Friday, March 10, 2017

Ramaswamy Temple, Cheranmahadevi, Thirunelveli

Ramaswamy Temple, Cheranmahadevi, Thirunelveli
Ramaswamy Temple is dedicated to Hindu God Vishnu located at Cheranmahadevi in Thirunelveli District of Tamilnadu. This Temple is similar to the temple with a three Tier Vimanam like Thiru Koshtiyur and Koodal is in a dilapidated condition and requires immediate attention. The Temple is located 1 Km North of Cheranmahadevi bus stand at the foot of the Western Ghats amidst green paddy fields.

This is an ancient at least 1000 years old.  This Temple is referred to as the Nigarili Chola Vinnagar Azhvaar temple in 10th Century AD inscriptions and whose deity was referred to as Raghava Chakravarti in a 1020 AD Rajendra I period inscription. Cheran Maha Devi is at a very centric location on the Thirunelveli- Ambasamudram- Papanasam route.

The Temple
Similar to Thirukoshtiyur Sowmya Narayana Divya Desam, Parameswara Vinnagara Divya Desam in Kanchipuram and Koodal Divya Desam in Madurai, the Ramaswamy temple in Cheran Maha Devi too has a three tier vimana, with Adhi Narayanan in a Standing Posture at the Ground level facing east along with Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi, Veetrituntha Perumal in a sitting posture in Tier 1 along with Sridevi and Bhoo Devi and Thiruparkadalnathan in a sleeping posture atop Adhishesha in Tier 2.

The three tiers Vimanam finds a reference in the ancient inscriptions which talks about the ‘top tier’ Azhvaar idol, the ‘mid-tier’ Azhvaar idol and ‘lower tier’ Azhvaar idol. Utsava Deity is Rama with Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman, Veda Narayanan with Bhoo and Neela Devi are housed in a separate shrine. Imposing Rama, Sita and Lakshmana, Hanuman sculptures are located right at the entrance and some interesting sculptures are located in the motif at the entrance.

The temple received a facelift recently. The entire temple complex got a fresh coat of paint. It was nice to see moolavar idols anointed with bright and colorful ‘mooligai’ painting. While earlier the entrance to the first and second tiers was through the maha mandapam from inside, a new staircase has been constructed for the devotees to visit the top tiers from the outer prakaram.

The outer walls too are sporting a new look. All the ancient inscriptions have been left intact. Other additions include a new lighting system for the temple, flooring and a security gate leading up to the sanctum. There are separate rooms on the Southern side for the Vahanas.

There are several inscriptions on the inner and outer walls of the Ramaswamy temple. There are also inscriptions on the way up the steps to Tier 1 of the temple that provide insights into the conduct of the festivals, the daily poojas at the temple, the state of the temple under different rulers and their contribution to the wellbeing of the temple.

Watchman for the Temple:
Not just the lamps, the overall security of the Ramaswamy temple too was provided for as can be seen from the 1036 AD inscription of Sundara Chola Pandya Deva which refers to a gift of pieces of land by the Merchant Guild for maintenance of a watchman at the temple. One could also assume from the gifting by the Merchant Guild that the business and economy at this place was robust at that point of time.
Loss of Jewels:
Jatavaraman Pandya Kulasekhara I inscription of 1195 AD narrates an interesting story, that of two priests being held responsible for loss of temple jewels and how they borrowed 3 Achchus from the temple and gave a written agreement that they would conduct the same from interest accruing from these 3 Achchus. 
War time and reference to places around Cheranmahadevi:
A 985 AD inscription and similar one in 1000 AD in Tamil both on the North Wall relating to Raja Raja I mentions the destruction of fleets at Kandalurch Chalai and Mandalaurch Chalai and conquests of Ganga Padi, Nulamba Padi, Tadigai Padi, Vengai Nadu, Kudagamalai Nadu, Kollam, Kalingam, Ila Mandalam and Cheran Madevi.
The Name
Inscriptions indicate that this place was referred to as Cheranmahadevi Chadurvedi Mangalam. In those days, the hilly terrain of Papanasam was the short cut from Cheran Maha Devi to Trivandrum. Also, culverts refer to this place as Nigarili Chola Chadurvedi Mangalam. Early 11th Century AD inscriptions state that Cheran Maha Devi was situated in Mulli Nadu. 
Perpetual Lamps:
A 10th Century AD inscription records a specific praise of Vaikanasas for taking care of the lamps at the Ramaswamy temple as they would of their own body, so committed were they that they pledged themselves to maintain a perpetual lamp at the temple (1015AD Rajendra I period inscription). The inscription goes on to add that they would have to pay a penalty of twice the ghee for them to continue the lamp service. Deposit of Kasu was also made in the hands of the Vaikanasas for burning a half lamp.
The inscriptions record several gifts to the temple including gift of money for lamp, gift of 25 cows for lamp, a gift of 75 cows for 3 lamps, a gift of money for 2 lamps and 4 food offerings to Thiru Vaykulath Azhvaar and his consort and a gift of cash for lamp for the deity which was to be maintained by the Vaikanasas (1015 AD Inscription) clearly indicating that the daily burning of lamps was well taken care of.
Temple Opening Time
The temple is open from 8 a.m – 10.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m – 8 p.m.
Following Festivals are celebrated in this temple currently;
·        Garuda Sevai on the last Saturday of Purattasi
·        Rama Navami
·        Krishna Jayanthi
·        Puratasi Parivettai
·        Margazhi Theppotsavam
·        Vaikunta Ekadasi Procession
·        10 day Oonjal Utsavam in Aippasi
·        Chithirai Brahmotsavam
·        10 day festival celebrated for Anjaneya
·        Chariot festival
·        Theerthavari
Grand Festivals celebrated during ancient time:
As late as the first half of the last century, there were several festivals conducted in a Grand manner at the Ramaswamy temple. A 10 day Oonjal Utsavam in Chittirai, Garuda Sevai on the fourth Saturday in Puratasi, a 10th day Chariot Festival (indicating the temple had a Chariot) and a 11th day Theerthavari Utsavam were among the popular festivals at this temple. 
Such was the importance to the festivals at the Ramaswamy temple that there were deposits made for conducting worship of the God on Festival days of Chittirai and there was a gift of money for providing rose water to the God on the Chittirai Festival day (Kulasekhara I - 13th Century AD- period inscription). 
The Theppotsavam festival has been mentioned in these ancient Chola and Pandya Period inscriptions continues to take place in the Tamil Calendar month of Margazhi. Belief is that Ganga comes here to Porunai River every year on the day of Maa Viyathi Paatham in Margazhi to cleanse her sins. It is said that people from Cheran Maha Devi used to congregate here for a bath at this river on this day.
Four Kaala Pooja:
Even 65 years ago, there were poojas performed four times a day as per the Vaikhanasa tradition. Now, the temple is open only for a couple of hours in the evening with the opening in the first half dependent on request from devotees on prior intimation. 
Ramaswamy Temple,
Cheranmahadevi, Thirunelveli District
Mobile: +91 90435 48173 / 90436 73430
Ramaswamy Temple is located at Cheranmahadevi in Thirunelveli District of Tamilnadu. Cheranmahadevi is located at about 50 Kms from Tenkasi, 17 Kms from Ambasamudram, 6 Kms from Veeravanallur, 30 Kms from Thirunelveli, 190 Kms from Madurai & 155 Kms from Thiruvananthapuram. Thirunelveli bound buses (Kallur route) stop at the Rama temple. Buses are available every 15 minutes from Thirunelveli to Cheranmahadevi.
The temple is 30 kms from Nambi Divyadesam at Thiru Kurungudi and 20 kms from Kulasekara Azhwar Rajagopalaswamy temple in Mannarkoil (Ambai). While at Cheranmahadevi, also visit the ancient Appan Venkatachalapathy temple, one km north to this temple. The temple is 1 km North of Cheran Maha Devi bus stand and railway station. Nearest Railway Station is located at Cheranmahadevi and Nearest Airport is located at Madurai and Thiruvananthapuram.

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