Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Agastheeswarar Temple, Pancheshti – The Temple

Agastheeswarar Temple, Pancheshti – The Temple
This is a south facing temple with 5 tiered Rajagopuram. The presiding deities in the temple are Agastheeswarar and his consort Ananthavalli. While the two are in separate shrines in the sanctum sanctorum, devotees can get darshan of both from a single viewpoint. Agastheeswarar is facing east, while Ananthavalli faces south. Nandi and Dwaja Sthambam are situated in the prakaram faces the sanctum. This holy place is said to have references in ancient Naadi Astrology for various Pariharams (remedies).

The Rajagopuram is south facing with five tiers. The Rajagopuram houses plenty of beautiful and intricate sculptures in the outer and inner walls. Though this is a Shiva temple, the Rajagopuram has the sculptures of both Shiva and Vaishnava Gods and stands as a symbol of Shiva-Vaishnava unison.  The entire walls of Raja Gopuram, have sculptures connected to incidents from all the 4 Yugas. The Rajagopuram displays penances in Kretha Yuga by Parvathi among the Panchagni, Brahma in Tretha Yuga, Arjuna in the Dwapara Yuga and Agastya in the Kali Yuga.  The Wall facing Ambal has Ashta Dik Balakas on one side and Navagrahas on the other side. There are three depictions of Lord Brahma are found on three of the numerous long panels in the Rajagopuram.

There are many small frescoes of Dasavatharam, Mohini (Mahavishnu) distributing Amrutham (Celestial Nectar which evolved upon the churning of Paarkadal), to Devas, Lord Shiva resting on Parvathi’s lap out of dizziness as he drank the poison emerged out while churning Paarkadal, Dharma Sastha (incarnation of Lord Ayyappa) on Gaja (Elephant) Vaahana along with wives Poorna and Pushkala, Mahavishnu’s Anantha Sayanam, Brahma on Lotus seen emerged from Lord Vishnu’s Naabi (Navel), Arjuna performing Thapas (penance) on Agni to obtain Pasupathastra (Lord Shiva’s arrow) from Lord Shiva, Rahu Ketu being created, marriage of Shiva, Yaga by Brahma and Vishnu, Kannappa Nayanar, Krishna Leelas etc.

Agastheeswarar Shrine:
Presiding Deity is called as Agastheeswarar. Both Agastheeswarar and Mother Ananthavalli are present in the sanctum in such a way that we can have the Dharshan of both of them from the same place. Agastheeswarar is facing East & situated on the left of Mother Shrine and Goddess Ananthavalli is facing South. The Swayambu lingam is believed to have been present before the arrival of Agasthiar itself and got the name Agastheeswarar after his worship.

Agastheeswarar is a Swayambu lingam present with an umbrella of the five headed Nagarajan. Agastheeswarar is present as Sivasakthi by having Manonmani Ambal inside Shiva Shrine. It is believed that Manonmani Ambal was consecrated by Agasthiyar. Sage Agasthiyar and Naalvars are present in the sanctum hall. Ganesha, Dakshina Murthi, Vishnu, Brahma and Durgai are the niche idols on the sanctum walls.
Ananthavalli Shrine:
Mother is called as Ananthavalli and is facing south. The Ambal Shrine houses the Amman who is about 3 feet tall on a pedestal Goddess Ananthavalli is facing the Rajagopuram entrance directly. More importance is given to Ambal in this temple and the Raja Gopuram (Main Tower) itself is facing south towards Ambal. All the sculptures in Raja Gopuram are made to face Ambal. Goddess Ananthavalli is made of Maragatha (emerald) stone and is present with her left leg in front and with 3 eyes. Her right eye is sun and left eye is moon.

Here she has taken a Chathru Samhara form keeping her left leg in front in order to drive away the evil forces and the demons that had come to disturb Agasthiyar’s poojas. So, it is believed that worshipping her will drive away all the evil forces, obstacles and enemies of her devotees. To calm down Ambal, Agasthiar has installed a Maha Yantra, also called Durga Yantra in a platform in front of her, containing the ‘Sapthasee’ Manthra of Devi Mahatmiyam that includes 700 mantras representing Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswathi and Kali.

Abishekams are performed to this Yantra on Tuesdays and Fridays and also poojas during Rahu Kaalam timings. The Navagrahas are present in the Rajagopuram directly facing the Ambal, all facing the same direction (normally each one will face different direction) with Lord Saturn uniquely present with an Eagle vahanam. So, worshipping Ambal will remove all the Navagraha doshas.

Also, the Ashtadikpalakas (8 Directional Gods) Indran – East, Agni (Fire) – South East, Yama – South, Nrithi – South West, Varuna (Rain) -West, Vayu (Air) – Northwest, Gubera – North and Isana – Northeast representing the 8 directions are present in the Rajagopuram directly facing the Goddess. Since the Gods representing the 8 directions are all facing the same direction facing the Goddess here, Devotees will be relieved of all the troubles faced by these Gods.

The sculptures of Adhi Devathas (Gods) connected to the Maha Yantra which is installed in front of Ambal, is sculpted at the ceiling of the entrance in Raja Gopuram. This Yantra is called Ekadasa Kona (11 angled) Maha Yantra which contains sculptures of all the Gods pertaining to the Maha Yantra which is found in front of Goddess. Abirami Bhattar’s Abirami Andhadhi and Aadhi Sankarar’s Soundarya Lahiri have many verses glorifying the 3 eyed Ananthavalli.

Ishta Lingeswarar Shrine:
There is a separate shrine for the Shiva Lingam called Ishta Lingeswarar in the Temple premises. It is believed that Sage Agasthiyar’s disciple, Sage Pulasthiyar has installed a Shiva Lingam and worshipped the Lord here. This shrine is situated in the northern corner of the temple and is facing south. A tree stands beside the shrine, serving as a canopy for the lingam. Devotees believe that prayers to this lingam will help overcome legal problems and regain lost official position.

Bhairavar Shrine:
Bhairavar sannidhi is situated next to the Ishta Lingeswarar Shrine.
Balamurugan Shrine:
There is also a small shrine for Balamuruga in which Lord Muruga is seen in Srishti Kolam (means gesture of a creator), which he did when he captured the powers of Lord Brahma and started doing the job of creation by himself, when once Brahma couldn’t answer Lord Muruga on the meaning for Omkara. Lord Murugan is in the prayoga posture with kamandala and rudraksha in his hand.

Snake Pit:
A very old Snake pit is present in the northern outside praharam, where people have seen a snake living even now and it is believed to be here protecting some hidden treasures of the temple. Incidentally the Agastheeswarar and Ishta lingams are also present with an umbrella of snake.
Navagraha Shrine:
There is a Navagraha Shrine in the Temple premises. Navagraha shrine is present beautifully on a lotus base.
Other Shrines:
There are also shrines for Siddhi Vinayaka Ganapathy, Suryan and Chandikeswarar in the temple premises.

The Temple Tank, Agasthiyar Theertham is situated outside the eastern praharam of the Temple. Agasthya Theertham, said to have been created when the Agasthiar drank the sea, spitting a little of it out in this place. The great sage later returned to Kailasam, at Shiva's urging, but he is said to visit here every Vaikasi full moon. Also, river Ganges (holy Ganga) merges in this Theertham during the Full moon days of Thamizh month ‘Vaikasi’. If one makes a dip here in this water on the said day, it is said that he will never have a re-birth in this world again. Many devotees come to take bath on that day.

Sthala Vriksham:
The Sthala Vriksham is the Vilvam and there is a huge Banyan tree also inside the Temple.

Lakshmi Narayana Perumal Temple:
Lakshmi Narayana Perumal temple is another small temple located adjacent to this Shiva Temple.