Archive for the ‘madurai’ Tag

Varichiyur Cave Temple

A surprise offer from Dr. Venkataraman today to visit cave temples located in Varichiyur, 15 kms east of Madurai.  The hillock is exactly located in Kunrathur village (locally referred as Kunnathur), which is the hometown of my grandmother.  I’ve started early in the morning around 6:30 with John and Senthil, thanks to Dr. Krishnakumar, son of Dr. V, who gave us a free ride in his car.  Around 30 members were assembled for the explanation from Dr. V and he was giving historic details about the cave, Jainism, Hinduism and philosophies around it.

There are two small caves carved in the hillock, one facing east named Udayagiri and other facing west named Asthagiri (from the word  Asthamanam).  Originally used by Jain monks for their shelter during rainy days and then converted to Shiva temple by erecting Linga in it.  The age of the caves dates back to 750 A.D.  Small Nandi statue could be found in front of the Linga in both caves.  Udayagiri cave has one Vinayagar statue embossed on the wall, which is not a completed one.  Dwarabalagar statues could be found nearby in it.  The earliest Hindu cave is located in Madya Pradesh which also has the same name Udayagiri dated 450 A.D.  In Asthagiri cave in front of Garbhagraha, a small space could be found for sheltering a man or two, which is referred as Arthamandapa.  It is being believed that a Pandya king regularly came to this Asthagiri cave and does prayer in Arthamandapa and having the view of sunset, which symbolizes the end of life.  In the same hillock, we’ve seen another cave which also has Linga in it and nearby place is referred as Samanar Padukkai.  All these caves are incomplete in its form as it was build during the war period between Pallavas and Pandyas.  Some of the below points have been captured during the speech of Dr.V.

*  The basement of Linga could be square, octagonal or circular in shape.  There are 11 meanings for Linga as symbol, god, gender, etc.  Based on the gender Linga could be referred as Purusha Linga (male), Stri Linga (female) or Purustri Linga (neutral).

*  The Hinduism revolves around the concept of creation, protection and destruction.  Equivalently the Linga has its parts as bottom basement refers to Brahma, middle pedestal to Vishnu and upper stubha to Shiva.  So worshiping Linga becomes the integral part of Hindu religion.  Linga worship dates back to 2500 BC of Indus Valley civilization.

*  In Hinduism, God is perceived in all forms of life and world.  Hence the phrase ‘Sarvam Shivamayam’ or ‘Sarvam Vishnumayam’ is used regularly.  It gives the complete liberty to people to choose their form of worship/practice for Hindu Gods.  Hence atheist-hindus were also accepted as a group under Hinduism.

*  Buddhism and Jainism refers life as sufferings whereas Hinduism refers life as joy (Ananda).

*  The early caves were build by Ashoka for Aajeevakas (other group of people similar to Buddhist/Jains), whose philosophy was neither God nor man can help mankind.  And this group was not widely accepted by subsequent kings and it got perished.  Some words have been mentioned about this group in Tamil epics Manimegalai and Silappadhikaaram.

*  Samanar Padukkai referred as ‘Kalkanchana’ means ‘stone bed’.  The cave shelter was referred as ‘pali’ by Jains and it was reformed as ‘Palli’ (school) later in Tamil.


Endrendrum Vairangal – Vairamuthu Thirappadalgal

This is a thanks-giving show held in Madurai for Tamil Cinema Lyricist Vairamuthu.  Recent M.P. of Madurai and Central Minister, Azhagiri solicited the function.  Notable songs were sung in the show by Airtel Supersinger Jury Trio -Unnikrishnan, Sujatha, Srinivas.  The new comer Shwetha, daugher of Sujatha was at her best in singing the song “Minsaara Poovae” of Padayappa with Srinivas.  I liked the songs “Narumugaiyae”, “Netru Illadha Maatram” sung by lead singers.  The show was quite different from ordinary musical show, such that in between songs Vairamuthu shared his past experience and memorable moments of notable music and film directors.  He gave an information on Madurai Thamukkam ground, where the show was organized.  The word ‘Thamukkam” derived from the Telugu words ‘Thamu’ along with ‘Kamu’.  (I think I forgot the meaning of those words, will update if I get that info).  After a dozen of songs, the show ended abruptly without any formal closure.  It could have been organized well.

Thenparankundram Cave Temple

I was blessed to meet Dr. Venkataraman, a History Professor worked in Madurai Kamaraj University and an Archeologist. My father introduced me to him as he is residing in our residential complex. Professor took us to a Cave temple located in Tiruparankundram hill near Madurai city. The following are the details of that small cave temple.

·  Thenparankundram (behind Thirupparankundram) Cave temple has the age dated to 750 AD, which was originally a Jain cave.

·  In 1250 AD it was converted to Hindu Saiva cave by Maravarman Sundara Pandian

·  In 1310 Malikapur (Muslim general of Alauddin Khilji, Sultan of Delhi) destroyed this cave temple

·  During the decade of 1910 Archeological Survey took this cave for study.

·  The inner part of cave (Karuvarai in Tamil, Garbhagraha in Sanskrit) has the statue of Ardhanareeswarar (Lord Shiva as one half and Goddess Parvathi as other half vertically).

·  Statues of Natarajar, Sivakami, Murugan with his wives Deivayanai (Goddess of Heaven) and Valli (Goddess of Earth) can be found in the cave.

·  The Goddess Parvathi (with Natarajar, who is a dancing form of Shiva) will be referred as Sivakami.

·  Kali in North India will be referred as Karaikkalammiyar in South. A small statue of her can be found near Natarajar statue.

·  This cave contains inscriptions of Sundara Pandian of 1256 AD, who captured Madurai from 3rd Kulothunga Cholan. Also, the inscription refers him as “Chonaadu Vazhangiya Sundara Pandian” means he who has gifted Chola dynasty to 3rd Rajathiraja Cholan (who is son of 3rd Kulothunga Cholan)

·  It also has the inscriptions of taxation as ‘Puravu Varithinaikalam’ means Tax office.

·  The Lotus medallion symbols present on the pillars of cave ascertain this cave was originally a Jain cave. This lotus medallion symbol refers to cosmic symbol, which means Ordered Universe called Cosmos.

·  “Pandiyan Well’ (Pandiyan Kinaru in Tamil) is present near to this cave temple

·  Outside of this cave, we can find statues of Tamil Saiva scholars Appar, Sundarar, Sambhandhar and Manikavasagar. Sambhandhar is standing on a small pedestal (peedam) which is a special privilege given to him as he was the person who took off Jainism from Madurai and introduced Saivam after rescuing the king KoonPandiyan from severe ailment (in Tamil, Veppu Noi) by singing the song “Mandiramaavadhu neeru”.

·  Manikavasagar statue is in sitting position (Suhasanam, means relaxed position) in order to give comfort to him as he has hailed from Madurai.

·  Then statues of Bhairavar and Ganapathy can be found.

·  This hill was used by Sikkandar Sha, who was the last Muslim ruler of Madurai as the bunker during war against Kumarakampan of Vijayanagara Empire (lineage of Harihara-Bhukka). Sikkandar Sha was defeated in the hill and he was punished by putting him inside a large pan of hot oil. Hence, Thiruparankundram will be referred to as ‘Sikkandar Malai’ by Muslims.

Professor talked about many subjects on history, anthropology, culture, religion, linguistics, etc. Some of the points which I’ve gathered are listed below, which will be useful for future study.

·  Several religions have many myths on “after a man died, what happens to his soul”, like Saiva says, soul go to the feet of Lord Shiva. But Kashimiri Saiva Pandits argues, the soul gets integrated to Lord Shiva and in turn they say Lord Shiva is in his soul and he himself Shiva.

·  Vedic Aryans came to India from Volga region of Russia during 1500 BC

·  In 1000 BC Greek mythology flourished

·  Later Zoroastrianism religion flourished and believed in fire god

·  Non-vedic people (i.e. Dravidians – historians won’t use the word ‘Dravidians’, but refer them as Non-vedic) believe in rituals, but Vedic people only composed poems on god. The concept of ‘fasting’ came from Jains.

·  Jainism and Buddhism believed in chain of life which is a continuous cycle of birth and death. They believed, a person can be relived from the cycle of life, if he commits suicide (called as Sallahana). In Tamil, this will be referred as Vadakkiruthal.

·  Jains believe in cosmic laws and they introduced the concept of Vegetarianism (Ahimsa Paramodharma). Later Brahmins took this vegetarian practice in their culture.

·  Ancient civilizations are Egyptians and Indus valley.

·  Indus valley civilization records from Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa reveals three races of people were stayed there. The races are Mediterranean (includes Indians), Mangoloids (Chinese) and Astraloids (Black people).

·  Mediterranean people didn’t have the knowledge of Iron and Horse. They knew about Copper and other animals in their culture like bull and elephant.

·  Vedic Aryans introduced horses to Mediterranean people.

·  In 450 AD during Gupta period and in 500 AD during Chalukya period the cave concept came to South and it can be found in Badami (Vathapi) region.

·  In 550 AD MahendraVarma Pallavan embraced cave and he built first cave temple in Mandahapattu, which is smaller than Mammallapuram (Mahapalipuram near Chennai)

·  Then Pandya kings took cave temple in 700 AD

·  As of today a total of 1200 cave temples are found in India, of which 900 caves belong to Buddhism, 100 to Jainism and 200 to Hindus (includes both Saivas and Vaishanavas)

·  The best caves can be found in Ellora (which has caves for all 3 religions) and Ajantha (which has only Buddha caves)

·  During 550 BC Buddha and Mahaveera lived

·  In 300 BC, Asoka created first cave temple (In Tamil, its called ‘Kudavarai Kovil’) in Barabar hill of Bihar. Jains were staying in that cave temples.

·  Normally Jains will stay in cave for 4 months (during rainy season) and during this period they do writing and painting arts.

·  After that they come out (on the day of Mahakarthigai) and live outside for 8 months.

·  After the first cave by Asoka, around 50 caves were built for Buddhas in Bombay region exactly near Nasik, Ajantha and Ellora during 200 BC to 450 AD time frame.

·  Browline is the slanting shield present on top of temple (which has been changed as Gopuram in recent centuries) is being derived from Greek mythology.

·  Tholkappiar and Thiruvalluvar are basically Jains, as per some historical findings.

·  Olden people in India (i.e. Non-vedic people, includes Dravidians) had accepted a supreme power above all and they’ve referred as God (In Tamil, they call as Saami). They don’t have the concept of naming each God and giving gender to God. They believe God is present in a Sacred Tree and during some festival occasions they sacrifice animals in front of the sacred-tree. All the kings in north and south Indian region before 5th century had belief in Sacred Tree concept.

·  In 5th century AD around 550 AD, Gupta built a cave in Udaygiri of Bhopal which has the Hindu god ‘Varaahamoorthy’ (which is a form of Lord Vishnu with Pig head with Earth on his nose and Mahalakshmi on his hand). This was referred as first statue of a Hindu God built in India. Later many kings in North and South India embraced statue worship of Hindu Gods.

·  Lord Muruga (second son of Shiva) is referred as Tamil God, but none of the famous kings in Chera, Chola and Pandiya dynasty had their name equivalent to that of Muruga. But some of the Gupta kings named after Muruga are SkandhaGupta and KumaraGupta.

·  Oldest cave was found in Pyrannes, which is present in the border of France and Spain. The French side of the cave referred as Lascaux has many paintings and characters. The Spanish side of the cave referred as Altamara has symbols of bull and other animals.

·  Olden characters of a language are belongs to Egypt and Mesopotamia.

·  Egypt civilization letters of 2500 BC are called as hieroglyphics. In Egypt both king and priest is same person. Only in Vedic culture, king (Kshathrian) and priest (Brahmanan) are different.

·  Mesopotamia (meaning ‘between two rivers’) initiated as Sumerian culture. After the fall of Sumerian, Babylonian culture flourished and after that Asyria culture flourished. This region introduced the Cuneiform letters. This language has the first written literature of the world, Gill Gamish. This was written in Clay tablets. This story looks similar to that of Kandapuranam, in which enemies become friends after the course of war.

·  Panini written grammar for Sanskrit. The language Prakrita was refined and introduced with grammar and it became Sanskrit. This happened in 4th century BC

·  Tholkappiar (who is not single person, but many Jain scholars in course of time), written grammar for Tamil language during 4th century BC to 5th century AD and it became Refined Tamil (Senthamizh)

·  Grammar of a language should be an unconscious process, which should come on the flow from mankind. The moment if we put consciousness to a language, it’ll become difficult to practice and evolve.

·  Language always comes from common man, but scholars make refine the language. Much language refinement may disguise the root part of a word. For example in Tamil language, the root part (Urichol) of certain words like Vellai, Velicham is ‘Vell’ means Light. This same root was used by common man for the word ‘Velakku’ means lamp (used in one film song ‘Velakku vecha nerathula maaman vandhaan). But scholars refined this ‘Velakku’ as ‘Vilakku’, which destroyed the root of the word itself.

·  Jains refined Tamil language during their time period.

·  Proto-Dravidian language is the root for six Dravidian languages Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Tulu and Brahui. If the term ‘proto’ is used, then it means that language is currently not in existent.

·  “Knowledge is Wisdom”. Knowledge needs to get sharper day by day. And one has to know when the knowledge has to put aside, is called Wisdom.


Oration on Appar

Today I had a privilege to hear the life story of Thirunaavukkarasar (Appar) by Mrs. Ilampirai Manimaaran, who is a well-versed and versatile orator on religious, spiritual and great epics. She had explained the life history of Appar along with a dozen of Thevaaram songs in her vivid words. I came to know about much information of different Saiva Temples where Appar made a visit and the verses he composed on Lord Shiva. I’m listing down some of the points which I remember on the oration.

  • In 7th century, Marulneekkiyar (name given to Appar by parents) born in Thiruvaamur. Appar lost his parents at young age and was brought up by his sister Thilagavathiyaar.
  • The would-be husband of Thilagavathiyaar (when she was at the age of 12) was killed in a war. Due to continuous child-hood sufferings, Appar had joined to Samanapalli (Jain institution)
  • Samanapalli gave him a name to him as “Dharma Senar” as he was good in Jain philosophy.
  • One day Appar had severe stomach pain and none of the Jain members were able to help him to get rid of that besides their religious chants and medicines. Because of continuous intense pain, he had decided to meet his sister at Thiruvadhikai, where she was doing temple services to Lord Shiva.
  • She asked to him to take bath in Kedila River and preached him the Panchakshara Mandhiram (Na-ma-si-va-ya), which made him to great relief from the pain.
  • This act was considered as Dheekshai to Appar given by a lady (his sister).
  • In this temple he sang “Koottrayinavaaru Vilakkagaleer” song, which is now considered as powerful verse for getting relief from all pains especially stomach pain.
  • Then he completely devoted himself to Lord Shiva and considered that stomach pain episode as an eye-opener given by the God himself. He had decided to visit all Saiva adobes and sing on Lord Shiva.
  • The Pallava ruler of that kingdom, who was a Jain follower tried to persuade Appar to Jainism again by giving severe punishments to him. Because of continuous recite of namasivaya nothing was able to change Appar’s devotion to Lord Shiva.
  • He sang “Maasil Veenaiyum” (when he was pushed into furnace), “Ondru Kolaam Avar Sindhai” (when he was given poison in his food), “Sottrunai Vedhiyan Sodhi Vaanavan” (when he was made drown into the ocean duly tied up with stone slab) and finally the Pallava ruler realized his guilty act and confessed to Appar.
  • He made a visit to Chidambaram where by seeing the Natarajar he came up with “Kunitha Puruvamum Kovai Sevvayil” song.
  • Appar and Thirugnana Sambhandhar together visited only 2 temples: One is Thirumaraikaadu (today it is Vedaranyam) and other is Thiruveezhimizhalai.
  • In Thirumaraikaadu, the temple entrance gate was closed for years together and Appar sang the song “Panni Nermozhi”, which is made the door open.
  • In Thiruveezhimizhalai, Thirugyana Sambhandhar sang “Vaasi Theeravae” (I’m not sure about the song sung by Appar in this temple)
  • The name “Appar” was given to him by Thirugnana Sambhandhar and the name “Thirunaavukarasar” was coined by Lord Shiva.
  • At his old age he had decided to visit Kayilai Malai and went till Kasi. As he couldn’t walk, he just crawled all the way to see the Lord. But Shiva asked him to take a bath in the nearby pond and once he entered into the pond, he automatically came back to Thiruvaiyaaru. In this place he had the darshan of Shiva with Parvathi and sang the song “Maadharpirai Kanni”.
  • Appar attained his destiny (Veeduperu or Mukthi) after singing the song “Yennukkor ensolli” in the temple of Thiruppugalur.
  • Out of 12 Saiva Thirumurai Pathigangal, 4th, 5th and 6th are sung by Appar. Normally out of 12 Saiva Thirumurai Pathigangal, 1 to 7 are considered as Thevaaram. But Appar’s 4, 5 and 6th pathigangal should alone be called as Thevaaram, because 1st, 2nd and 3rd Pathigangal sung by Thirugnana Sambhandhar are originally called as “Thirukadaikkappu” and 7th pathigam sung by Sundarar is called as “Thiruppaattu”.