Adi Kumbeswarar Temple
|Proper name:||Adi Kumbeswarar Temple|
|Architecture and culture|
|Architectural styles:||Dravidian architecture|
Adi Kumbeswarar Temple (Tamil:ஆதி கும்பேசுவரர் கோயில்) is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva located at the center of the Tamil Nadu town of Kumbakonam, India. The Hindu festival of Mahamaham is associated with this temple. The huge temple is built over an area of 30,181 sq ft (2,803.9 m2) is reported to be more than 1300 years old.
It is believed that after the deluge and just before the advent of Kaliyuga the celestial pot containing the nectar containing the seeds of life came to rest here. Lord Shiva in the garb of a hunter, shot an arrow at the pot held by Brahma and broke it, making it contents spill resulting in the revival of life. Kumbham means the pot and Konam means crooked - the pot the broke when Shiva's arrow hit it. The place where the nectar fell is the Mahamaham tank. The name of the town Kumbakonam is thus derived from Kumbeswaran temple.
Kumbeswarar temple is approached by a corridor 330 ft (100 m) long and 15 ft (4.6 m) wide. There are five silver plated chariots in the temple used to carry the temple deities during festive occasions. The temple is the largest Shiva temple of Kumbakonam and has a 9-storeyed rajagopuram (gateway tower) 125 ft tall  It is spread over 4 acres in the centre of the town. The temple has 3 concentric compounds, elongated along an east-west axis has triple set of gopurams.
Adi Kumbeswarar is the presiding deity of the temple and the shrine is located in the centre. Kumbeswarar is in the form a lingam believed to have been made by Shiva himself when he mixed nectar of immortality and sand. Manthrapeeteswari Mangalambika is his consort and her shrine is present parallel to the left of Kumbeswarar shrine. The temple has a colonnaded hall and a good collection of silver vahanas (sacred vehicles used to carry deities during festival processions) Beyond the flagstaff, a hallway whose columns feature painted brackets representing yali (a mythological creature) leads to the gopuram. The Navarathiri Mandapam (Hall of Navrathri celebration) has 27 stars and 12 rasis (constellations) carved in a single block. The idol of Subramanya having six hands instead of 12, stone nagaswarams (pipe instrument) and Kiratamurti are main attractions of the temple.
The central shrine of the temple houses the image of Adi Kumbheswarar in the form of lingam The shrine of Mangala Nayaki is located parallel to the of left of Kumbeswarar and Somaskanda is located to the right. The images of Nalvars (Appar, Sambanthar, Sundarar and Manickavasagar), images of the sixty three Nayanmars, Virabhadra, Saptakannikas, Visalakshi, Visvanatha, Valam Chuzhi Vinayaka, Bhikshatana, Karthikeya, Annapurani, Gajalakshmi, Mahalakshmi, Saraswathi, Jasta Devi, Durga, Chandikesa, Kuratirtha, Arukala Vinayakar, Nandi, Bali peetham, Sabha Vinayaka, Kasi Visvanatha, Nataraja are located in the first precinct around the sanctum. The temple also has images of Navaneetha Vinayaka, Kiratamurti, Bhairava, Jvarahareswara, Chaota Sri Govinda Dikshits-Nagammal, Chandra, Surya, Adikara Nandhi (the sacred bull of Shiva), Vallabha Ganapathi, Shanmukha, Navagraha (nine planetary deities), Nandhi, Lakshmi Narayana Perumal, Mutra Veli Vinayaka, Bala Dandayutapani, Nandhi, Vanni Vinayakar, Kumbha Munisiddhar, Kumarappar, Adilinga and Sattananthar. Chamber of repose, decoration hall, Sacrificial hall, grand kitchen, marriage hall, elephant shed, Vasantamandapam, cattle shed, garden and four-pillared hall are other notable parts in the temple. The flag mast is located in the second precinct, directly on the axis of the presiding deity.
The Mahamaham tank, Potramarai Tirtha, Varuna Tirtha, Kasyapa Tirtha, Chakkara Tirtha, Matanga Tirtha and Bhagavad Tirtha (bathing ghats along the river Cauvery) are the seven outlying water bodies associated with the temple. Mangala Kupam Asva, Naga tirtha, Kura tirtha are the three wells, while Chandra tirtha, Surya tirtha, Gautama tirtha and Varaha tirtha are the four tanks located inside the temple.
The Mahamaham festival takes place once every twelve years during the Tamil Month of Masi (February - March), when lakhs of pilgrims from various parts of India visit Kumbakonam to take a holy bath in the sacred Mahamaham tank which is located in the heart of the town. The festival has archaeological and epigrahical evidence. Tulapurushadaram, the practise of weighing oneself against gold and donating to the temple was effected by Govinda Dikshitar and the funds were utilised for funding the construction of the 16 mandapas around the tank. Krishnadeva Raya (1509–1529 CE) is believed to have witnessed the Mahamaham festival during this time. He made donations to the temple on this occasion is found in another inscription.
The temple priests perform the puja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. Like other Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Shaiva community, a Brahmin sub-caste. The temple rituals are performed six times a day; Ushathkalam at 5:30 a.m., Kalasanthi at 8:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 10:00 a.m., Sayarakshai at 5:00 p.m., Irandamkalam at 7:00 p.m. and Ardha Jamam at 8:00 p.m. Each ritual comprises four steps: abhisheka (sacred bath), alangaram (decoration), naivethanam (food offering) and deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for both Kumbeswarar and Mangalambikai. The worship is held amidst music with nagaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument), religious instructions in the Vedas (sacred texts) read by priests and prostration by worshippers in front of the temple mast. There are weekly rituals like somavaram (Monday) and sukravaram (Friday), fortnightly rituals like pradosham and monthly festivals like amavasai (new moon day), kiruthigai, pournami (full moon day) and sathurthi.
Appar, the 7th century Tamil saivite saint poet and nayanar has revered Erumbeeswarar and the temple in his verses in Tevaram, compiled as the Fifth Tirumurai. As the temple is revered in Tevaram, it is classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam, one of the 276 temples that find mention in the Saiva canon. The temple is counted as the seventh in the list of temples in the southern banks of Cauvery. Appar has glorified the temple in nine poems referring the place as Erumbiyur and the deity as "Kumbesar".
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