History & Culture

Bhavani - special in many ways

The five-tier rajagopuram of Sri Sangameswarar Temple, Bhavani. Photo: R. Krishnamurthy  

Bhavani, 15 km from Erode, noted for its carpet industry, is a small town nestling at the confluence of the two rivers, the Cauvery and the Bhavani, and it has earned the sobriquet, ‘Dakshina Prayag’ or ‘Triveni Sangamam of South India’ for the river Amudham that emerged out of the nectar, which was given to Sage Parasarar, at this place by the Devas, joins the two rivers invisibly (Andhar Vahini). Tirugnana Sambandar refers this place as ‘Tirunaa,’ which means those who visit this temple will be blessed with a hassle free life.

This place also has the epithet ‘vani’ in Sangam literature such as Purananuru, Agananuru and Pathitru-p-pathu. The sanctity of the place is heightened by the presence of the Sangameswara temple on the western bank of the Cauvery dating back to the time of Tirugnana Sambandar (and earlier), who has immortalised it in his Thevaram (second Thirumurai).

As one alights at the Koodalthurai bus stop and walks along the road following the course of the Bhavani (choked with weeds) one comes face to face with the rajagopuram of Sangameswara temple and on its right is a Vigneswara idol. To its left are the traveller’s bungalow of the Highways Department and the office of the Assistant Engineer of the Department. The temple ranks third among the seven specially mentioned shrines of Kongu Nadu, the boundaries of which are Dharmapuri in the north, Palani in the south, Karur in the east and Coimbatore in the west.

As one enters the temple to worship Vedanayaki samedha Sangameswara one could witness the significant changes that have taken place with the passage of time.

The five-tier rajagopuram faces north. But the shrines of Sangameswara and His consort Vedanayaki of Adikesava Perumal with His consorts, Yoga Narasimhar and Soundaravalli Thayar, face east. This shrine has a captivating nritya mantapam, maha mantapam, ardha mantapam and garbha graham. The 18 pillars of nritya mantapam have sculptures of smiling figurines, crouching lions with their mouth wide open, a hunter on a prancing horse and figures of Sivanadiars, besides those of Immudi Getti Mudaliyar and his sister Chinnammal. Sculptural excellence peaks at the centre of its ceiling where four (originally eight should have been there) parrots are pecking at the whorls of a lotus flower. The ceiling also carries the inscription that the nritya mantapam was constructed by Chinnammal, sister of Mummudi Getti Mudaliyar.

The Getti Mudaliyars ruled over Dharmapuri, Salem and parts of Coimbatore with headquarters at Amaragundi near Taramangalam in Salem district. Since they were loyal to the Chola, Chera and Pandya kings, Mummudi Getti Mudaliyar, the first ruler in this lineage, carried in his state flag the logos of tiger, bow and fish. The sculptures at the nritya mantapam of Vedanayaki shrine is in Taramangalam style similar to the one found in the Kailasanatha temple built by Getti Mudaliyars at Taramangalam.

Exquisite sculptures

The icon of goddess Vedanayaki is a free-flowing piece of sculpture with a beaming smile. She has four arms, the lower in abhaya and vara mudras. The upper arms carry padmam (lotus). Around the garba graha there is an enclosure for circumambulation. On the walls are beautiful pictures of goddesses of famous temples of Tamil Nadu from Thiruvenkadu to Madurai. Indeed this is a recent addition!

On the northern side of the maha mantapam is ‘palli arai’ the doors of which, though closed, have eye-lets in their upper segment in order to peep through and for ventilation. What catches the eye is a wooden cradle, hanging from the ceiling. The ivory plaques carry the engraving that it was presented by Collector William Garrow on Janauary 11, 1804. The cradle has an interesting story linked to it. William Garrow was the Collector of Salem with headquarters at Bhavani, from July 6, 1802 to January 20, 1815. A devotee of goddess Vedanayaki, he had a good rapport with the public through his welfare measures. He had chosen the bungalow (present Traveller’s bungalow of Highways Department) adjoining the Sangameswara temple as his office-cum-residence. The temple authorities had drilled a few rectangular holes on the rampart facing the Vedanayaki shrine, which was then close to the dwajasthamba, to enable him have the darshan of the deity daily.

One night he woke up from a dream in which a lady urged him to leave the room. Garrow rushed out and right behind him, the roof collapsed. The following day, the priest of the temple took him along to the shrine to verify whether the lady who appeared in his dream resembled goddess Vedanayaki. Indeed it did. The Collector thanked the goddess profusely and gifted the cradle. From the date of making the gift, it can be inferred that the event took place around November 1803.

The rampart on the eastern side has now moved close to the Cauvery, and the three rectangular holes (one below the other) drilled in the wall, though command the view of the dwajasthambam and the deity, look more symbolic.

The Adikesava Perumal temple was originally in Kalingarayan Pudur lying south of the Cauvery, and was in a dilapidated condition. Puliyur Gounder (as per inscription) took the initiative to install Adhikesava Perumal with His consorts in the temple built by him close to that of Vedanayaki Amman. Besides, he built shrines for Lakshmi Narasimhar and Soundaravalli Thayar in the same row. A significant factor at the Adhikesava Perumal temple is the Ranga mantapam noted for the sculptural work on its 24 pillars in Taramangalam style.

On the northern side of the Ranga mantapam, there is a separate shrine for Venugoplaswamy with His consorts, Rukmini and Sathyabama. This shrine is said to have been built by the Wodeyar family of Mysore. Close by are Santhanagopalan and His consorts.

On way to Bhavani Mukkoodal, the Sangameswara temple is on the right side, facing east, and between this temple and the Vedanayaki shrine lie the shrines for Muruga and Jwarahareswara. At the entrance of the nritya mantapam of Sangameswara temple are found the idols of Vigneswara and Subramanya. One could also find a Nandi of moderate size beautifully sculpted with its head tilted to the left. Statues of Chandra and Surya are found at the entrance to the maha mantapam. Incidentally this sthalam is called Bhaskara kshetram as Surya worshipped Siva here. Interestingly, for three days during Rathasapthami, the sun’s rays fall on the lingam and the images of Vedanayaki and Muruga. There is a separate niche for Saturn. Sangameswara, also known as Trunana Udayar and Sangamukha Nathar is in the form of a small lingam with the avudaiyar shining like a metal piece. The lingam is said to be a swayambu. The separate shrine for Saturn and the ornamentation of avudaiyar seem to be later additions. Such attempts to change the original structure will sometimes distort history.

Special mention must be made of Dakshinamurthy idol. Seated under a banyan tree with lotus flowers elegantly sculpted at the top and stone chains running around the niche, Dakshinamurthy’s ‘upadesa’ is well brought out. In the outer prakaram of Sangameswara shrine, at the south-western corner, is the sthala vriksham, Indian plum (elanthai or pathari) on a raised platform

The Sangameswara temple had been hallowed by the visit of saint Arunagirinathar who sang his ‘sandha kavithai’ on Lord Muruga of this temple. A portion of Murugan sannadhi is attributed to the deity of Jwarahareswara (yes, he is worshipped for relief from fever) who has three heads, three arms and three feet. Extolling the greatness of Sangameswara and Vedanayaki there are a number of works in Tamil and particular among them is the ‘Bhavanikoodal Puranam.’

The temple at Bhavani draws many visitors on new moon days and on the 18 th day of the Tamil month of Aadi. Consecration of this temple was last performed on September 10, 2000.

How to reach

By rail: Erode is the nearest railhead to reach Bhavani, which is at a distance of 15 km.

By road: Bhavani is well connected to Coimbatore and Erode. The distance from Coimbatore via Perundurai is 96 km. Direct buses ply from Coimbatore to Bhavani at longer intervals. Therefore it is convenient to travel via Erode.

Accommodation: There are a number of hotels in Erode near the central bus stand.

Quick facts

Deity: Sangameswara

Goddess: Vedanayaki also known as Pannarmozhiammai and Vajreswari.

Place: Bhavani, Erode.

Hailed as: Triveni Sangamam of South India.

Highlights of the temple

The Sangameswara temple ranks third among the seven special shrines of Kongu Nadu.

The inscription on the ceiling of the nritya mantapam says that it was constructed by Chinnammal, sister of Mummudi Getti Mudaliyar.

Sangameswara, also known as Trunana Udayar and Sangamukha Nathar, is in the form of a small lingam.

Sthala vriksham is Indian plum ( elanthai or pathari).

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