Mahamaham tank, Kumbakonam

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Mahamaham Tank
Masimagam1.jpg
Mahamaham Tank
Location Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India
Coordinates 10°57′36″N 79°22′48″E / 10.960°N 79.38°E / 10.960; 79.38
Architectural style(s) Dravidian architecture
Type Cultural
State Party  India
Mahamaham tank, Kumbakonam is located in Tamil Nadu
Mahamaham tank, Kumbakonam
Location in Tamil Nadu, India

Mahamaham Tank is a huge temple tank located in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India. It is considered to be the foremost and one of the largest temple tanks in Tamil Nadu. The annual Masimaham festival held in the tank has 0.1 million visitors and the 12 year Mahamaham festival has close to 2 million visitors.[1]

History[edit]

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 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. Adi Kumbeswara Temple is dedicated to Shiva who broke the pot and place where the nectar fell is the Mahamaham tank.[2]

The Tank[edit]

The Tank is located in the heart of Kumbakonam town. It covers an area of 6.2 acres and is trapezoidal in shape. The tank is surrounded by 16 small Mandapams (shrines)[2] and has 21 wells inside the tank. The names of the wells carry the name of Hindu god Shiva or that of Rivers of India.[3] Govinda Dikshitar, the chieftain of Ragunatha Nayak of Thanjavur, constructed the sixteen Mandapams and stone steps around this tank.[4]

List of Mandapams and Wells inside the tank[edit]

Brahmatheerthesar, Mukunthar, Thalesar, Rishakesar, Umaipakesar, Nairuthesar, Brahmeesar, Gangatheerthesar and Seshtra Paleesar, are the names of deities located in these Mandapams.

There are 21 wells inside the tank in the shape of small spring wells. Beginning the eastern side of the tank, there are 8 wells in the name of celestial deities namely Indra, Yama, Agani, Ninruthi, Vayu, Kubena and Isana respectively. In between the Vayu and Kubera wells, the ninth well is located called Brahma Theertham. Commencing from the north of Vayu Theertham, and ending to the little east of it, there are nine wells indicating the holy rivers of India, namely the Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari, Narmada, Saraswathi, Kaveri, Tungabatra, Krishna and Sarayu. At the centre of all these exists the Sixty-six crore theertham, believed to be the most sacred of all.

Name of Theertham Associated Deity
Vayu Theertham Vayu (Air)
Ganga Theertham Ganga (River)
Brahma Theertham Lord Brahma
Yamuna Theertham Yamuna (River)
Kubera Theertham Kubera (Celestial Deity)
Godavari Theertham Godavari (River)
Eshana Theertham Shiva
Narmada Theertham Narmada (River)
Saraswathi Theertham Saraswati (Deity)
Indira Theertham Indra (Celestial Deity)
Agni Theertham Agni (Fire)
Cauvery Theertham Cauvery (River)
Yama Theertham Yama (Celestial Deity)
Kumari Theertham Parvathi (Goddess)
Niruthi Theertham Parvathi (Goddess)
Bayoshini Theertham Parvathi (Goddess)
Deva Theertham Shiva (God)
Varunai Theertham Varuna (Celestial Deity)
Sarayu Theertham Sarayu (River)
Kanya Theertham Parvathi (Goddess)

Mahamaham Festival[edit]

Masimaham is an annual event that occurs in the Tamil month of Masi (February–March) in the star of Magam. Once in twelve years, when the planet Guru (Jupiter) enters Simha[disambiguation needed] (Leo) sign, the Kumbh mela festival of South India is celebrated at Mahamaham tank.[5] Vast crowds gather at Kumbakonam to have a dip in the tank, along with saints and philosophers. All the rivers of India are believed to meet at the tank on this day and a purificatory bath at this tank on this day is considered equal to the combined dips in all the holy rivers of India[5] Festival deities from all the temples in Kumbakonam arrive at the tank and at noon, all the deities bathe along with the devotees - it is called "Theerthavari".[3] The purificatory bath is believed to remove sins and after the dip, pilgrims offer charitable gifts in the hope of being rewarded in the current life and subsequent lives.[3] The temple cars of major temples in Kumbakonam come around the city on the festival night. During the Mahamaham of 1992, the number of devotees reached 1 million.[3]

Night view of the Mahamaham tank

Literary Mention[edit]

Bhavishya Purana mentions the importance of Mahamaham and the importance of the festival as a narrative of Shiva to all celestial deities as under:

Let all of you this very day go to Kumbakonam, a spot dear to me and to Vishnu and bathe there is the nectar full tank created by the directions of the Parabrahman. Do bathe in the presence of Kumbesvara in Vrishaba lagna on this Mahamagam day, the full-moon day combined with Mahga star with Jupiter in the sign of Leo. Thereby you will get rid of all your accumulated sins and regain power to wipe off the sins of others

Sekkizhar, saint author of Periyapuranam notes the holy rivers as

"பூமருவும் கங்கை முதல் புனிதமாம் பெருந்தீர்த்தம்
மாமகந்தான் ஆடுவதற்கு வந்து வழி படுங்கோவில்"

meaning a dip in the holy tank on the Mahamaham day is equivalent to dip in all holy rivers and leads to worldly prosperity. Appar, the 7th-century saint poet mentions the subtle presence of holy rivers like the Ganges in the Mahamaham tank in Tiruthandakam.

தாவிமுதற் காவிரிநல் யமுனை கங்கை

சரஸ்வதிபொற் றாமரைபுட் கரணி தெண்ணீர்க்
கோவியோடு குமரிவரு தீர்த்தஞ் சூழ்ந்த
குடந்தைக்கீழ் கோட்டத்தெங் கூத்தனாரே"

See also[edit]

Gallery[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Hi-tech rein on pilgrims". The Telegraph. March 6, 2004. Retrieved December 5, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Bansal 2008, p. 126
  3. ^ a b c d International Dictionary of Historical Places 1996, p. 503
  4. ^ V. 1995, p.120
  5. ^ a b S. 2004, p. 240

References[edit]