History & Culture

Festivities return to Brahmadesam


Kailasanathar temple, which is in need of restoration, witnessed Vinayaka Chaturthi celebration after 40 years

Festivities return to Brahmadesam

Among the many temples dotting the Ambasamudram region nourished by the Tamiraparani in Tirunelveli district, is the ancient one of Kailasanathar in Brahmadesam. With its three towering gopurams, seven vimanams and exquisite stone sculptures, the temple, which was a throbbing centre of religious festivities and cultural programmes, had lost its sheen over the years. Attention, however, has turned to it with steps being taken to first revive the festivals.

Festivities return to Brahmadesam

As an auspicious beginning, Vinayaka Chaturthi was celebrated in a grand manner with hundreds of devotees witnessing the event, brought back after four long decades. Ganapathi homam, abishekam, Sandalwood alankaram and a grand procession of the deity on Mooshika Vahanam, in the evening, formed part of the day’s celebrations.

Forty-year-old Raj Kumar Gurukkal, whose forefathers served the temple for over 100 years, says, “As a young boy, my grandfather used to describe the Mooshika Vahana procession of Lord Vinayaka around the four streets to the accompaniment of Vedic chants, drums and other musical instruments. I had taken a vow then to do my best to bring back those historical utsavams.

Festivities return to Brahmadesam

And this year, we were able to revive the Vinayaka Chaturthi utsavam, that was last held in the 1970s.” Brahmotsavam has remained a dream, which he hopes will also come true soon. The mounts on which the deities will be carried in a procession during the ten days have been taken up for repairs.

Vedic village

The temple is historically referred to as Raja Raja Chaturvedi Mangalam, named after the Chola king Raja Raja, as the entire town of Brahmadesam was donated by the king to the Vedic scholars. As many as 450 families lived here and the surroundings reverberated with Vedic chants. It is also known as Ayaneeswaram, which signifies the presence of Brahma and Siva at the temple.

Legend has it that Brahma created the temple tank and undertook a penance, repenting after insulting Lord Siva. Incidentally, this is the birth place of the second pontiff of the Kanchi Kamakoti Pitam, Sri Sarvagnath Manendra Saraswati Swami.

The temple is also known as Pancha Linga kshetram as there are five separate niches for the Lord (and Ambal) each with a vimanam and Nandi — Kasi Viswanathar and Visalakshi; Annamalaiyar and Unnamalai Ammai; Madurai Meenakshi and Sundareswarar; Ilaintha Adi Nathar and Kailasanathar (moolavar), and Brihandha Nayaki.

Till about 50 years ago, three major utsavams were celebrated on a grand scale — Brahmotsavam including the chariot festival and theppotsavam in Panguni, a 10-day Aadi Puram utsavam and Tirukalyana utsavam in Aippasi. Vasanthotsavam was also one of the major annual festivals that was celebrated here. A highlight was Rishaba Vahana on Day 10. But all of these historical utsavams had to be discontinued due to financial crisis.

While focusing on festivals, one cannot lose sight of the poor state of the temple structure, including the Rajagopuram, which has developed cracks, the sculptures on it looking faded. Consecration last took place 15 years ago, the renovation work initiated by the Kanchi Acharyas.

ASI had inspected and cleared the repair works to be undertaken. This would include other dilapidated gopurams and vimanams. The chariots used for both Swami and Ambal are either in poor shape or totally discarded. The theerthavari mandapam near the Gadana river is in ruins too. An immediate need would be fixing the precariously hanging electrical wires inside the temple.

A veritable fortress

At the eastern entrance of the Kailasanathar temple is ‘Nellu Kuthu Thirai,’ where paddy was pounded into rice and offered to the deity. During floods, famine and war, the paddy stored here would serve the entire village. A special feature of the tem[le is Bikshaada Nathar Sabha, where the seven ft tall deity is seen in a standing posture, sans a pedestal, very much like a humble human being setting out to seek alms. Around him are images carved on stone such as Brahma and Vishnu on their respective mounts and Ashtadhik Balakas, Agni, Yama, Vaayu, Varuna and Kubera. Seen above the Lord are two Apsaras sculpted on a single stone.

The Nandi near the flagpost also sculpted on a single stone and the 100-pillared mandapam are examples of outstanding architecture.

In centuries gone by, this was referred to as a war temple. People took refuge here during war when the massive doors of the Eastern Rajagopuram entrance remained shut. Attempts by the enemies to gain entry were thwarted as the doors were fixed with sharp nails.

The outer walls were built in such a way that local forces could watch the movements of the enemies. The towering rajagopuram provided a vantage point to identify their whereabouts.

The kings used to visit the temple to invoke the blessings of Naalayirathamman (Sahasrambikai), manifestation of Kali, before and after the war.

In memory of this historical event, a grand ‘Thiru Kudai Thiruvizha’ in the month of Thai was conducted. The beautiful umbrella was strung together by different communities in the town for the deity that protected them in times of danger.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2020 10:41:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/festivities-return-to-brahmadesam/article30105483.ece

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