Thiru Karambanur

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Thiru Karambanur, also known as Uttamar kovil is one of the 108 Vaishnava Divya Deshas located at a distance of 2 kms from Srirangam not far away from Tiruchirapalli.[1]

Introduction

Thiru Karambanur Kshetra is known by several names such as Uttamar Koil, Bikshanathar Koil, Neepa Kshetra, Kadamba Vana Kshetra, Thirumurthi Kshetra and Adi Mahapuram. This Kshetra is sanctified by its association to Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshvara. Thus, becoming a unique Trimurthi kshetra. This is the most important feature that characterises this temple and sets it apart from the other temples in the region.[1]

Temple at a glance[1]

Vishnu here is referred to by the name Purushothama 
Lakshmi here is referred to by the name Poorvadevi, Purna Valli 
Kshetra is known as Kadambha kshetra, Trimurthi kshetra 
Vimana is known as Udyoga Vimana
Pushkarini is called Kadambha Pushkarini 
Sthala Vrksha is Kadali vrksha (Plantain)
Hymns by Alwars One 
Location 2 kms from Srirangam

Structure

Thiru Karambanur, unlike its counterparts in South India is small in size though unmatched in antiquity.

"Several puranic accounts bring out the importance of this Kshetra without a Shikhara. The temple is endowed with such rare merits that it has a reason for its prominence and there are several stories enumerating the same", says Prof. S. Narayanan.

At the centre of the temple is the Vishnu sannidhi (shrine)with Lord Purushottama is facing east, to the right is the sannidhi dedicated to Brahma and to the left on the other side is the Shiva sannidhi. There is also a separate shrine for Goddess Lakshmi who resides here as Poorvadevi.[1]

Legends

The lord of Thiru Karambanur is extolled in great detail by the Brahmanda purana and by Thirumangai Alwar in one of his hymns.

Names of the Kshetra

  • It is said that Lord Mahavishnu revealed himself in his glorious Bhujanga shayana form to Kadamba Muni and Thirumangai Alwar. Kadamba Maharishi once, did severe penance at this Divya Desa and Lord Vishnu pleased with his devotion, appeared before him.That is one of the reasons why the theertha is popular by the name Kadamba theertha.
  • Also, this place was once believed to be full of Kadamba trees (Neepa). Hence, the names Kadamba Vana Kshetra and Neepa kshetra.
  • It is also called kadambanur because the Lord is said to have appeared before Brahma as a Kadamba tree to test his devotion.
  • The Kshetra is presided over by both Vishnu and Shiva. Among the Vaishnavas, this shrine is popularly known as Uttamar koil (temple of Purushottama) while among the Shaivas, it is more popularly known as Bhikshanadar koil. This is because Lord Shiva here is seen clad in Bhiksha attire.
  • Since Mahavishnu is reclining on Adishesha with Brahma seated on the lotus rising from the Lord's navel, this place is also known as Adhimapura.
  • It is said that, pleased with the prayers and devotion of Brahma, Vishnu gave darshan to him at this temple. Therefore, the temple is called as Brahmapura. [1]

Scriptures incarnate

The Indian tradition believes time to be cyclical; the world is created, sustained, gets destroyed and then is recreated. In this context, the concept of Pralaya or the great deluge is famous in the Indian tradition. During one such great deluge the Vedas, Puranas and the Itihasas, in an attempt to escape the aftermath approached Shiva for solace and guidance. He advised them to go to Uttamar Koil and take shelter at the Kadamba Vana. Accordingly, the Vedas manifested themselves as Kadamba tree, the Agamas took the form of flowers, the Itihasas appeared as fruits and the Puranas became birds. This is the Kadamba Kshetra now known as Uttamar Koil; that is Scriptures incarnate.[1]

Brahma Teertha

Brahma in the course of his wandering, reached the Kadamba kshetra. As soon as he entered the sacred temple he could feel the presence of the Lord in the Kadamba Vana. He immediately offered ablution to the Kadamba tree from his kamandala and requested Lord Vishnu to grant him a glimpse of his auspicious form. Narayana, merciful as ever, then revealed himself to Brahma. With anger in his eyes but love in his heart the Lord looked entrancingly beautiful. As Brahma was blessed with the sight he had longed for at this place, the tank came to be known as Brahma teertha. [1]

Brahma Kapala Moksha

According to Brahmanda purana, goddess Parvati once performed padha pooja to Brahma mistaking him for her husband Shiva as both of them had five heads. Angered by this, Shiva plucked one of Brahma's head. This was nothing but a Brahma hatya. As a result, the fifth face of the creator stuck to Shiva's finger and he lost his lustre. Despite his best efforts, the Brahmakapala could not be separated. As an atonement Shiva then visited a number of Narayana sthalas and lived by begging for alms with the Brahmakapala. However, the kapala was always half empty. He realised that only when the kapala gets filled to the brim that he would be rid of the curse. He eventually reached Kadambavana. Lord Vishnu here, advised Lakshmi to give alms to Shiva. And when Lakshmi gave bhiksha to Shiva, the Brahmakapala got filled to the brim and Shiva attained Kapala moksha. It is for this reason that the Goddess earned the name Poornadevi and Poornavalli (an epitome of fulfillment). Symbolic of this incident, Lord Shiva is manifested in this temple as Bhikshantanar, a beggar with a bowl.[1]

Kshetra Sthapana

It is said that, Janaka Maharishi reached Kadamba kshetra while on a pilgrimage. On the advice of many rishis, he decided to perform a yajna. However, disappointingly, the outcome of the yajna was not satisfactory. He felt that some unknown demonic force was creating an obstructing atmosphere. He prayed to the Lord for help and a celestial voice informed him that the yajna was being polluted by a wandering dog. He was then advised to perform the yajna all over again; this time offering his prayers to the Kadamba vrksha. Pleased with his devotion, Lord Vishnu appeared before Janaka Maharshi with Brahma emerging from his Nabhi (navel) and Shiva as Bhikshanatha. And it is said that, it is in commemoration of this event that Janaka Maharaja built this temple for the Trimurtis.[1]

Satkirtivartanan's contribution

Raja Satkirthivarthanan once came to Kadamba teertha and offered prayers to Lord Purushothama. He was then blessed with progeny in response to his prayers. And in in gratitude towards this blessing, Raja built the Udyoga vimana, Kalasha, Sabha mandapa and the praharas.[1]

Festivities

  • Thiru Karambanur is closely associated with Srirangam. It is believed that Lord Ranga of Srirangam visits this temple on the fifth day of Masi float festival. It is interesting to note that the teertha prasad of the Lord here is offered to devotees under the Kadamba tree.
  • Brahmotsavam in this temple is usually celebrated during the month of Chitrai (Chaitra).
  • During the Kartikai festival, both Vishnu and Shiva are taken around in procession together around the main streets of this kshetra.[1]

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Prof. S. Narayanan (April 2004), 108 Temples of Azhvars, Volume 1, Maharashtra: Sri Ramanuja Mission.