A Visit To Gnaayiru-Vadathillai Temples
One of my friends, a retired factory worker who does ‘uzhavaarappani’ in various temples in and around Chennai, regularly visits my office to seek contribution for the next month’s work. Through him, we come to know about several ancient temples a couple of hours’ reach, but which, for some reason or the other, are generally not known to the public and remain in need of attention, both for attendance and for upkeep.
That friend also knows about my interest in photography and nature, and has been mentioning about this particular temple, Papahareswarar temple in Vadathillai, for a very long time. One fine day, I made up my mind to take his invitation and called him to ask if he was ready to take me. He was more than pleased, and added one more popular temple en route, to which we could go first and then to the other, very old, temple.
A view of Papahareswarar temple in Vadathillai,
It was thus I happened to visit the popular Gnaayiru temple and Vadathillai, on the Redhills-Oothukottai route.
Gnayiru, about 15 km from my place, Ambattur, is the birthplace of Sangili Nachiar who lived about 1,300 years ago. Since her story mentions her worship in this temple, this temple for the presiding deity Pushparatheswarar is considered to be much older than 1,300 years. The Sun god worshipped the Lord here to get rid of a curse, and hence this place has come to be named after him, the word Gnayiru in Tamil meaning the Sun.
A view of Gnayiru Pushparatheswarar Temple,
The temple must have undergone several renovations. Proof for the ancient-ness of this place rests in the recent find of statues of Vishnu, Lakshmi and an emerald Chakkarathazhvar, dating to times earlier to the formation of this temple.
Very well maintained, the temple boasts of a beautiful garden and the rare ‘thiruvottukkai’ tree, bearing a kind of bottle gourd-like fruit the shell-like outer skin of which is used by saivite sanyasis and sadhus to seek alms. There is also a beautiful cannon-ball tree (naagalingam) inside the temple. The temple tank is also very neatly maintained, clean and covered on all sides with high compound wall.
What is more interesting than the above facts is the route leading to the temple. When you take the turn to this temple in the interior rural area, you can feel the sudden, contrasting change from the busy highway to a completely quiet village surroundings, with old houses, cattle straying here and there, brimming paddy fields swaying smoothly in the waves of wind flowing over them and the air laden with the smell of all these wafting through your nostrils. A number of small birds, from sparrows to drongos to even parrots fly chirping and chasing merrily. One starts wondering whether you have been transported several hundred miles away from the hustle bustle of the ever tense city.
From there we went to the Papahareswarar temple in Vadathillai, via Oothukootai. Vadathillai, an obscure village some 60km from my home, boasts of this ancient temple which is more than 1000 years old. The whole village has only about 10-15 houses, but is surrounded by beautiful greenery of riping paddy fields. It is also a very scenic place, with a small road, just enough for one four-wheeler to ply winding through fields and bushes and trees and abruptly ending at the junction of the temple, where these houses are situated. You could see groups of ducks and ducklings blocking your traffic, and the boy or girl in charge not taking any effort to clear them out of the road, despite well noticing you coming their way.
The history of the temple goes like this: A devotee, Govindan by name was lucky to get a small Banalinga of palm size when he was bathing in the Holy Ganga one fine morning in Kasi-Varanasi. His joy knew no bounds, he danced, embraced it on the chest holding by both palms-Ullangai in Tamil - kept it on his head with all ecstasy in mind. He brought it to this temple. As he brought a palm size Linga – Ullangai Linga - he was praised as Ullangai Lingam Konarndha Nayanar – Nayanar bringing this palm size Linga. It is noteworthy that this devotee was a cousin brother of Udayavar Sri Ramanuja of Sri Vaishnava philosophy. He came to the Saivite camp then. It is also said that Nayanar worshipped this Linga while he was in Kalahasti temple. After placing the Linga in the temple, Govindan returned to Vaishanavism and became the disciple of Acharya Sri Ramanuja. Govindan was also awarded the Embar title by the Acharya and taught the Vaishnava Mantras.
Though it seems to have been very popular in the past, repeated flooding of the nearby river seems to have pushed people away from this place and it now looks deserted, with only a few houses near the temple and nothing at all except paddy and open fields n the surrounding areas.
Though I visited these two temples in December 2013, the memory of the trip is still vivid in my mind, with the enchanting beauty of nature and everlasting history of the temples taking us by awe.
View the below album to see more pictures of Papahareswarar temple in Vadathillai,
View the below album to see more pictures of Gnayiru Pushparatheswarar Temple,