Image of the Vedaranyam temple gopuram
|Architecture and culture|
|Architectural styles:||Dravidian architecture|
Vedaranyeswarar Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, located in the town of Vedaranyam in Tamil Nadu, India. Vedaranyeswarar is revered in the 7th century Tamil Saiva canonical work, the Tevaram, written by Tamil saint poets known as the nayanars and classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam.
Vedaranyeswarar temple is a part of the series of temples built by Aditya Chola (871-907 CE) along the banks of river Cauvery to commemorate his victory in the Tirupurambiyam battle. It has several inscriptions dating back to the Chola period. The temple has six daily rituals at various times from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and three yearly festivals on its calendar. The annual Brahmotsavam (prime festival) is attended by thousands of devotees from far and near. The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.
Etymology and legend
The town Vedaranyam is named after Vedaranyeswarar, the presiding deity of the Vedaranyeswarar Temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. The place was earlier known as "Tirumaraikadu", meaning the place where Vedas, oldest scriptures of Hinduism, originated. The 7th century Saiva canonical work Tevaram by Appar and Tirugnanasambandar mentions the place as "Tirumaraikadu". As per Hindu legend, the Vedas worshipped Shiva in this place, giving the name "Vedaranyam" to the place. According to another Hindu legend, Rama, the seventh avatar of god Vishnu, is believed to have visited Vedaranyam to absolve himself from sins committed in the war against the demon king Ravana. The footprints of Rama is preserved in a place called Ramar Padam near Vedaranyam. According to a Tamil legend, the Vedas locked the gates of the temple after worshipping Shiva. The Nayanmars (Saiva saints) Appar and Tirugnanasambandar could not enter the locked temple. At this, on Tirugnanasambandar's request, Appar sang devotional hymns praising Shiva, after which the gates opened. Tirugnanasambandar's devotional hymns locked the gates again.
The recorded history of Vedaranyam is found from the inscriptions in Vedaranyeswarar Temple. The inscriptions date from the reign of Aditya Chola (871–907 CE), Rajaraja Chola I (985–1014 CE), Rajendra Chola I (1012–1044 CE) and Kulothunga Chola I (1070–1120 CE) indicating various grants to the temple. Paranjothi Munivar, a 13th-century saint, who wrote the book Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam, was born at Vedaranyam. An inscription dating back to Parantaka Chola mentions the gift of 90 sheep by a merchant to the temple for the maintenance of a perpetual lamp.
Vedaranyam continued to be a part of the Chola Empire and the Chola region emerged as a centre of Saivism during the reign of Kulothunga Chola I (1070–1120 CE). After the fall of Cholas during the reign of Rajendra Chola II in the 13th century CE, the erstwhile Chola region was caught under a power struggle between Pandyas and Hoysalas. The royal patronage continued to the temple during the rule of the Nayaks. The Negapatam region (modern day Nagapattinam district) was briefly captured by French troops lead by Lally (1702–66 CE) in 1759 CE. The Tanjore district was annexed by British after the French failed to subdue the king of Tanjore. In modern times, the temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.
The temple houses an emerald image of lingam, locally called Maragatha lingam. Vedaranyeswarar temple complex has three prakarams (outer courtyard) and a five-tiered rajagopuram (gateway tower). The central shrine faces east and holds the image of Vedaranyeswarar (Shiva) in the form of lingam made of granite. The granite images of the deities Ganesha (son of Shiva and god of wisdom), Murugan (son of Shiva and god of war), Nandi (the bull and vehicle of Shiva) and Navagraha (nine planetary deities) are located in the hall leading to the sanctum. As in other Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu, the first precinct or the walls around the sanctum of Vedaranyeswarar has images of Dakshinamurthy (Shiva as the Teacher), Durga (warrior-goddess) and Chandikeswarar (a saint and devotee of Shiva). The second precint is surrounded by granite walls.
The Thyagarajar Temple at Tiruvarur is famous for the ajapa thanam (dance without chanting). According to legend, a Chola king named Mucukunta obtained a boon from Indra(a celestial deity) and wished to receive an image of Thyagaraja Swamy(presiding deity, Shiva in the temple) reposing on the chest of reclining Lord Vishnu. Indra tried to misguide the king and had six other images made, but the king chose the right image at Tiruvarur. The other six images were installed in Thirukkuvalai, Nagapattinam, Tirukarayil, Tirukolili, Thirukkuvalai and Tirumaraikadu. All the seven places are villages situated in the river Cauvery delta. All seven Thyagaraja images are said to dance when taken in procession(it is the bearers of the processional deity who actually dance). The temples with dance styles are regarded as Saptha Vidangam(seven dance moves) and the related temples are as under:
|Temple||Vidangar Temple||Dance pose||Meaning|
|Thyagarajar Temple||Vidhividangar||Ajabathaanam||Dance without chanting, resembling the dance of Sri Thyagaraja resting on Lord Vishnu's chest|
|Dharbaranyeswarar Temple||Nagaradangar||Unmathanathaanam||Dance of an intoxicated person|
|Kayarohanaswamy Temple||Sundaravidangar||Vilathithaanam||Dancing like waves of sea|
|Kannayariamudayar Temple||Adhividangar||Kukunathaanam||Dancing like a cock|
|Brahmapureeswarar Temple||Avanividangar||Brunganathaanam||Dancing like a bee that hovers over a flower|
|Vaimoornaathar Temple||Nallavidangar||Kamalanaanathaanam||Dance like lotus that moves in a breeze|
|Vedaranyeswarar Temple||Bhuvanivividangar||Hamsapthanathaanam||Dancing with the gait of a swan|
Worship and religious practises
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 Vedaranyeswarar and Amman. 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. The twin festivals celebrated during the full moon days of Tamil month Adi (July – August) and Thai (January – February) attract large number of pilgrims from whole of Tamil Nadu. Pilgrims take a holy dip in the seashore round the year and the holy dip is considered similar to the worship practises at Rameswaram.
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