Agastheeswarar temple – Pozhichalur | SwamyView ~ Sacred Spaces

Agastheeswarar temple – Pozhichalur
~a ‘SwamyView ~ Sacred Spaces’ blog post
அருள்மிகு ஆனந்தவல்லி அம்பாள் சமேத அகஸ்தீஸ்வரர் திருக்கோயில் ~ பொழிச்சலூர் (சென்னை)
There are temples and then there are temples…

The Agastheeswarar temple at Pozhichalur (அருள்மிகு அகஸ்தீஸ்வரர் திருக்கோயில் ~ பொழிச்சலூர்) belongs to the latter category. Though quite popular as a parihAra sthalam (for Shaneeswarar – சனி பரிகார ஸ்தலம் [அ] நாடி பரிஹார ஸ்தலம்), it doesn’t appear to have the unavoidable burdens associated with the popular temples (such as Kabaaleeswarar & KaaraNeeswarar, where the busier-than-thou crowd of devotees and archakars swat away any semblance of peace and bliss associated with sacred spaces).

When Swamy was looking for ShivA temples with Kaala Bhairavar Sannidhi in order to offer prayers for his elder daughter Mylo alias குஞ்சம்மாள்’s 10th & 13th day remembrance (she attained the Dancing Lord’s lotus feet on the wee hours of 31st of January, 2019) an acquaintance who happens to be a Shiva bhakth with extensive yatra experience pointed him to the Agastheeswarar temple at Pozhichalur.

On the 13th day morning (12-Feb-2019) Swamy reached the temple around 7.15am, after a little bit of ride & miss (despite Google maps), that’s typical of suburbs like this, which have grown disproportionately over years, with prominent landmarks such as temples even getting hidden by haphazard urban construction. With a variety of flowers purchased from local vendor paattis (there were 3 of them, but none had any garland – a nondescript Tuesday must have been a run-of-the-mill uneventful day for their business!), Swamy entered the ancient temple (Agasthya Muni & Shaneeswarar are said to have worshipped the Lord), alongside who appeared to be the chief GurukkaL (he indeed was). The entry to the sanctum sanctorum can be quite confusing for first-time devotees, with barricades all around, leading one somewhere, but not where one thinks it would! This is probably to regulate the crowd of devotees that throng the temple on Saturdays to worship Shaneeswara BhagavAn! There were just a handful of devotees inside the temple and none – including the deities themselves – seemed to be in any kind of a hurry, which was a real surprise – especially when compared to the extraordinarily busy city temples (there are quite a few, in every zone).
While keeping the flowers on the brass plate outside every Sannidhi (Abhishekham & AlankAram yet to be completed in many), Swamy noticed something very different (probably unique as well) inside the temple. There were Bhairavars (aka dogs) roaming around and resting freely everywhere. And no one was troubling them in any way. Wow, what an appropriate happening in a place that’s quite popular for Bhairavar worship. This was something Swamy had seen only in the temples at Nepal, during the Kailash-Manasarovar yatra and it was certainly wonderful to see something similar in a local neighbourhood.

Lord Agastheeswarar (அருள்மிகு அகஸ்தீஸ்வரர்) was kind enough to offer glimpses of his AlankAram (post Abhishekham), revealing exactly his right half – only the IswarA part. The large Swayambhu Linga (சுயம்பு லிங்கம்) is magnificent and one can’t take the eyes away from the Lord, while humbly standing in front of him. The experience was akin to being in the presence of Sadhguru (சத்குரு), Swamy’s Guru, on certain occasions such as the SanyamA (சம்யமா) program, when he is simply clad in a white vEshti and angavasthram (instead of his usual regal attire), and connects with the core of the being at energy level. The presence of Adiyogi (ஆதியோகி) was subtle yet undeniable. On the left side of his sannidhi, Iswari offered a very blissful darshan, aptly reflecting her name of Anandavalli (ஆனந்தவல்லி அம்பாள்). The experience in the presence of Ammaiyappan (அம்மையப்பன்) was so intimate that a seeker simply can’t escape the resonance with their energy that directly touches one’s core, if one can keep the “i” aside for a few moments and “just be” there.

The darshan at this temple reminded Swamy of his darshan experiences at the AbhirAmi amman temple in Dindigul (அபிராமி அம்மன் திருக்கோயில், திண்டுக்கல்) during his childhood and the Meenakshi-SundarEswarar temple near the vaigai riverbed (not that world famous temple located in the heart of Madurai) that’s the “பிட்டுக்கு மண் சுமந்து பிரம்படி வாங்கி அருளிய” (one of the 64 ThiruviLayAdals performed by the Lord in & around Madurai) sthalam near KOchadai (கோச்சடை). In fact, Devi Anandavalli actually reminds one of AbhirAmi Amman and the temple itself felt similar to the Dhandeeswarar temple in Velachery (வேளச்சேரி தண்டீஸ்வரர் திருக்கோயில்) which is very ancient, dating back to the vedic period.

The day’s bliss was to continue with some devotee waiting patiently near the (VaLLi-DheivAnai samEdha) SubrahmaNyar (வள்ளி-தெய்வானை சமேத ஸ்ரீ சுப்பிரமணியர்) Sannidhi (which he shares with elder bro GaNapathy) requesting Swamy to be present for the Abhishekham that was about to start. That the day happened to be the six-faced Lord’s day (Tuesday) wasn’t a mere coincidence. Having performed the Abhishekham at home yesterday for the VEl (வேல்) on the occasion of Sashti, Swamy was delighted to have darshan of the elaborate Abhishekham (including PanchAmirtham-பஞ்சாமிர்தம்) performed to the Lord. All the daily chants and japA of Lord ShANmukhA (ஷண்முகர்) that Swamy performs happened at the temple itself, while the mighty SUraSamhArar (சூரசம்ஹார மூர்த்தி) got ready – at leisure, of course – to shower his devotees with blessings during the rest of the day. Agasthya Muni (அகத்தியர்) & Lord Surya (சூரியன்) are located facing SkandhaGurunhAthan.

While the abhishEkham was performed for the Lord, there was an interesting conversation and consequential action going on in parallel at the Shaneeswarar sannidhi, where a very talkative devotee was keen on offering vastram & flowers followed by puja to Shani BhagavAn, on the occasion of his janma nakshatram (ஜன்ம நக்ஷத்திரம் – birth star), which was Krithigai (கிருத்திகை [அ] கார்த்திகை). The gurukkaL tried in vain to explain subtly to him that the day’s star was actually BharaNi (பரணி) and KArthigai will be only post sunset. But as the devotee’s list of proofs to establish the day’s star as KArthigai kept growing with PAmbu panchAnkam (பாம்பு பஞ்சாங்கம்) and his wife, the archakar was prudent enough not to push that fact any further and simply fulfilled the devotee’s desire, thereby adding a potential patron for the temple’s upkeep and festivals. That was a free management lesson for any employee aspiring for career growth, working for a boss with pre-concluded notions (which, pretty much, they all are)!

Finally, the actual purpose of the temple visit happened, with VeLLai EL dheepam (வெள்ளை எள் தீபம் – white sesame lamp) offering and archanai performed to Lord SamhAra KAla Bhairavar (அருள்மிகு சம்ஹார கால பைரவர்) who gloriously stood in his own Sannidhi, in the outer prahAram, surrounded by living Bhairavars, who added their own collective chanting during the karpoora aarthi, from all eight directions (you may watch that mesmerising sight in this video https://youtu.be/qmcy-9-Q14Q).
This deity of SamhAra KAla Bhairavar seems to be a recent establishment by a person (siddhar!), whose pictures can be seen in many a banner while entering the temple, who also seems to be the hereditary trusty of the temple (per the Sthala varalARu – ஸ்தல வரலாறு), which isn’t under the control of HRCE department (thankfully, one might say!). A privately managed ancient temple in a large city is indeed a rarity.
If one enters through the RAjagopuram entrance (ராஜகோபுர வாயில் – though there isn’t a tower per se’), which is on the right side of the dhwajasthambham, Lord SamhAra KAla Bhairavar will be the first one to offer blessings. From the dhwajasthambham, one can see Lord Agastheeswarar directly, as the Swayambhu Lingam is quite large in size. Devi is located on the Lord’s left and their children are on the Lord’s right side. There is also another KAla Bhairavar (கால பைரவர்) deity just outside ambAL sannidhi, following which the NavagrahAs (நவகிரஹங்கள்) are located. Next to them, Lord ShaneeswarA (சனீஸ்வர பகவான்) has a separate sannidhi, which draws a sizable gathering of devotees on Saturdays and the days that are considered auspicious for his worship (e.g. Sani PradhOsham & Sani peyarchi / சனிப்பிரதோஷம் & சனிப்பெயர்ச்சி). This temple is a renowned Shani ParihAra sthalam (சனி பரிகார ஸ்தலம்) that’s considered an equivalent of ThirunhALLAru (திருநள்ளாறு), hence also known as Vada ThirunhaLLARu (வட திருநள்ளாறு).
During the parikramA (பரிக்ரமா [அ] பிரதட்சணம் – circumambulation) of the temple, one can offer prayers to Lord AanjanEyA (surprisingly, Swamy saw ‘Shiva AanjanEyar’ சிவ ஆஞ்சநேயர் sannidhi inside Aadhipureeswarar temple at Pallikkaranai (அருள்மிகு ஆதிபுரீஸ்வரர் திருக்கோயில், பள்ளிக்கரணை) as well – during Mylo’s 10th day remembrance), AdiGuru Dakshinamurthy (ஆதிகுரு தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி), PiLLayAr seated under his favourite tree Arasa maram (அரச மரத்தடி விநாயகர்), yet another majestic Lingam with its own Nandhi that’s located in the open (established by a devotee, apparently) next to the GOshAlA (கோசாலை – பசுமடம்) with many cows and calves, DEvi DurgA (விஷ்ணு துர்க்கை அம்மன்) and ChandikEswarA (சண்டிகேஸ்வரர்). While leaving the temple post darshan also, one can’t escape the watchful eyes of SamhAra KAla Bhairavar, whose prime location seems to clearly indicate his thiruviLayAdal (திருவிளையாடல் – divine play or act) at both beginning and conclusion of one’s lifetime. Btw, if one is so inclined (as the Swamys naturally are) to pet the living Bhairavars in and around the temple, they’re quite fearless and very friendly.
After spending almost two hours at the peaceful environs of DEvi Anandavalli samEdha Lord Agastheeswarar temple (ஆனந்தவல்லி அம்பாள் சமேத ஸ்ரீ அகஸ்தீஸ்வரர் திருக்கோயில்), where time appears to literally slow down (in contrast with the eternally busy world of survival just outside) under the watchful eyes of Lord SamhAra KAla Bhairavar (ஸ்ரீ சம்ஹார கால பைரவர்), Swamy’s heart was filled with gratitude to the pal who guided him to the most appropriate sacred space for his beloved elder daughter’s 13th day remembrance. ShambhO.
Know more about Pozhichalur Sri Agastheeswarar Temple

AUM Namah ShivAya / ஓம் நம சிவாய.

BOlo BhairavnAth MaharAj ki Jai / போலோ பைரவ்நாத் மஹராஜ் கி ஜெய்.
Hara Hara MahAdEvA / ஹர ஹர மஹாதேவா.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

Asura – Tale of the Vanquished by Anand Neelakantan

Asura_Book“Asura – Tale of the Vanquished” is an interesting book by first time author Anand Neelakantan. It’s the well known tale of Ramayana, one of the greatest Indian epics (the other being Mahabharata), told from the unknown perspective of Ravana, the antagonist and Bhadra, a nobody whose Life pretty much impacts everybody who is somebody in this tale.

Ramayana had always been told as Rama’s story. And over time, it has attained divine status – along with its hero – thereby denying an opportunity for the tru(th)e seeker to know the other side of the story. Just the way every coin has two sides, every story also has two perspectives. But just as only the winning side of the coin during a toss is seen by spectators, it’s always the winner’s side of the story that a reader gets to read. Anand, thankfully, provides that other perspective – that of the vanquished – with utmost clarity and conviction.

It is hard not to compare this book with my other recent reads – Parts 1 and 2 of The Shiva Trilogy by Amish – not just because both books are retelling of well known mythology by first time authors, but also because Lord Shiva is an integral part of both stories. Ravana, after all, is one of the most popular Shiva bakthas of yore.

Asura’s narration is straightforward, starting with Ravana’s childhood with insufferable hardship filled with insult; leading to his vibrant youth with burning ambition; resulting in fearless conquests and his eventual ascendance of Asura kingdom’s throne; inevitable interaction with the Hero, Heroine and sidekicks of Ramayana, i.e., Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman, et al; and predictable end to his era of being the greatest Asura emperor ever.

Apart from the interesting and intriguing tale from the perspective of Ravana, Anand also adds another dimension to the story through Bhadra, the commoner who keeps crossing Ravana’s path but never gets his fair share of glory and ends up in misery all the time. Ravana and Bhadra’s lives weave through the tale like two threads of same fabric but of varying color and texture. Heck, they even share a common son!

Ravana_fight2Asura is full of characters that many of us know well from reading, hearing or viewing the epic (all of them invariably glorifying Rama’s side of the story), but what makes it memorable is how Anand weaves them into the story (both events and time) and connects them with the protagonist Ravana (remember – this is Ravana’s tale). While Vibishana, Kumbakarna, Soorpanaka, Maricha, Meghanada, Vali (pronounced Bali in the book), Sita and Hanuman feature prominently, the ones that end up being well etched in our memory are Ravana (can’t help wonder ‘Wow’), Mandodari (a perfect match for this tale’s hero), Bhadra (he’s more or less the 2nd hero of this tale), Mala (whose life is intertwined with both heros), Prahastha (a true model Prime Minister), Athikaya (the illegitimate son of Ravana who seems a purely fictional creation but is memorable nevertheless), Mahabali (a curious cameo as Ravana’s mentor), Shambuka (equally enchanting and heart wrenching) and Mayan (has a surprise connection to Ravana and almost the equivalent of Brahaspati in The Shiva Trilogy). Rama and Lakshmana are mentioned more of an afterthought (and appear only after 300 pages or so), which is perfectly understandable as they’re not larger than life Gods in Ravana’s perspective. Ravana and Sita’s relationship is the best twist of the tale!

Anand’s tale abounds with details on the Asura way of Life (which incidentally is not much different from our way of Life today) and of course the Deva way of Life (which certainly is not what we believed it was until now). Just the way Amish (quite successfully) made Shiva and all other mythical characters as humans in his books, Anand also depicts Ravana and all other mythical characters as humans, just belonging to very different races such as Asuras, Devas, Nagas (who feature prominently in Amish’s tale too), Gandharvas, Vanaras and Barbarians (or foreigners). He also sprinkles his tale with a generous amount of vices such as drinking and crimes such as rape. Graphic depiction of recurring bloody wars and their regrettable aftermath remind us that we humans aren’t any better as a race of people.

Ravana 4While both Amish’s and Anand’s tales are eminently readable, the significant difference between the two tales is the definition of characters and depiction of a scene or environment by Amish. Anand focuses on the story and events in it rather than shaping individual characters or describing the environment in detail. He also dispenses off the truly epic moments of the epic rather quickly. Despite this, the book is longer than Amish’s.

One of the reasons for the length is his intermittent discourses on politics, caste system (he’s especially vitriolic against Brahmins, a sect to which he too probably belongs to) and oppression of the lesser privileged, which is quite possibly influenced by the affairs of his home state Kerala, if not India itself. But just when the reader gets tired of this diatribe, he switches gears by moving to one of the significant events and gets our attention back. He could’ve either made this a 2 or 3 part book like Amit’s Shiva Trilogy or cut down on Bhadra’s perspective, which would’ve helped shed almost 1/3rd of the book’s length. But then, we would’ve never known the commoner’s view of Life in the island (Lanka) and mainland (India) during those times, which is as wretched and hard as it is today, millennia after the period of this tale.

Anand’s Asura is not in the same league as Amish’s The Shiva Trilogy, but is certainly an equally worthy effort by the first time author. May be he should consider retelling Mahabharata from Dhuriyodhana’s and a Bhadra like commoner’s perspective in his next book! Recommended Read by Swamy!

You may also read Swamy’s review of this enchanting book with a refreshing antagonist perspective in GoodReads!

Happy reading & a joyful Life to all knowledge seekers 🙂

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