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Divine guardians

STRONG PRESENCE Scaring away evil spirits

STRONG PRESENCE Scaring away evil spirits   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: S. JAMES





The Ayyanar deities are believed to protect travellers and punish erring villagers

Nobody would have missed the sight of little shrines on the outskirts of towns and villages, surrounded by desolate terracotta figures of horses, demons with raised swords in their hands, and bearded sages in meditation ... This is the temple of Ayyanar, a village deity, who often takes his abode on the bank of water sources and on the outskirts of villages. He has a duty of guarding the village from evil spirits, protecting travellers and punishing erring villagers. One such temple is Sri Villayuthamudaiya Ayyanar Koil in Kochadai. Stepping into temple, one sees Ayyanar on a white horse with demon-like structures (Bootha kanagal), Muthiah Swamy on another horse and a white elephant in which Ayyanar came from 'Indraloga' to earth. Even before entering the sanctum sanctorum Moola Ayyanar established during the period of Shenbaga Pandian is seen with his consorts Poorna and Pushkala.

Guardian deities

Though the prime deity is Ayyanar, it is often called Muthiah Swamy Koil, a guardian deity of Lord Ayyanar. Usually, in many temples the guardian deities (kaval theivangal) get prominence and temples are often called by their names, says Muthu Venkatachalam, managing trustee of the temple. Later on, the temple was named after Muthiahsamy, a form of Lord Vishnu. He had come all the way from Kerala and took refuge under the grace of Lord Ayyanar. The unique feature of the temple is that guardian deities of the temple Lord Muthiah Swamy and Karruppasamy share the 'sannithanam.' Although there are many facts to substantiate that the temple is more than 2000 years old, nobody has ever been able to know the exact date of its foundation. It is also believed that Pathanchali Munivar, father of yoga, practised meditation under the tamarind tree of the temple.

Legend

As per the legend, it is believed that Ayyappan (in Kerala) was brought up by Lord Indra. But soon, as Indra was not able to maintain 'Ayyappan' (Ayyanar in Tamil Nadu) he left him in the hands of Kulalar community people, who requested Ayyanar to save them at difficult times. "Since then people of our community have been performing pujas for Lord Ayyanar," says Mr. Muthu Venkatachalam.He further says that it should be 'Kaiappan' and 'Kaiyyanar' because they were born out of Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu, who had taken a form of Mohini to help the devas.The Muthiahsamy temple has 21 deities ---- Villayuthamudaiya Ayyanar (presiding deity), Muthiah Swamy, Karrppasamy, Agni Veera Badrar, Karuppayee Amman, Sangili Karuppu, Kazhuvadi Karuppu, Meyyandi Amman, Nagappasamy, Sannasi, Adipoojari, Pechiamman, Muthu Karuppasamy, Irulappasamy, Veeranasami, Rakkayee Amman, Irulayee Amman, Sappani, Sonai, Muniyandi, and Badrakali ---- and 61senaigal (servants or agents).Briefing the history of the place Kochadai, Mr. Venkatachalam says that it is the place where Goddess Meenakshi and Sundareswarar gave moksha to an old lady Vanthiammai. The name of the place was 'Kovichadai.'Pandya king struck Lord Shiva with a cane in a fit of anger (pandiya mannan kovichu adicha edam) and then, angered by the beating, Lord Siva closed the bank (Sivan vandu kovichu adaicha madai) and hence this name 'Kovichadai' later changed into 'Kocahadi,' says Mr.Venkatachalam. On the contrary, C. Santhalingam, Archaeological Officer, says there was a king called Kocahadaiya Rana Theeran and perhaps this village might have been named after him.

Festivals, pujas and beliefs

The people celebrate two festivals for the temple in the months of Masi and Purattasi. The three-day festival during Masi will be celebrated by people from various places while the Purattasi-month festival is celebrated only by the people of Kochadai village, says Mr. Venkatachalam.Masi festival is an annual affair of the temple, but Purattasi festival is celebrated only after getting the sanction from the lizard on the palm tree in the temple. Every Tuesday (Purasttasi) the villagers gather near the palm waiting for the kavili for four weeks. If the signal is not sounded the festival will be cancelled, he says.'Sulaiaadu puja' is performed for Rakkayee Amman in which the stomach of a pregnant goat is ripped open to take out the lamb, which will be buried, alive on the temple premises. 'Pavadai puja' formerly called 'Paaladai puja' is performed for Lord Muthiah Swamy wherein curd rice is distributed as prasadham to devotees.S.S. KAVITHA





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