Thiru Cherai

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Thiru Cherai is one of the 108 Vaishnava temples located at a distance of 14 kms from Kumbakonam and 5 kms from NachiarKoil. Thirumangai Alwar has composed as many as 13 hymns on this punyakshetra.[1]

Introduction

Thiru cherai is named as Pancha Sara Kshetra. This is because the word Saara, meaning essence, is a prefix to everything here. Mahavishnu is Saaranathan, the goddess is known as Saaranayaki, the vimana is referred to as Saara Vimana, the pushkarni is called Saara Pushkarni and the kshetra itself is known as Saara Kshetra. The prefix Sara is attributed to the fact that the vedaagamasara was revived here by using the sacred soil from a pond. Hence, the pond came to be known as Sara Pushkarni and based on this the other names followed. Because the sthala has incorporated five divine elements, this place is known as Thiruccherai.

Saaranatha Perumal here, is surrounded by Saaranayaki, Kaveri, Sridevi, Bhudevi and Neeladevi. He holds a padma in his right hand gives darshan with his five consorts as seen in Vaikuntha. The presence of five consorts is a unique feature unnoticed in any other Vaishnava temple. And Kaveri and Hanuman are said to be the guardians of this shrine.[1]

Thiru Cherai at a glance[1]
Vishnu here is referred to as Saaranathan
Lakshmi here is referred to as Saaranayaki, Saaranachiar, Panchalakshmi
Kshetra is called Panchasaara Kshetra
Vimana is called Saara Vimana
Pushkarni is called Saara Pushkarni
Hymns Thirteen
Location 14 kms from Kumbakonam

Structure

The temple of Thiru Cherai occupies an area of 1.5 acres. It has a huge well-proportioned tower with a height of almost 120 feet. The tower is mounted by kalasams perched over the eastern gateway that bears ample testimony to Dravidian art. It is embellished by a multitude of miniature sculptures and shrines. Situated in the centre of the village, the medium sized five tiered tower overlooks the temple tank. At a short distance, there is a second tower of three tiers. It is a temple with two praharas and has a separate mirror room and vahana enclosure. It is fairly a big temple having separate shrines for Alwar, Yoga Narasimha, Rama, Ramanuja and Manavala Mamuni. Lakshrni here, is enshrined as Gajalakshmi. And she is known as Sara Pradhana Navaki. Sara Pushkarni that is of great fame, is a lake of equal dimension situated outside the temple enclosure. It is said that River Kaveri was betrothed to Mahavishnu and has a separate shrine for herself at the Pushkarni. On the other side of the Pushkarni is the Hanuman mandir.[1]

Legends

Brahmandapurana and Bhavishyapurana give a graphic account of Thiru chera Mahatmya.

  • It is said that, this is the place where Vedas were protected and preserved in a pot of mud during deluge. The Veda Agama Sara was safeguarded from the demons by Lord Brahma with the help of Mahavishnu.
  • Rooted in the highest values of life, Markandeya Maharishi lived a life of true renunciation. He would not identify with the best or the worst of things that this world offered him. He faced the pangs of disease, decay and approaching death with fortitude and courage. But all along he maintained his serenity and objectivity in life. Thus, spurning the worldly life he performed a penance at Thiru Cherai and obtained the highest grace. And in respect to this, the image of Markandeya Maharshi can be seen in the sanctum sanctorum in this temple.
  • According to another legend, Satyakriti, a Chola ruler, did not have a child for a long time. He came to Sara kshetra, had a bath at Sara pushkarni and propitiated Mahavishnu. And by the grace of Saranatha, he was blessed with a beautiful child of glowing charm. In gratitude, the King constructed a Svarna Vimana over the sanctum and renovated the mandapas. He also fabricated many choultries for the pilgrim's comfort. However, not satisfied with these offerings, he finally donated half his kingdom for the maintenance of the temple.
  • Legend says that once Brahma adjudged Ganga to be the holy of the holy rivers. Dejected at this, Kaveri went into severe penance. Pleased with her prayers Brahma gave her a status at par with Ganga. However, not satisfied with this either, Kaveri reached Saara kshetra and prayed to Lord Saaranatha under the peepul tree on the banks of Sara pushkarni. She performed tapas for not less than 300 years. At the end, Mahavishnu appeared as a child on a Thai Poosam. Seeing the glow of a thousand suns on the child's face, Kaveri recognised the lord and He revealed His true form with conch and discus seated on Garuda along with five devis. Kaveri then prayed to Saranatha to be enshrined at this kshetra and be proclaimed by Him as the greatest of all rivers. Symbolic of this boon to Kaveri, there is an icon of Kaveri mata fondling a child on her lap in this Kshetra. It is here that the Lord promised Kaveri that he would settle amidst her in treta yuga at Srirangam
  • It is said that once a barbaric hunter worshipped Lord Saranatha and obtained enlightenment.[1]

Pujas and Festivals

  • As far as the Pujas are concerned, they are conducted six times a day as laid down in Pancharatra agamas.
  • The annual Brahmotsavam is conducted in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan-Feb).
  • On the day of Thai Pusam, a car festival is held symbolic of the Lord's descent from Vaikunta to bless Kaveri. It is celebrated in her glory where the Lord is taken out in procession in the company of the five devis.
  • Also, a holy dip in Saarapushkarni when Jupiter is in Pushya, that occurs once in twelve years is held at par with Mahamaham of Kumbakonam.[1]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Prof. S. Narayanan (April 2004), 108 Temples of Azhvars, Volume 1, Maharashtra: Sri Ramanuja Mission.