Saturday, February 24, 2018

Suddha Rathneswarar Temple, Ootathur – Legends

Suddha Rathneswarar Temple, Ootathur – Legends
King Raja Raja Chola I:
This temple, said to have been originally built in the 7th Century, has been rebuilt by Raja Raja during his rule. It has received further patronage from his son Rajendra Chola I and grandson, Rajadhiraja Chola. There are over fifty inscriptions in this temple from the times of Raja Raja, Rajendra and Rajadhiraja. King Raja Raja had constructed a temple to the North of Ootathur called Chozheswaram. He often visited the temple.
The original Suddha Rathneswarar Temple had been buried under the sand during that time and was covered by thick Bilwa trees and bushes. The King's men set out to clear the path for the King to pass through comfortably. As they cut the bushes, one of the men found that his spade encountered an object below the ground. As it made contact, blood started gushing out from it. Startled, the men cleared the ground around.
To their utmost surprise, they found a Shivalingam made of the purest form of ruby (Suddha Manickam or Suddha Ratnam) with a deep cut on top from where blood was gushing out. The King rushed to the spot, found the priceless treasure, and decided to build a temple for this unique God. Further excavations revealed the intact remains of the old temple, which was renovated and extended to the form that exists today by Raja Raja.
Brahma Theertham:
Once there was an argument between Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma as to who was the greater among them. For determining this, they chose a challenge. They decided to find the base (foot) and top of the head of Lord Shiva. Brahma took the form of a swan and went up to find the top of Lord Shiva's head while Vishnu took the form of a boar and dug into the ground below to find his feet. They went on and on for a long, long time but were not successful in their mission.
On his way up, Brahma encountered a Thazampoo (Ketaki Flower) that fell from Shiva's head. He asked the flower if it would stand witness if he were to declare that he had reached Shiva's head. The flower agreed. So, Brahma proclaimed himself to be the greater of the two as he had been able to bring evidence from the top of Shiva's head. Vishnu humbly accepted defeat. Angered that Brahma had lied and used a false witness, Shiva cursed Brahma that he would not have a separate temple anywhere and that Ketaki flowers would not be used for Shiva's worship.
Brahma begged forgiveness and asked to be relieved of his curse. Lord Shiva told Brahma to worship him with water from all the holy rivers in the world. Brahma came to Ootathur and created a spring of water which came to be known as Brahma Theertham right in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum. To this spring, he added water from all the holy rivers in the world. The village came to be known after this spring (Ootru - Spring, Ootraththur which has now transformed to Ootathur).
He performed poojas and Abhishekam with the water of Brahma Theertham and was relieved of his curse. Even today, only the water from Brahma Theertham is used for Abhishekam for Lord Suddha Rathneswarar. This water is said to have medicinal properties and is capable of curing several diseases and ailments. It is believed that when Raja Raja was unwell, he came here and sprinkled the water of Brahma Theertham on himself and that gave him good health for the rest of his life. Till date, several hundreds of devotees carry back the water of Brahma Theertham and are relieved of ailments.
It was difficult to find ground water anywhere above 25 feet. However, the water in the Brahma Theertham is perennial in source and remains at the same level (around 10-12 feet) throughout the year. It is indeed unique that a spring is found right in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum. There is an underground tunnel connecting the Suddha Rathneswarar Temple and the Perumal Temple opposite to it through which water from the Brahma Theertham used to be carried for the Abhishekam of the Perumal as well. This tunnel is now closed.
27 Stars, 12 Sun Signs and 9 Planets:
On the ceiling, near the Dwajasthambam, can be seen the 27 stars along with the 12 sun signs facing the ground below and in a separate panel nearby are the 9 planets. Any yaagas or homams performed beneath these panels is said to yield complete results immediately. People born under any star can perform homams here. Because of this, the Ootathur Suddha Rathneswarar Temple is popularly sought after for conducting marriages.
Nandhiyaaru Nandikeswara:
It is usual to see Nandi facing the Lord in the sanctum sanctorum. But as far as the Suddha Rathneswarar temple is considered, the usual is unusual. Apart from the usual Nandi, there is another Nandi facing the East, on one side of the Artha Mandapa. The story behind this is really interesting. Once there was an argument among the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswathi, Narmada, Sindu, Kaveri and Tungabhadra as to who was the holiest among them.
They brought this issue to Lord Suddha Rathneswarar. He ordered Nandikeswara to drink up the waters of all seven rivers. The Nandi did as ordered and lay down facing the East. Only the Water from the Ganga flowed out of his mouth. This formed a river near the temple which is called Nandiyaru (Nandi River). This river flows into the Kollidam and from there joins the sea.
Holier than Kashi:
A local legend says that Raja Raja wanted to immerse the ashes of his father Sundara Chola in Varanasi. On his way, he stopped overnight near the Nandi River. To his surprise, he found that the bones and ashes had turned into sweet smelling flowers. When he went to Varanasi and opened the urn, they had turned back to ashes and bones. Not wanting to immerse the ashes there, he came back and immersed them at the Nandi River. There is a saying " Kaasikku Veesam Kooda" which means performing the last rites on the banks of the Nandi river is better than performing the same in Varanasi. Raja Raja is said to have built a Kasi Viswanatha Temple on the banks of the river which does not exist now.
When Appar, one of the Nayanmars tried to visit Ootathur from the place now known as Paadalur, he was amazed to see the whole path to the temple covered with Shivalingams. Fearing he cannot put his feet at a place covered with lingams, Appar stood at Paadalur and sang about the Suddha Rathneswarar temple. Since he sang from there, the place came to be known as Padalur (the place where the song originated) which has now been transformed to Paadaalur.
Indra regained his lost power by worshipping Lord Nataraja here:
It is believed that Indra regained his lost power and position by worshipping the Nataraja of this Temple and like him anyone who worships the Nataraja with sincere devotion will regain lost power. Several politicians and those with political aspirations visit this temple regularly.

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