam of the Perur temple near Coimbatore. Arunagirinathar's Tiruppugazh and Arunachalakkavirayar's Marudachalakkadavul Pillaittamizh speak of the glory of this shrine.
Marudamalai is considered to be one of the 5 hills associated with Perur as mentioned in its stalapuranam. Another of these hills is Velliyangiri, about 40 km west of Coimbatore, in the western ghats. Velliangiri is considered to be a sacred hill, and pilgrims trek to the top of the hill from Maha Shivaratri to the Agninakshatram period in May. The other hills associated with Perur are Neeli malai or Uma Devi malai, Ayyaasaami malai or Bhrama malai and Perumaal mudi or Vishnu malai.
The Temple: This small temple is built on the Marudamalai hill at a height of 600 feet. The Dhandayutapani form of Murugan is enshrined in the sanctum and worshipped. Also on the hill are the cave and spring associated with Pambatti Siddhar. Awareness of Marudamalai has been created through feature films produced by Chinnappa Devar in the 1970s. :
The historic town of Pollachi was once known as Mudi Konda Chola Nallur during the period of Kulottunga Chola III. The Subramanyar temple here is an ancient one, with a history that goes back for about 8 centuries. It is believed that the Subramanyar temple here was once a Shiva temple, enshrining Agastheeswaram Udaiyaar, with the festival deity being Subramanyar. Much of the construction in the temple now belongs to the 20th century. This temple celebrates Skanda Sashti in the month of Aippasi and Arudra Darisanam in the month of Margazhi.
Kanjamalai - falls into the category of Marudamalai, Sivanmalai and Sennimalai in Tondainaadu, and is known for its association with the Siddhar saints of Tamilnadu. It is located 14 km west of Salem, and is known for the herbs that abound in the region. Pilgrims visiting the hill temple here, consider a dip in the waters of the streams traversing the hill sacred.
There is a Siddhar koyil on the hill, and there is a also a Murugan temple recent in origin. The simple temple is rich in legend, thanks to its association with the Siddhars.
Legend has it that Adikaimaan, a tamil ruler was presented with a nellikkani - as the amritam or the panacea by a siddhar at Kanjamalai and that he presented it to the saint poetess Avvaiyaar. This incident is releted in the sangam works of the earlier portion of the 1st millennium CE.
Another legend has it that a devotee of Shiva spent years travelling visiting the various shrine sof Shiva and finaly reached the shrine of Karpuranaathar and spent the rest of his life in penance, after which he attained the status of a siddhar, and that he assumed a formless form in Kaliyugam, in the preceincts of Kanjamalai - also considered to be an abode of Shiva, and that he came to be known as Kanjamalai Siddhar.
Another legend has it that, a yogi came down to Kanjamalai with his aged discipile with the intention of obtaining eternal youth through yogic practices. He left his disciple in charge of cooking his food, and went out to the rich jungle, in search of medicinal herbs. The devoted disciple, stirred the pot of boiling rice with a stick found nearby and to his horror found the rice turning black. Afraid of serving the blackened rice to his guru, he consumed it himself - and to his utter amazement attained a youthful form. The guru, convinced of the magical powers of the stick which had been used to stir the rice, searched for it, and to his horror discovered that the disciple had thrown it into the fire. He caused the disciple to vomit out the rice that he had consumed, and consumed it himself and also attained an eternally youthful form. It is said that these two siddhars are none other than Tirumoolar and Kanjamalai Siddhar.
Kanakagiri, near Sankari near Salem houses a hill temple of Subramanya revered by the hymns of Arunagirinathar. Kanakagiri derives its name from the fact that gold mines used to be situated here. It is believed that the golden roof of the Chidambaram tmeple was fashioned out of the gold mined from Kanakagiri.
The presiding deity Velayudaswami ina standing posture is enshrined in the sanctum, and much of the structure here is of recent origin. Kartikai asterism each month, and new moon days are considered to be sacred here. Panguni Uthiram, Tai Poosam and Mahaa Sivaratri are celebrated here.
Alavaipatti, located 30 km south west of Salem and 12 km north west of Raasipuram is another hillock associated with the Siddhars as is Marudamalai, Kanjamalai, Sivanma,ai, Chennimalai in Kongu Naadu. The hill temple to Subramanya is accessed through a flight of 1500 steps. There are inscriptions on the hill referencing Poymaankaradu a hillock nearby, where an illusionary figure of a deer appears, thanks to the play of light and the shaping of the rocks.
The Ekambaranathar temple at the foothills is surrounded by a fortress like walls. The festival image of the hill temple is housed in this temple. Kartikai Somavaaram is celebrated in the hill temple. and Panguni Utthiram is also celebrated here.
The Kollimalai hills in Salem area near Rasipuram houses a hill temple to Murugan. This is an ancient temple glorified by the Tiruppugazh hymns of Arunagirinathar. This temple is said to date back to the period of ancient teamil kings who rulted the region.
Subramanyar is enshrined as a hunter in the sanctum, and there are shrines to Shiva, Parvati, Vishnu, Idumban and Vinayakar. The temple is a result of several recent renovatory eforts. On a regular basis, new moon days, the kartikai asterisma, and sashtis attract vcrowds here. Other festivals of importance are Kartikai Deepam, Thai Poosam, Panguni Utthiram, Chitra Pournami and Navaratri.
Kollimalai Arappaleeswarar Temple
The Arappaleeswarar temple in Kollimalai hills near Salem is a very ancient one and it dates back to the period of Appar, who has referred to it in his Kshetra Kovai Tiruttandakam. Arunagirinathar has sung of the Subramanyar shrine here. Kollimalai is also referred to as Madhuvanam, or the forest of the monkey king Sugreevan. This temple is also associated with Matsya Muni - believed to be a Siddha. There are several beleifs associated with the numerious fish in the streams on the hill.
This temple is associated with the ancient tamil ruler Val Vil Ori, who ruled this region. This temple is held in regard by the tribes of this region and by several around. It is believed that the shrine has the power to bring back to life, severed fish - taken out of the streams flowing on the hill. A three day festival concluding with Pathinettaam Perukku in the month of Aadi attracts several here. This temple is home to several fine bronzes. It is also said to have had an exquisite chariot.
Kapilarmalai enshrines a hill temple to Subramanya and is located near Namakkal near Salem. Kapilar, is said to have been patronized by the legendary philanthropist king Paari Vallal. Kapilar is said to have been associated with Kollimalai nearby. Kapilar is referred to in the works of the Sangam poet Nakkeerar in Akanaanooru, and in other sangam works.
Ths hill houses a shrine to Murugan and to Vinayakar. A Vel marks the spot where Kapilar is said to have meditated. This is a small cave temple, but is of significance given its association with Kapilar - referred to in Sangam period literature.