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Tiruvarur in religious history of Tamil Nadu

G. Srinivasan
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Sapthavidanga sthalams glorify Lord Siva in different forms

A view of Sri Thyagarajar Swamy Temple at Tiruvarur. —Photo: M. Srinath
A view of Sri Thyagarajar Swamy Temple at Tiruvarur. —Photo: M. Srinath

Tiruvarur occupies an important place in the religious history Tamil Nadu. While the sprawling Sri Thyagarajaswamy Temple located on five acres of land lends glory to the town, legend and history associated with the temple speaks volumes about the importance of Tiruvarur.

The famous Kamalalayam tank, and the big temple car which weighs 300 tonnes when fully decorated, add to the glory of Tiruvarur.

Though Sri Valmikanathaswamy is the principal deity, the temple derives its name from Lord Thyagaraja who is unique to this temple. Lord Thyagaraja is in the form of Somaskanda, a composite image of Lord Siva, Sri Uma and Lord Subramanya made by Lord Vishnu.

Legend has it that Lord Vishnu, to redeem himself from the curse by Sri Parvathi, whom he had failed to honour , created Sri Somaskanda and worshipped him and got rid of the curse. He was keeping this image on his chest and it was called Sri Thyagaraja. As he inhaled and exhaled, Sri Thyagaraja image on the chest moved up and down and this became the ‘Ajapa' dance of Sri Thyagaraja.

Later Lord Vishnu presented this image to Indra, head of Devas. Muchukunda, a great chola king, saved Indra and Devas from Asuras at one point of time. Indra wanted to present a gift to Muchukunda as a token of gratitude. Muchukunda wanted Sri Thyagaraja image with Indra. Indra created six images of Sri Thyagaraja like the original one and asked Muchukunda to choose the original one by placing the seven images before him. Muchukunda chose the right one by his divine power. Muchukunda was given all the seven images. Muchukunda came to his capital - Tiruvarur - and installed the original image of Sri Thyagaraja at Tiruvarur and the other six images at Tirunallar, Nagapattinam, Thirukaravasal, Thiruvaimoor, Vedaranyam and Thirukuvalai around Tiruvarur.

Sapthavidanga sthalams

These seven places are called "Sapthavidanga sthalams" of Sri Thyagarja and He is called by various names in these places and various forms of dances were attributed to them. At Tiruvarur, Sri Thyagaraja is called Sri Vidivitankar and the dance is ‘Ajapa Natanam' - dancing like the chest movement, moving up and down and forward and backward. At Tirunallar near Karaikal,

He is called Sri Nahavitankar and the dance is called Unmatta Natanam - dancing like a mad man. At Nagapattinam He is called Sri Sundaravitankar and the dance is called Paravarataranga Natanam, dacing like the waves of the sea. At Tirukaravasal, He is called Sri Adivitankar and the dance is called Kukutta Natanam -- dancing like a cock.

At Thirukuvalai, He is called Sri Avani Vitankar and the dance is called Bhringa Natanam - dancing like a bee which hovers around a flower.

At Thiruvoimoor, He is called Sri Neelavitankar and the dance is called Kamala Natanam ie dancing like a lotus, which trembles in breeze.

At Vedranyam, He is called Sri Buvani Vitankar, and the dance is called Hamsapada Natanam ie dancing with the gait of a swan.

Ajapa dance of Lord Thyagaraja signifies the control and manoeuvre of breathing. Sri Appar, one of the four Tamil stalwarts, refers to this association of Sri Thyagaraja with the breathing methods in his Devaram. Tirumular also glorifies the importance of Ajapa dance.

Manuneethi Cholan's justice

Besides Muchukunda, yet another Chola King associated with Tiruvarur is Manuneethi Cholan. Mention about him is found in Silapathikaram and Periya Puranam. A stone sculpture is also seen depicting his history at Tiruvarur. Manuneedhi Cholan rendered justice to a cow which lost its calf. Incidentally, it was the son of Manuneedhi Cholan who was responsible for the fatal knockof the calf. The calf was killed when it came under the wheels of the car driven by the son of Manuneedhi Cholan. The cow, unable to bear the sorrow of the loss of the calf, alarmed the bell meant for rendering justice. Manuneedhi Cholan who learnt that the calf was killed by his son, drove the car on his son and killed him, thus rendering justice to the cow. Lord Siva, impressed by the King's action, brought back alive the calf and his son.

Very mention of Tiruvarur, conjures up the images of car festival of Sri Thyagarajaswamy Temple. It is a rare sight to see the 300 tonne car with full decoration, soaring to a height of 90 feet, moving majestically on the four main streets of Tiruvarur around the temple during car festival every year.

The car is pulled by people with a back up of bulldozers which push the car from behind.Iron wheels fitted to the car make the movement easy and fast. Hydraulic brake system helps in manoeuvring the car. This year there is an added advantage. Concrete roads have been laid on all the four streets which will facilitate quick movement of the car.

As a prelude to the festival, Lord Thyagaraja was mounted on the car on July 11. Since then, devotees have been worshiping the Lord kept on the car.

Thousands of people queued up to the car to have darshan of the Lord for the past five days.District administration has made elaborate bandobust arrangements for the festival. Nearly 1500 police personnel are on duty. Additional buses are operated by the Transport Corporation.

Drinking water facility has been arranged for the benefit of devotees.Surveillance cameras have been fitted at vantage points in the town as part of arrangements for the smooth conduct of the festival.

G. Srinivasan

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