Legend, history and architecture make Vikrateeswarar temple special.
Among the Kongeshu sthalams, the second in the order is the great sivasthalam at Venjamakoodal, a small, sleepy village in Karur. It falls under Aravakurichy Assembly constituency. It lies at a distance of 16 km from Karur in the south-west direction. Buses bound for Andipatti and Aravakurichy touch Ondhampatti where one can alight and proceed on the cut-road for a distance of seven km by bus and reach Venjamakoodal temple. Nowadays buses from Karur directly ply to Venjamakoodal (also called Venjamagudalur by some).
The temple, which boasts of a five-tier rajagopuram, faces east and is situated on the eastern bank of Kodaganar (tributary of Amaravathy) which flows behind the temple.
When this writer entered the temple, he felt as if he was stepping into a modern temple and not a hallowed one since the days of Chera and Chola kings. The façade of the whole temple has changed since 1968, when I last visited the temple. The rajagopuram, compound wall, well-laid prakaram, maha mantapam and vimanams over the garbha grihas of the principal deities and a breeze-way between them all give the edifice a new look.
A flight of stone steps has been provided from the entrance to reach the maha mantapam since the temple is at a much lower level. The ceiling of the temple has been tastefully painted. The maha mantapam has been partially covered with a sloping roof in concrete and elegantly painted. The floor has been neatly fitted with glistening tiles. The original stone-pillared mantapam has now been crowned with beautiful stucco work, and at its corners are found the images of Kamadhenu. On either side of the front wall of the garba griha of the main deity, the images of Sundaramurthy Nayanar and Arunagirinathar have been placed indicating their association with this temple.
What is the reason for these changes? Prabhu, a young and vivacious gurukal, said that floods in Kodaganar in 1977 ravaged the temple sparing the main deity and its garbha griha. The image of the goddess was cut into two halves. “In 1985 Thirumuruga Kripanandavariar renovated the goddess sannidhi and built the rajagopuram,” he added.
In 2003, the construction of prakaram, compound wall and roof over the maha mantapam, besides renovation of the Bhairavar sannidhi were all carried out by Alagappa Mudaliyar and Arul Neri Thirukootam of Erode, according to Prabhu.
The full name of the presiding deity is Kalyana Vikrateeswarar, and the goddess in known by various names such as Madhurasubashini and Vikratamba. The main deity is named after Vikra, the Chera King, who is said to have built this temple. The name of the village originated from Venjan, a hunter (some call him a demon king), who worshipped Lord Siva here fervently at this place and attained ‘mukti.’ It is also said that Indra worshipped Siva to get rid of his sins at this place. The lingam is a swayambhu, which is five ft tall. The goddess sannidhi is to the left of Vikrateeswarar and the image is a fine piece of sculpture. The smile on its face lingers long after you leave the shrine.
The walls of the prakaram have niches for Dakshinamurthy, Lingothbavar, Brahma, Durga and Chandikeswara. The northern and southern walls are full of inscriptions and similarly, around the goddess sannidhi, there are inscriptions. All these inscriptions have been copied under South Indian inscription series from 143-50 in 1905. One of them relates to the re-building of the goddess shrine by Sundara Pandya Thevar during the third regnal year of Thirubhuvana Chakravarthy Veera Pandya (1265-85 A.D.) The rest of them relate to 12th century when the village, Venjamakoodal must have enjoyed great importance.
In the prakara of the temple at Kannimoolai there is a sparate sannidhi for Vinayaka. On the western side of it, we find pancha lingas in a row on a platform representing prithvi (earth), appu (water), vayu (air), theyu (fire) and aakash (sky). The relevant kshteras, namely, Kanchipuram, Thiuvaanaikkaval, Kalahasti, Thiruvannamalai and Chidambaram and the connected legendary events have been brought out pictorially and hung on the compound wall behind. These lingas lay buried on the bed of the Kodaganar, and were unearthed and placed behind the Vikrateeswarar sannidhi near the compound wall.
The Muruga sannidhi, located at the north-west corner of the prakaram, attracts everyone. The idol, with six arms and His consorts, Valli and Devasena, to the left and right respectively, is an architectural marvel. He is seated on peacock whose head is turned to left, “asura pakam,” a posture adopted after the killing of Soora Padman. As in Karur Pasupatheeswarar temple, there are separate niches for Surya and Chandra near the eastern compound wall on either side.
Sundaramurthy Nayanar has sung in praise of Vikrateeswarar in his Thevaram hymns. Legend has it that at this sthalam in order to present Sundarar with gold, Siva himself took the guise of an old Brahmin and approached an old womandevotee to give him gold in return for taking his sons. In Kongumandala Satakam this event finds reference. Out of the 25 sthalams sung by Sundarar, Venjamakoodal ranks twenty third. Saint Arunagirinathar visited this shrine and glorified it in Tiruppugazh. .
The sthala vruksham is vilvam and the teertham is Vikrateertha. Bramotsavam of this temple takes place in the month of Masi. The temple falls under the jurisdiction of the Executive Officer, Karur Pasupatheeswarar temple.