Weekly Feature  -Sep 26 1999 Previous Week (A trip to Kanheri)

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Tradition Meets Technology


A Tour of Ambal Temples in South India
A brief analysis of selected compositions of Muthuswamy Deekshitar (18th century CE)
A Templenet Special Feature in conjunction with Navaratri 1999
Text: Vidya Jayaram

Images: Jayashree Kannikeswaran

kalikamb.jpg (37500 bytes)
Kalikaambaal (Kamakshi) at the Kaalikambaal Temple, Thambu Chetty Street, Chennai

Muthuswamy Deekshitar, the revered Carnatic Music Composer has sung the glory of several temples all over India. In this feature, we shall look at four temples of Tamilnadu, known for their shrines to Devi - Parvati.


Jambukeswaram, is located in Srirangam, an island in the course of the river Kaveri, near the city of Tiruchirappalli. There stands Akhilaandeshwari, literally the Lady who rules this universe, at Jambukeshwaram or Thiruvaanaikka.The oft heard Dwijaavanthi song seems  to waft in the air.

Legend says that this Akhilaandeshwari was an ugra(fierce) aspect of the Shakthi. Aadi Sankara, the shanmatha sthaapaka who cleansed the savage forms that haunted Hinduism installed the thaatankas(ear-rings) with the  shivachakra and shriichakra engraved.Dikshithar has mentioned this in the  Begada krithi as "Shrii maathah Shivavaamaange, Shriichakraroopathaatanke". To further calm down the fury of the Goddess,Shankara installed the idols of  Ganapathy and Subrahmanya.The Shakthi was transformed into a benign mother  looking upon her sons and this world with love.Dikshithar says this  as "Lambodhara guruguha poojithe".ie worshipped by Vinaayaka (Lambodhara)
and Guruguha,in the song "Akhilaandeshwari".The padma puraana contains references to Indra getting rid as of the sin of killing a hero(viirahaththi). This is also mentioned "Jambaari sambaavithe" (ie venerated by Indra,the  enemy of the demon Jamba).

Kamalaapuram (Tiruvarur)

Further South, is Tiruvarur, home to  Kamalaamba,the deity Kamala.jpg (19930 bytes)that inspired the brilliant navaavarana krithis. Kamalaamba is the Goddess in penance ,seated in yogic posture,and the  married form of the Goddess there, is Niilothpalaamba. Kamalaambike (thodi),is the entry-point to the most sublime of compositions.
The huge temple tank on the West of the temple with the temple of Naganatha swamy in the middle beckons us as we enter the city.This tank is celebrated in the puranas as capable of removing the 8 kinds of sins.Dikshithar says  this as "Kamalaalaya tiirtha vaibhave",Sporting in the tiirtha of  kamalaalaya. Why is it called Kamalaalaya?   It is said that it was after Lakshmi who worshipped here.As in other krithis,   he lists the Gods who worshipped here as
"Kamalaasanaadhi poojitha" ie the  Devi being worshipped by Kamalaasana - Brahma who is
seated on a lotus.


Further  South is  the temple city of Madurai. The Goddess here is Miinaakshi.madur.jpg (57557 bytes)One of the most popular krithis  on Madurai is "Miinaakshi me mudham-(Gamakakriya).Inshakthi worship,the  Goddess here is identified as Rajamaathangi or mantrini ,the minister of
Lalithathripura sundari.Worship of this form confers on the devotee skill in
music.Rajamaathangi is adept in playing the vallaki and hence she is the  creator of the ten kinds of gamakas of the viina,"Viinaavaadhana dhashagamaka kriye".According to legends, she came to the earth as the daughter of the   Pandya king Malayadhwaja.Dikshithar hails her as "Malayadhwaja Paandyaraaja   thanaye".The goddess here is greenish in colour ie "marakathachaaaye".This  kshetra is called kadamba vana - forest of the kadamba trees.kadhamba is the sthala vrksha of this place.He says of this as
""kadhambavanvaasini" and  the city as "madhuraapuri nilaye".The Goddess dwells here with her consort  Sundaresha,"Mahaadeva Sundareshapriye".Her brother,Vishnu comes across Vaigai from the nearby temple of Azhagarkoil.He is referred to in  "madhumuraripu sodhari" , the sister of the enemy of the demons Madhu and Mura ie Vishnu".


"Nagareshu Kanchi" - "The best among cities" ,goes the saying. Tkamakvim.jpg (52901 bytes)his ancient city is a great
spiritual centre.It is the kaamakoti piita and it is said that Adi Shankara installed the yogalinga here. The krithi "Kaamaakshii(Sumadhyuthi) welcomes us here.The name kaamakoti
piita is mentioned here, as "Kaamakotiipiita vaasini". The signficance here is that there is no garbhagriha for Devi in any of the nearby Shiva shrines.While blessing
Manmatha,Kamaakshi drew in all  the shakthis there.Later on Brahma's request she
asured that other temples may have Devi shrines.The prtion of the city in which
Kamaakshi reigns is called "Kamakottam" or "Kamakoshta". Here too we find Vishnu in Karigiri as Varadharaja close by, for  Kaamaakshi is "Kamalesha sodhari" - the sister of the
Lord of Lakshmi.


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