Tuesday, 11 November 2008
There is one object of heritage value in Tanjavur that not many visitors would have seen. It is the Tanjavur Cannon, a mighty Cannon of forge welded iron built during the reign of Raghunatha Nayak (1600-1645 CE). This 25 ft long Cannon weighs 22Tonnes. The outer diameter is 37 inches and the inner dia 25 inches can fire a cannon ball (iron) of 1000 Kg weight. No wonder it finds fourth place in the list of Largest Cannons fired in the World History.This Cannon was named "Rajagopala Beerangi (Cannon), but popularly known as "Daasimettu beerangi" is placed on an elevated (25'high) defense barricade at the eastern Rampart of the Tanjavur Fort. Surprisingly many people living in Tanjavur may not be aware of the existance of such a huge Cannon in Tanjavur. Since I stayed with my uncle on the same road on Rampart I saw this Cannon when I visited Tanjavur for the first time in 1946.
Interestingly though many locals may not be aware of such thing of heritage value is there in their Town, this Cannon finds a place in the list of Largest Cannons in World History.
Avudayarkoil better known as "Tirupperundurai" in Saivaite literature is 13 Kms from Arantangi on the road to Mimisal. The Temple complex is fairly large one with main entrance facing South. The imposing seven storied main Gopuram is built on the second of the five "prakarams". This holy place is famous for its historical and religious importance gained by the close association with Saint Manickavasagar. The presiding deity of this temple is known as "Sri Athmanatha swami" Lord of (formless) Self and the consort is "Siva Yoga Nayaki or Yogambikai". There is no Siva Lingam in the Sanctum which is also facing South. The Lord is represented by "Avudayar"the pedestal. Outer Gold kavacha shaped as Sivalinga is kept on the Avudayar (Pedestal) for the purpose of Abhisheka and Pooja. Similarly the consort "Yogambikai" in her Sanctum has also no form. She is represented by Golden foot prints on the "peedam". There is no "Nandhikeswarar", nor the tradtional "Kodimaram" - Flagpost or "Balipeedam" in the Temple. Even the "Pradosha pooja" which is done to the "Nandhi" in Siva Temples is performed to "Sri Manickavasagar" here.There is no shrine for "Chandikeswarar" either.
First thing that is strikingly different from other temples here is its clenliness. AvudayarKoil is under the administration of "Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam". Every part of the temple is kept clean. When we entered the Temple a "Guide" joined us to help. He introduced himself as Swaminatha Nambiyar (Nambi) a sthanikam attached to the Temple. We found him well informed and helpful. He took us round the Temple and showed us every aspect of Sculptural intricacies that this Temple is famous for. The main part of the Temple consisting of Sanctums of Lord Athmanathaswami and Yogambikai togather with the holy "Kurundhai" stone under which Saint Manickavasagar got his Guru Dheeksha must have been built by Saint Manickavasagar. All other structures must have been added by many Royal dynasties later on in stages. Pooja Rituals in this Temple follow Agamic traditions as also Vedic like in Chidambaram and performed by the priests belonging to a sect called "Nambiyars" (Nambis). Originally this Temple was owned by 301 families of Nambiyars. Due to various reasons and fund crunch the Temple was handed over to Tiruvavaduthurai Adheenam. Now there are only 30 odd families of Nambiyars to look after the Pooja rituals of the Temple. Another unique custom in this Temple is the offering of cooked Boiled rice, Bitter gourd and Keerai (greens) as Neivedyam offering to the Lord. We were told by the Sthanikam that the cooked boiled rice is spread on the stone before the Lord in the Sanctum and the steam is shown as nivedanam along with other items mentioned. These offerings are made for all the six times of Pooja.
Avudayarkoil is known for its sculptural excellence. Every thing in this temple is beautiful. There are Six Mandapams in the Temple containing excusitely carved figures in the stone pillars. The larger than life monolith figures of Agni and Agora Veerabadras at the entrance and Kaalidevi, Subrahmanya with bow, Bikshadanar, Sankaranarayanar, Urdhuvathandavar, Pasupatheeswarar and Narasimhamurthy are note worthy. I do not understand the significance of Lord Narasimha (avathara of Vishnu) in a Siva Temple ! Two other sculptures of "Kuravan and Kurathi" exhibits the excellence of the artists for minute details from toe to hair style. I have seen similar sculptures at Krishnapuram in Tirunelveli district (Tamilnadu), which was built by Nayaks of Madurai. But the most awe inspiring work is seen insides of the Canopy and Sun shades known as "Kodungai" which stretches all around the Mandapams. The rafters, tiles, paddings with hinges and decorative nails chiseled out of stone looks as though they were done in wood and iron. All over the ceilings are decorated with flowery patterns and stone chain links. At one place the stars are given the form of constellations that we see in the sky. There is no separate Navagraha Sannadhi here, instead the nine gruhas with their consorts are carved on pillars which found in a straight line. We also saw nice fresco paintings on the ceilings and walls in the Temple. I am not sure about the date of this work. May be done during the period of Nayak or Maratha rulers.
There are Ten Theerthams (water sources) in the Temple complex. The biggest among them is known as Agni Theertham, the main tank which has well built steps and clean water for bathing.
The Main festivals of the Temple take place during the Tamil months of Aani (June-July) and Margazhi (December-January). All festivals are Celebrated in relation to events connected with Saint Manickavasagar.
When we left the Temple after our dharshan, we felt that we should have spent more time in this wonderful abode of Sri Athmanathaswami.
Avudayarkoil is closely associated with Saint Manickavasagar and his magnum opus "Thiruvasagam". This post may not be complete unless a brief biography of the Saint is included. But due to compulsions of brevity I would like to write about it later.
However those who would like to read the Biography in detail can find the same in the following URL:
We can reach Avudayarkoil from Pudukkottai (49 Kms) via Aranthangi (13 Kms). The roads are good and not much of traffic. Good hotels are available for stay at Pudukkottai.