Sunday, Mar 07, 2021 09:15 [IST]
Last Update: Sunday, Mar 07, 2021 03:39 [IST]
THE UNIQUE ARDHANAREESWARA TEMPLE
Lest I am cursed by the women folk, let me first salute them on the International Women’s Day. I have my mother, wife and daughter at home! This article is also a tribute to women power – Shakthi.
Long, long back there was a holy saint Bhrigu/Bhiringi who worshipped only Lord Shiva and not even His consort, Goddess Parvathi. Annoyed, Parvathi once hindered Bhrigu moving towards Shiva but the Lord helped the saint proceed towards Him. So Parvathi Devi took up the Kedara Gowri penance as instructed by Lord Vishnu and was granted the boon of being half of Shiva, which is hailed as the Ardhanareeswara manifestation, the united form of Shiva & Shakthi. Therefore, Saint Bhrigu had no other option than worshipping them together! Thus Shakthi occupied the left side of Shiva.
Thiruchengode Temple in Tamil Nadu is perhaps the only place where this rare form of Ardhanareeswarar is enshrined as the principal deity in the sanctum sanctorum whereas, usually, only the Shivlinga is enshrined in all Shivalayas. The deity here is hailed in Tamil as M?dhorub?gan (Woman as part of Him) and Ammaiyappan (mother-father). Goddess Parvathi is appropriately called here as Baagampiriyal (Who doesn’t part). Thiruchengode is in Namakkal District with easy approach by road/rail/air from Salem (50 kms.).No wonder that an image of Saint Bhiringi also occupies a place at the foot of Ardhanareeswarar deity. After all, was not Bhiringi the cause for Shiva’s this rare manifestation! The 6 ft. deity is aptly dressed and ornamented – right side as male, left as female.
This sacred site finds mention in Tamil literature of 2000 years ago. According to Hindu tradition, once there was a competition between Vayu Deva (Lord of Wind) and Aadhishesha snake as to who was powerful. To cut short, when Vayu suddenly let the wind forcefully, one of the five heads of Aadhishesha blew off along with part of Mount Meru that he was holding and fell down here in Thiruchengode. Hence the hill is known as Nagamalai (malai=hill)/ Chengode. At the foot of the hill is carved a 60 ft. long image of Aadhishesha. He is believed to remove various curses such as naga, Ragu, Kethu, Sani, puthra, etc. To be on the safer side we also appeased him by pouring ½ a litre of milk.
Atop this 650 ft. high hillock are shrines for Ardhanareeswarar, Vishnu and Katthik. The temple’s mandap has rows of sculpted pillars that are a visual treat. One pillar depicts a foreigner riding a horse; that was Davis, a British colonial officer, who had assisted in the renovation of the temple. The sacred pond here is called Sangu (Conch) Theertham. The ‘sthala vriksha’ is Mahua tree (Madhuca longifolia). The main entrance tower (raja gopuram) is 845 ft. tall! Well, if you have the shakthi you can climb up all the 1200 steps to reach the temple or just drive up the hill. Devotees throng this temple on the days of monthly pradosha, amavasya (new moon) and karthikai thithi, which I realized as we went for a darshan on new moon day. I lost my energy waiting in the winding queue and was simply uttering Shiva’s name, following the Tamil saying ‘Sakthi illaiyel Sivanenu keda’ (if you do not have the energy just lie down quietly uttering Siva mantra). The annual chariot festival of Thiruchengode temple takes place on Vaisaki Visakam day (May).
Lest I am reborn as a faithful dog roaming the Thiruchengode Hills, let me faithfully remember our family friends, the Sundarams, who warmly hosted us in Salem for a darshan of this rare Ardhanareeswarar.