Kailasanathar Temple, Brahmmadesam – The Temple
The Brahmmadesam temple is huge hidden gem of Chola, Pandya, Vijayanagara and Pandya style architecture. The devotees and connoisseurs of art and architecture will enter into the Brahmmadesam temple through the east facing massive seven tier Chola style Rajagopuram (brick and wooden structure) profusely adorned with stucco images. The top of the gopuram has a Shala shikhara resembling a barrel made to rest on its side and crowned with seven finials (kalasams). The steps are leading to all the seven tiers of Rajagopuram. The seventh tier of the gopuram has small corridors on all four sides and served as watch tower.
The temple doesn’t find mention in the Thevaram but inscriptions are aplenty. The temple is an architectural marvel. Nandikeswara, Nataraja (Punugu Sabapathy), Athma Vyakya Dhakshinamoorthy with chin mudra facing his own self in a rare self-preaching posture and Jwarahara Deva are a few examples of the sculptural treasures of this temple.
The Arudra Mandapam and Somavara Mandapam are examples of Architectural excellence. The magnificent Dharma Nandhi is skillfully carved in a single stone. This is a very fertile village benefitted by Thamirabarani and Ghatana River.
The temple and the village were gifted to the Brahmins by the Raja Raja Chola for the chanting of all the 4 Vedas. It is easily one of the largest temples in that region. Everything about the temple is massive. The temple even has five wells within its compound.
Towering pillars support the numerous halls in the temple, with each adorned with wonderful sculptures. There are ten gopurams in the temple and there is one specific point within the temple compound from where all the ten gopurams of the temple can be witnessed.
The huge wooden doors with intricate carvings at the main entrance and the wood sculptures inside the temple indicate the active participation of artisans from Kerala in the construction of this temple. Pradosha Sabhai with Pradosha Moorthy, Ashta Dik Balakas with their respective Vahanas, Siva Boothaganas and Apsaras women are very rare specimens of iconography. Chandikeswari goddess Saraswathi and Uchchhishta Ganapathy are seen in the Prakara of the goddess Brahmanayaki’s shrine.
This is the birthplace of Sri Sarvagna Atmendra Saraswathi Swamigal, the second Acharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakodi Peetam. This temple is very big, ancient and rich in sculptural wealth. Unfortunately, the temple had lost its sheen over the years and presents a relatively dull state at the entrance. It is only when one gets in; one realizes the majesty of the temple and one easily gets into a reverie of how the temple would have been in its glorious days.
The reigning lord is called Kailasanathar. Apart from this there are five Siva Lingas in the temple, including Kasi Viswanathar, Arunachaleswarar and Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar, each having their own individual sanctum. This is just one instance for one to imagine the size of the temple. The temple even has five wells within its compound. Towering pillars support the numerous halls in the temple, with each adorned with wonderful sculptures.
The temple door (those familiar with the serial Annamalai would not have forgotten) is gigantic in size with intricate wooden carvings. Aesthetically designed long pillared mandapa is located between Rajagopuram and main sanctum. The mandapa is supported by 10 square-based pillars and two non-figural cluster pillars carved with 12 lion brackets and 12 drop brackets. The pillar faces also bear bas reliefs. The roof of the pillared mandapa showcases the Kerala wooden roof pattern but sculpted in stone.
Balipeeta and Dwajasthambam on carved platform also appear huge. The unparalleled bell and three chain links sculpted from single stone is suspended from the roof. The niches on the outer wall for Ganapathi and Subramanya are sculpted according to Mada kovil architecture. A small sanctum for the four Thevara sages is at south side. On top of the entrance to the main sanctum there is a small gopuram.
The east facing temple has a gigantic seven tiered tower (Rajagopuram). The sight of the tower is stunningly beautiful. A big lotus pond is found outside the temple tower. The majestic wooden doors at the entrance are carved with the beautiful images of various deities. Undoubtedly, the combination of the above three things, increase the ambience of the site in the beginning itself.
The huge wooden doors with intricate carvings at the main entrance and the wood sculptures inside the temple indicate the active participation of artisans from Kerala in the construction of this temple. Pradosha Sabhai with Pradosha Moorthy, Ashta Dik Balakas with their respective Vahanas, Siva Boothaganas and Apsaras women are very rare specimens of iconography. Chandikeswari goddess Saraswathi and Uchchhishta Ganapathy are seen in the Prakara of the goddess Brahannayaki’s shrine.
Front side Mandapa:
The area between the tower and the entrance to the main temple is completely covered on top. Although it looks like a typical Kerala type roof made up of roof, it is actually made of stone. The stone bell along with the chain can be seen in this roof. It is also made up of single stone which itself is a sculptural marvel. The Bali peetha is unusually big in size.
The huge Nandi idol is made up of single stone and very impressive carvings are found on its body. The Nandi mandapa (the platform where Nandi is placed) has some beautiful sculptures of divas. The flag staff (dhwajastambha) is thick and tall and it is unusually placed on top of a carved platform. The entire area is full of wide pillars with sculptures.
A unique feature of these pillars is that there are six pillars placed together to form a single pillar; there are two such combination of six pillars found in this mandapa. The either side of the entrance of the main temple has two big shrines dedicated to Ganesha and Subramanya respectively. Both these shrines are built as per maada kovil architectural style.
The main shrine has four sections sanctum, ardha mandapa, maha mandapa and the exterior mandapa. Lord Kailasanathar (Shivalingam), the presiding deity of this Brahmmadesam temple is enshrined in the east facing main sanctum of the temple. There is a smaller size ardha mandapa in front of this sanctum that leads to the pillared maha-mandapa in front. The maha-mandapa is the long spacious construction consisting of carved pillars on which are bas relief images depicting compositions from Saivite mythology.
The niches on the outer wall on either side of the entrance of the sanctum, houses the tall Dwarapalakas. Lord Ganesha is also enshrined in a separate niche on the left corner of the outer sanctum wall. The vimana above the main sanctum is embellished with elegant images illustrating legends from Puranas. A dwarf Nandhi is located before the main sanctum. There is a closed circumambulatory (Pradakshinapatha) passage around the sanctum. There are shrines for Surya, Saptamatrika and Chandra before the sanctum.
There are also few small sanctums for Lord Athma Vyakya Dhakshina Moorthy (appear with chin mudra facing his own self in a rare self-preaching posture), 63 Nayanmars, Jwarahara Deva, Bala Ganapathy and Mahishasuramardhini in the circumambulatory path (prakara) of the main sanctum. There is an exterior mandapa which has an interesting wooden entrance with intricate sculptures of four divas. This wooden structure appears to be hardly 200-300 years old.
The statue of king Viswanatha Nayaka appear with folded hands appear in maha-mandapa before the sanctum. There are separate sanctums for Lord Nataraja and goddess Sivakami (bronze procession deities) in the maha-mandapa. On the way to Brahmma Nayaki sanctum, one can notice the yali image with a stone ball on its wide opened mouth. No one is able to remove the ball from yali's mouth.
Punugu Sabapathy Shrine:
Punugu Sabapathy (Lord Nataraja) with consort and the sages Patanjali and Vyagrapathar are enshrined in the south facing sanctum located in the northern prakara of the main sanctum. Punugu is the highly perfumed substance extracted from a specific kind of rarely living civet cat (Viverra Civetta) and the image of Lord Nataraja was composed with Punugu.
The presiding Goddess of the temple is Periya Nayaki aka Brahmanayaki. Her sculpture is big in size and extremely beautiful. She is in the standing posture and carries a lotus flower on her right arm. Her shrine looks like a separate temple with separate vimana, prakara, Bali peetha, flag staff and Nandi. Her shrine is located to the left side of the main shrine. The Goddess shrine is usually found outside the main shrine, adjacent to the main shrine or in the prakara. However, in this temple the Goddess shrine is located in a faraway place from the main shrine and facing south. Instead, it is located adjacent to the shrine of the original deity of the temple.
The front side mandapa of the shrine has pillars with impressive carvings. The entrance of the shrine has the idol of Ganesha. The prakara surrounding the shrine has the sub-shrines of Saraswathi, Arumugam with Valli and Devasena, Chandikeswari, Siddhi Vinayaka, Saneeswara holding lotus in his right arm (unique style) and Nalayiraththamman (a powerful village deity).
The Original Deity:
Although the current presiding deity of the temple is Kailasanathar, it is believed that the original deity of the temple is Ilandai Adhinathar. The shrine of Ilandai Adhinathar is found adjacent to the shrine of the Goddess. As per the legend, Lord Brahma and his grandson Romasa Rishi worshiped the deity. The Sthala Vruksha (holy tree) of the site, Ilandai tree is found on the back side of the shrine.
The God is probably named after the holy tree. The Shiva Linga is small in size. It is believed to be a Swayambu deity. A small Nandi is found facing the shrine. The shrine has a separate vimana. The Dwarapalas images at the entrance of the site are very attractive. The Shrine is situated in the northern corner in the outer circumambulatory path (prakara).
Apart from Lord Kailasanathar the temple has four more Shivalingams enshrined in separate sanctums in the second circumambulatory path (prakara):
· Ilandhaiadinathar (Badari Vaneswarar)
· Kasi Viswanathar with consort Visalakshi)
· Arunachaleswarar (with consort Unnamulai)
· Sundareswarar (with consort Meenakshi)
This intricately sculpted pillared mandapa is located before goddess Brahmma Nayaki shrine and nearer to Ilandai Adhinathar shrine. Elaborately decorated pillars of this mandapa form an integral part of this architecture and have ornamental pendant (terminating in an inverted flower bud) potigai (or cornice bracket) or seated lion potigai. On all four faces of the pillars are dotted with elaborate bas relief’s image compositions depicting mythological themes.
Large life-size sculptures of Bheema, Purushamrigam, Arjuna, Karna, Vali, Sugreeva, Rati and Manmadan adorn the pillars. Some other pillars are monolithic yali pillars showcasing the charging yali (often compared with hippogryphs) standing on hind legs with fore legs lifted.
Thiruvadirai Mandapa is an important place within this temple compound. This long mandapa has a shrine dedicated to the stone images of Nataraja and Sivakami. The hall is full of beautiful sculptures and intricate carvings in the pillars. The sculptures and carvings depict various Gods, Goddesses, seers, epic characters, mythological animals such as yazhis, elephants, dance, music, battle and even erotic. The temple’s nellkuthupirai or the mandapam to process and store rice lies in a dilapidated condition.
Arudra Mandapa, huge Nayaka / Vijayanagara style pillared mandapa, is located on the North Eastern corner of the temple complex and one can see this structural mandapa on his right side when he enters into the temple. The mandapam was built on four to five feet high rectangular Athistana with conventional moldings has bas relief images on Natya Sastra and carved friezes at a fairly high kantha moulding. It also has ornate stepped entrance on the south side of the balustrades (parapets) with mounted rider on elephant, horse standing on its hind legs with fore legs lifted and mounted rider on the back, woman playing drum and the rampant yali.
The sixteen decorated peripheral pillars of this mandapa are elaborate compositions: two rows of four monolithic cluster pillars at the facade and twenty monolithic yali pillars at the rear side showcasing the charging yali (often compared with hippogryphs) standing on hind legs with fore legs lifted. The mythological Yali motif, deemed as the hybrid of five animals i.e, lion head and body, goat horn, pigs ear, cow's tail, elephant trunk and tusk, has been widely adopted in Vijayanagara and Nayaka pillars. The leonine beast often imagined as hippogryph.
Each cluster pillar is really a cluster of delicately carved smaller pillars around the central pillar shaft. Over the cluster pillars the immense size brackets support the heavily carved entablatures and plane ceiling. The five to six feet high cluster and yali pillars have 12 carved lion brackets and 12 drop brackets. Some pillars also showcases awesome sculptures of elephant, amorous couples, dancers, musicians, sages, gods and goddesses depicting events from Hindu mythology and so many intricate carvings.
The south facing Kankalanathar (Kankala means skeleton - fearsome form of Lord Shiva with the skeleton) shrine is unique and found only in Brahmmadesam temple. It is located near Ilandai Adhinathar shrine. The prime deity in the sanctum is Lord Kankalanathar (one of the three most popular aspects of Bhairava, a form of Lord Shiva and the others being Brahmashiraschedaka-murti and Bhikshatana-Murti - known for seeking alms).
The Kankala-Murti iconography is quite similar to Bhikshatana-Murti and the subtle difference is that Bhikshatana is nude but Kankala-Murti is clothed. Although Kankalanathar image is found in many temples, it is very rare to find him along with so many deities and seers. It is really an awesome sight to find so many sculptures and bas-relief stucco images in just one shrine. Here comes the really unique feature of the temple. There is a special sanctum; rather a room and the mere entry into it left us spell-bound. We have largely witnessed Siva in the form of a Linga. Here, Lord Siva takes a human form.
There is a standing statue of Lord Siva in the name of Kankalanathar who goes out seeking alms in the normal human form. The entire deva loka is awe-struck by the simplistic form taken by the lord and come all out to watch the glorious form of the lord. This sight is so vividly and beautifully captured by sculptures embedded on all the four walls of the room. As such the walls are fitted with beautiful stone carvings of various gods and goddesses and you can recognize Vishnu, Brahma, Saraswathi, Vinayaka among others who have come down to watch this proceeding. In fact, staying in the room one gets a feeling of being part of a grand procession.
At this shrine Lord Kankalanathar and the Buta Ganas are the sculpted deities. The 7 feet in high idol of Lord Kankalanathar appear in a sthanaka (standing) posture with his left leg straight and firm on the ground and his right one, slightly bent, suggesting walking. The lord wears jata makuta (crown like hair dress) with crescent moon on the right and a serpent and datura flowers on the left. He wears snake ornaments all over the body, yajnopavita (sacred thread) across the chest, waist-band on the waist with golden dagger tucked in it, and ordinary kundalas (earrings) or a makara-kundala (makara-shaped earring) in the right ear and a shankhapatra (earring made of conch) in the other.
Of the four arms, the lower left arm holds the damara (the hour-glass drum); the lower right arm beats the damara with bana (drum stick); the upper right hand stretched downwards in kataka mudra; and the upper left hand holds 'Kankala Danda' (skeleton-staff). The staff appears to be resting on the shoulders of the Lord. Some other legends point out that the Lord carries the corpse of Lord Visvakshena, the prime guardian of Lord Vishnu. The Lord appears with number of associate deities, sages, and demonic attendants like Buta ganas, animals and love-sick women. The six numbers of dwarfs Buta ganas appear in either sides of the Lord. All the six of them carry some music instruments like sirattai kinnari, mridangam, conch, flying whisk and flute.
The rear wall shows the following bas relief stucco images:
1. Surya (sun) and Chandra (moon) on top
2. Lord Kubera mounted on horse vehicle
3. Lord Brahma mounted on Swan (Hamsa or Anna pakshi)
4. Lord Vishnu mounted on Garuda (Eagle) vehicle
5. Lord Indira mounted on elephant vehicle
6. The celestial beings like Kinnaras, Kimpurusha and Sage Agastya appear with his two consorts and the sage is holding Veena and some other instruments;
7. Lord Vigneshwara mounted on Mooshika vehicle
8. Karthikeya mounted on peacock vehicle
9. Lord Vayu mounted on deer vehicle
10. Lord Varuna mounted on Makara vehicle
11. Lord Eshanan (Lord Shiva) mounted on bull vehicle
12. Lord Agni mounted on goat vehicle.
13. There are also stucco images of lovely divas aka Apsaras appear in various postures - standing, sitting, viewing mirror (adarsa), sleeping etc.
Other Important Shrines:
Behind the holy tree, there is a big shrine dedicated to Chokkanathar. Chokkanathar is found in the form of Shiva Linga. His consort Meenakshi is also found in a separate sub-shrine. This shrine looks like a separate temple with a separate vimana on top and Nandi in-front. The front side mandapa has many pillars with intricate carvings. In the outer prakara, there is a separate shrine dedicated to Subramanya and his consorts Valli and Devasena. This shrine too has a separate vimana.
The outer prakara also houses the shrine of Vishwanathar and Vishalakshi. It is also a big shrine with a separate vimana. Another important shrine found in the outer prakara belongs to Annamalaiyar and his consort Unnamulai. This is again a big shrine almost in the size of small temple. However, this main shrine strangely does not have a separate vimana.
The Dhakshinamoorthi idol found in the inner prakara is in unique posture of chin mudra; it is said that he is self-preaching. The idols of twin Ganeshas called as "Irattai Vinayaka" along with Vishnu and Brahma are unique; they are located in the outer prakara. From a particular point at the backside of the prakara, we could get the sight of all the seven vimanas and three towers together.
The idol of Bhairava is found near Kankalanathar shrine. The inner prakara around the main shrine has the idols or sub-shrines of Nalvar, 63 Nayanmars, Jura Deva, Shasta, Sapta Matas, Ganesha, Vishnu Durga, Mahishasuramardhini, Surya, Chandra, Subramanya, Chandikeswara and Gaja Lakshmi. There are no koshta deities in the prakara. However, there are some interesting stone carvings depicting elephants, yazhis and other animals in the outside wall of main shrine.
There are few mural paintings which are almost destroyed in the walls of outer prakara.
· Brahma Theertham
· Romesa Theertham
· Tamirabarani River
· Ghatana River
Sadasiva Raya of the Vijayanagar dynasty gifted an entire village to the temple, and the village came to be known as Raja Raja Chaturvedimangalam, a Brahmadeya (a tax free land gifted to Brahmins) in Mulli Nadu. Another inscription mentions the gift from Veppangulam to fund festival expenses through the year. Many 16th Century inscriptions speak of gifts by local merchants. Another from the same time mentions one Ayyangara Nayaka, the son-in-law of Peddu Nayaka, who built the inner gopuram.
Another long inscription dating back to 1,625 is seen at the entrance. It records the royal writ granted by Viswanatha Nayaka through which the members of the five sub-divisions of artisans (Kanmalar) should not intermingle with each other. The temple authorities also declared the same for the benefit of their subordinates.