The Rockfort Temples, Tiruchirapalli

While staying in Tamil Nadu, we went on a roadtrip through the most of Tamil Nadu, to visit certain temples – among these where the Panchabootha Sthalas and Aarupadaiveedu.

From Mylapore – Chennai, we went directly to Trichy (Thiruchirapalli), which took about 6 hours by car. Here, we stayed at a hotel, as we were very tired. I don’t remeber the name of the hotel, but it was a very neat and nice hotel, with a very good restaurant. We could actually see the Uchi Pillaiyar Temple from the hotel. We went to Uchi Pillaiyar Temple the next morning.

The temple is from the 7th century CE, dedicated to lord Ganesh, built on the Rockfort. The rock is 83 m tall. There are 2 temples built on the rock, while Uchi Pillaiyar Temple is on the top, while the other one – the Thayumanaswami Temple, is located close to the base. These 2 temples make the Rockfort Temples.

It is said, that the Pallava Dynasty started the work of the 2 temples with the cutting work of the steps etc. in the 6th century CE, but the Nayaks (the Vijayanagara rulers) completed the work. Comparing to the Thayumanaswami Temple, Uchi Pillaiyar Temple is very small, and forms a mystic architecture and atmosphere. While staying here, there was a very different feeling, and it felt very much sacred and peaceful than many other temples in Tamil Nadu. Also, you can truly see and feel how old the temple is. The very steep steps are carved into the rock. As it is one of the very ancient, yet impressive architectural works of the Pallavas, it is taken very much care of and maintained by the Archeological Department of India.

Uchi Pillaiyar Temple has a very funny legend, going back to the history of Ramayana, where king Vibishana (brother of Lankan king Ravana) got an idol of lord Ranganatha by lord Rama as a token of love, for helping him in the war against Ravana. Vibishana, being the brother of Ravana, was said to be very fair and therefore helped Rama. Though the Deva wanted to stop him in taking a deity to his land, and made a plan with lord Ganesha. While going back to Lanka, Vibishana went throgh present-day Trichy, where he wanted to take a bath in the Kaveri River. Keeping the idol/deity in his hands, he was  perplexed as the deity, once kept in land, cannot be removed again as per religious “rules”. Vibishana searched for someone to help him, and found a  little boy, lord Ganesha, and asked him to keep the idol while he was taking a bath. However, Ganesha placed the idol in the land in Kaveri River. As Vibishana saw this he got angry and chased the boy. Ganesh kept running and climbed in to the rock near Kaveri, but Vibishana reached him and hit him in his forehead. Here, Ganesh revealed his true identity, and Vibishana immediately apologized, and accepted the fact that the idol of lord Ranganatha was meant to be kept in Srirangam.

It is said, that the deity was later covered up in forests, and that a Chola king later discovered the deity and established a temple, now known as the Ranganathaswami Temple, Srirangam. Meanwhile, the Pallavas, mainly by Mahendravarman I, began the work of Uchi Pillaiyar and Thayumanaswami Temples on the rock, which Ganesha climbed to escape from Vibishana.

From here, you can see the Thayumanaswami Temple

Thayumanaswami is a bigger temple, located close to the base of Rockfort, and is dedicated to lord Shiva, in his form as Thayumanavar (The one who also became a mother) and his consort Goddess Parvathi, as Mattuvar Kuzhalammai. It is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalas, mentioned in the Thevara songs, by Sambandar and Appar. There is also an idol of lord Murugan in the temple,  whom is mentioned in the work Thiruppugazh, by Arunagirinathar.

According to the legend, a pregnant lady named Rathnavathi, who was an ardent Shiva devotee, asked her mother to come prior to her delivery. Unfortunately, her mother couldn’t reach due to heavy floods in the Kaveri River. As the delivery came closer, Rathnavathi prayed to lord Shiva to help her. Lord Shiva, moved by her devotion, took form as her mother, and helped her during the delivary. Hereafter Shiva vanished, and Rathnavathi’s mother arrived. They realized, that it was lord Shiva who attended to the delivery, and the temple therefore is named after this incident, with the idol named Thayumanaswami, meaning “the one who became mother”.

~ AJ


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