Thursday, July 24, 2008
Thirukadaiyur is the place to which many people go to celebrate the fact that they have lived through life for 60 or 80 years; but there is a catch - you can only celebrate if your spouse is alive and the second, you have to be a male.
I don't think females get to celebrate their birthdays so publicly.
In these days, it may not be so remarkable to live healthily and happily for 60 years, still its an occasion to rejoice. So last weekend found us in Thirukadaiyur, happily celebrating Umanna's birthday. There were about 20 other people too celebrating their Sashtiyaptha Poorthi though one 80 year old doing the Shathabishekam had to be revived later.
Its very festive with an elephant who comes and welcomes and escorts each couple into the temple. He must be pretty dizzy by the end of the day . Then there is a is a pretty looking cow and calf doing the blessings. These are commonly shared by all the family groups gathered and sometimes, the nadaswaram troupe is shared too.
The temple is large, ancient and black with the fumes of the large number of homams going on everyday. The sanctums are dark, the stones depressed with the imprint of thousands of feet, all surfaces possible carry a layer of vibhuti or kumkum, traces of flowers and oil and puja debris are everywhere . There is a fantastic sense of good cheer in the temple because its all about rejoicing -just being alive.The floors are decorated with huge painted colourful kolams reflected in the very colourful and detailed gopurams.
The puja is remarkably easy to arrange with package deals now including food (good and cheap) laid on nearby; hotel rooms line the road to the temple and lots of other temples to visit in surrounding areas.
The temple deifies Markendeya who put his belief in his Lord Siva , and clung to the lingam at Thirukaidyoor resolutely when Yama came to collect him once his 16 years were up. Shiva killed Yama and blessed Markendeya with eternal youth. But of course later he forgave Yama, so Yama now guards the temple.
Another special deity is of Kalla Varanappillayar. When the devas were churning the milky ocean , they came up with amrutam.But in their haste, they'd forgotten to pray to Pillaiyar who has to be called first before embarking on any good act. He stole the pot and hid it here. Once appeased , he forgave and handed it over. But the amrutam transformed itself as Shivalingam - thus called 'Amrutagateshwarar'.
The third story is about Goddess Abhirami.
Abirami Bhattar, lived in blind devotion to Goddess Abirami and composed the - "Abirami Anthathi" in her praise. He was branded a lunatic by his critics and they complained to the then King Sarabhoji. Sarabhoji came to the temple and asked Abirami Bhattar "what is the thithi today?" - In deep meditation and looking at the Goddess' moon-face, he replied 'today is pournami (poornima) day" whereas it was actually Amavasya Thithi. Enraged with his answer, the King said "if no moon is sighted today - you will be consigned to flames". A huge fire-ball was erected. Abhirami Bhattar sat on a wooden plank above it and started singing hymns towards Goddess. When he finished, Goddess Abirami threw her ear-stud in the space, which got transformed into a full-moon, lighting the world.
Altogether a very interesting temple and a heartwarming occasion.
How to Get there!
We got to Thirukadaiyur by traveling to Kumbakonam by a fast train and then cabbing it from there - it took about 90 minutes.
Mayiladutharai (22 km) and Seergazhi (30 km)are large towns nearby.
Besides, Nagapatinam and Chidambaram to which there are a large number of bus services.
The nearest airport is at Trichy .