Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Namakkal Anjaneyar Temple: A Geologist's perspective

Entrance to the Narasimha Swamy Temple
The July 2010 blog meet churned out many friends for me.One amongst them is Niki Shetty,Lataji's daughter. She is this bright,witty and extremely adorable young lady.For starters she happens to be a geologist.How rare is that. I was very keen that she does a post for me on the temples in Namakkal and she obliged.Such a deary.To sum up Niki Shetty in two words."SHE ROCKS".So do read up her version of the Namakkal Anjaneyar Temple Visit and her memories around her native place.The collage on top is the picture captured by her and the butter decorated Anjaneyar  is a picture I have used from namakkal photos.com.

 My hometown, Namakkal is a city in the Namakkal district in central Tamil Nadu, with a population of about 53000, according to the last census. The city gets its name from “Namagiri”, a rock that sits in the centre of the town. There are two temples in the town – the famous Namakkal Anjaneyar temple and, across the street, the Namagiri Thaayaar and Narasimha Swami temple.

Eating juicy Malgova mangoes whole and playing badminton in thatha’s car shed with my cousins form some of my fondest memories of childhood summer holidays. When I think of those vacations, temple visits to these shrines with amma, appa, grandparents or cousins, also comes to mind. There is a sense of comforting attachment, for me, to these temples and the deities.
Sculpture on pillar
The Narasimha Swami shrine is a cave temple that has been dug into a side of the Namagiri. On the other side of the hill is a Ranganadhar Swami shrine. The Anjaneyar temple stands across the street from the Narasimhar shrine, as the Lord Hanuman is having darshan of Sri Vishnu in the Narasimha avatar. 

There is a story that is often told about how the Namakkal hill came into being. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi did not get to witness the Narasimha avatar as it happened, and prayed to Lord Vishnu that she be granted to see it. Lord Vishnu tells her to go to the area that is now known as Namakkal, and that she would witness the avatar there. As the Goddess waited by a pond in the area, Lord Hanuman comes there to take a dip before he performs his prayers. He presents to the Goddess Lakshmi, a Saligraamam stone, which He asks Her to hold until He has finished with his rituals – and He strictly instructs her not to put the stone to the ground. As Lakshmi holds the stone, She realizes it starts to grow heavy in her hands until She has no choice but to put it to the ground. As She does so, Lord Hanuman comes back, and they realize the stone has become immovable. It is said that on the face of the stone, both Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Hanuman witnessed the Narasimha avatar, and that Saligraamam stone stands today as the Namagiri in Namakkal town. It is also interesting to note that in this temple, the Namagiri Thaayaar shrine faces Narasimha Swami – it is said that She faces Lord Vishnu, so that She can witness him in the Narasimha avatar.
Namagiri Thaayar Gopuram
Being a geologist, my curiosity got the better of me, and I went to the temple one evening, armed with a hand lens to see what rock the hill really was made of. Life was made easy for me as the hill is a bare rock, and all I had to do was to stick my eye up close to take a look! The hill seems to be some kind of an igneous structure that is highly quartz rich –my guess is that it is either granite or dacite. I am still wondering what a Saligraamam stone is (in mineralogical terms) but, the belief of the people is that the Saligraamam is what we see today, as the Namagiri.

Small mandabam in the temple courtyard

The architecture in these temples is beautiful – as I mentioned earlier, the Narasimhar shrine sits inside the Namagiri. The shrine has Lord Vishnu, as Narasimhar and Lord Shiva and Brahma on either side, and is called a Trimurthi sthalam. All the deities in the shrine have been chiseled into the cave wall. When the archagar in the shrine finishes with the archanai and deepaaraadhanai, he will point out to you, the fine intricacies in the stone work. The texture of the nails on Narasimha Swami’s fingers and a red hue of the rock on His palm (believed to be blood stains from the Hiranyasamhaaram) are some of the things that are pointed out. 
Kodimaram and the front area of the temple
Also in the shrine, one can see carvings of the young Prahlad during the Hiranyasamhaaram, the Vaamana avatar, the Varaaha avatar and Vaikuntanaadhar. The Namakkal Anajneyar statue is a monolith that stands eighteen feet tall, with palms folded to His chest, as he takes darshan of the Lord Narasimhar. He stands with no gopuram over his head, open to rain and shine. The two temples are about 250 feet apart and the statues are built in such a way that Lord Hanuman’s eyes are in line with Lord Narasimhar’s feet. Standing at the Garudaalwar shrine, today, one can witness this! 
view of the hill and fort from outside Thaayar sannidhi

The temples are extremely beautiful and, to me, they are peaceful spaces I have enjoyed immensely all my life.

Thank you for the wonderful write up Niki.These temples are sheer poetry in stone.  According to Ramanujan,the mathematical genius,it was Namagiri Amman who whispered equations to him! 

24 comments:

  1. Nice sum up and Niki you really ROCK

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  2. Very nicely explained, felt as if I was right in that place as I kept reading it. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Niki

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  3. Lovely read, Kamakshi. Would surely plan for a visit soon. Best wishes, take care.

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  4. Niki, What a wonderful post!..I felt I was visiting it myself. This surely makes me want to plan a visit to the beautiful place..Never knew you were a geologist..S, thank you for getting Niki do this for us..

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  5. Thank you Sanctified spaces and Niki, that I revisited my lovely (?) town.

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  6. Nice, detailed post and good pics. Thank you, Niki & SS.

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  7. Wow!!!Niki, thats a great post!!! Proud Mom Lataji!!! I made a trip to salem before my marriage just to visit Namagiri Thayar and narasimhar swamy, but wasnt lucky enuf to go that time!!! Will try to make it up in d next trip, with Lord's Blessings!!!!

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  8. Fantastic post Niki :) I enjoyed reading it. You have literally taken us to the temple :) Good job :)

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  9. Niki.. that was beautifully written and I felt like I was walking in the temple and could visualize the deities. Kudos!
    - Laavanya

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  10. very nice write upand thank you for blogging this .

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  11. Thank you for the beautiful description Niki. Thank you Sanctified spaces for bringing history, religion and architecture together.

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  12. thank you so much for the wonderful comments everyone - and thanks shalini, for letting me be a part of an amazing space like urs! :)

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  13. Thank you everybody on behalf of Niki. Well said uma, you nailed it.

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  14. Excellent writeup Niki!

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  15. This is such an informative post and I second Uma ganesh... Informative in both ways! Nice write up Niki Shetty and three cheers to both of you who wrote this and who shared by publishing this!!

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  16. good job nikki,the vacation to home town is always memorable to us...my mom luvs this temple..thanks for sharing..its wonderful to read..

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  17. Wonderful post by Nikki!! It took us to nammakkal, Thanks for Sharing this post Shalini.

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  18. WOW !!! Nikki and Sanctified spaces what a detailed post and good photographs too....this blog is a refreshingly different read from the decor only blogs...being a geologist definitely does help...Thanks for sharing such an insightful post...

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  19. Since I have been there a couple of times myself and thought of painting a few spots at the temple, I could relate to this lovely write up! Well written!

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  20. Well, when I read the title Namakkal, it sure reminded me of Latakka and was pleasantly surprised to see its a post by Nikki.

    Well written post Nikki....Thanks for the virtual tour.

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  21. wow ! this is really a good post.. nice reading this and knowing our culture is preserved so well.. Thanks to Niki for this write up, and for you Kamakshi for posting it.. I have an aunt who is named after the Thaayar diety of this place, and got the SThalapuraana today ! Thanks again for posting !

    Cheers
    Kalyani
    Last few days – Send in your carrot based dishes
    Ongoing Event: Fasting Foods(Vrat ka Khaana Special)

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