Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Kasi Viswanathar Temple, Sivakasi, Virudhunagar

Kasi Viswanathar Temple, Sivakasi, Virudhunagar
Kasi Viswanathar Temple in Sivakasi, a town in Virudhunagar district in the South Indian state of Tamilnadu, is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is believed to have been built by Pandyan ruler Harikesari Parakrama Pandian during the 16th century, with later additions from Madurai Nayaks. Shiva is worshipped as Kasi Viswanathar and his consort Parvathi as Visalakshi. The temple was the scene of temple entry movement in 1899, followed by Sivakasi riots when 22 people were killed.

A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all its shrines. The temple is open from 6 am - 12 pm and 4 - 8:30 pm on all days except during new moon days when it is open the full day. Four daily rituals and three yearly festivals are held at the temple, of which the Brahmotsavam festival during the Tamil month of Vaikasi (May - June) being the most prominent. The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamilnadu.

As per Hindu legend, a Pandya king Harikesari Parakrama Pandian wanted to construct a temple for Hindu god Shiva at Tenkasi and went to Kasi to bring a lingam, the most common iconic representation of Shiva in South India. While returning to his palace with the prized lingam, he rested under the grove of a vilva tree, the favourite tree of Shiva. When a cow carrying the lingam refused to move from the spot, the king realised that it was a divine wish of Shiva, and he placed the lingam in the place where the cow halted. The place where the "Shivalingam brought from Kasi" was installed came to be known as Sivakasi. Since he brought the lingam from Kasi, it came to be known as Kasi Viswanathar temple.

Sivakasi was established during the early 15th century CE. Between 1428 and 1460, a Pandya king Harikesari Parakrama Pandian ruled the southern part of Madurai region, comprising the modern day Sivakasi and its surroundings. Sivakasi was a part of Madurai region during the 16th century. Madurai became independent from Vijayanagar Empire in 1559 under the Nayaks and the temple started receiving gifts from the rulers of the dynasty. There are no indication of history of the temple after the Nayak rule ended in 1736 and Madurai was repeatedly captured several times by Chanda Sahib (1740 – 1754), Arcot Nawab and Muhammed Yusuf Khan (1725 – 1764) in the middle of 18th century. In 1801, Madurai came under the direct control of the British East India Company and was annexed to the Madras Presidency.

During the 1800s, Nadars, then aspiring business community, established their commercial base in the town. By the end of the 19th century, the Nadars’ rapid rise as a business community leads to confrontation with the Maravars. The Nadars were denied entry to the temple and when they tried to enter in 1899, it led to a series of riots which became to be known as the Sivakasi riots. A total of 22 people were killed, as many as 800 houses and big chariot in center of the city (used by temple during festival) were burnt during the riots. Eventually the riots came to an end after the intervention of the military in mid-July 1899. The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamilnadu.

The temple is located in the Bazaar Street, a busy business locality in Sivakasi. The temple has a three-tiered gopuram (temple tower). The temple has a pillared hall from the entrance leading to the flagstaff hall. The sanctum is located axial to the entrance facing east. The image of Kasi Viswanathar in the form of lingam is housed in the sanctum. The images of Vinayaka and Subramanya are located on either side of the hall leading to the sanctum. The shrine of Sivakami is located parallel to the sanctum facing East.

There is a second flagstaff located axial to the Sivakami shrine and perpendicular to the flagstaff facing Viswanathar shrine. The right of the main entrance facing the Sivakami shrine is the temple water tank. There are smaller shrines of AyyappaDakshinamurthy, Arumugar, Durga, Navagrahas and Nataraja in the precinct around the shrines of Kasi Viswanatha and Visalakshi.

The temple follows Saivite tradition. The temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. The temple rituals are performed four times a day: Kalasanthi at 8:30 a.m., Uchikalam at 11:30 p.m., Sayarakshai at 5:30 p.m., and Aravanai Pooja between 8:00 - 8:00 p.m. There are weekly, monthly and fortnightly rituals performed in the temple. The temple is open from 6am - 12 pm and 4-8:30 pm on all days except during festival days when it is open the full day.
There are various festivals celebrated in the temple. The Brahmotsavam festival during the Tamil month of Vaikasi (May - June) is the most prominent festival celebrated in the temple. Nataraja Thirumanjana during Aani (June - July), Visalakshi Tapas festival during Aadi (July - August), Moola festival during Aavani (August - September), Navarathri, Surasamharam during Aipasi (October - November), Karthikai festival, Thiruvathirai, Thaipoosam, Sivarathri, Panguni Uthiram are the other festival celebrated in the temple.
Pournami Puja:
"Pournami Puja" is held on every full moon day. "Prathosam" is very popular among the people of Sivakasi. On that day many people come to worship the God.
108 Sangabishegam:
"108 Sangabishegam" is held on every last Monday of Tamil month to Sri Kasi Viswanathar and on every last Friday of Tamil month to Sri Visalatchi Ambal.
Thanga Kavasam Satruthal:
Thanga Kavasam Satruthal is held in the beginning of every Tamil month, every Prathosam, on Shivarathri and on other festival days. 
Thiruvathirai Festival:
Thiruvathirai Festival is a famous one in Sivakasi. In this festival four Rathams from 4 temples are decorated beautifully with "Sevanthi Flowers". Large numbers of people visit Sivakasi during this festival to worship the Gods. 
The Tamilnadu State Transport Corporation operates daily services connecting various cities to Sivakasi. The State Express Transport Corporation operates long distance buses connecting the town to important cities like ChennaiTiruppur and Thoothukudi. The major intercity bus routes from the town are to cities like Madurai, Chennai, Nagercoil, Erode, Karur, Coimbatore, Salem, Karaikudi, Dindigul, Trichy, Ramanathapuram, Thanjavur, Velankanni, Sankarankovil, Senkottai, Rajapalayam, Tenkasi, Kovilpatti, Thoothukudi, Thiruchendur and Tirunelveli.
Sivakasi Railway Station is located in the rail head from Madurai to Senkottai. It connects Tamilnadu with Kerala through Rajapalayam and Senkottai. The Podhigai Express connects Sivakasi to Senkottai and Chennai Egmore in either direction. All other express trains ply from Virudunagar station. There are also passenger trains running either side from Madurai to Shenkottai. Madurai Airport is located at about 61 kms away from Sivakasi.

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