THIRUMUKKOODAL, THE TRIVENI OF THE SOUTH AND PAZHAYASEEVARAM
Magh Snan at Triveni, Allahabad
MAGH FESTIVAL AT TRIVENI, PRAYAG
Magh month 2011 starts on 20 January 2011 and ends on 18 February 2011 according to the Hindu Calendar. Taking a holy dip in the Triveni Sangam at PRAYAG (Allahabad) during the period from Magh Amavasya Day (New Moon Day-3rd February 2011) to Magh Poornima Day (Full Moon Day-18th February 2011) is considered as very sacred and auspicious by all the Hindus of India. Each man has his Dharma. One must accomplish one’s destiny—or, better, surmount it. Life is of consequence only in the mind, by the liberating power of the mind. Asceticism prepares the way for spiritual enfranchisement; knowledge procures it. But what is this knowledge? Knowledge for India is action. Sensation and imagination are something dynamic; understanding and will are not distinct. The norms have always been successful creation, right conduct. When all is said and done, the essential contribution of the Indian genius to mankind is a psychical and spiritual element, the value of which must be neither underestimated nor exaggerated—the sense of creative activity. INDIA THROUGH THE AGES HAS NOT BEEN INTERESTED IN FACTS. Through the ages it has pursued transcendental ends.
What is the transcendental religious and spiritual significance of having a holy bath in the Triveni Sangam at Prayag? Triveni Sangam is believed to be the same place where drops of Nectar fell from the pitcher, from the hands of the Gods. So it is believed that a bath in the Sangam will wash away all one's sins and will clear the way to heaven. Devout Hindus from all over India come to this sacred pilgrimage point to offer prayers every day and take a dip in the holy waters. The sacred Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years on the banks of the Sangam. According to hoary myth and tradition, the Prakrista Yajna was performed here by LORD BRAHMA. That is why Allahbad was known as Prayag in ancient times. Prayag is also called Tirtha-Raja or Prayag Raj, King of all holy places. It is said that Lord Rama visited Prayag when he was in exile.
Prayag is one among the four spots where Garuda, the winged steed of the Hindu God Vishnu, is believed to have rested during a titanic battle with demons over a pitcher containing the divine nectar of immortality. Garuda's epic battle lasted 12 divine days, or 12 years of mortal time, leading to the celebration of the Maha Kumbh Mela every 12 years. Legend says that the gods and the demons fought a celestial war, spilling heavenly nectar at the confluence of three-rivers in Prayag.
Mauni Amavasya or Mauna Amavasya is the auspicious day to observe Mauna Vrata or the vow of silence on Magh Amavasya or New Moon day in Magh month. In 2011, Mauni Amavasya date is 2 February 2011. Mauna is a word derived from Muni, which refers to a great saint endowed with transcendental knowledge and wisdom forming the bedrock of his luminous and resplendent self-realization. Mauna vrat is the symbolic identity for the spiritual practice. According to Jagadguru Shankaracharya, Mauna is one of the three essential aspects of a sanyasi or sadhu. The other two aspects are – Balya and Panditya. Balya is the childlike nature whereas Panditya is wisdom.
Magh Purnima, or Magh Poornima, is the full moon day in month of Magh (January – February) in traditional Hindu calendar. In 2011, the date of Magh Purnima falls on February 18. Magh Poornima is considered highly auspicious in Hinduism and thousands of Hindu devotees take a holy dip at Sangam in Prayag. The annual Magh Mela takes place at Sangam in Prayag during that time. It is believed that Vishwamitra II performed the ritual bath during the Kumbh Mela on a Magh Purnima Day in 2382 BCE.
Magh Purnima Bath at the confluence of MAHI, SOM AND JHAKHAM RIVERS in Banswara District in Rajasthan.
Magh Purnima is an important day at the Baneshwar Fair held at the confluence of MAHI, SOM AND JHAKHAM RIVERS in Banswara District in Rajasthan. Tribals and other communities from Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat gather here to pay homage to the dead ancestors and relatives.
Eternal India—India of the ages—is a great land of real and solid underlying cultural unity amidst apparent diversity. Corresponding to Triveni at Prayag (Allahabad) in Northern India, we have a holy Triveni at Thirumukoodal in Kancheepuram District in Tamilnadu. At this spot we have the confluence of 3 SACRED RIVERS PALAR, CHEYYAR AND VEGAVATHI and taking a bath at this Triveni during the period from 3rd February 2011(New Moon Day) to 18th February 2011 (Full Moon Day) is considered as sacred and auspicious as taking a dip in the Triveni at Prayag.
Confluence of 3 Rivers at Thirumukkoodal
At the confluence of three rivers near Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu lies the village of Thirumukkoodal. An ancient Chola temple adorns this village, at the sangam of the rivers PALAR, SEYYAR, AND VEGAVATHI. As all the three rivers are clearly visible at the confluence at THIRUMUKKOODAL, this sangam can be considered almost as sacred as the Triveni Sangam at Prayag where at the confluence of three rivers only the Ganga and the Yamuna are visible and the third Saraswati River is believed to have gone underground and hence is not visible.
As in Prayag, so also at Thirumukkoodal, in Kanchipuram District, we find the vital and living tradition of thousands of pilgrims having a bath at the confluence of 3 Rivers PALAR, SEYYAR, AND VEGAVATHI on the day of Magh Amavasya. This year the pilgrims had their bath on Magh Amavasya Day (New Moon Day) at this sacred spot on 3rd February 2011. Likewise, the pilgrims will be having their bath on Magh Poornima Day (Full Moon Day) on the 18th February 2011.
Trimurti Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple in Kanchipuram District
The Temple at Thirumukkoodal (Thirumukkudal) is known as the Trimurti Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple, or Sri Venkatesa Perumal Temple. The presiding deity here is the Trimurti, embodied in a single form as Appan (Brahma), Shiva, and Venkatesa Perumal (Narayana). While Trimurti Appan Venkatesa Perumal is understood to be the original deity here, temple epigraphs reveal that the deity was called Vishnu Bhatara in Pallava times, Tirumukkudal-Azhwar and Mahavishnu in the Chola period, and Venkateswara Swami at a later date.
The tiny village of Thirumukkoodal in Kanchipuram district, lies about 75 km from Chennai and dates back to the Pallava era. It gets its name from its picturesque location --- the confluence of the Palar and two of its tributaries, the Vegavathi and the Cheyyar. We understand from an inscription engraved in this shrine that the Trimurti Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple, or Sri Venkatesa Perumal Temple existed at Thirumukkoodal village overlooking the confluence of 3 rivers as early as the 9th Century AD.
The Trimurti Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple, or Sri Venkatesa Perumal Temple at Thirumukkoodal is maintained by the RCHAEOLOGICAL Survey of India (ASI). Since this temple is very close to the river bank, there is every possibility of flood waters entering the temple during the North-East Monsoon every year. And yet this temple has withstood the ravages of nature for several centuries mainluy because of the fact that the original architects of this temple made a special provision for a suitable drainage system for the flood water to drain away quickly. This temple is about 1200-1500 years old.
This Pallava style temple is quite large, and is constructed in an unusual style. Devotees enter through a side entrance near the perimeter of the temple compound. A mandapa with large pillars leads the way to the sanctum sanctorum, which faces north. The pillars have exquisite bas-relief sculptures. Various inscriptions speak of endowments and gifts made to the temple during the Chola reign.
In the sanctum, Sri Appan Venkatesa Perumal is found in a standing position with His consorts Boomadevi (Bhudevi) and Sridevi meditating at His feet, and the sage Markandeya (Karumanickar) beside Him on one side, with Sudarshan Chakra on the other.
Sri Appan Venkatesa Perumal
The Lord at Thirumukkoodal is considered to be a manifestation of the HINDU TRINITY Lord Siva, Brahma and Narayana. His crown looks like the matted locks of Siva and He has a third eye on HIS forehead. He wears the Shanku and Chakra like Lord Narayana on His left and right hand and a lotus in one of His hands. He also stands on the lotus which is the symbol of Brahma.
To the right of the presiding deities is a small shrine for the Goddess Alamelumanga, which faces east. 'Alamelumanga' is Tamil for Padmavati, a representation of Laksmi Devi. Other murtis located nearby include Garuda, Hanuman, and others. There are also stone murtis of many of the Azhwars.
A spacious courtyard houses several mantapams, the pillars ornately carved with bas-relief sculptures done in Vijayanagara style, depicting various incarnations of the Lord, Mahalakshmi, Rama, Garuda, Hanuman and Ramanuja.
This temple which once reverberated with the sound of Vedic chanting and the recitation of Sanskrit texts now stands a mute testimony to the glorious times of the Pallavas and the Cholas, whose kings, besides being great conquerors and administrators strove for the propagation of learning and literature.
The main sanctum sanctorum of this temple, which faces North, houses the imposing image of Lord Venkateswara, also known as Appan Venkatesa Perumal in a standing posture with sage Markandeya and Goddess Boomadevi seen meditating at his feet. The way to the sanctum sanctorum is through a large-pillared mantapa.
According to the epigraphs in this shrine, Thirumukkoodal was situated in the ancient territorial sub-division called Madhurantaka-Chaturvedimangalam which was a part of Kalatur-kottam, a district of Jayamkonda-chola-mandalam. Luckily, this shrine as well as the inscriptions here have been preserved well. The temple is a protected monument under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Another striking feature of this ancient Sri Venkatesa Perumal Temple lies in its rare wealth of copious and informative inscriptions dating back to the days of the Pallavas and the Cholas. The walls of the main sanctum as well as those of the second prakara are studded with numerous epigraphs in the ancient Tamil script, the oldest of which is datable to the reign of the Pallava ruler, Nripatungavarman of the 9th century A.D.
There are also many Chola inscriptions of the reign of Rajaraja-I, Rajendra-I, Vira-Rajendra and Kulottunga-I which speak of endowments and gifts made to this shrine, thus showing that this temple enjoyed an immense popularity during the Chola reign. Interestingly, these epigraphs reveal that this deity was called Vishnu Bhatara in the Pallava times, as Tirumukkudal-Azhwar and Mahavishnu in the Chola period and as Venkateswara Swami at a later date.
Among these records, the most important and interesting one is engraved on the east wall of the first prakara and belongs to the period of Vira-Rajendra Chola (1062-1070 A.D.). This long epigraph records the existence of a VEDIC COLLEGE located in the JANANATHA-MANTAPA inside this temple in the 11th century A.D. where eight subjects including the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda and Grammar were taught. The number of students enrolled in this educational centre, the number of teachers for each subject and the daily remuneration paid have been detailed in this inscription. This well-preserved record also mentions that these students lived in a hostel attached to this college where cooks and servants were employed to take care of the needs of the inmates.
Temple Epigraphs at Sri Venkatesa Perumal Temple
In addition, this inscription speaks about a Hospital (athura-salai) attached to this temple where students and temple staff were treated. This Hospital, called VIRA-CHOLAN, had 15 beds and a large staff comprising a physician named Kodandaraman Ashvathaman-Bhattan, a surgeon who performed surgical operations, many nurses who attended on the patients, servants who fetched medicinal herbs and also a barber. The payment given to the hospital staff and the names of about 20 Ayurvedic medicines stored in this hospital are given in detail in this informative epigraph. This ancient Chola Hospital followed the Tamil model of Siddha System of Medicine.
IN MANY OF THE VISHNU TEMPLES IN THE TAMIL COUNTRY DURING THE CHOLA TIMES, PROVISION WAS MADE FOR THE RECITATION OF NAMMAZHWAR'S `TIRUVOIMOZHI' AND THE TIRUMUKKUDAL TEMPLE WAS NO EXCEPTION AS THE CONTENTS OF THIS INSCRIPTION REVEAL.
Other inscriptions mention Rajendra-I, Vira-Rajendra and Kulottunga-I, referring to endowments and gifts made to Thirumukkoodal temple, which clearly enjoyed great popularity during the Chola reign.
Thanks to these ancient epigraphs, Thirumukkoodal Temple is considered as a monument of national importance. I have already referred to some of the longest Chola inscriptions on record in this ancient temple. More than a thousand years old, these inscriptions contain some of the earliest known definitions on record for “DOCTOR” and “NURSE”.
I am furnishing below the Texts of one of the Chola Inscriptions relating to the functioning of a Hospital at this spot.
Text no. 1
ஆதுரசாலை வீரசோழனில் வியாதிப்பட்டு கிடப்பார் பதினைவர்க்கு பேரால் அரிசி நாழியாக அரிசி குறுணி எழுநாழிக்கு நெல் தூணி ஐந்நாழி உரியும் வியாதிப்பட்டு கிடப்பார்க்கு பலபடி நிபந்தக்காரர்க்கும் கிடைகளுக்கும் பாத்திரர்க்கும் சிவஸ்யஞ்சொல்லியாணியாக தனக்கும் தன் வர்க்கத்தாருக்கும் பெற்றுடைய ஆலப்பாக்கத்து சவணன் கோதண்டராமன் அசுவத்தம்பட்டனுக்கு நாளொன்றுக்கு நெல் முக்குறுணியும் காசெட்டும் சல்லியக்கிரியை பண்ணுவானுக்கு நாளொன்றுக்கு நெல் குறுணியும் ஆதுலர்க்கு மருந்துகளுக்கு வேண்டும் மருந்து பறித்து விறகிட்டு பரியாரம் பண்ணுவரிருவருக்கு நாளொன்றுக்கு நெல் குறுணியாக நெல்பதக்கும் காசொன்றாக காசிரண்டும் ஆதுலர்க்கு வேண்டும் பரியாரம் பண்ணி மருந்திடும் பெண்டுகளிருவருக்கு பேரால் நாநாழியாக நாளொன்றுக்கு நெல் குறுணியும் பேரால் காசரையாக காசொன்றும் ஆதுலர்க்கும் கிடைகளுக்கும் பாத்திரருக்கும் வேண்டும் பணிசெய்யும் நாவிசன் ஒருவனுக்கு நாளொன்றுக்கு நாநாழி ஆதுரசாலை வீரசோழனில் ஆண்டொன்றிலருமருந்து ஸ்ரீப்ராஹ்ம்ய மகருக்கு இப்படியொன்றும் … இப்படி ஹரிதகி படி இரண்டும் கோமூத்திர ஹரிதகி படியிரண்டும் தசமூலஹரிதகி படியொன்றும் பிப்லாதக ஹரிதகி படியொன்றும் கண்டீரம் படியொன்றும் பலாகோரண்டதைலம் தூணியும் பஞ்சார்கதைலம் தூணியும் ஸ்ரீலஸ்ரத்தா கோரண்டதைலம் தூணியும் கண்யாதிதைலம் தூணியும் ….. பதக்கும் சாக்ருதம் பதக்கும் வில்வாதி க்ருதம் பதக்கும் மண்டூரவாகம் இரண்டாயிரமும் மஹாசுமனத்ரி இரண்டாயிரமும் தந்த்ராதி இரண்டாயிரமும் பஞ்சகல்பம் தூணிபதக்கும் கல்யாணலவணம் தூணி பதக்கும் இவையடுகைக்கு வேண்டும் மருந்துகளுக்கும் நெய்யும் … வும் உள்ளிட்ட …. ஆண்டுதோரும் புராண.. சர்வ பசுவிநெய் பதக்கும் கொள்ள காசுநாற்பதும் ஆதுலசாலையில் இரா எரியும் விளக்கு ஒன்றுக்கு எண்ணெயாழாக்காக நாள் முன்னூற்றறுபதுக்கு எண்ணெய் நாற்பத்தைந்து நாழிக்கு காசிரண்டேகாலும்.. ஜனநாதன்… ல தன்யனுக்கு பங்குனி உத்திரம் தொடங்கி புரட்டாசி திருவோணத்தளவும் பரம்பாலூர… தண்ணீர் கொடுவந்து வைத்துச் சாய்ப்பான் ஒருவனுக்கு நாளொன்றுக்கு நெல் குறுணியாக நாள் நூற்றெண்பதுக்கு நெல் பதினெண்கலமும் ஏலத்துக்கும் இலாமிச்சத்துக்கும் நெல் இரு… ண்ணியாஹம் பண்ணின பிராமணர்க்கு தக்ஷிணாகம் வெற்றிலை வெருங்காய்க்கும் நெல் கலனே தூணி இருநாழி முழக்கே முச்செவிடும் வயலைக்காவூர் காணியுடைய மாதவன் தாயன் வர்க்கத்தார்க்கு புரட்டாதி திருவோணத்து நாள் உடுக்கும் பரிசட்டம் இரண்டுக்கு காசொன்றே எழுமாவும் மூவாயிரத்து இருநூற்று நாற்பத்து முக்கலனே இருதூணி பதக்கு அறுநாழி உழக்கே முச்செவிடுக்கும் காசு இருனூற்றொருபத்து ஆறறையே இரண்டு மாவுக்கும் இக்காசு பத்ராவிடில் காசொன்றுக்கு தண்டவாணி ஒன்றோடொக்கும் பொன்காசு நிறைகால் இடுவதாகவும் இப்படியாண்டு ஆறாவது நிபந்தம் செய்தபடி இந்நிபந்தம் தழுவக்குழைந்தானான அபிமானபேரு பிரம்ம மாராயன்
I have given a detailed description of the spiritual significance of Thirumukkoodal and the glory and the grandeur of Trimurti Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple. Very near the sacred spot, on the other side of the Palar River perched on a hillock lies another famous Temple of Pazhaya Seevaram Laksmi-Narasimha Swamy Temple.
Laksmi-Nrsimha Temple on hillside
Front Entrance of Laksmi-Nrsimha Temple, Pazhaya Sheevaram
Lord Nrsimhadev is a very large Santha-murti (sweet and charming), and is very beautiful indeed. In His home temple, Sri Laksmi-Nrsimha sits facing Kanchipuram. His temple is at the place where Goddess Mahalaksmi is said to have pacified the Lord.
On the day following Sankranthi (Mattu Pongal day in the Tamil month of Thai), Lord Varadarajaswami leaves his abode in Kanchipuram and crosses the Palar River and goes to meet Lord Lakshmi Narasimha at Pazhaya Seevaram. Then Lord Varadarajaswami and Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy go together to Thirumukkoodal to visit Sri Appan Venkatesa Perumal. The 3 deities together proceed from one temple mandapa to the next, and devotees throng to the Sri Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple to get their darshan. This religious observance is known as Pazhaiya Seevaram Paarivettai, which celebrates the Lord's destruction of demonic forces. A similar festival is held in many Vishnu temples in the area.
Let me quote the words of Sri Aurobindo: “what can one possibly say of a country that believes in not just a God, but a God that lives in the heart of men, a god that works through the hazy networks of life after life, waiting, hoping and eternally confident that one day we will arrive --- what words can possibly fit to describe such fervour, such conviction, such immensity of plan and purpose? What can be said of those who relentlessly shy away from Darwinian Theories of Evolution to spew forth their own? What can be said of those who believe this land to have been struck by God’s own arrow, giving birth to God’s own country, not just a mere push and shove of glaciers? … Ancient Bharata --- where does she begin? When did she end? Or has she even ended? There are those who say, NO. They say She has no beginning, no end, like the Brahman that She loves and swears by, which begins from Nothing and ends into Nothing. Timeless. … But what if all our imagination is empty and meaningless? What if She is truly just another piece of land, nothing more? What if that strange Echo that one hears inside the womb of silence is only our madness and not Her Eternal Spirit, throbbing, pulsating, living? What if Her Chroniclers, the ones that chisel stones and paint dreams are only eking out a living, not in tune with the life-force that runs underneath the stone, unable to put a finger on the pulse that beats in the heart of brick-walls? If this is true, then all the more do we hang to our imagination, empty or not? And if madness is all it is, then who is to say whether madness is not but a step closer to the Divine? In that case, it is a step we shall gladly take!”