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Kumbakonam and Swamimalai - Tamil Nadu




Click here for Day 2 evening: Thanjavur

Day 3: After arriving at Kumbakonam late the night before we managed to get some sleep at Hotel Adithya (Ph: 91 435 2421794). Kumbakonam is THE temple town and is known for the festival of Mahamaham which is celebrated every 12 years. Legend has it that every year all Gods headed by Brahma come for a dip in the waters of this tank. This is because once several rivers went to lord Shiva and complained that sinners washed their sins off in them. Shiva advised the rivers to bathe in Kumbakonam during Mahamagam so that not only would their sins be washed away, but the sinners would not leave behind any residue to contaminate the river. Since then crowds throng to this tank to wash off their sins. It is believed that people go to Kasi to wash off their sins, but the sins committed at Kasi can only be washed off in Kumbakonam. Kumbakonam gets its name from kumbha (pot) in which Brahma placed the seeds of creation. Lord Shiva set the pot afloat and claimed that the place where the pot came to rest would be the holiest place on earth. It came to rest here and Shiva dressed a hunter shot the pot and split the Amruth (nectar) and it into the Mahamaham tank. Kumbakonam is 40 km from Thanjavur, about 300 km from Chennai and is also known for its production of Betel Leaves. It is bounded by Cauvery river on one side and the Arasalar on the other.

Our day started with the Sarangapani temple, right opposite to our hotel. Among the 108 temples dedicated to Vishnu or Divya Desams, temples sung in praise by the Azhvars (divine saints), this temple is next only to Srirangam and Tirupati. The temple itself is built in the form of a chariot as it is believed that Lord Vishnu came to earth in his chariot to marry Lakshmi who was doing penance by the tank, and then he and Lakshmi continued to stay in the chariot itself. The 12 stored gopuram is one of the largest and before the Srirangam temple was built, the largest in South Asia. It was built by the Nayak Kings in the 15th century. This temple is also one of the Pancharanga Kshetrams (5 Ranganatha temples). The gopuram has numerous sculptures and the first row is predominantly of erotic poses. The temple is large and will require more than an hour to enjoy.

Next to the Sarangapani temple is the Someswar Temple, facing east with a 5-tier Gopuram at the entrance. The architectural style and element of this temple resembles the Dravidian Architecture of 13th century of the Chola period. Arumugam and Thenar Mozhi Ammal are the other deities located in this temple complex. Behind the Sarangapani temple, is a tank with beautiful panoramic reflections called the Hema Pushkarni and it separates this temple from the Kumbeshwara Temple.

Lord Shiva took the remaining Amruth in the pot, mixed it with sand and molded it into a Mahalingam and called it Sri Adi Kumbeshwara. Thus this is one of the most important temples in Kumbakonam. It covers an area of 30000 sq.feet and has four large gopurams, the tallest of which is 127 feet high and nine stories. Manthrapeeteswari Mangalambika is the lord's Consort here. There is also a Navarathri Manatapam here that has all the 27 stars and the 12 Rasis artistically carved into one block of stone. The way to the temple is lined with stores selling bronze statues. There is a 98 year old restaurant called Sri Magalambika Vilas which has extremely tasty food and very hospitable owners.

We checked out of our hotel and proceeded to the Mahamaham tank. Every 12 years the Mahamaham festival is held here when Jupiter passes through the sign of Leo. It was last held in 2004. The devout believe that the nine sacred rivers of India appear here on Mahamaham day. We then proceeded to the Sri Chakrapani temple. Sri Chakrapani has eight arms and the sculpture is inspiring. Brahma, Surya and Agni are shown worshipping the lord here. Legend has it that once Surya fought with Vishnu about who was brighter and Vishnu appeared in the form of a Chakra and put down the pride of Surya. The idol of Chakrapani also has a third eye like Lord Shiva. It is also strange that the Vilva archana which is done for Shiva is performed here for Lord Vishnu. The temple is a great example of early temple architecture.

From the Chakrapani temple, we headed to Darasuram where the Airavatesvara Temple is situated. (Read more... here....) After spending more than an hour here and wishing we had more we proceeded to the Swamimalai temple. 10 km from Kumbakonam this is one of the Arai Padaiveedu of Lord Muruga. It is here that a young Muruga taught the meaning of the mantra "OM" or the pranava mantra to his father Lord Shiva. The temple is beautiful and is situated on a hill. There are sixty steps to the top and each is represented by a year in the Tamil calendar. The deity is 6 feet tall and strangely there is an elephant rather than the peacock in front of the idol. Mythology says that saint Bhrugu before commencing an arduous tavam or penance, got the boon that anybody disturbing his mediation will forget all his knowledge. Such was the power of the penance that the sacred fire emanating from the head of the saint reached up to the heavens, and the frightened devas surrendered to Lord Shiva praying for his grace. The Lord extinguished the sacred fire by covering the saint's head by his hand. With the saint's penance thus disturbed the Lord became oblivious of all his knowledge and is said to have regained them by learning the Pranava mantra from Lord Muruga at this shrine.

From the Swamimalai temple we headed to Umayalpuram, a village on the banks of the Cauvery. We visited our friends and had a wonderful traditional lunch and also toured the fields, farms and the Cauvery banks. With half a day still remaining we headed back to Thanjavur and visited the great Brihadeeswara Temple. At the end of the day we headed into Trichy and checked into the Femina Hotel.

Click here to see Darasuram
Click here to see Umayalpuram
Click here to see Day 4: Trichy


Hema Pushkarni with Sri Kumbeshwara Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Hema Pushkarni with Sri Kumbeshwara Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Tank between Sarangapani and Kumbeshwara, Kumbakonam, India
Tank between Sarangapani and Kumbeshwara, Kumbakonam, India
Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Main Gopuram of the Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Main Gopuram of the Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Erotic poses, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Erotic poses, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Guarding the entrance, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Guarding the entrance, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Top of the Gopuram tower, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Top of the Gopuram tower, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Side view of the Gopuram tower, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Side view of the Gopuram tower, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Gopuram tower view from the inside, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Gopuram tower view from the inside, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Decorated door, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Decorated door, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Mridangam, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Mridangam, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Sculpture, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Sculpture, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Chariot being pulled by the elephant, Sculpture, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Chariot being pulled by the elephant, Sculpture, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Horses steering the chariot in the front, Sculpture, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Horses steering the chariot in the front, Sculpture, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Grill door, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Grill door, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Pillored hall, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Pillored hall, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
As the morning arrives, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
As the morning arrives, Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Someshwar Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Someshwar Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Kumbeshwara temple elephant, Kumbakonam, India
Kumbeshwara temple elephant, Kumbakonam, India
Paintings on the ceiling of the Kumbeshwara Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Paintings on the ceiling of the Kumbeshwara Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Sri Mangalambika Vilas, Kumbeshwara Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Sri Mangalambika Vilas, Kumbeshwara Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Mahamaham Tank, Kumbakonam, India
Mahamaham Tank, Kumbakonam, India
Bathing in the Mahamaham tank, Kumbakonam, India
Bathing in the Mahamaham tank, Kumbakonam, India
Sri Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Sri Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Sculptures on the gopuram, Sri Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Sculptures on the gopuram, Sri Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Blue door with bells, Sri Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Blue door with bells, Sri Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Chariot Hall, Sri Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Chariot Hall, Sri Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Enlightenment, Sri Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Enlightenment, Sri Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam, India
Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
Coconut seller, Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
Coconut seller, Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
Pranava mantra, Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
Pranava mantra, Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
Muruga, Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
Muruga, Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
Valli wedding, Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
Valli wedding, Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
The meaning of OM, Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
The meaning of OM, Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
Saving the damsel, Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
Saving the damsel, Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
Pilgrims to the Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India
Pilgrims to the Swamimalai temple, Kumbakonam, India