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TEMPLES IN TAMILNADU, INDIA
THIRUVANNAMALAI : Tiruvannamalai the home of Annamalayaar or Arunachaleswarar (Shiva worshipped as a Shiva Lingam) and Unnamulaiyaal (Apitakuchambaal - Parvati), is one of the largest temples in India. It occupies a special place in the Saivite realm and is regarded as one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams (one of the five grand temples associated with the five basic elements) –
associated with the elementFire, the other four being Tiruvanaikkaval (Water), Chidambaram (Space), Kanchipuram (Earth) and Sri Kalahasti (Wind) respectively. Shiva is said to have manifested himself in the form of a massive column of fire, whose crown and feet, Bhramma and Vishnu attempted in vain to reach. A celebration of this manifestation is seen today in the age old traditions observed in the Shivaratri and the Kartikai Deepam Utsavams held here.
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SIRKALI BHRAMAPUREESWARAR : This is a vast temple complex with 3 different Shiva Shrines. The Bhramapureeswarar shrine is housed in the lower level. The second level houses Periyanakar with Periyanayaki on a 'Thoni' & hence the name Thoniappar. Sattainathar/Vatukanathar is also housed here. From the steps leading to the Toniappar and the Vatukanathar shrine, one can grasp the entire layout of this vast temple and its towers & mandapams. There are 22 Theerthams associated with this shrine. Three different forms of Shiva are worshipped here, the Shivalingam (Bhrammapureeswarar), a collossal image of Uma Maheswarar (Toniappar) at the upper level, and Bhairavar (Sattanathar) again at the upper level.
The temple has 3 vast courtyards with high walls of enclosure. There are two sets of 7 tiered gopurams in the outer walls of the enclosure. The original shrine during the period of the Nayanmars included the shrine of Bhrammapureeswarar, on the southern bund of the temple tank; the Toniappar shrine on a mound west of the central shrine, and the Sattanathar shrine in the second floor reached from the southern prakaram of the Toniappar shrine by a flight of steps. The enlargement of the original temple happened during the period of Kulottunga I, Vikrama Chola, Kulottunga II and III (as in Chidambaram - 11th through the 13th centuries).

OPPILIAPPAN KOIL :
This is one of the important Vaishnavite temples in Tamilnadu. The deity is known by various names such as Oppiliappan, Uppiliappan, Thiruvinnagarappan, Venkatachalapathy, etc.
Location: The temple is situated about 5 km from Kumbakonam by road. There are frequent bus services from Kumbakonam to this temple.
The Temple : The presiding deity in this temple is facing east in a standing pose while His consort Boomidevi is sitting next to Him facing north. Markandeya sits in a pose facing Boomidevi as if giving her in marriage to the Lord. There is no separate shrine for the Goddess and the Lord never leaves His sanctum without being accompanied by Boomidevi. The special feature in this temple is that salt is never used in the food offered in worship. The name Uppiliappan is connected with this practice.
Legend : Sage Mirikandu had a son by the name of Markandeya. The astrologers predicted on his birth that he would die young. When Markandeya heard that he would not survive beyond the age of 16 he started a penance to save him from death. Pleased with his penance Lord Shiva gave him the boon of immortality. After receiving this boon he undertook a pilgrimage to all the holy places in the country. When he arrived at a place full of 'Thulasi' plants he decided to stay there. He started another penance praying that he should have Boomidevi as his daughter and Lord Vishnu as his son-in-law. The penance continued for a long time and one day a child appeared under a 'Thulasi' tree where Markandeya was praying. When Markandeya enquired from the child who her parents were, the child replied that she did not know anybody except him. Markandeya was pleased with that answer and took her to his house and brought her up as his child.
The child grew up in Markandeya's household and eventually attained the age of marriage. Markandeya became worried about finding a suitable husband for her. Lord Vishnu who had sent Boomidevi to be Markandeya's child now wanted to take her back. He also wanted to play a trick on Markandeya. He transformed Himself into an old Brahmin of no means and went to the hermitage of Markandeya where Boomidevi was growing up and requested hospitality. Markandeya was only happy to receive this old man and gave him food and a place to rest. Later Markandeya enquired from the visitor as to the reason for his visit. The old man said that he heard that Markandeya was looking for a husband for his daughter and as he had no one to look after him in his old age, he had come to ask him for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Markandeya was shocked to hear this preposterous request as he could in no way give his daughter in marriage to this old man. He told the old man that his daughter was not suitable for him as she was too young to look after him. At this the old man replied that he had already seen his daughter and he had made up his mind to marry her. If his request was not granted he would give up his life then and there.
Markandeya became distressed at this reply and was raking his brain to come up with some excuse to change the old man's mind. He gave the old man all sorts of excuses and finally said that his daughter did not know how to cook and that she did not even know how much salt to be added in cooking. The old man said that he was happy to eat food without salt and that he wanted to marry his daughter.
Markandeya was at the end of his wits and closed his eyes and prayed to Lord Vishnu to get him out of this predicament. When he opened his eyes the old man had disappeared and in his place there stood Lord Vishnu in all his glory.
Lord Vishnu told him, "You said that your daughter was too young to know how to cook and she did not know how much salt to add to her cooking. From today I am happy to eat food cooked without salt if you would give your daughter in marriage to me". Markandeya was only too pleased to give his daughter in marriage to his Lord. From that day the food offered to Lord Vishnu is free of salt. This is the reason the deity is known among many other names, as Uppiliappan (uppu+ ill+appan) which in Tamil means 'the One who detests salt'.

PAZHAMUTHIRCHOLAI :
This shrine is very sacred to devotees of Lord Subramanya and is one of the six famous abodes of Lord Subramanya, collectively known as Aarupadai veedu. The term Azhahar and Azhahan denote both Lord Vishnu and Lord Murugan (another name for Lord Subramanya). The shrine at Pazhamuthir Cholai is small compared to other famous temples and the building is of recent origin but the temple predates it by hundreds of years. The area in which the temple is situated is surrounded by groves of trees and the river Silambar runs nearby giving an ambience of calmness and solitude.
Legends: Once Avvaiyar, the grand old lady of Tamil literature and an ardent devotee of Lord Subramanya, was on her way to Madurai. She was tired and thirsty having walked for several miles and she longed for some food and rest. She then saw a young shepherd boy sitting on the branch of a 'Naaval' tree (a tall tree bearing berry-like edible fruits). On seeing that the tree was in fruit she asked the boy to pluck some fruits for her. The boy then asked the old lady whether she wanted 'hot' fruits or 'cold' fruits. The old lady was perplexed by this question. However, in order to find out what the boy meant by hot fruit she replied that she wanted 'hot' fruit. The boy then shook the branch of the tree on which he was perched and some ripe fruits fell on the ground. Avvaiyar picked them up and finding that some grains of sand were stuck on the fruits blew on them to get rid of the sand. Seeing this the boy playfully asked whether the fruits were too hot to eat and advised her to blow a little harder. Avvaiyar was full of remorse when she realised that this illiterate shepherd boy had fooled her by his play on words. Then the boy transformed himself into his true form as Lord Subramanya and stood in front of Avvaiyar in all his glory. Avvaiyar then realised who had come to play with her. The questions then asked by Lord Subramanya in this encounter with Avvaiyar and the answers given by her in verse, form part of the rich folklore of the Tamils. Translating those verses, though would be revealing and interesting, is beyond the scope of this page.

SAMAYAPURAM :
Samayapuram is an important place of pilgrimage to the devotees of Goddess Sakthi. It is one of the few popular temples dedicated to Goddess Sakthi and she is worshipped here as Mariamman.
Location : Samayapuram temple is situated on the main Chennai-Thiruchi road about 15 km from Thiruchi. The nearest railway station is in Thiruchi.
The Temple : Comparatively the temple is of recent origin and was established about 300 years ago. Now an enormous number of devotees visit this temple especially on festival days.
Legend : It is believed that that this deity was once installed at the Sri Rangan temple near Thiruchi. As the chief priest felt that he was suffering from some malevolent effect from the Goddess, he asked the workers at the temple to remove the idol from the temple. The workers carried the idol northwards and put it down in a place called Kannanoor and left it there. Some passersby who saw this idol left unattended in the middle of the village informed the local villagers who named the idol Kannaoor Mariamman and established a shrine there.
It was during this period that the Vijeyanagara kings came down South waging war. During their foray down South they camped at Kannanoor and adopted the local deity Mariamman as their own and made a vow that if they were successful in their campaign to conquer the South they would build a temple at the site of the shrine. As a fulfillment of their vow, they built a shrine for the Goddess and the king appointed a priest from the temple at Thiruvanaikka to perform the daily 'pooja' and brought this temple under their management. At present a separate board of trustees is in charge of the temple.
Festivals : There are four main festivals conducted in this temple in the Tamil months of 'Thai', 'Masi', 'Chithirai' and 'Vaikasi'. The festival conducted in the month of 'Masi' (February/March) is called 'Poochorithal' (inundating with flowers). There is a legend that is associated with this festival. There was an 'Asura' called Mahishasuran who had received special boons from Lord Shiva through his penance and meditation.. He used this power to harass the 'Devas' and other celestial beings. So the 'Devas' approached Goddess Parvathy and prayed to Her to save them from this menace. So Goddess Parvathy reincarnated as Goddess Durga and killed the 'Asura'. She was at this stage an embodiment of anger and a force of destruction. After destroying the Asura she arrived in the jungle near Samayapuram on the bank of the river Kaveri and found this place suitable to calm her anger. Here she took the name of 'Kowmari', took a reddish hue, wrapped herself in a yellow cloth, and covered herself with flowers, undertook a fast and conducted penance in order to regain her original form. As a result she became very kind and benevolent and is worshipped as Goddess Mariamman at Samayapuram.
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