Monday, January 24, 2011

Temple Visit - Maduranthakam








Dear Readers!

I was fortunate to visit “Eri Kaatha Ramar” temple at Maduranthakam recently while on my way to Melmaruvathur Adiparasakthi temple. In Tamil ‘Eri’ means ‘Lake’ or ‘Tank’, ‘Kaatha’ means protected hence the “Lake protected by Rama.” There is an interesting story behind this name, which you can find in the article.

You will also be surprised to note that the shrine of Janakavalli Thayar i.e. Sita’s shrine was built with the help of the then British Collector, Colonel Lionel Blaze who sanctioned necessary funds as an offering to Lord Rama.

The temple also has its connection with Saint Ramanuja. The temple is a revered shrine for Srivaishnavas as it is hallowed by the visit of Emperumanar Ramanujar enroute to Srirangam. It was here in Maduranthakam temple Sri Periya Nambigal performed Pancha Samskaaram to Sri Ramanuja.

The temple has rich legends dating back to Ramayana period.

The temple abounds with interesting incidents and enlightening legends.

Please read on to know more about the same.

Please give your valuable feedback!

Happy Reading!

Warm Regards!

A.V. Devan
Chennai
24-01-2011

Temple Visit – Maduranthakam



Maduranthakam

Maduranthakam is a town is located on the GST Road between Chengalpattu and Melmaruvathur on the National Highway (NH 47). The town is situated roughly about 80 KMs from Chennai. Maduranthakam is famous for its huge tank with immense storage capacity. It is believed to be built by the Chola King Utama Choza also called as Maduranthaka Thevar during his reign circa 10th Century AD. . The town hosts the famous temple dedicated to Lord Rama known as “Eri Katha Ramar” temple i.e. Tank protected by Lord Rama. The temple abounds with interesting incidents and enlightening legends.

Legends

The legend of this temple dates back to Ramayana period. This place was known as “Vakulaaranya Kshethram” meaning “forest of Maghizham trees”, as this place was teeming with Magizham trees. It is also referred to as Madhuranthaka Chathurvedhi Mangalam, Vaikunda Vardhanam, Thirumadhurai and Thirumandhira Tirupathi. Once there lived a sage by name Vipandakar who was worshipping Lord Karunakara Perumal along with Bhu Devi and Neela Devi. Lord Rama while in search of Sita visited Vipandakar’s hermitage for a few days and assured him that he would visit the place again after finding Sita.

After defeating Ravana, when Rama, Sita and Lakshmana were returning to Ayodhya in the Pushpaka Vimanam, as promised to Sage Vipaandakar, Sri Rama stopped there and paid their respects to the Rishi and then proceeded to Ayodhya. Hence the moolavar Sri Ramar gives darshan in an unusual yet rare posture holding Sita’s hands. There are two urchavars in this temple. One is Bhu Devi, Neela Devi Sametha Karunakara Perumal and the other one is Sita Lakshmana sametha Sri Kothandaramar. The image of Lord Rama is so bewitchingly beautiful that it is said to be next best to Vaduvoor Sri Rama. Sri Rama here is majestically beautiful and charming with an enchanting smile resplendent with divine thejas.

Connection with Saint Ramanuja

This temple is also connected to the life of Saint Ramanuja. Sri Ramanuja as directed by Sri Thirukkachi Nambigal, along with his wife was on his way from Kanchipuram to meet Mahapurna known as Sri Periya Nambigal at Sri Rangam to become his disciple. Incidentally Sri Periya Nambigal started from Sri Rangam towards Kanchipuram in search of Sri Ramanuja whom he felt would be the right disciple. As a coincidence both met here at Maduranthakam. It was here under a Magizha tree that Periya Nambi performed Pancha Samskarams (i.e. Thapa, Nama, Pundra, Manthra and Yaga) to Saint Ramanuja.

There is a small mandapam (Vaikunta Vardhanam) which has been built under the tree to remind posterity about the holy incident. There is a separate shrine for Sri Periya Nambigal and Sri Ramanuja here in this temple. This is the only temple where Sri Ramanuja is seen as a Grahastha (married person) wearing White clothing instead of the usual Saffron, as seen in other temples. The copper images of Chakra and Shanku with which Periya Nambi performed Samasrayanam to Ramanuja are still preserved in the temple. In two of his poems Saint Manavala Mamunigal asks everyone who wants to cast away their past sins to visit this temple and worship the Lord at the place where Periyanambigal had performed Panchasamskaram to Sri Ramanuja. Sri Nigamanta Mahadesikan has also performed Mangalasasanam to the Lord here.

Eri Kaatha Ramar

The name of Sri Kothandaramar here came to be popularly known as “Eri Kaatha Ramar” meaning the “Tank protected by Rama”. The interesting incident happened during the British rule. There was a District Collector of Chengalpattu by name Colonel Lionel Blaze during the period 1795 to 1798. During his collectorship Blaze had witnessed two breaches in the huge Madurantakam Tank. The enormity of the problem can be appreciated only when we know the massive size of the tank. The tank covers an area of 13 square miles (34 sq km) with a depth of 21 feet (7 Metres). The frequent breaching of the tank following torrential downpour was the nightmare of any official. Wanting to take preemptive action in the year 1798 the Collector camped in Madurantakam.

Colonel Blaze happened to see this beautiful temple and visited it to know more about it. The priests at the temple told him about the history and legend of the temple. While going around the temple, he found huge pillars and stone slabs piled up in one of the corners of the temple and enquired about the purpose of those slabs. The priests explained that they were meant for the construction of the shrine for Sri Janakavalli Thaayaar but they could not complete the construction due to paucity of funds. It seems Blaze had promised the priests that if their God protected the village from floods during the year, he would build the shrine at his cost. Saying this, he went back in a hurry without even having darshan of the deities. Thereafter, the Colonel had gone about strengthening the lake bund but in the heart of hearts, was not very confident about its intrinsic strength. Almost by coincidence, storm started battering the village. Torrential rains accompanied by gale lashed for days without any signs of respite. Soon, water level of the lake began to rise reaching the brim of the bund. With trepidation, Blaze expected the worst, i.e. the grave annual calamity to happen. Being the Collector of the district, he wanted to see the water level so that he can initiate some precautionary measures.

Amidst pouring rains, he ventured to inspect the lake accompanied by one of his orderlies holding an umbrella. Seeing the lake about to explode, he was filled with worry on how to handle the calamity which could befall the village anytime. As he stood there lost in thoughts, he chanced to see two young, well built men moving around on the embankment of the lake holding a bow and arrow.

He wondered and patiently watched these men moving around cautiously on the bank of the swollen lake. As it was night time, he couldn’t figure them out, but pitied them as they were walking on the lake bund during the dangerous night. He returned back to his place as he was already drenched thoroughly but thoughts were about those two strange young men. The next morning Col Lionel Blaze woke up and saw that the rains had stopped and the sun was shining. Anxious about the status of the lake, he came out and was told that there was no flooding the previous night and the bund withstood all the waters. He was very happy and rushed to the temple to share the news with the priests. The priests were delighted and welcomed him into the temple. This time, Blaze who was in a relaxed state of mind, peacefully entered the temple and accepted the respects from the temple priests. At that time the sanctum sanctorum was closed as the Alankaaram (decoration) was on for the deities. Once the doors opened, Blaze was shocked to see the same two young men who were wandering with bow and arrows the previous night along the lake bund, being worshipped. He couldn’t control himself and explained the priests the scene he had witnessed the previous night. The priests and others happily heard him and everyone realized that the two young men were none other than Lord Sri Rama and Sri Lakshmana who had saved the village from being washed away. From then onwards, people fondly started calling Sri Rama here as ‘Eri Kaatha Raamar’. Colonel Blaze, as promised, arranged to build the shrine for Sri Janakavalli Thaayaar, which is at the south western side of the temple. Sri Janakavalli Thaayaar is so also stunningly beautiful and is decorated with shining ornaments. An inscription is still found in the temple proclaiming that the Thaayaar shrine was built by Colonel Lionel Blaze of East India Company, the then district collector of Chengalpattu.

Other facts

The temple faces east with Sri Kothandaraamar being the presiding deity. There is a beautiful Mandapam outside the sanctum sanctorum with lots of pillars allowing cool breeze to wade into the temple. In the Mandapam adjacent to the sanctum, there is a secret underway found which starts from the Madhuraanthakam lake and passes through the temple and reaches the temple pond. The outer praakaaram has a majestic Dhwajasthambham, lending beauty to the temple. On entering the temple from north, Sri Chakkarathaazhwar shrine is found on the left hand side. The Sthala Viruksham ‘Magizha Maram’ is found on the north western side of the temple. There is a separate shrine for Sri Vishvaksenar on the outer praakaaram facing south. Sri Narasimhar also grants dharshan at the north eastern side of the temple, facing south. Lots of stone inscriptions are found along the walls of the temple. The Vimaanam for this temple is called Pushpaka Vimaanam. The temple pond in front of the temple and is called Sri Rama Theertham, which requires some cleaning up. Sri Aanjaneyar is seen in a separate shrine adjacent to the pond facing the temple towards west. Adjacent to it is Sri Ahobila Mutt. A Sanskrit college run by the Ahobila Math to spread the glory of the language is located in close proximity to the temple. The temple has two main festivals, Sri Rama Navami and the annual Brammothsavam which is celebrated for ten days during the Tamil month of “Aani”. Thirukkalyana Utsavam takes place in Panguni, and Adhyayana Utsavam goes on for 22 days in the month of Margazhi.

Madhuraanthakam Eri Kaatha Ramar is a must visit temple for the discerning Bhaktha, which being steeped in rich heritage and interesting history, is sure to elevate the level of the Bhakta, ennobling and endearing him to Lord Sri Rama.

Sri Rama Jai Rama, Jai Jai Rama !

Acknowledgement

Major Sri V. Venkata Narayanan for making necessary corrections, adding valuable inputs and making this article embellish.


Bibliography/Reference

Maduranthakam Temple - http://www.divyadarshanam.com/
Maduranthakam – Unique and Significant – The Hindu article dated Aug 9, 2002.
Eri Katha Ramar – Wikipedia
Maduranthakam – Wikipedia

1 comment:

Saravanan said...

Nice Narration with details!
Good job! Keep going.
In the references section you have mentioned www.dhivyadharsanam.com. But it is www.dharsanam.com.
Just if it may be corrected.