Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lord Murugan's Arupadai Veedu ~ Six sacred abodes ~ ஆறுபடை வீடு ~ Skanda Sashti Mahotsavam special

Arupadai Veedu (ஆறுபடை வீடு) ~ Six sacred abodes :-
This terms refers to the six sacred temples dedicated to Lord Muruga, that are located in South India in the state of Tamil Nadu. Though there are thousands of temples for Murugar around the globe. These six places are believed to be six different battle camps of Lord Muruga. Important events in Lord Muruga's history happened in these places. These six temples that constitute the Arupadai veedu group of shrines are :  
a. Thiruparam Kundram, Subramanya Swami Temple 
b. Tiruchendur, Sendhil Andavar Temple 
c. Swamimalai, Swaminatha Swami Temple
d. Palani, Dandayudhapani Swamy Temple
e. Thiruthani, Subramanya Swamy Temple
f. Palamudhircholai, Subramanya Swamy Temple 
 
a. Thiruparam Kundram :-  
Temple consists of more ancient rock-cut parts and newer constructions in front. It is located on the outskirts of Madurai on a hillock. There are many legends associated with this mountain, 'the place where the sun and moon abide'. Thus, the hill is considered to be the "Southern Himalaya" where the gods assemble. 
The importance of this temple is that, the marriage of Lord Subrahmanya with Deivayanai was celebrated here, after the victory over Soorapadman. Muruga with his troops rested here after defeating the evil demon Soorapadman. He married the daughter of Indra, Devasena (Deivayanai - one who was brought up by the heavenly elephant of Indra) given to him as a gift for victory. For many centuries, people have considered it the most auspicious place for their own marriages, especially during the time of the Pankuni Uttiram.
On the top of hill there is also a Muslim shrine devoted to Sekunder - Alexander the Great! Muslims consider that Alexander was the friend of Murugar. Thus Thiruparankundram is a place where both Hindu and Muslims go well along.

b. Thiruchendur :-
 
The temple is situated so close to the sea that waves from the Gulf of Mannar lap at the eastern perimeter wall of the temple. Other five temples are situated in the mountain regions. It commemorates the place where Murugan worshiped Shiva and won a decisive victory over demon Soorapadman. It is located on the sea-shore near Tuticorin amongst the remains of Gandhamadana Parvatam or Santhanamalai (Sandal Mountain).
The puranic name or historical name for this temple is Jayanthipuram. It is also referred to by other names in religious poems and literature as Thirucheeralaivai, Thiruchenthil, and Thiruchenthiyoor. This temple has many specialties, one of the largest temple complexes (by area) of India and only temple where Raja gopuram is situated in western gate and has no eastern gateway. This temple is not constructed by Kings, it is built by three holy saints. This temple is the fourth hindu temple in Tamil Nadu to get ISO certification. 
Before going to war, Murugar stayed with his army at this place and he worshiped Lord Shiva here. For worshiping, Lord Muruga created a spring with holy water named Skanda Pushkarini with his spear. This is now known as ‘Naazhikinaru’. Thousands of devotees come here and take the water from this spring and bathe, but still the level of water has not reduced. It is always the same. It is a belief that, by bathing here all kind of diseases are also destroyed. Such is the greatness of this sacred water.
 
c. Palani :-

This temple is located in Dindigul District, the temple is build on a hill top where Murugan resided after his feud with his family over a divine fruit. One curious aspect of the deity is that he faces west rather than east, the traditional direction at most hindu temples. The deity is in a standing position with a baton in his hand. He has the look of a person who has renounced all worldly pomp. He has just a loincloth besides the baton. The power of siddhas, who attained ‘Jeeva Samadhi’ thousands of years ago, is prevailing in palani.  
The main deity was created and consecrated by the Sage Bhogar, one of hinduism's eighteen great ascetics (siddhas), out of an amalgam of nine minerals(veeram, pooram, karam, gowri, manosilai, lingam, rasam, kandhagam, vellai pasana) popularly called Navabashanam (which forms an eternal medicine when mixed in a certain ratio). This 'navabashana' was prepared based on the power of Navagraha and the power excretion, that is let out through the nine holes of the human body. When a person stands before the navabashana’s statue to pray the rays that are emitted from the statue. Penetrates through ‘Netrilcan’ and cures the blood, chukla and suronitham and the same is proved scientifically.
Navabashana was a quick-setting paste, the sculptor had to work very rapidly to chisel its features, but that he spent so much time in creating the exquisitely beatific face, he did not have time to bestow but a rough grace upon the rest of the body, thus explaining the contrast between the artistic perfection of the face and the slightly less accomplished work upon the body. 
Mythology Sage Narada once visited the celestial court of Lord Shiva at Mount Kailash to present to him a fruit, the gyana-pazham (literally, the fruit of knowledge), that held in it the elixir of wisdom. Upon Lord Shiva expressing his intention of dividing the fruit between his two sons, Ganesha and Karthikeya, the Sage counseled him against cutting it. He decided to award it to whichever of his two sons first circled the world thrice. 
Lord Subrahmanya mounted his peacock to go around the world. Lord Vinayakar circulated around his parents, symbolizing the world, and got the fruit. Subrahmanya came seating on his peacock to find that the prize had already been given away. He vowed to leave his home and family and came down to Tiru Avinankudi at the Adivāram (meaning 'foot of the Sivagiri Hill'). Shiva pacified him by saying that Subrahmanya himself was the fruit (pazham) of all wisdom and knowledge. Hence the name Pazham-nee ('You are the fruit') or Palani is a popular syncopation of the two words mentioned. Later he withdrew to the hill and settled there as a recluse in peace and solitude.
After the abhishekam, it is the practice to dress the idol of the Lord, in an act called alangaram, in one of several guises - the most common being the Raja, or king, the Vaitheekan, orpriest, the Vedan, or hunter and the Aandi, or monk, which lasts the most celebrated in Palani, because it is the nearest to the natural form the Lord assumed at Palani as an anchorite, having withdrawn from all the celestial riches of his father's court at Mount Kailash. 
One of the chief traditions of the temple, is the tonsuring of devotees, who vow to discard their hair in imitation of the Lord of Palani. Another is the anointing of the head of the God's idol with chandaṇam, or sandalwood paste, at night, prior to the temple being closed for the day. The paste, upon being allowed to stay overnight, is said to acquire medicinal properties, and is much sought after and distributed to devotees, as rakkāla chandaṇam. The Golden Chariot goes round the praharam in a ceremonious procession on all Karttikai days.
Kavadi :- 
Sage Agastya wanted to take two hills Sivagiri and Saktigiri to his abode in the South and commissioned his asuran disciple Idumban to carry them. Idumban was one of the very few asuran survivors of the surasamharam war between Murugan's forces and those of Soorapadman. After surviving the war he had repented and became a devotee of Lord Murugan. 
Idumban bore the hills slung across his shoulders in the form of a kavadi, one on each side. When he reached Palani and felt fatigued, he placed the kavadi down to take rest.  When Idumban resumed his journey, he found that he could not lift the hill. Muruga had made it impossible for Idumban to carry it. Upon the hilltop the great asuran spotted a little boy wearing only kaupeenam and demanded that he vacate at once so Idumban could proceed with his task. The boy, who was yet in a fighting mood, refused. In the fierce battle which ensued, Idumban was slain but was later restored to life.
Idumban belatedly recognised the boy as none other than Murugan and prayed to him that : Whosoever carried on his shoulders the kavadi, signifying the two hills and visited the temple on a vow should be blessed; and He should be given the priviledge of standing sentinel at the entrance to the hill. Hence we have the Idumban shrine half-way up the hill where every pilgrim is expected to offer obeisance to Idumban before entering the temple of Dandayudhapani Swami. Since then, pilgrims to Palani bring their offerings on their shoulders in a kavadi. The custom has spread from Palani to all Muruga shrines. Devotees from various places bring different types of kavadis and offerings to the Lord by pada yatra or foot pilgrimage, the most popular time being Thai Pusam. There is a haulage Winch(a small rope train) and a Rope Car to goto the temple on the top of the hill.  
d. Swamimalai :- 
It is a sylvan village, situated about five kilometers west of Kumbakonam on the banks of a tributary of river Cauvery. The temple is built on an artificial hillock of about sixty feet height with sixty beautifully laid stone steps representing the hindu cycle of sixty years - leading to the Lord. A unique feature of this temple is the Sveta Vinayagar or White Pillaiyar made of the sea foam formed at the time of churning of the Milky Ocean by the devas and asuras to get the nectar. 

The temple commemorates the incident where Muruga explained the essence of "Om" to his father Shiva. The temple has three gopuram (gateway towers), three precincts and sixty steps and each one is named after the sixty tamil years. Out of the three precincts, one is located in the basement, the second at midway to the top of the hillock and the third on the hillock, around the sanctum of the Swaminathaswamy shrine.
According to Hindu belief, Swamimalai is where Muruga at a tender age, preached what is called as "Pranava mantra (Om)" to his own father Shiva, after arresting Brahma for not answering his question about the meaning of pranava mantra. Shiva behaved like a student to a teacher, listening with rapt attention from his son, giving Muruga the name "Swaminatha Swami". The meaning of this name is "The Teacher of Shiva". Following this, the shrine of the son Muruga is a top the hillock, while the father Shiva's shrine is located at the basement. 
Brahma, the Lord of Creation, and first among the hindu trinity, was once approached by Skanda to explain him the meaning of pranava mantra(Om). Brahma was unable to give Skanda a proper reply. So, the latter knuckled him and threw him into the gutter. Thereupon, Skanda himself started functioning as the Lord Creator. Later Siva, Skanda's father, rebuked him for having done so and asked Skanda whether he knew the meaning of pranava. Skanda's reply was ‘yes'. Then, Siva asked him to tell what it was. 
To take a lesson, one should seek it with the discipline expected of a student. So, Skanda asked Siva to be his student and know the secrets of the mantra. Then, Siva is said to have appeared before Skanda with the head down, mouth closed with one hand and in meek submission. Skanda divulged the secrets through a whisper. Later, at Siva's behest Brahmā was released from the prison. 
  
5. Thiruthani :-
The beautiful temple of Lord Muruga at Tiruttani crowns a single rock 700 feet above sea level. It is situated amidst a range of hills with a dramatic panoramic view. Murugan reclaimed his inner peace after waging a war with Asuras and married Valli(one of his two consorts) here. His righteous indignation towards the asuras for their cruelty is said to have been quelled and cooled at this place which is, therefore, known as Shantipuri (Abode of Peace). Just getting a vision of the hill from far away or just saying the name of the hill also will destroy all the sins one has done in his previous births.
As the prayers and desires of the devotees who worship Murugar on this hill with unserving faith and intense devotion are fulfilled in no time, this hill is also called Chanikasalam. When Muruga came to this hill after wedding Goddess Valli at Vallimalai, she implored him to enlighten her on the importance and greatness of this hill. In reply, our Lord said that if one worshiped him with heart and soul for five consecutive days in this hill temple, that person would be blessed with all that is best in this life and hereafter.
Lord Rama, after putting an end to Ravana, worshiped Lord Siva at Rameshwaram, at whose request Rama came to Thiruthani and found perfect peace of mind by worshiping our Lord Subramanya here. Arjuna got the blessings of our Muruga here by offering prayers to him on his way to the South for Teertha Yatra (pilgrimage to take sacred immersion). Lord Vishnu prayed to our Lord at this place and got back his powerful Chakra (sacred wheel), Shanku (sacred conch), which were forcibly seized from him by Tarakasura, brother of Soorapadma.  


Lord Brahma propitiated our Lord here at the holy spring (by the sides of the steps to the shrine) known as Brahmasonai after his imprisonment for his failure to explain the Pranava ('Om' mantra) and got back his creative function of which he was deprived by our Lord due to his egotistic impudence in neglecting to worship Lord Subrahmanya on his way to Mount Kailasa to worship Lord Siva.
The sacred tanks of the shrines of our Lord are all known as Saravanapoikai ('sacred pond of the reedy marsh' where Lord Karthikeya was born). The tank at Tiruttani, which (unlike in other places) is at the very foot of the hill, is particularly renowned for its sacred water (teertham) having curative effect for ailments both bodily and mental, as it is rich in minerals such as sulfur, iron, etc. A bath in this holy tank refreshes the devotee and makes him hale and healthy to propitiate our Lord with faith and devotion.  

6. Pazhamudhir Cholai
Pazhamudhir Cholai is rich in fruits, vegetables and flowers.  It is located on the outskirts of Madurai on a hillock with a holy stream nearby called "Nupura Gangai". The place is full of natural beauty and sylvan surroundings. This hill is also known as Vrishabhadri or Idabagiri. It is a dense forest where Valli is supposed to have lived.

Among the Arupadaiveedu, Pazhamudircholai is the last. The idol of Lord Muruga in a standing posture has a single face and four hands with Valli and Deivayanai on both sides. While this temple is not as large or bustling as the other five recognized shrines, it is just as incredible to visit. Though one might be in possession of all types of wealth, if he wants to lead a healthy life bereft of any disease he should necessarily visit Pazhamuthir Cholai. The sthala vriksha is a rose apple tree, the fruits of this tree ripen during Skanda Sashti festival. 
The great Tamil poet and saint Avvaiyar had been tested(Sutta Pazham Venduma - Sudadha Pazham Venduma ?) by Lord Murugan here. The implied meaning of this story is, When an embodies soul takes birth in this world, like sand, worldly bondage gets stuck to it. To remove this bondage, just worldly education (knowledge) will not be enough. God realization only will be able to remove this bondage.  

Check this link to know more about the Birth history of Lord Muruga. 

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