Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Kunnuvarankottai Kasi Visalakshi-Viswanathar Temple, Dindigul

Kunnuvarankottai Kasi Visalakshi-Viswanathar Temple, Dindigul
The Kunnuvarankottai Kasi Visalakshi-Viswanathar temple located in the village of Kunnuvarankottai is a famous temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of Viswanathar and his Consort Goddess Visalakshi. The Kasi Visalakshi Viswanathar temple is in the village of Kunnuvarankottai. This village is served by three rivers — Vaigai, Maruda and Manjalaru — called the Triveni Sangam (tri = three, veni = river, sangam = confluence). The river Vaigai takes a slightly northern course near this village, like the Ganges takes at Varanasi.

Kunnuvarankottai is a village near Batlagundu which is on the foothills of Kodaikanal in Dindigul district. The Tamil name for this village is Kundru-Aran-Kottai which now is known as Kunnuvarankottai or Kannapatti.

Villagers believe that bathing in the confluence during holy days like Amavasya will enable the devotees to realize the purpose of life. There is a 300-year-old Visalakshi Viswanathar temple in the village by the riverside. The presiding deities are Goddess Visalakshi and God Viswanathar. It is similar in nature to the Kasi Visalakshi Viswanathar temple in many respects. The shrine for the Goddess Visalakshi faces south in this temple. As per the temple legend, the locals say that this idol was brought by a devotee from Kasi or Varanasi. There are other shrines for Lord Dakshinamoorthy, Bhairava, and Hanuman also.

The Kumbhabhishekam of this temple was completed in 2001. In January 2013, the Punaruddharana Kumbhabhishekam of this temple was completed. Shri K. V. Viswanathan Sivachariyar is the priest. The temple conducts many festivals every year including Sivarathri, Pradosham, Sankatahara Chathurthi, Sashti and Navarathri.

The temple is located on a hill at a height of 280 ft. This Visalakshi Viswanathar temple is 300-years old is by the riverside of the village. This village is served by three rivers namely Vaigai, Maruda and Manjalaru called the Triveni Sangam. The river Vaigai takes a slightly northern course near this village, like Ganges takes at Varanasi. It is similar in nature to the Kasi Visalakshi Viswanathar temple in many respects. As per the temple legend, the locals say that this idol was brought by a devotee from Kasi or Varanasi.

The Kumbhabhishekam of this temple was completed in January 2013. There is also a shrine for Lord Sri Dakshinamoorthy. And a Mandapam was constructed in front of this Dakshinamoorthy Shrine. The temple has the immense blessings of Sri Sri Bharathi Teertha Swamigal. It is pertinent to note that the current and the previous pontiff of Sringeri Sarada Peetam Sri Sri Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Swamigal visited this temple in 1965 and Sri Sri Bharathi Teertha Swamigal has graced this temple twice till date respectively. Last visit was on June 2nd 2012.

Relationship of this Temple with Sri Sacchidananda Bharati I:
Sri Sacchidananda Bharati I:
Sacchidananda Bharati I was a Hindu saint and religious leader of the 17th century. He was the Jagadguru (literally worldwide spiritual master, sometimes translated "pontiff") of the Hindu matha (monastic or similar religious establishment) Sringeri Sharada Peetham from 1623 to 1663, and is believed to have saved it from attack by spiritual means.

Early life:
Sacchidananda was born Narasimha in the 1607 A.D. in the village of Srikanteswarapuram now known as Kunnuvarankottai located near Batlagundu in the southern part of India. This village has been referred by various names, namely, Ardhanareeswarapuram, Jandrapatti or Jandrapalle in those times as per the biography. This village was in Madurai District and is presently located in the Dindigul district (from 1985 onwards) of Tamil Nadu.

Sachchidananda Bharati soon acquired mastery over the Vedas and shastras and visited many famous shrines including Madurai Meenakshi Temple. It can be observed from his biography that he lived in Madurai and Melmangalam village also for a short period during his Brahmacharya and learned the Vedas and Shastras there. Initially, he wanted to marry the daughter of his maternal uncle. But the then Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Narasimha Bharati advised him in favor of celibacy and persuaded him to become a sanyasin (Hindu monk).

Sachchidananda Bharati was ordained pontiff of the Sringeri Sharadha Peetam in 1623. When he ascended the pontificial chair, the southern part of India was beset with civil war and turmoil. During this period, Venkatappa Nayaka was the ruler of Ikkeri. Sri Sri Sri Sachchidananda Bharathi-I is said to have visited Ikkeri upon the invitation of the ruler Venkatappa Nayaka. 

From there, accompanied by Venkatappa Nayaka, the 25th Jagadguru visited the Kollur Mookambika temple. It is learnt that in 1629, King Virabhadra Nayaka ascended the throne of Ikkeri after Venkatappa Nayaka. During this period, this region was invaded by many neighboring kingdoms.
Sachchidananda Bharathi-I is considered by his devotees to have saved Sringeri through his penance and austerities during a period when Sringeri was attacked by a neighboring King Bhairava of Kalasapuram thrice. The King of Ikkeri, Virabhadra Nayaka came in support of the Sringeri Mutt and the surrounding territory. He was defeated by King Bhairava twice and thus Bhairava was emboldened to attack Sringeri the third time. Sri Sachidananda Bharathi-I prayed for divine help through his penance and austerities. The next day, the Jagadguru was informed that he had left the town. The Guru had a dream later in which the surrounding deities informed him that they had defended and protected Sringeri.

The Kings of Ikkeri, Virabhadra Nayaka, and Sivappa Nayaka who were supportive of Sringeri have bestowed several grants of land to Sringeri Sarada Peetam during this period.
Sachchidananda Bharathi-I is considered by his devotees to have saved Sringeri and contributed to its fame. He was also regarded as a good administrator, and well regarded and respected by all people of all faiths and all sections of society.
The most popular biography of Sachchidananda Bharati is by R.Krishnaswami Iyer who based his biography on Sanskrit manuscripts from the period. While studying the Ramachandra Mahodaya Kavya of Sri Sachchidananda Bharati swami, the 25th Jagadguru as per the advice of Sri Sri Sri Abhinava Vidya Theertha Swamigal, he discovered another manuscript dealing with the life of that Jagadguru and bearing the title - Sri Ramachandra Mahodaya Kavya Kartru Swarupa Prakasam.
Compositions, Hymns and Works:
Sri Sacchidananda Bharati (I) is said to have composed Gurustutisatakam which details the lives of all the Acharyas of Sringeri from Adi Sankara till the 24th Pontiff Sri Abhinava Narasimha Bharati. He has also composed other hymns and metrical works such as Meenakshi Satakam, Meenakshi Ashtakam in the remembrance of his stay in Madurai and visit to the Meenakshi temple, Rama Bhujanga, Kovidashtakam and Ramachandra Mahodaya Kaviyam.
It is to be noted that Rama Bhujangam has been composed in Bhujanga Prayaata meter belonging to the Bhujanga group. Many authors have referred in their articles to a notable verse in the Rama Bhujanga which means that this Bhujangam (snake) is said to drive away the lust and anger (rats) when it is enshrined in one's heart. He also refers here to the Lord Rama in Sri Rama temple in his native Village Jandrapatti.
Sri Sacchidananda Bharati (I) built and consecrated the Goddess Bhavani shrine within the temple of Sri Malahanikareshwara on the top of a hillock in Sringeri. Several festivals including the Rathotsavam were started by the 25th Jagadguru which are being celebrated even to this day.
During the visit of Sri Sri Bharati Tirtha Maha Swamigal of Sringeri Sarada Peetam in May 2012 to Madurai, He released a book on “Sri Meenakshi Satakam consisting of about 122 verses on Goddess Meenakshi of Madurai, composed by this 25th Pontiff.
Places associated with Sachchidananda Bharati I:
The village of Kunnuvarankottai is an important place of pilgrimage associated with Swami Sachchidananda Bharati. It is inferred from the article in "Amman Dharisanam" and the author's foreword in Part-II of the biography that the 35th Pontiff Sri Sri Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Maha Swamigal and the current pontiff Sri Sri Bharathi Teertha Maha Swamigal have visited this village.
The author R Krishnasamy Iyer has made an anecdotal reference in the foreword of Part-II, regarding the visit, the holy dip of the 35th pontiff in the point of confluence of these rivers, his visit to old Koti Muktheeswarar temple here, performance of his daily Sri Sarada Chandramouleeswara Puja in this nearby village and his benedictory talk on the significance of this area in 1965.
The Jayanthi (birthday) of 25th Pontiff Sri Sri Sri Sachchidananda Bharathi Maha Swamigal is mentioned in the biography as in the month of Sravana-Rohini star. The Jayanthi is celebrated in this Kunnuvarankottai Kasi Visalakshi - Viswanathar temple as per the advice and benedictions of 35th pontiff every year by devotees from 1965.

There is a photograph of the remains of the old temple which is found in the biography. The outer wall of this temple contains an ancient Tamil inscription. This temple was near the point of confluence of the three rivers before it is believed by the locals to have been damaged by natural calamities (like floods). The current village settlement and temple of Lord Visalakshi Viswanathar half-a-kilometer away is believed to have been reconstructed after the damage done by natural calamities (like floods).
The period of Sri Sachchidananda Bharati I was during the 17th century under the reign of Nayak dynasty of Madurai as per Madurai Nayak dynasty under the two Nayak kings Muthu Virappa Nayaka (1609—1623) and Thirumalai Nayaka (1623—1659). The foreword written by Shri K.R Venkatraman, editor of Sankara Krupa in the biography of Sri Sachchidananda Bharati I mentions about this history of Madurai also and the renovation of Madurai Meenakshi temple by the Kings Muthu Virappa Nayaka and Thirumalai Nayak under the minister-ship of Shri Neelakanda Deekshithar.
The period of the King Muthu Veerappa Naikar (1609-1623) was during the childhood of Sri Sachidananda Bharathi-I. Sri Sachidananda Bharathi-I stayed in Madurai as a Brahmachari for some time. During this period, the Kambathadi mandapam and vasantharaya mandapam were completed by this king. During the period of Thirumalai Nayaka (1623-59), Sri Sachidananda Bharathi-I was ordained as the Peetathipathi of Sringeri Sarada Peetam. His minister Neelakanda Deekshithar built the Pudhu mandapam and reestablished the pujas for the deities in the Madurai Meenakshi temple as per the Puranas like "Haalaasya Mahatmiyam" and agama rules. This can be seen even now in Madurai Meenakshi temple.  
The area near Kunnuvarankottai, the birth place of 25th Jagadguru came under the Batlagundu Palayam of the 72 palayams above whose chief was Madhiraja. This biography also mentions about the Lord Siva Temple (Koti Muktheeswarar temple) and Lord Vishnu temple (Lord Rama temple, Varadaraja Perumal temple) in this region during this period. Local Legends and oral folklore (poems of Siva temple singers called Oduvars) from this region who sing songs in the temple in various ragas of Carnatic music refer to the Lord Siva of this temple as Sri Kanta Puravasane. This oral tradition has continued till this day in the Lord Siva temples. There is another Muktheeswarar temple near Vandiyur Mariamman Theppakulam in Madurai built by King Thirumalai Nayaka (1623-1659). This is related to the subjects of ancient temple history and archaeology of South India, ancient temple sculptures, architecture, paintings, navigation, transportation and ports of ancient Pandya and Nayak dynasties.
Visit on 2 June 2012
Sri Sri Bharathi Teertha Maha Swamigal visited this village during his visit to the town of Batlagundu in June 2012. He visited the Dhyana mandapam of the 25th pontiff and the Kunnuvarankottai Kasi Visalakshi-Viswanathar temple.
The devotees of this village organized a function in the premises of this temple to welcome the Jagadguru. In the Anugraha Bashanam, the Jagadguru said that the 25th pontiff, Sri Sri Sri Sacchidananda Bharati I had reigned as the Peethadhipati for about 40 years and had enhanced the greatness of the Peetham. Jagadguru appreciated the efforts of the villagers for having built a Dhyana Mandapam in this village for Sri Sri Sri Sacchidananda Bharati I. He recalled his visits to this village in 1987 and his Guru’s visit in 1965 and blessed the residents of this village along with the proposed construction of a mandapam in the Vishalakshi Vishwanathar temple.
Later, the Jagadguru visited the ruins of the ancient temple which still exists near the point of confluence of the rivers. According to the villagers, this temple and the nearby tree was part of an ancient village that housed the poorvashrama home of the 25th pontiff. They also mentioned that the ancient village had been washed away by natural calamities like floods.
With the blessings and benevolence of Sri Sri Bharathi Teertha Swamigal and with the help of devotees, the Kumbhabhishekam of this temple was completed in January 2013.
Kunnuvarankottai Kasi Visalakshi - Viswanathar Temple,
Kunnuvarankottai, Dindigul District of Tamil Nadu
The Temple is located in Kunnuvarankottai Batlagundu – Usilampatti road, on the foothills of Kodaikanal in Dindigul District of Tamilnadu.
By Bus: 
Number of buses and local taxis are available to reach this Temple in Kunnuvarankottai from Dindigul; which the distance is just 40 km via NH 45.
By Train: 
Nearest Railway Station is located at Dindigul.
By Air: 
Nearest Airport is Madurai Airport. From Madurai to Dindigul is 64 km. From Dindigul to Kunnuvarankottai is 40 km.