May 22, 2018

Mayana Kollai

They scream; they cry; they dance; And, they play loud music.

Crackers are fired; temple is decorated; Cocks and goats are sacrificed.

The girls are dressed like fierce Goddess; their faces are painted in bright colors; the boys too join them; they look like the deity who would destroy this universe; they shout; they stare at you and even scare you. They don't fear; they don't care about anything; they dance with full energy and rage on the roads.

Here comes the annual festival of Mayana Kollai, a ritual which is celebrated in grand manner. The word Mayana Kollai means looting of the burial ground. It is a festival celebrated on a day before the full moon day after Maha Shivaratri every year (February or March). It is celebrated in Angala Parameswari temples. Angala Parameswari is a female village deity who is worshiped all over the state of Tamil Nadu as well as in some parts of Kerala. However, her temples are mostly found in Chennai and other parts of northern Tamil Nadu. Hence, this annual festival is also celebrated mainly in this region.

(Click here to find all the videos of Mayana Kollai.)

It is a unique festival with a lot of interesting aspects. The festival starts with the poojas conducted in Angala Parameswari temple. Then, the procession of the deity starts in the late afternoon.

The palanquin is accompanied by hundreds of devotees. Some of them are dressed like Kali, Bhairava, Angalamman and other fierce forms. They dance and shout. Few people play the folk music. Few others fire crackers. Few sing folk songs narrating the stories of Angalamman. The devotees gather in front of the deity and offer the cooked food items in the middle of the road. The flowers and coins are thrown towards the deity. Few devotees fell at the feet of those who are dressed like the deities. Some people bring cock and goats and offer them to the temple.

Many devotees fell in the state of trance. Some devotees carry kavedi. Some have pierced lemons or others have pierced sharp hooks into their bodies. Few devotees even pierce small Vel into their tongues.

After travelling through all the streets for few hours, the procession along with hundreds of devotees enter the burial ground. There are many legends that talk about Angalamman and this ritual. The popular one states that she was asked by Shiva to destroy a Rakshasa. The Goddess entered the burial ground, where the Rakshasa was hiding. She went on feasting on the corpses till she could identify him. Ultimately, he was killed by her. To symbolize this event, the devotees enter the burial ground. The image of the Rakshasa made with mud is kept there. The women dressed like Angalamman reenact the process of killing the Rakshasa. In some places, the animal sacrifice is done. In few places, even the devotees dressed in fierce forms bite the chicken violently. Food cooked over there and the ashes were brought by the devotees as the prasad.

If you are in Chennai, you can find this ritual celebrated in various areas such as Choolai, Saidapet and Mylapore.

Happy travelling.

May 21, 2018

Gangai Konda Choleeswara of Kanchipuram - Koozhampandal

If you are residing in Chennai or Kanchipuram, you need not travel for about 300 kms to visit Gangai Konda Cholapuram. There is another Gangai Konda Cholapuram very near to your city. Koozhampandal (often written as Kulambandal) is a village located at a distance of just 30 kms from Kanchipuram and about 95 kms from Chennai. The ancient Shiva temple of the village is called as Gangai Konda Choleeswara temple. It also belongs to the period of Rajendra Chola I (r. 1014 - 1044 CE).

This village called Koozhampandal has few other remnants of ancient temples/sculptures. But, the notable one is this Shiva temple. The temple is called as Choleeswara or Jagannatheswara. The temple was built by Isana Shiva Pandit, the Raja Guru of Rajendra Chola I. As per the inscriptions, the temple was called as "Gangai Konda Cholapuram" as well as "Vikrama Cholapuram". The deity was referred as "Gangai Konda Choleswara" or "Iswaramudaiya Mahadevar".

The inscriptions dated 12th year and 22nd year of the reign of Rajendra Chola I, 33rd year of Rajadiraja Chola I and later period Vijayanagara are found in the temple. It can be assumed that the temple was probably built sometime around the 12th year of reign of Rajendra Chola I (1025-1026 CE).

The temple faces the east direction. It is fully a stone temple. It has sanctum, ardha mandap and mukha mandap. The sanctum enshrines Shiv Linga. The entrance of the shrine is on the side at the south direction. In the Mukha Mandap, there is a separate shrine for the Goddess, which is a later addition.

The vimana has three tiers (talas). Each tala has many small niches and miniature sculptures. The sikhara is decorated with a mahapadma on top. The circular greeva has four niche icons such as Dakshinamurti, Sukasana and Brahma. The third tala has karna kutas in the corner and each surrounded by pair of Nandis. The second tala too has karna kutas. The icons of Ashtha Dik Palas, but not in the correct order or direction, are also found on the vimana.

The three sides of the exterior walls have totally eleven Koshtams. The adhistana has kumudam and padmam mouldings with the yazhi frieze on the top. In addition, so many miniature sculptures are also found here.

The south wall has Ganapati, Bhikshatana, Dakshinamurti and Harihara as the Koshta images. The west wall has Vishnu, Lingodbhava and Harihara. The north wall has Subramanya, Brahma, an empty niche and Durga.

The entrance faces the south direction and not the east direction. There are Dwarapalas found at the entrance.

Nandi is found facing towards the sanctum. The 16 pillared mandap is located behind Nandi. Only the pillars are remaining and the mandap has no roof.

Few excavated sculptures such as Durga and others are kept in the prakara.

Happy travelling.

May 20, 2018

Kuranganilmuttam - Pallava period Cave Temple

Kuranganilmuttam is a small village located near Kanchipuram. As per the legend, the Vanara King Vali as Kurangu (monkey) and Indra as Anil (squirrel) and Yama as muttam (crow) worshiped Lord Shiva in this site. There is an ancient Shiva temple in this village. However, this article is not to focus on this legend or the temple, but the Pallava period cave shrines.

In the middle of the village, the cave temple is located. Not even five percent of the visitors of the Shiva temple visit this lesser known cave shrine.

The uniqueness of the cave temple is that it is excavated below the ground level. The east facing cave has three main cells in the east direction. There are two cells facing the south and two more facing the north directions. Thus, there are totally seven cells.

The cave is supported by four pillars and four pilasters in two rows. Thus, it is considered that the cave temple has Ardha Mandap as well as Mukha Mandap. The pillars have cubical blocks on top and bottom with octagonal shaft in the middle.

Each of the three cells have Dwarapalas. It is assumed that the temple is dedicated to Tri Murtis.

The central cell is assumed to be of Lord Shiva, based on the characteristics of the Dwarapalas. The Dwarapala on the true right side of the cell is half turned towards the shrine. His makuta shows two prongs of Trishul. He has his right arm rested on his waist whereas his left arm rests on the club. The club is entwined with a serpent.  He wears Sarpa yagnopavita. The left side Dwarapala faces front side. His makuta is eroded. He is not slanting like the other Dwarapala, but he stands in straight posture. He also wears Sarpa yagnopavita and his club is also entwined with a serpent.

The southern cell has two Dwarapalas. Both face front side in Tribhanga posture. They have their one arm rested on their waist and the next arm is raised above and hold probably a flower. As per the style of these images, it is assumed that this cell should have been dedicated to Vishnu.

The northern cell also has two Dwarapalas. They too are in Tribhanga posture and have their one arm rested on the waist. Their other arm is in Abhaya Mudra. They have jata makuta and wear yagnopavita. It is assumed from these attributes that this cell belongs to Brahma.

The village was called as Pallavapuram in the olden days. As per the style of the cave temple, it is believed to have been built by Mahendravarma Pallava I (r. 600 - 630 CE).

The cave temple has few inscriptions of Rashtrakuta King Kannara Deva (r. 756 - 774 CE).

Happy travelling.