Friday, December 17, 2010


Continuing Veenavaadhini's intent of visiting temples and singing Dikshitar's Kritis in the shrines where he composed them, we were pondering where we could sing the Navagraha Kritis. These were composed by the great composer to help people like his disciple Thambiappan overcome the malevolent influences of the planets, and were not composed in particular Kshetras. In fact, the only exception is the Angaraka Kriti, where Vaidyanatha Kshetram is mentioned.

So when we heard of the tours conducted by Sowbhagya Travels, which covers the Navagraha Sthalams around Chennai, it seemed a good thing to take up this trip and also sing the Kritis in those Sthalams. The day picked for this was Sunday, November 28, 2010.

We started very early in the morning, at 5.45am. Here is a brief account of each place visited, in the order of visiting. Naturally, this had to be as per geographical convenience and not in the order of the Grahas.

Given that, as a rule, temples of Vishnu do not have shrines for Navagrahas, it is only natural that every single temple we visited for the Yatra was a temple of Shiva. In every temple,we visited the shrines of Swamy(Shiva) and Ambal(Parvati) and then proceeded to the shrine of the particular Graha to sing. In four places( Budha, Guru, Shukra and Rahu) there weren't separate shrines for the Graha and we sang the Kriti in the main shrine itself.

1. Agasteeshwarar Koil, Pozhichalur ( Shanaishchara)
A beautiful , serene temple, with a Gaja-prishta Vimana ( the wall around the main shrine is not rectangular, but rounded like the backside of an elephant - we saw this structure in many places that day), this temple had a separate idol of Shanaishchara, next to the Navagrahas. We sat facing him and sang "Divaakara tanujam".

2. Somanatheshwarar Koil, Somangalam ( Chandra)

This place was apparently earlier "Chola-mangalam" and the entire temple is idyllic and lovely. The icon of Chandra is one of breathtaking beauty - tall and handsome with a gentle smile. Here is sat in the open, ouside Chandra's shrine and sang "Chandram Bhaja Maanasa".

3. Nageshwarar temple, Kunrathur ( Rahu)

Built by the saint Sekkizhar, this grand old temple is modelled on the Thiru-Nageshwaram temple near Kumbakonam, the deity of which is Sekkizhar's "Ishta Devata". This town being his birthplace, Sekkizhar's has a separate shrine etc. We sat in the main shrine and sang "Smaraamyaham Sadaa Raahum" here.

4. Sundareshwara temple , Kovur (Budha)

Graced by the visit of Saint Thyagaraja, this small and gracious temple, we were told, has a Maha-vilva tree ( where each stalk has nine, not three leaflets). The saint has composed Kovur Pancharatnam here and his arrival in a palanquin is depicted on the main Gopuram. We sat in the main shrine and sang "Budham Ashrayaami" here.

5. Vaidyeswarar temple, Poonamallee (Angaaraka)

A busy temple on the Chennai templegoers' circuit, this temple has a small shrine for Angaaraka just outside the Swamy Sannidhi. In fact it is only the feet of Angaaraka, under a small stone Palmyra tree ( his shrine is under a real Palmyra in Vaideeswaran Koil). So we sat right opposite that to sing "Angaarakam Ashrayaamyaham".

6. Velleeshwarar temple, Mangadu ( Shukra)

Close to the famous Kamakshi temple, this temple is quiet with a lot of greenery. Here too we saw a Mahavilva tree. We sat in the main shrine to sing "Shri Shukra Bhagavantam".

7. Agasteeshwarar temple, Kolapakkam (Surya)

This small village, now part of Chennai, houses a beautiful temple that is very neat and has a impressive little Nandavanam. That day being "Kalabhairava Ashtami", there was a Laksharchana going on and many people were present. There is a nice shrine for Surya, topped by a grand sudhai (limestone& mortar) idol of the Sun God in his chariot with its seven horses. Just the right setting to sing "Suryamurte Namostute"!

8. Neelakanteshwarar temple, Gerumbakkam( Ketu)

This small non-descript temple has a shrine for Ketu , and also a bas relief carving of a snake in the ceiling of the main shrine. We sat near the shrine and sang "Mahaasuram".

9. Ramanatheshwarar temple, Porur (Guru)

The last stop of the day turned out to be a very memorable and unique one. This newly, brightly renovated temple was teeming with devotees and here too, the "Kalabhairava Laksharchanai" was going on. On hearing our request to be allowed to sing, the members of the Bhakta Jana Sabha happily gave us the stage with mikes etc and asked us to sing for at least 15 minutes and more if possible! So this became an impromptu mini-concert, and we sang "Shri Mahaaganapati-ravatu maam", "Ekaamranaatham" and of course "Brhaspate Taaraapate", concluding with "Valli-Devasena-pate" ( composed by Brahmasri Ananthakrishna Iyer). We were overwhelmed by the affection and plaudits we received after this and left the temple after having cups of hot sweet Paayasam, our hearts full with joy and gratitude.

PS: The tour also included three more temples which are en route - The Kamakshiamman temple in Mangadu and the Murugan and Mookambikai temples in Kunrathur.

Report by Rajani Arjun Shankar.

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