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Renovations are on at the Sowmyanarayana Perumal temple at Tirukoshtiyur, where Sri Ramanuja was initiated into Tirumandiram. S. Prabhu writes.

It was in Tirukoshtiyur that Sri Ramanuja was initiated into the Tirumandira by his preceptor. Appropriately, Sri Sowmyanarayana Perumal temple, Divya Desam, has a shrine for the Acharya and ahead of his millennium next year, renovation has been taken up.

Periyazhwar reserves the highest form of praise for the people of Tirukoshtiyur. In Periyazhwar Thirumozhi, he says: “During famine, grains sell at such a premium so much so that even a handful costs a gold coin. But even then the people of Tirukoshtiyur feed the guests as if everything were normal. Would you not sell yourselves as bonded slaves to people of such high calibre.”

Periyazhwar describes Tirukoshtiyur as a place with big mansions and gem-studded porticos that were so brilliant that they cast shadows.

Swans flocked fertile fields. Playful schools of fish jumped on the back of turtles and then on to the fresh lotuses before slipping into the waters. Even cuckoos perched on the huge trees seemed to be happily singing praise of the Lord.

Tirukoshtiyur is one of the two Divya Desams where Thirumangai Azhwar in his Periya Thirumozhi has praised Siva for being a part of Him (of the temple). Hence, the Siva sannidhi dates back to more than 1,000 years.

A special feature of the Pillayar here is that He is seen with two hands and the sannidhi is old as Siva’s. Also, during Samprokshanam, the new kalasam is first brought to the Pillayar sannidhi and then taken to the Siva sannidhi for installation.

The Ashtanga Vimana, a rather rare feature among the Divya Desam temples, will see a complete gold covering (atop the copper plating) weighing around 100 kg. The entire temple complex is being given a water wash to cleanse the walls and pillars.

These days it is not easy to find devotees physically fit to carry the ancient vahanas, which are heavy, a situation not unique here. This temple is planning to build mounts that are light. There is also a new entrance/exit, from the outside, being planned on Tier 1.

One of the special features of the temple is the exquisite centuries old mural paintings. In recent times, these paintings on Tier 2 where the Lord is seen in a standing posture (Upendra Narayana) and on Tier 3 (Lord in sitting posture - Paramapada Nathan) had started to wither away. The entire collection will be brought back to life and is likely to add visual appeal to the second and third tiers. Yet another highlight of the renovation is the plan to sketch the temple legend in the form of paintings on the walls around the Prakara.

Other renovation activities include a new fence for the temple tank, rest houses for devotees, new security system across the temple complex and a new electrical system with modern technology. Plumbing work inside the temple complex is expected to ensure that water, milk, etc from the Tirumanjanam will be collected in a single place.

The temple is administered by the Sivagangai Samasthanam. Samprokshanam is expected to take place in January 2017.

Ramanuja and Tirukoshtiyur

Ramanuja had to make 18 trips to Tirukoshtiyur before getting initiated into Tirumandiram by Tirukoshtiyur Nambi. Each time he went to his preceptor with the words, “I have come seeking…” he was sent back. On the 18th occasion he opened with “Adiyen Dasan,” the acharyan welcomed him with the positive reply — ‘Your arrogance is gone. Now we can talk.’ Acharya Nambi initiated him into the Tiru (Narayana) Mandiram on the condition that Ramanuja would not share it with anyone else and that if he failed, he would go to hell. Having learnt the Tirumandiram, Ramanuja made his way to the third tier of the temple. Calling out to the people of Tirukoshtiyur to assemble, irrespective of caste and creed, he revealed the mantram to the world at large. Shocked at this ‘break of promise,’ Nambi questioned Ramanuja, who stunned the acharya with his response: ‘By sharing Tirumandiram, I alone (one person only) will go to hell but having learnt it several people will get Moksham. Impressed with Ramanuja’s reply, Nambi crowned him with the title ‘Nee Emperumaal Aanaai’ (you have become my Lord). A beautifully sculpted statue of Ramanuja in a sitting posture on the southern side of the third tier reminds devotees of this episode.

HR & CE swings into action

Visiting the site to gather details regarding the restoration, this reporter encountered certain disturbing issues. Right at the entrance to the Rajagopuram, cash was solicited from the public for the renovation. The Vinayaka and Siva shrines had been demolished. Even the shrine of Tirukoshtiyur Nambi had been dismantled and the same was the case with the Narasimha shrine, where the pedestal was going to be raised. All this on whose instructions? Local residents and devotees seemed hurt and said tradition was being violated and there was no official approval for the activities. The HR and CE Commissioner, whom this writer approached for clarification, denied giving approval for any demolition. The officials swung into action and stopped the collection of donation. They have also officially clarified that no orders have been issued to bring down, re-construct or restructure any shrine .

With the rich legend relating to the temple and also with the distinguishing feature of the Ashtanga Vimana, it is hoped that the ASI will consider declaring this a heritage monument and ensure the protection of the structure and that any changes to the temple complex will be undertaken after a proper study and necessary approvals.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 11:36:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/The-seat-of-learning/article14425917.ece

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