Last Saturday, I made up my mind to go to Namakkal. It would be a temple tour especially. The biggest issue with temple tours always is the timings. Temples always close during noon (Nadai Moodudhal). So the trip has to start early in the morning and get over by noon before say 1 pm.
I pulled myself out of the bed at 6 am. Got ready and since my cook ditched me, had to get my breakfast from the hotel. A typical South Indian breakfast of 4 idlies and I was off to Namakkal by around 8. It was a beautiful day and the climate was great and was slightly drizzling.
I reached Namakkal at 9 and first in the list was Ranganathar Koil. Asking the locals how to go about, I started walking the directed lane. While I was walking the Namakkal fort was so well visible and I was filled with awe. Half the way, was Narasimhar Koil. But my mom had told me, Ranganathar Koil, being a very small temple, closes early. I asked the vendors outside the temple, to direct me to the Ranganathar Koil and I was told it opens also late. Well, then let me start with Narasimhar Koil.
Its located in the western side of the hill. The Vishnu in Narasimhar Koil is Sri Lakshmi Narasimhar and the devi here is Sri Namagiri Lakshmi. Vishnu here is in his fourth incarnation of Narasimhar – The lion, I which he comes out of the pillar and kills Hiranya Kasibhu with his claws during an evening, to defy all the powers of Hiranya and protect his devotee Prahaladha. It is said that the anger of Narasimhar after killing Hiranya Kasibhu was calmed down by Lakshmi in Namakkal. This was built by Adhiyaman Gunaseelan in 8th Century.
This temple is a cave temple, i.e, the garbha graham (sancutum sanctorum) is created by digging into the cave 10 feet deep. The rest of the temple including the Ardha Mandabam, Maha mandabam, Namagiri Thayar’s sanctum sanctorum and entrance is located outside the cave. There is no Vimanam at the entrance.
Within the sanctum sanctorum, the Narasimhar is seated in the Virasanam with one leg folded and another leg placed on the ground. He has 4 arms. The palm of the front right hand is in the blessing posture. It has a purple tint. It’s said that it’s the tint of the blood of Hiranya Kasibhu. The two arms behind had Sangu (Conch shell) and Chakkaram (Wheel). On either sides are Suryan(Sun) and Chandran(Moon) waving the Samaram(Fan). Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma are on either sides trying to cool His temper. Since all 3 Gods are here, this is considered a Trimurthy Stalam. Lakshmi is not on his lap as usual but in the pendant on His heart.
On the right is the Ongi Ulagalanda Perumal. This is not a stand-alone sculpture, but a bas relief. There is Vamanan – The short one (Vishnu’s fifth incarnation), beside with Mahabali Chakravarthy and Sukrachariyaar. Sukrachariyaar is seen to be giving instructions to Mahabali. After Mahabali grants all wishes, the reforms himself as the Ulagalandha Perumal. Namusi is seen almost in inverted ‘U’ shape after been thrown to the sky by Perumal. Jambavan (a holy bear) is seen beside Namusi. There is a horse to the right as well.
Further to the right is the Varaha Avatharam (the pig incarnation). All the four vedams (scriptures) are seen atop His nose. One of His legs is seen only till the knee and another till the ankle. Adhisheshan (His snake) and Niladevi are seen below trying to search His feet, for a Paadha Darisanam.
To the left is Abhaya Narasimhar – helper, with all other gods praying Vishnu to stop the evil deeds of Hiranya Kasibhu and to kill him.
To further left is the Ugra Narasimhar - angry, in the process of killing Hiranya Kasibhu.
Outside the Garbha Graha are the shrines of Ramanujar, Krishnar, Ramar etc.
Namagiri Thayar’s sanctum sanctorum is located to the left and...
... to opposite if the Sthala Vruksham with several prayer thottil (cradles) tied up. There is a Gopuram atop Namagiri Thayar’s shrine.
There are several inscriptions everywhere on the floor and walls in ancient Tamizh.
After having a great Darshan and a friendly Gurukkal who stopped his devotees for some time to explain me every sculpture and bas relief in detail, I just crossed the road to meet Hanuman, the leader of all the superheroes!!!
The Hanuman here is 18.5’ high. This Anjaneyar/Hanuman was essentially open to all without any walls. During ancient days, with single storied buildings all around, this was a very tall structure and could be seen from a very long distance and even neighboring villages. But now recently, with several high rise buildings beside, this is not seen from long. Further a compound wall has been constructed around this but without ceiling and open to see Narasimhar and worshipping Him.
It is beleived that a Saligramam brought by Hanuman, which he kept here for a moment to perform his daily prayers, got fixed and grew into this hill.
Well, it is a practice to leave the footwear outside the temple. And in bigger temples with huge crowd, there are these free footwear counter which take care of our footwear and a token is given as a proof. Something like a locker room. I found these 3 girls at the footwear counter. The daughters of the lady there. I found them too irresistable to capture in my frame. This is the result. :)
From there, I reached the Ranganathar Koil. The Ranganathar Koil is located to the eastern side of the fort.
This is at an altitude from the ground level. After climbing up by 100 steps, I reached the temple. Within the Ardha Mandabam, I had to climb up by some 10 steps to reach the Garbha Graha to see the huge Vishnu in Anantha Sayanam (Sleeping posture). This too is dug 10 feet inside the hill. This temple was built by Vijaya Narasimha Pallavan. His sculpture is below Ranganathar.
The Adhiseshan (snake) here has lion face. This is very unusual and is called KaarKotakam. This is to specify his greatness as the king of all snakes. There are several bas relief’s behind Vishnu’s sculpture including Brahma (on the lotus emanating from Vishnu’s belly button), Naradha, Madhukadaibhar, Suryan, Chandran etc.
On the right, is the bas relief of Sankara Narayanar (Right half – Shiva; Left half – Vishnu). On the left is the Ongi Ulagalandha Perumal as in Narasimhar Koil.
Outside to the left is the Garbha Graha of Laksmi. It has a Gopuram.
Further to the right and left of the temple are small ponds at that altitude. That was surprising for me. I asked the Gurukkal if the pond was having ‘ootru neer’ for which he said it was the rain water which flows from the hill and gets collected her. These ponds were around 7 -8 feet deep and within the ponds were several snails.
Above those ponds were huge honeycombs. I really loved them.
Then started off from there and tried to find the base of the route to climb up to the Namakkal fort. With the stunning climate and bellowing clouds above the fort, the walk was perfect. This was built by RamaNayak, a Nayak ruler. It was great trip towards the fort. As usual as the altitude rises, the wind, without any restriction blows fiercer and faster.
And the whole town and the mountains looked great from that altitude.
There atop were the students of a nearby college on a picnic and I had a great time chit chatting with them.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t venture into the fort as it was closed for public viewing at present due to renovation going on inside. All these temples and the fort are protected by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and are Places of National Importance.
After spending some time there above, I came down and walked to the busstand. On the way is the Kamalalaya Kulam – the holy tank of Sri Mahalakshmi’s Tapovanam (Garden).
Namakkal is the place where Mathematical Genius Ramanujan lived.
It was past 1 pm by then and I started my backward journey and reached home with the blessings of Narasimhar, Ranganathar and Anjaneyar.
TO REACH THERE
From Trichy: 85 km
From Salem: 50 km
From Erode: 58 km via Thiruchengode
From Karur: 47 km
Well connected from all these places with frequent bus service.
All the temples are located around the hill and the hill is very near the Bus Stand.