Friday, 3rd Sep.
My official meetings done by 11 am, I got down to some real business. Getting a taste of Tanjore.
A friend of mine, a Rama bhakta, suggested that I visit a Rama temple at Punnainallur, a few kms from Tanjore. And so that’s where I headed.
Punnainallur is well kn0wn for its Mariamman temple. That temple was built by the Maratha King of Tanjore, some 300 plus years ago. Not so well known is the Rama temple that is right behind the Mariamman temple…
We drive past the Mariamman temple… This being the month of Avani, and the day being Friday, hordes of pilgrims have come to Mariamman temple. Driving around the temple we take a narrow road, and come upon the temple of Kodanda Rama.
No crowds here.
There was a priest selling Archanai items, flowers… I bought an Archana Plate and a garland of Tulasi leaves, and walked in.
Nice old temple.
It is said that the temple Utsava Vigrahas (processional idols) of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Anjaneya, were found buried near Needamangalam. They are said to be at least a thousand years old. Then, in the 18th century, the Maratha King Pratap Singh, built this temple at Punnainallur.
Here’s another view of the temple from inside.
The specialty of this temple are the Moola (Main) idols. They are all made of Salagrama sila.
Salagrama (or Shaligrama) are stones found in Gandaki river, in Nepal. These stones, usually spherical and small, have been traditionally revered as manifestation of Vishnu, and used for worship.
In eighteenth century, the Nepal King, who was related by marriage to the King of Tanjore, gifted huge Salagrama Sila to the Tanjore King. The Tanjore King, had these carved into idols of Rama and others, modeling them on the Utsava Idols discovered at Needamangalam. Thus it is that these beautiful idols came into being.
Here is a picture of the utdava vigrahas.
In the sanctum-sanctorum, the Moola idols stand right behind the Utsava idols. And how beautiful they are! One could just stand there forever, looking at the bewitching beauty of the idols. Rama is seen wearing an anklet (golusu) and a bell tied to a band, some six inches or so above the anklet. Holding his kodanda bow in his left hand, he has an arrow with a crescent moon tip in his right hand.
The other specialty of this temple is that the Moola idols, have Sugreeva instead of Hanuman. Sugriva sits on Rama-Sita’s right, just like Hanuman does, hands folded. The priest pointed out Sugreeva’s distinguishing signs. The crown he wears is a Raja-kireetam, a royal crown. And he had a moustache too…
There is a separate shrine for Hanuman. He is seen here as Jaya-Veera-Anjaneya, his right hand raised, and holding a lotus in his left hand. In front of him, is a set of squares, which are right below zodiac signs etched in the ceiling. So you stand on the square below your sign, and put your requests to Anjaneya, who then conveys it to Rama…
There are other shrines, including one for Maha Sudarshana (with 16 hands)..
The sthala-vriksha (tree of the temple) is the sacred Punnai. The tree is considered sacred to Vishnu, Siva and Murukan. This place, where the temple is, was a grove of Punnai trees earlier. And that’s why the place is called Punnai-nallur…
Here is a picture of the Punnai tree in the Rama temple.
Below the tree, on a stone pedestal, one sees stone Padukas of Rama. I pick up a few fallen leaves of Punnai and offer them to the Padukas.
After a good darshan, I step out of the temple. There is another associate temple of Hayagriva, right opposite. I buy a ghee-lamp, and walk across to the Hayagriva temple. Lighting the lamp, I offer prayers.
Opposite the Hayagrive shrine is the temple-pond…
So that was the Kodanda Rama temple of Punnainallur. What a haven of peace! A nice taste of Tanjore!
Next, I go across to the Mariamman temple, a hive of activity. After offering worship there, we drive back to town. The cab driver offers to take us to another Mariamman temple, which, he says, is the older mariamman temple.
Across the field, one sees a temple, with a Siva Linga as Gopuram… Thats the older Mariamman temple…
Darshan done, time is well past noon. Time for lunch. And after that, I plan to visit a very special village in this region…
** To be continued