Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Vaanchinathar Temple, Tiruvaanchiyam

Location of the templeTiruvaanchiyam
Lord Shiva known asVaanchinathar, Vanchi Lingeswarar
Female deity known asMangalanayagi
PathigamThriunavukarasar, Sambandar and sundarar
How to reach This temple is located 35 Kms from Kumbakonam. This sthalam is located near Achutamangalam which is located on the Kumbakonam - Natchiarkovil - Nannilam bus route. Srivanjiyam is about 2 kms. from Achutamangalam. Nearest town is Nannilam. It can also be reached from Tiruvarur.
Srivanchiam route map
Map coutesy by: Yahoo Maps

Six Shivasthalams on the banks of river Cauvery are said to be the most sacred and on par with Varanasi (Benares). They are Tiruvenkaadu, Tiruvaiyaru, Chaayaavanam, Mayiladuthurai, Tiruvidaimarudur and Tiruvanchiam. Out of these, Tiruvanchiam is "one-sixteenth" more sacred than Varanasi. Lord Shiva is said to have told Parvati that he loves this place the most. The presiding deity of this sacred temple Vanchinathar is a Swayambu Lingam and the oldest among the 64 in the world.

This is one of the largest temples in Tanjavur district measuring 558 feet in length and 320 feet in breadth, with 3 gopurams (towers), three prakarams and a 5 tier main gopuram. A prominent feature of this temple is that Yama, the God of Death is having s separate shrine for Him and is given preference in the daily worship. There is a separate shrine for Bhairavar also in this temple in the inner prakaram. Bhairavar is in yoga posture, without his usual mount, the dog, is another rare feature of this temple. Next to the shrine of Bhairavar is the shrine for Rahu-kethu, both carved out in one composite sculpture which is another unique feature of this temple. Milk poured over this Rahu-Kethu sculpture turns blue. Performing prayers and worship at this shrine are said to bless devotees with marriage and progeny and cure nervour disorders.

There is no Navagraha shrine in this temple and Saneeswaran (Saturn) is housed in a separate niche.

The inner prakarams houses the images of 63 saivite saints (Nayanmars), a separate shrine for Goddess Mahalakshmi and another shrine for Goddess Mahishasuramardhini, standing beside her simha vahana. Worshipping Her with 108 lotus flowers during Rahu kalam is considered special.

The 3 sacred tanks at Tiruvanchiam temple - Lakshmi Theeratham, Naga Theertham and Chakra Theertham - were created by Lakshmi, Adiseshan and Chakrathazhwar. A holy dip in Lakshmi Theertham is said to reunite a person with his estranged family. A holy dip in Naga Theertham is said to liberate one of all Naga Doshas. It is said that by taking a holy dip in Chakra Theertham, one is absolved of Brahmahatti dosham.

Devotees are cured of illnesses after a bath in the Gupta Ganga, on the northern side of the outer prakaram. According to Puranas, a holy dip in Gupta Ganga is equivalent to one in Varanasi, Rameswaram and the Maha Maham tank in Kumbakonam. Lord Vinayakar on the banks of Gupta Ganga is to be worshipped first before taking the holy dip.

God of Death, Yama (who decides Heaven or Hell for the human beings according to their good and bad deeds) was pretty worried about Himself. He was wary and heavy with all the sins (or so, He thought) of taking away lives and wondered what he could do to atone for this. Well, Brahma allayed Yama's fears and sorrow and asked Him to scan the earth, saying, "Go ahead and see if you can spot a place by the banks of the Cauvery, where you find Sandal Trees growing in abundance; that is the holy place where you should sit for penance. Meditate on Lord Shiva and He will give you the answer."

So, Yama went and found this place called Gandhaaranyam (the fragrant forest) and sat there to do His penance. True, Lord Shiva appeared to Yama and asked Him to build a Temple . Yama built the Temple (Purana has it that Mayan built this.) and also stayed on as the vehicle for the Lord here. Lord Vanchinatha or Vancheeswarar is a Swayambu Lingam, the most ancient of the 64 Swayambhu Siva Lingams in the country. The Lord also told Yama that there will be a Temple for Him also here and that the people who visit the Lord should first offer prayers to Yama. So, we have the Temple or a Sannidhi to the Lord Yama in the first Prakaram. As you enter through the Raja Gopuram, there is the Gupta Ganga Temple Tank on your right and the Temple for the God of Death to your left. A dip in the tank is supposed to be a blessing and clears you of all the sins and a rebirth. The Sthala Vriksham is the Sandalwood tree. And the deities are worshipped with Sandal leaves and not Vilva.

The shrine for Yama is a small one where He is seated facing the South. There is a Moorthy of Kubera, in a standing posture near Him. We worship Him and enter the second prakaram. This has Vinayaka and Bala Muruga. As we enter the inner court we can see among other structures, the Sannidhi for Goddess Sugandha Kundalaambikai. There is the Kodi Maram, Bali Peetha and Nandhikeswara. In the third gopuram entrance, there are the Twin Ganeshas and Adhikara Nandhi. Inside, in the Garbha Graha the Lord Vanchinaatha gives us His darshan. There is a relief sculpture in a pillar in the first prakara; He is called the Vennai (butter) Pillayar and people with stomach ailments smear butter on His bulging stomach. One has to visit the Temple here to experience the spirituality and enjoy the beauty of the Sculptures and architecture. The style of architecture ranges from the Chola to the Nayakkar era. The Sundays of the month of Karthikai are supposed to be very blessed.

This Temple is supposed to be a very important one and the main Moorthy-Lingam is supposed to be a thousand times greater than the Holy Kasi. Here, even a Death in this small place does not have any impact on the routine Poojas conducted in the Temple. (In most other places, if there is a death in the village, the Temple remains closed until the Last Rites are conducted) .


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