Friday, April 22, 2016

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – Attru Azhagiasingar Temple

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – Attru Azhagiasingar Temple
Attru Azhagiasingar Temple is a Narasimha Temple located in Srirangam on the river’s edge is not well known to many of the devotees. This Temple is located at Oduthurai, on the very edge of the south bank of the river Kaveri between the road and rail bridges that connect the town of Trichy to Srirangam. As one comes from Srirangam on the Trichy Chennai road, after crossing the bridge over Kaveri, one has to take a left turn, actually a left U turn.
This road leads to a level crossing, Oyamori the cremation Ghat and the bypass road on to the south Kalannai road further eastward. Almost half way between the point one turned left after the Kaveri Bridge and the railway crossing there are steps leading downwards to this Temple. The steps are high, about 15 in number and these lead to small approach between two houses.
Climbing up the few steps one reaches the entrance into the temple. Inside it is clean. The sanctum is open to the east; it is in the east west direction. The ceiling is low, about nine feet only. Right at the eastern end there is a Dhwaja Sthambha and a small sanctum of Garudazhwar, as always with hands folded. He is forever gazing at the Divine Couple.
Srirangam being an island was not very easy to get to in those days. Circular plate like “parisals” and boats used to ferry people and pilgrims to the island of Sri Ranganatha. The British, like the Romans much before them, realised the need and importance of good roads and bridges to administer their vast empires. So they set about building a bridge to span the mighty Kaveri, so that Trichinopoly could be connected to Srirangam.
They began building about 2kms from the base of the Rock fort. Kaveri playfully washed the structure away. They tried again and again. Legends say that thrice the masonry was taken apart by the waters. Then one of the chief engineers had a dream. Sri Lakshmi Narasimha appeared and instructed that an old temple of his on the southern bank of Kaveri near one of the piers needed renovation and on this being done, Kaveri would allow a bridge to be built. The small temple was found amongst unapproachable bramble and tangled bushes at the river’s edge.
Workers were scared to go near because it appeared to be protected by a mighty serpent. The snake was appeased and a new sanctum was built for the deity. The construction was solid as can be seen even today. The walls are about a foot thick. In front of the sanctum sanctorum there is a low area. The deity inside is on a slightly elevated platform. Kaveri was in spate about five years ago. Water and slush entered the temple. For three days the archaka couldn’t enter. When the silt was washed aside and the sanctum approached it was seen that Sri Lakshmi Narasimha was above the water level and Kaveri was dutifully lapping well below his foot.
The Temple
The Divine Couple are seated under the shade of a tall five hooded Adiseshan. Thayar is on his lap. She is seated daintily and her body and face are turned towards him, partially. She has her hands together in the welcoming posture. This is an unusual posture. Sri Lakshmi usually has one hand in the “abhaya” and the other in the “varada” mudra. In some places she has a lotus in one of her hands. Here she sits with her head slightly bent, hands folded together in a pose of supplication. That is why this is “venduthal sthalam” a wish granting place.
Sri Narasimha is seated with the left leg folded and only the right foot is visible. His right lower hand is in “abhaya mudra” and he has fearsome moustaches. His lower left arm is invisible behind her and his upper two arms have Chakra and Sankha. He is smiling, showing all his teeth. The five hooded Adisesha is covered by silver plates dwarfs the “Thiruvasi” the arch over the Divine couple.
To one side of the Divine Couple, stands Anjaneya in a vinitha, humble posture. The surprising point is that he has three eyes, the third one in the center of the forehead. The next unusual thing is the Utsavar Idol. He is as handsome as a new bridegroom. He is not a man-lion. To either side of him are Sridevi and Bhudevi. His name is Azhagiyamanavalan, the handsome bridegroom, same as the renowned processional deity of Ranganathaswamy Koil, fondly called Nam Perumal. It is Azhagiyamanavalan here who is taken out on all the processions, in fact he goes upto the base of the Rock fort about two kms away.
There is a small idol of Vainatheyan behind Anjaneya. To the right side of the sanctum, an idol of Sri Lakshminarasimhar on Garuda vahana can be seen & it is made of sandal paste. Huge pictures of Padmavathi Thayar and Venkatachalapathi adorn the wall next to the sanctum. In the westward, there is an entrance to a huge hall, extending in the south – north direction. On the posterior wall of the sanctum Sri Sudarshana, as in Srirangam, is painted on the wall. Coming to the left of the sanctum (north), the steps that lead down to the Kaveri can be seen.
From the steps leading to the Kaveri if you go further eastward, you can see a big mandapa in front of the sanctum, closed on all sides. Near the northern wall there is a lovely image of Venugopala. On the wall there is an old painting of Srinivasa in the Mysore style. There is an antique handsome Tanjore painting nearby depicting deities of many Divya desas. In the southern wall, there is an alcove in the middle, housing a smiling Anjaneya in a standing pose.
He is facing northwards, towards Peria Perumal in Srirangam and Perumal, Rama, in Ayodhya. He appears to be a “Vara prasadi” boon granter, as several paper garlands around his neck attest. These papers are full of “Sri Ramajayams”. To the right of Thiruvadi we have a seated Sri Nammazhwar and to the left Sri Ramanuja and Sri Manavalamamunigal.
The ceiling has frescoes, some of which are in excellent condition. The ceiling right in front of Anjaneya has the ten azhwars and Andal. They are not in order and identification is not easy, though the paintings are in good condition. In the middle, right above Garudazhwar is a fresco of Narasimha with many hands disemboweling Hiranyakasipu. Near the Asura a swan like bird is drawn. The same white bird makes an appearance in the same context on the southern wall in front of Kattu Azhagiasingar temple.
On the ceiling to the east is the “pranavakara vimana” and Sri Ranganatha. Here he has his left hand near his crown. Maybe this painting must be seen in a mirror held below, and then the image will be correct. Coming to the ceiling near the sanctum, the northern portion has a lovely untouched picture of Sri Ranganayaki, but the southern portion has a distorted drawing of Nam Perumal with Ubaya Nachiyars. Sri Ranganayaki is beguiling and the painting is in good condition. These frescoes point to the fact that this temple is quite old.