Friday, June 29, 2018

Agastheeswarar Temple, Ponneri – The Temple

Agastheeswarar Temple, Ponneri – The Temple
This temple faces east and has a 3 tired Rajagopuram with two praharams. The temple is built in the Gajabrushta Style. The Temple was Constructed by Raja Raja Chola on 2 acres of land. There is a temple tank in front of the Rajagopuram and 16-pillared stone mandapam with wonderful sculptures in between. There is a grand Dwajasthambam (flag post) at the outer praharam of the temple after entering the temple. There is an ancient Nandhi in a small mandapam just in front of the Dwajasthambam facing the west towards the sanctum.

There is a stone mandapam with multiple pillars and meticulous carvings is present in front of the Nandhi. The outer praharam is huge and peaceful. All the walls of the outer praharam are painted with lots of Thamizh hymns in praise of various Gods. The entire temple is very neat and maintained well. Presiding Deity is called as Agastheeswarar and is facing east. The Lord Agastheeswarar is present in the sanctum with divine silence and excellent vibrations. The sanctum is built in Gajabrushta shape (also called Thoongaanai Maadam), which is in the shape of the back of a sleeping elephant.

This type of architecture is seen in many of the temples built by the Chozha kings. Ganesha, Dhakshinamoorthy, Lingothbhavar, Durgai and Brahma are the niche idols located on the sanctum walls. Lord Dhakshinamoorthy (Guru) is seen facing south on the outer wall of the sanctum. On the outer wall of Sanctum Sanctorum, behind the shrine, on either side of the central section, are relief sculptures of Plough. In local language Tamizh, plough is called as 'Eeru'. Gold is called as Pon in Tamil. Gold Plough would be Pon Eru which eventually became Ponneri, the name of the town.

Mother is called as Anandhavalli and is facing east. Goddess Anandhavalli is seen adjacent to the sanctum with a motherly smile showing lots of grace and mercy to the worshippers. The goddess shrine on the right side of the lord shrine is a specialty here. The Dwarapalakis statues are found guarding the Goddess’s shrine near the entrance on either side. There are sculptures of Raja Raja Chola I on the pillars. 

There are also sculptures of Rajendra Chola and Mummudi Chola on the pillars. This shows that these Cholas have visited the temple and had offered grants to the temple. There are sculptures of Kannappa Nayanar in 2 places. One near the sanctum sanctorum and another in the mandapa outside the temple. There is also a sculpture of one of the later Vijayanagara Kings which is present on the pillars of the mandapam. This temple also has received various grants and patronage by Vijayanagara kings.

In one of the pillars, sage Agasthiar is also carved to mark his stay here and his penance towards Lord Agastheeswarar. There are shrines of Bhairavar, Surya, Ganesha, Navagrahas, Naalvar, Nataraja, Sivakami, Veeerabadhra, Kalahasthishwarar, Abithagujambal, Nagas, Gnanapoongothai and Valli Devasena Samedha Lord Murugan in the temple premises. All the gods here face the east.

There is a beautiful pond outside the temple which is called Agasthya Theertham which serves as the Theertham for the temple. It is believed to be created by Sage Agasthya. Sthala Vriksham is Vilvam (Aegle marmelos). This temple has received many donations in form of lands and gold during the Chola period.


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