Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kovur Sundareswarar Temple

I happened to visit recently a 1300 year old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva at Kovur near Porur (Chennai). The temple is famous due to the visit of Saint Tyagaraja’s who had composed five songs on the temple known as “Kovur Pancharatnam”. Also the Vilva tree in this shrine is having 9/16/27 leaves in every stem instead of the usual 3 leaves. Also this temple is one of the Nava Graha Temple in Chennai meant for parikara sthalam of Bhudan. This is also the place associated with of Saint Poet Sekhizhar who had written Periyapuranam. Also this temple was sung by Thirunavukkarasar (Appar). Sounds interesting please read on to know more about Kovur.

Reaching Kovur

From Guindy Kathipara Junction one should take the Butt Road leading to Porur Junction. From there take left towards the road leading to Kundrathur and you can reach Kovur in less than 5 KMS from the Porur Junction. The entrance is picturesque with an array of houses and tall Asoka Trees on either side and greets us by 85 ft high temple tower (Raja gopuram) unique and great in art and sculpture. This temple has the unique Maha Vilvam as its Sthala Vruksham. (Sacred tree in the temple) which has bunch of 27 leaves in one single stalk!!!

The Shrine

The Stone Plates reveals that the temple was built by Sundara Chozhan during 965 BC. The Lord here is named as Sundareswarar (a) Thirumaneeswarar. The Ambal is Soundrambika (a) Soundaryanayaki. The shrine proper is in the gajaprishta style, resembling the Tiruvottriyur temple. This therefore indicates that it was built in Pallava times. Both Swami and Ambal have their sanctums within the same super structure. Lord Sundareswarar faces east and is a fairly large lingam. There are icons for Kalyana Sundareswara with consort, Somaskanda, the Goddess Saundaryanayaki, Subrahmanya with Valli and Devasena, Nataraja with Sivakami and Manikkavachakar, and the arupattu moovars. In addition, the temple also houses an utsava moorti of Vishnu with Sreedevi and Bhoodevi. This moorti, titled Karunakara Perumal, is obviously of a sound vintage though the recess in which it is housed is modern and shows that the Perumal has been brought in here in relatively recent times.


According to legend, when Goddess Kamakshi did penance in the nearby Mangadu, the entire world trembled, as the heat that emerged was unbearable for all living beings. Then Goddess Mahalakshmi took the form of the celestial cow, Kamadhenu, and pacified Kamakshi. As a result, the intensity of the heat got reduced and the entire world heaved a sigh of relief. To add to this Lord Shiva showed the real swaroopam in the Linga along with Parvathi and came to be known as ‘Thirumeneeswarar’. The temple has a seven-tier Rajagopuram on the southern entrance and the sanctum sanctorum, like in many Shiva temples, is in "Gajabrushta" (elephant's back) form. As Mahalakshmi appeared here as a cow the place came to be known as Kovoor ("Ko" in Sanskrit means cow).

The holy water source is Sivaganga Theertham. Apart from the main shrines for the Lord and His Consort, there are shrines for Vinayaka, Subramanya, Dakshinamoorthy, Lingodbhavar, Brahma, Chandikeswarar, Durgai and Mahavishnu, known as Karunakara Perumal along with His Consorts. Pooja is offered five times in the temple, famous for its "Thiruvembavai" festival and the "Arudhra" festival in the Tamil month of Margazhi. Skanda Sashti Soora Samharam and Sivarathri festivals are also celebrated in the temple, which is flocked by thousands of devotees during the Thirukkalyanam Festival held on Vaikasi Visakam day. The presiding deities as well as the Panchamurthis will be taken in procession on that day.

Appar & Sekizhar

Legend is that the Saint Poet Sekizhar who was written the “Periya Puranam” got his first line “Ulagelam” from the Lord at Kovur. This temple is also sung by Saiva Saint “Thirunavukkarasar” (Appar) and is one of the Vaipu Sthalam (meaning temple mentioned in atleast one verse of their songs)

Saint Tyagaraja’s ‘Kovur Pancharatnam’

Tyagaraja while on his Stay in Madras at the request of Dubash Sundaresa Mudaliyar visited Kovur and composed five songs on the Lord later came to be known as “Kovur Pancharatnam”.

The five songs composed by the Saint are :

Sambho Mahadeva (Pantuvarali, Roopakam) is in Sanskrit and comprises pallavi, anupallavi and a single charanam. It is largely a descriptive ode of the attributes of Sundareswara.

Sundareswaruni joochi (Sankarabharanam, Adi) comprises pallavi, anupallavi and three charanams. Couched in Telugu, the song depicts a grand spectacle of the shrine and the deity.

E vasudha (Sahana, Adi) has pallavi, anupallavi and a single charanam of eight lines. Perhaps the most popular among the five songs composed at Kovur, it states that even if one were to stay for half a minute in Kovur, wealth and other benefits can be obtained.

Kori sevimparaare (Kharaharapriya, Adi) comprises pallavi, anupallavi and a charanam of four lines. Like his Raju vedala (Desia Todi, Roopakam) and Chootaamu raare (Arabhi, Roopakam), composed at Srirangam, Tyagaraja speaks of leading a group of devotees and urging them to come and worship at Kovur.

Nammi vacchina (Kalyani, Roopakam) has pallavi, anupallavi and a single charanam comprising four lines. The kriti beseeches the Lord to protect Tyagaraja who has come unto Him with true faith.

Temple Tower (Rajagopuram)

The temple tower (gopuram) gives pride of place to Saint Tyagaraja. The builder/designer has used his imagination and in the lowest panel shows Tyagaraja coming to Kovur in a palanquin with several disciples in his retinue. The muscular figure of Wallajapet Venkataramana Bhagavatar is easily identifiable. It would appear that Tyagaraja was received with royal honours for the procession is led by drummers, standard bearers and pipers. On the other side of the lower panel, one has the same procession repeated with Rama and Lakshmana bringing up the rear. This obviously refers to the divine brothers protecting the saint from dacoits en route to Tirupati. The upper storeys of the gopuram depict several incidents from Tyagaraja's life such as his tutelage under Sonti Venkataramanayya, his darsan of Narada and his visit to Tirupati. In the last named sequence, the sculptor has depicted the doors of the Tirupati temple being closed, whereas legend has it that it was the screen (tera) that was drawn preventing Tyagaraja from having darsan.

Reference (Article by V. Sriram)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Guy called Randor

I recently attended two lectures delivered by Mr. Randor Guy (Photo Studios of Madras and Scandals and Secrets of Tamil Cinema) as part of the Madras Week celebrations in Chennai. The crowd for the later topic was huge and people were sitting on the floor to hear his story telling. People listen to him without closing their eyelids and with open mouth for hours together when he keeps telling about yester year film stories. Please read on to know more about Randor Guy.

Randor Guy is the pen name of Madabhushi Rangadorai (Born on March 13, 1945) is a well-known writer and journalist of India. He is also a noted film, social and cultural historian. His writings on a variety of subjects have appeared widely all over India in many languages like English, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi in all the leading publications. After earning a BSc, BL from Madras University, Randor practiced as a lawyer for sometime and then started work as an executive in a leading broking firm, Paterson & Co., Madras for five years. He left his job in an agency in 1976 to work as full time creative professional. Guy is married to Dolores Guy.(Anglo Indian). He lives with his family in Ayanavaram, Chennai.

Guy has been writing books on history and films since 1967. However, he became popular when his article on Frank Capra was purchased by the United States Information Agency for use as a reference work. Randor Guy remains the only non-American whose work has been acquired as reference material by the Government of the United States of America. He was engaged by USIS, India to lecture on Capra and his films at Madras, Bangalore, Trivandrum and Hyderabad for the Retro in these cities, the first Indian to be so engaged.

Guy is a regular columnist for newspapers as the Mylapore Times, The Hindu and The Indian Express. He also writes for the film magazine Screen. He writes on a variety of topics though he is mainly popular as a film historian and critic. He was engaged by USIS, India to lecture on Capra and his films at Madras, Bangalore, Trivandrum and Hyderabad for the Retro in these cities, the first Indian to be so engaged.

Guy has also written the screenplay for a few short documentaries and feature films. He has also produced a few advertisement films. In 1999, he made a 100-minute feature film in English titled Perfumed Garden for a Hollywood film company. The film was also subsequently dubbed into Hindi, Tamil and Telugu as Brahmachari. He has also written a Sinhalese film called Paradise Peak based on a best-selling crime novel written by him. Currently, he is working with the screenplay for an English film called ‘Maya’. He also delivers lectures as Visiting Professor at Stella Maris College, Loyola College, New College, Tamil Nadu Film and Television Institute, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Institute of Mass Communications, Madras. Randor was a member of the selection panel for the Indian Panorama Films for the International Film Festival, Trivandrum, 1997. A proficient in English, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi, he believes that work is worship, and to worship is to work!


On November 12, 2007, during a function commemorating the fifth anniversary of Samudra, a magazine dedicated to art and culture, Guy was awarded the Gnana Samudra award in recognition of his contributions to arts.

Books written by Randor

While the Breakers Roared (Fiction) Indian Ribaldry (Fiction, published in India, Japan and USA) Murder for Pleasure (True Crime) Madhuri Oru Madhiri (Fiction - Tamil) Chaya (Fiction - Telugu) Kasi (Fiction - Telugu) B. N. Reddy (Film History) A History of Tamil Cinema (Film History - Govt. of Tamil Nadu) Chitale (Biography) Starlight Starbright - Early Tamil Cinema (Best-seller) Monsoon (Novelization of a Hollywood movie shot in India)