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Ancient Temple endures test of time

The Lord Ganesh Temple in the South Auckland suburb of Papakura has been growing in popularity over the past few years, attracting thousands of devotees not only from various parts of New Zealand but also from Australia and Fiji. The Temple’s Chief Priest Parameswaran Chandru has been a source of endearment and respect to devotees.

A number of our readers had asked us to publish information relating to ‘Pillayarpatti Karpaga Vinayagar Temple’ in the Tamil Nadu town of Pillayarpatti. In deference to those wishes, we have pleasure in providing the following information.

Rock-cut images

The Karpaga Vinayagar Koil is one of the oldest Cave Temples (Rock Cut) of Tamilnadu, situated at Pillayarpatti between Pudukkottai and Karaikudi.

Pillayarpatti is situated at a distance of 71 kms from Madurai and 12 kms from Karaikudi on Thirupathoor-Karaikudi state highway. As the temple of Lord Vinayagar is situated in this town, it came to be known as Pillayarpatti. The nearest airport is at Tiruchirappalli, Chennai. Rameswaram Express and Kamban Express travel to these two railheads.

The town of Pillaiyarpatti is named after ‘Pillayar,’ the Tamil name for Ganesha. This ancient temple houses rock cut images of Shiva, Lingodbhavar as well as several other shrines.

Steeped in the tradition of Agamic texts, the temple bears testimony to the vibrant temple culture of the Tamil people, passed down through centuries.

Temple Age

Over 15 inscriptions are found within the Temple that help establish its age. The ‘Stalapuranam’ published by the Temple classifies the growth into three distinct stages.

The first stage goes back in time by about 1600 years. During this period, the innermost rock cut shrines housing ‘Karpaga Vinayakar’ and Tiruveesar came into being.

The uniqueness of the image of Ganesha is one factor testifying this date; the characters used in the temple inscriptions also help establish this date. The Pillars within the shrine are of pre-Pallava origin.

Pallava Patronage

The Pallavas were prolific builders of rock cut temples, including those at Mahabalipuram, Mahendravadi, Mamandur, Mandakapattu, Seeyamangalam, Namakkal, Tiruchi, Nartamalai, Kudumiyanmalai, Tirukkokarnam, Tirumeyyam, Peraiyur, Malayadipatti, Tirukolakkudi and Kunrakkudi.

A number of these can be traced to Mahendravarman I (615-630 AD) and Narasimhavarman I (630-668 AD).

The Pandyas

However, the inscriptions at Pillayarpatti date further back to the 4th century AD. Also, given the location of the temple in the Pandya Kingdom, it would only be logical to associate Pandya patronage to this Temple, especially in the light of the involvement of the Dynasty at the Kazhugumalai Temple, not too far from here.

There are several inscriptions within this Temple that date back to the period between 1091 AD and 1238 AD, making it apparent that the Pillayarpatti Nagarattar became the custodians of the Temple during the 13th century AD during the second phase of growth of this Temple, when Vimanams and Rajagopurams were built.

The third phase of growth is much more recent, involving the repair, rebuilding and refurbishment of the entire Temple complex, including the renovation of the Temple tank. The tank and the two Raja Gopurams provide an attractive approach to the Temple, in this rather remote town of Pillayarpatti.

The Main Deity

Karpaga Vinayakar or Desi Vinayaka Pillayar is the presiding Deity here, portrayed with two arms and a trunk curled towards His right in the ‘Valampuri’ mode. This six feet tall mammoth image of Ganesha is a bas relief in an excavated cave, off of a hill in the precincts of the Temple.

According to scholars, Lord Vinayagar is the Lord of Wisdom, confirmed by the head of elephant in the shape of ‘Om.’

“When we draw a line from the broken left tusk, starting upward, then turning left towards right ear and after passing through the bended left tusk up to the tip of trunk, the Tamil alphabet ‘O’ appears.

Unique features

“The Lingam in the hand indicates the alphabet ‘M.’ As Vinayagar satisfies the wishes of His devotees like Karpagam tree, He is also known ‘Karpaga Vinayagar.’ Here Lord Vinayagar appears with two hands, unlike in other places where He is seen with four hands, seated without ‘Angusapasam,’ with His legs folded and stomach not touching the Asanam in the form of ‘Artha Padma Asanam.’ The Deity of this Temple is known as ‘Marudeeswarar’ as Marudha tree worship, an ancient form, is followed,” the scholars said.’

Another unique feature of this Temple is that the three Lingams, namely, ‘Thiruveesar,’ ‘Marudheesar’ and ‘Senchadeswarar’ and the three Goddess ‘Sivagami Amman,’ ‘Vadamalar Mangaiamman’ and ‘Soundara Nayaga Amman’ appear together to bless devotees.

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