Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A trip to Thiruvarur- Day 2

The second day of our trip, which was the 6th of December, began at 6.30 in the morning. After insignificant nothings, and a lovely breakfast at the street corner, we got into the bus that CUTN had arranged for us. The seminar started out in full swing with a small presentation by chief guest, David Storey, and an introductory note by Dr. Nirmal Selvamony (whom I am still not getting used to calling 'doctor', but rather 'sir'). Finally, we got down to the paper presentations. Three of my classmates presented. It was a tedious but fun day, what with the amazing food, and the lovely campus, and the great, cheer with which CUTN invited us.


After the presentations, our little group went to the nearby temple of Lord Thyagaraja and walked about the whole temple. This temple is one of the five Siva temples of the south, which represent the five elements of earth, fire, air, water and space, and it portrays the earth element. There are a multitude of stories that are built around the solidity of the cool-stoned temple walls. The temple itself was constructed over a period of many years during (if I am not mistaken) the Chozha rule. This is the only temple where nandhi or the sacred cow remains standing in front of Lord Siva. The story goes that nandhi dozed off while she was supposed to be guarding her master, and he got up and walked away. When she gets up, she realises that she has failed in protecting her master, and she remains standing in self-punishment.


Walking from the central mandapam, one notices the multitude of Siva lingams around the whole temple. There is one point where one can stand on a single slab of stone and look at all the seven gopurams of the temple- the four at the four entrances to the temple, the central once, and two more within the temple. After this, you see the sacred tree, where Pillayar was supposed to have gone to, and the shrines of various Siva bhaktargal (saints/followers for lack of a better word). 


We went to the shrine of Amman (Parvathi). The story goes that while Siva was serving food to every living creature in the world, Parvathi playfully hides a little ant in a matchbox, and asks her husband if he has indeed finished serving all creatures. When he replies to the affirmative, she points to the box, and he gets infuriated when he realises that she has played a prank on him, and has (to a certain degree) told him a lie. As a result of this, he banishes his own wife to the depths of pathala loka, or the underworld. Vinayaka, also called Pillayar, refuses to let his mother traverse such dangerous territory without physical support, and therefore goes down with her. Thus, there is a shrine of the Goddess's son strangling a demon's neck. The Goddess herself is situated in a cave-like enclosure, painted (either during the time or later) with white walls. She is not surrounded by any of the minor gods usually seen around central/important gods.


Next, my friend and I went to the temple lake. It is the lake of the Thyagaraja temple that is supposed to be one of its best features. It is considered to be as huge as (or at least, almost as huge as) the temple itself. I cannot describe the vastness of this kollam (கோளம்). It was dark, since it had become about 7.30 or maybe even 8.00 by then. So, while we crossed the road to look at the lake, all we could see was water, and the distant lights. It was difficult to spot the other end of the lake. Usually, a temple lake is only meant for the sadhus to take a 'holy bath' in. Thus, it is usually small. However, the Thyagaraja temple pond is amazingly large. It has a small temple at its centre (I am not too sure how one accesses that) and water all around it. The kings did indeed ensure that they would never run out of water. That too, this season, when we visited the temple, it had been flooded with the heavy rains, causing even the main temple to be filled with water. The lake, then, was brimming with green, lustrous water, twinkling in the street-lights.


Finally, we left the temple at about eight in the night. We had the puliodarai which they were selling within the temple compound, and then had vadais and eventually had dinner at the hotel itself. Then we had to get some rest before the next day dawned- which was the day I was doing my presentation.

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