Amritaghateswarar Abirami Temple, Thirukkadaiyur – The Temple
The temple, in line with the temple architecture of the Chola dynasty, occupies a very vast area of 11 acres (45,000 m2), with five courtyards, several imposing temple towers, and large and spacious mandapas. Though the details of the king who consecrated the temple are uncertain, it can be ascertained from inscriptions in the temple that it has been in existence since at least the tenth or eleventh century, during the reign of Raja Raja Chola I.
It was during the period of Kulothunga Chola I (1075–1120) that the brick walls of the temple were replaced with stone walls and the mandapam in the front was constructed. The Rajagopuram, or the front entryway of the temple, is replete with images made of mortar, depicting various legends associated with the temple. The Shivalingam is a swayambu (self-manifested). The temple is west facing and if you observe very closely, another lingam too can be seen.
There are three temple tanks, or Theerthams, known as 'Amrita Pushkarini', 'Kaala Theertham' and 'Markandeya Theertham'. There is a separate shrine dedicated to Abhirami. The Shakti saint Abhirami Pattar is believed to have rendered the Abhirami Anthathi in the front hall of the shrine. The temple also maintains a separate shrine for Markandeya worshipping Kalasamhara Murti. Although Thirukkadaiyur is a Shaiva temple, it contains an old Vaishnava temple. The gods in this temple are Amrita Narayana (Vishnu) and his consort Amrita Valli (Lakshmi).
Lord Shiva graces in the temple as swayambumurthy. This is the exactly the place where Lord hit Yama the God of death with his legs. Though the presiding deity in the sanctum sanctorum is only one in Linga form, a close look at the Linga will show another reflection of the Linga. Of the Atta Veera Sthalas, Thirukkadaiyur is one where Yama was hit by Lord Shiva. The scar caused by the Yama’s rope is visible on the Linga only during abishek times.
In a shrine, Mother Parvathi appears with Lord Muruga in her right lap, praised as Guhambika. Lord Kalla Varana Pillayar appears with the nectar pot in his hand. Lord Brahmma, Sages Agasthya, Pulasthya, Serpent Vasuki, Mother Durga had worshipped Lord in this temple. The procession deity is Lord Kala Samhara Murthy. Those seeking longevity throng the temple. Mrutyunjaya deity is seen with a trident pointing downwards to Yama. Adjacent to this is the statue of the immortal Markandeya.
When Yama cast his halter rope on the Sivalingam which was being held tight by Markandeya in refuge, the rope caused a scar on the lingam that can be seen even today. The Utsavar (processional icon) in bronze has an angry visage as Shiva majestically waves his trident and with his left leg raised at Yama. The lower portion of the statue that shows the actual killing of Yama is kept hidden. It is opened only during the Arati.
Yama had become inactive and there were no deaths on earth. Nature’s balance and the cycle of birth and death had to be maintained. Shiva as Kalasamhara Moorthi, (Amritaghateswarar) brought God Yama back to life with a 'kick of his left leg'. If he had wanted to destroy Yama forever, he would have held him under his right leg as he did to the demon Muyalaka. The use of his left leg meant that he intended it as a punishment for an act of rashness and not as a sentence of death. That is why many images in the temple depict Shiva with a raised forefinger, warning Yama.
His left leg is on Adishesha the divine serpent. He is holding His trident on Yama underneath. Nearby is Gundodaran dragging Yama with a rope. But Yama is not visible during darshan. During the puja time, when the peeta is opened, we can see Yama. The darshan of Lord with trident is called Samhara style and that with Yama is called Anugraha style. Devotees can worship Lord Amirthakadeswarar in both forms. Mother Balambika as a little girl appears with two hands with Mothers Lakshmi and Saraswathi nearby.
Right opposite the sanctum of Kalasamhara Moorthy is the sanctum of Yama, who is believed to be thanking the lord for allowing him to be resuscitated. When Markandeya was performing Shanku Abishekam (ablution with the conch) to Lord Amirthakadeswarar with Ganga water, Ippinjilam flowers (Jaathi Malli or variety of jasmine that blossoms yearlong) came with that water. This flower is used in this temple for the deities as an archana (flower offering) with a single flower is considered to be equal to 1008 archanas.
Lord Ganesha is known in this temple as Kalla pillayar, (the sneak). When the Nectar from the milky ocean was being churned, the Devas quietly took away a bit without anybody’s knowledge. They also did not pray to Lord Ganesha as is the custom and hid it in a secret place. To teach a lesson to Devas for ignoring him in their haste, Lord Vinayaka simply changed the place of the Nectar pot. When the Devas searched for the pot of nectar, they could not find it. Lord Shiva advised the Devas to apologize to Lord Vinayaka and he gave the pot back to them.
The Devas went for a bath before tasting the nectar but when they came back to their astonishment, the pot had become a Shivalingam. This lingam is called Amirthakadeswarar, the presiding deity of Thirukkadaiyur. Goddess Abirami emanated from the jewel of Lord Mahavishnu. Goddess Abirami is revered in this shrine for having answered the prayers of a great devotee of hers. Abirami Bhattar (priest) was a great poet and sang the praises of the goddess.
All the Navagrahas (nine planets of astrology) have no power here and pujas are performed to Kalasamharamoorthy only. It is said that the snake planet Rahu has no effect on people here in Thirukkadaiyur. Yama too owes his allegiance to Shiva. So prayers to Shiva can solve all problems especially in illness and to increase the lifespan of people. Many Siddhas (enlightened sages) performed penance here and Pampatti Siddhar was one. Of the 63 Nayanmars (Shaiva saints), Kari and Kungilia Kalaya Nayanar lived here and served the Lord.
A unique aspect of this temple is that a Mayanam or cremation ground is attached to it. Built in 11th century CE, the original temple, Thirukkadaiyur Mayanam, also known as Thirumeignanam or Brahmapureeswarar Temple is 2 kms behind the present temple. It has an incomplete gopuram (tower) and has been ravaged by the sea and is in ruins today.
As the Akash Rahasya – sacred philosophy – in Chidambaram, there is a Yantra in the right wall of the shrine called Thirukkadaiyur Rahasyam. Worshipping Lord Papa Kareswarar and the presiding Lord, people also worship this Yantra for longevity. Yama appears in the shrine of Kalasamhara Murthy in a worshipping posture with his buffalo vahanam nearby. Markandeya brought Ganga water for his Shiva puja. To facilitate his Shiva Puja, Lord made Ganga spring in a well near the Brahmapureeswarar temple adjacent to Thirukadavur cremation ground.
Markandeya was happy to use this water for the abishek of Lord. Even today, this is the water used for abishek in the temple. Devotees are not allowed to bathe in this spring. The Ganga spring appeared on the Aswathi star day in Thai month (January-February). Devotees are allowed to bathe here only on this day each year. Poornabishekam for those completing 100 years, Kanakabhishekam (90 Years old), Satabhishekam (80 years), Beemaradha Shanthi (70 years) and Mani Vizha (60 years) are performed for longevity with Ayush Homam.
In such celebrations 16 Kalasas and nine varieties of corns and pulses are placed invoking the presence of nine planets. After the rituals, the water in the Kalasas-pots is poured on the person and his wife as Prasad abishek by their relatives. This washes away any sin attached with such aged ones. Then they have to worship Lord Brahmma Pureeswarar whose temple is near the Thirukadavur cremation ground. For this celebration no day, date and auspicious time formalities are observed as they take place in the presence of Lord in the temple.
The evening pujas in the temple begin with Lord Adhi Vilva Vana Nathar. Here is the cave tunnel used by Markandeya to bring the Ganga water for Lord’s abishekam. Devotees, according to tradition, begin their worship with Lord Papa Kareswarar worshipped by sage Agasthya and Lord Punya Kareswarar worshipped by Sage Pulasthya and proceed to other shrines. There is a shrine for Lord Punya Kareswarar. Papa Kareswarar temple is opposite this shrine with holes on the wall.