Visit Thirumuruganatheeswarar temple in Thirumuruganpoondy, Avinashi, is a storehouse of information.
Thirumuruganpoondi, a town panchayat in Tirupur district, is close to Avinashi that lies at a distance of five km from it and about eight km from Tirupur. What was a somnolent village two decades ago has now leapt to modernity with newly laid tar-roads and other infrastructural developments. Still it is famous for the making of stone idols, and the houses noted for making them are found along the route to the temple of Thirumuruganatheeswarar from the bus stop where one alights to reach the shrine.
Surrounded by thorny bushes and trees, the temple of Thriumuruganatheeswarar or Muruganathe-eswarar, facing west, is far away from the maddening crowd. Though shorn of architectural grandeur and a majestic rajagopuram it is richly compensated by its legendary significance and inscriptional wealth elevating it to the fourth place among the seven specially mentioned shrines of Kongu Nadu.
It is said that soon after Muruga had slain Soorapadman during ‘Soora Samharam’ at Tiruchendur, he was afflicted with ‘brahma hatti’ dosham. When he approached his father, Lord Siva, to get rid of the dosha, he was directed to worship the Lord by making a lingam out of sand at Kandamapuri in Kongu Nadu. Since Murga worshipped Siva and got rid of the dosham at this place, the presiding deity of the temple has come to be known as Muruganatheeswarar and the place Thirumuruganpoondi (earlier Kandamapuri). Due to this fact the shrine has become famous for curing autism and lunacy. Many cases of lunacy were reported to have been cured by the performance of ‘prathakshinam’ (going round the main enclosure) after a dip in the holy tirthams of this temple for a prescribed period (48 days).
On entering the temple, after worshipping Raja Ganapathy, one will witness a vast courtyard with a dwjasthambam and a 16-pillared nritya mantapam, on the northern side of the entrance. Then there is a rectangular mantapam, also a part of the maha mantapam, which has a separate shrine for Muruga facing south, a peculiar feature here. He goes by the appellation, Shanmukam, a five ft icon, with five of his faces looking towards south and the sixth one facing north. His consorts, Valli and Devasena flank him on the sides. He is found seated on the beautifully sculpted peacock mount. The maha and ardha mantapams lead to the sanctum sanctorum. At the entrance of the maha mantapam are the statues of dwarapalakas called Dandi and Mundi. The presiding deity Muruganatheeswarar is a small lingam with a five-headed snake spreading its hood over it. There is no enclosure around the garbha griha for circumambulation. To the left of the presiding deity is the shrine for goddess Muyangupoon Mulai Valli or Alingabushana Sthanambigai, which is of a moderate size with the lower two arms in abhaya and vara mudras. The small sized nandhi is similar to the one found at Edakka Nathar temple in Thiruvedagam near Madurai.
The temple has attractive sikaras over the garbha grihas of the presiding deity and His consort. They are studded with stucco works depicting mythological stories. Besides these, one would witness rich inscriptions on the side walls of the garbha griha. Most of these belong to king Vikrama I, the earliest among the Kongu cholas (1004-1045 A.D.) Up to 68 inscriptions of Vikrama I have been discovered of which Thirumuruganpoondi and Solamadevi at Udumalpet taluk in Amaravathy valley contain a good number. From an inscription it is seen that king Vikrama I had titles such as ‘Kalimurka,’ ‘Kokkalimurka’ and ‘Thiruchitrambalamudaiyan.’ He had a daughter by the name Vikrama Chola Deviar. It is also seen from the inscription that Alagia Pandya Devar was also his relative and the name of the queen was Alagia Nachi Alivi.
In another inscription, Vikrama I has been described as wielding a sceptre seated resplendent under his glowing white parasol appropriating to himself a sixth share of the produce from the land. The inscription also has a record that an organisation called ‘Ayya Potil’ (an association for merchants) seems to have existed during his reign. There is a lurking danger to these inscriptions from the oil-lamps lit under the base of Durga Devi embedded in the wall. A small high stool may be provided for the lighting of these lamps by visitors.
Apart from inscriptions, the two note-worthy icons which draw the attention of a visitor are those of Kala Bhairavar and Lingothbavar. Kala Bhairavar is found in the north-eastern corner of the main prakaram, facing south. The artisan has well chiselled the Ashtabujanga Bhairavar on single stone. His mount, dog – personification of the Vedas – is found behind him. The front, right and left arms hold the ‘soolam’ and ‘bhiksha pathiram’ respectively. The three arms on its right side hold damaru, vajram (spear like) and sword (kadgam), while on its left, is ‘nagam,’ ‘musalam’ (club like) and a shield. There is ‘agni sikai’ on the head.
The icon of Lingothbavar on the eastern wall of the garbha griha is an attractive piece. Brahma as swan and Vishnu as ‘varaha’ are trying to locate the head and feet of Siva, whose smile looks as though he was feeling that his peers were engaged in a futile pursuit. Opposite to the eastern wall the lingas of pancha boothas – Appu, Vayu, Theyu, Prithvi and Akash – are found in a row.
On the southern side of the parakaram is seen a huge Nandi, a stucco work, and by its side is the famous Subramanya tirtham, a ‘koopam.’ The two have been connected by a flight of steps to draw water from the well for bathing the lunatics and for abhishekam to deities. Incidentally, the 63 Nayanmars adorn the western side of the prakara.
There are two more tirthams, Gnana and Brahma – in the western and northern sides of the prakaram. According to Dakshinamurthy Gurukkal, the Gnana tirtham is not in use and Kurukkathi, the temple tree, has become senescent and efforts have not been made to rejuvenate it. However, the temple of Madhavaneswarar and Mangalambikai, which is associated with this temple and located across Poolurpatti road, 100 metres away, has received a face lift. The small lingam installed at this temple was originally of sand when Muruga worshipped it and it got washed away by the floods in Agnima tirtham which flowed as a river by its side long ago. In its place a stone lingam is said to have sprung on its own. Now, instead of Agnima tirtham, there is Tirunallaru on its southern side which flows from Avinashi in a weakened form. There is a separate sannidhi for Kethu in the prakaram.
Of the 25 Siva sthalams, which have been exclusively sung by Sundaramurthy Nayanar alone, Thirumuruganpoondi is one. Sundarar’s visit to the temple at Thirumuruganpoondi was quite accidental. It is said that when Sundarar was passing through Thirumurganpoondi village after receiving fabulous presents from Chera king, Cheran Peruman and on his way to Thiruvarur, the Lord desired that he step into the shrine of Thriumuruganpoondi and sing a few pieces of Thevaram hymns composed extempore. Therefore he, through his Sivaganas, robbed Sundarar of his belongings and entered the sanctum santorum and disappeared. Sundarar, presenting himself before the diety, sang the verse commencing with the word ‘Kodugu Venchilai’ running to ten stanzas and full of poignancy which reprimanded the Lord for not protecting his bhaktas and the territory. Moved by his prayer, the Lord restored the gifts to him. The plight of Sundarar when he lost his belongings and when he got them back have been well brought out in two images at this temple. This incident is observed as a festival called ‘vedu pari.’
Of the five sthalams noted for Siva thandavam, Thirumurganpoondi is noted for brahma thandavam. It is celebrated on the 10 day of brahmotsavam in the month of Masi. The temple, which is under the Central Archaeological Department, has many festivals, besides brahmotsavam.