|Entrance to the Narasimha Swamy Temple|
The July 2010 blog meet churned out many friends for me.One amongst them is Niki Shetty,Lataji's daughter. She is this bright,witty and extremely adorable young lady.For starters she happens to be a geologist.How rare is that. I was very keen that she does a post for me on the temples in Namakkal and she obliged.Such a deary.To sum up Niki Shetty in two words."SHE ROCKS".So do read up her version of the Namakkal Anjaneyar Temple Visit and her memories around her native place.The collage on top is the picture captured by her and the butter decorated Anjaneyar is a picture I have used from namakkal photos.com.
My hometown, Namakkal is a city in the Namakkal district in central Tamil Nadu, with a population of about 53000, according to the last census. The city gets its name from “Namagiri”, a rock that sits in the centre of the town. There are two temples in the town – the famous Namakkal Anjaneyar temple and, across the street, the Namagiri Thaayaar and Narasimha Swami temple.
Eating juicy Malgova mangoes whole and playing badminton in thatha’s car shed with my cousins form some of my fondest memories of childhood summer holidays. When I think of those vacations, temple visits to these shrines with amma, appa, grandparents or cousins, also comes to mind. There is a sense of comforting attachment, for me, to these temples and the deities.
The Narasimha Swami shrine is a cave temple that has been dug into a side of the Namagiri. On the other side of the hill is a Ranganadhar Swami shrine. The Anjaneyar temple stands across the street from the Narasimhar shrine, as the Lord Hanuman is having darshan of Sri Vishnu in the Narasimha avatar.
There is a story that is often told about how the Namakkal hill came into being. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi did not get to witness the Narasimha avatar as it happened, and prayed to Lord Vishnu that she be granted to see it. Lord Vishnu tells her to go to the area that is now known as Namakkal, and that she would witness the avatar there. As the Goddess waited by a pond in the area, Lord Hanuman comes there to take a dip before he performs his prayers. He presents to the Goddess Lakshmi, a Saligraamam stone, which He asks Her to hold until He has finished with his rituals – and He strictly instructs her not to put the stone to the ground. As Lakshmi holds the stone, She realizes it starts to grow heavy in her hands until She has no choice but to put it to the ground. As She does so, Lord Hanuman comes back, and they realize the stone has become immovable. It is said that on the face of the stone, both Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Hanuman witnessed the Narasimha avatar, and that Saligraamam stone stands today as the Namagiri in Namakkal town. It is also interesting to note that in this temple, the Namagiri Thaayaar shrine faces Narasimha Swami – it is said that She faces Lord Vishnu, so that She can witness him in the Narasimha avatar.
|Namagiri Thaayar Gopuram|
Being a geologist, my curiosity got the better of me, and I went to the temple one evening, armed with a hand lens to see what rock the hill really was made of. Life was made easy for me as the hill is a bare rock, and all I had to do was to stick my eye up close to take a look! The hill seems to be some kind of an igneous structure that is highly quartz rich –my guess is that it is either granite or dacite. I am still wondering what a Saligraamam stone is (in mineralogical terms) but, the belief of the people is that the Saligraamam is what we see today, as the Namagiri.
|Small mandabam in the temple courtyard|
Also in the shrine, one can see carvings of the young Prahlad during the Hiranyasamhaaram, the Vaamana avatar, the Varaaha avatar and Vaikuntanaadhar. The Namakkal Anajneyar statue is a monolith that stands eighteen feet tall, with palms folded to His chest, as he takes darshan of the Lord Narasimhar. He stands with no gopuram over his head, open to rain and shine. The two temples are about 250 feet apart and the statues are built in such a way that Lord Hanuman’s eyes are in line with Lord Narasimhar’s feet. Standing at the Garudaalwar shrine, today, one can witness this!
|view of the hill and fort from outside Thaayar sannidhi|
The temples are extremely beautiful and, to me, they are peaceful spaces I have enjoyed immensely all my life.
Thank you for the wonderful write up Niki.These temples are sheer poetry in stone. According to Ramanujan,the mathematical genius,it was Namagiri Amman who whispered equations to him!