Vriddhagireeswarar, Vriddhachalam, Cuddalore


Basic information about the temple

Moolavar:VriddhagireeswararAmbal / Thayar:Vriddhambikai, Periyanayaki, Balambikai
Deity:SivaHistorical name:Tirumudukkundram
Vriksham:VanniTeertham:Manimutharu, Agni Teertham, Kubera Teertham, Chakra Teertham
Agamam:

Age (years):

Timing: to & to Parikaram:

Temple group:Paadal Petra Sthalam (Nadu Naadu)
Sung by:

Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar

Temple set:

Navagraham:

Nakshatram:

City / town:VriddhachalamDistrict:Cuddalore
Maps from (click): Current location Ariyalur (62 km)Viluppuram (63 km)

Cuddalore (67 km)Perambalur (71 km)

Location

Sthala puranam and temple information

This is regarded as one of the places that survived the pralayam. Later, as part of the creation process, Brahma first created water. At that time, Vishnu killed the demons Madhu and Kaitabha, whose bodies floated in the water. Not knowing that Siva Himself had taken the form of a mountain, Brahma used the remains of the slain demons to create several hills, leading to a shortage of space. He sought Siva’s assistance, upon which Siva gathered all the hills that Brahma had created and made them into a single large hill. This is therefore the first or oldest of the hills, and hence Vriddha-Achalam. As it was created by Siva, He is called Vriddha-Gireeswarar. For this reason, this temple is also reckoned as one of the oldest, if not the oldest, Siva temples ever. It is considered older than even Kasi, and so is called Vriddha Kasi, as well.

Vriddhachalam derives its name from the Sanskrit for old (vriddha) and hill (achala), which is also the same as the ancient Tamil names for the place – Mudu-Kundram and Pazha-Malai. Therefore, this temple has several puranams associated with it.

This is one of the places where Siva danced His cosmic dance. However, unlike say in Chidambaram, where He danced in a contest with Kali, here He danced for his own pleasure.

This is one of the few Paadal Petra Sthalam temples where all three Saivite saints – Appar, Sambandar and Sundarar – have sung. There are two interesting stories to Sundarar’s visit here.

Sundarar sang pathigams on Siva here, and obtained 12,000 gold coins to feed the poor. Sundarar – though considered a friend of Siva – has a habit of wanting to test the purity of the gold, so Vinayakar served as witness for the test. Fearing wayside robbery, the saint threw the coins into the Manimutharu river, collecting them later at Tiruvarur (this has spawned the Tamil saying – aatrile pottu, kulathile thedu | ஆற்றிலே போட்டு குளத்தில் தேடுவது போல்; meaning, to lose something in the river and searching for it in the tank). Vinayakar here is therefore called Maatru Uraitha Pillaiyar (maatru = purity of gold; uraithu = by scraping; similar to Maatruraivaradeeswarar near Trichy).

The other story is about Parvati here. When Sundarar visited, he sang upon the Lord and left the place. The elders of the place followed him, and asked him to sing verses on Parvati. But Sundarar refused, saying he would not sing verses dedicated to an old woman (Vriddhambigai)! So they hurriedly installed another murti of Parvati as a young girl, and named Her Balambika (the young Amman), after which Sundarar relented and sang a song for Her too!

Another story about Balambika relates to Guru Namasivayar, who prayed to Parvati here for food. True to her name of Vriddhambigai, she appeared as an old woman, and asked him how an old woman could provide him with food. So he sang another verse, in which he visualised Parvati as a young woman, who then appeared and provided him with food.

The temple has two tales associated with food. One is of Guru Namasivayar, above. According to the other, when the king of the Karnataka region visited here, he was starving. It is believed that Parvati took the form of a young woman and fed him, and also named him Kumara Deva.

According to one sthala puranam, the sage Vibhasiddhu was in penance one day, when a bird dropped an earring onto his lap. Identifying the earring as belonging to royalty, he went to the palace to return it. It happened to be the princess’ favourite earring, and so in return, she gave him a huge amount of wealth, which the sage used to build the temple (another version suggests the earring belonged to Kubera’s daughter). According to another, the sage paid labourers with leaves from the sthala vriksham – the Vanni tree – for their efforts; the leaves later turned into gold coins.

Arunagirinathar has sung on Murugan at this temple, in his Tiruppugazh.

Given the association with Kasi, this temple and Vriddhachalam in general, are considered auspicious in many ways. Being born here, living here, worshipping here, thinking of this temple, or dying here, is believed to give mukti to the devotee. It is also believed that those who die here are taken by Parvati on her lap, and Siva Himself blesses them by uttering the Panchakshara mantram in their ears, giving them direct salvation. Ashes of the departed, when immersed in the Manimutharu river, are believed to turn to stone.

The structural temple we see today is from the Chola period, commissioned by Sembian Madevi, the grandmother of Raja Raja Chola I. She also constructed the fifth gopuram here, and named it after her husband Gandaraditya Chola. Later additions and renovations were made by the Pandyas. There are several inscriptions in the temple, which refer mainly to members and kings of the Chola dynasty – these include Parantaka Chola, Gandaraditya Chola, Sembian Madevi, Uttama Chola, Raja Raja Chola I, Rajendra Chola, Raja Raja Chola II, Vikrama Chola, Kulothunga Chola III, etc; as well as Pandya kings such as Sundara Pandyan and Vikrama Pandyan, and the Kadavar ruler Kopperunjinga.

There are 28 Lingams in the temple, said to have been installed by Murugan – each representing one of the 28 Saiva agamas and named after those agamas. These Lingams are in a separate enclosure in the north-west portion of the temple premises. The main Vinayakar at this temple is to the left, after entering the temple, in a subterranean shrine, reached by climbing down 18 steps (similar to Kalahasti). Vinayakar here is called Aazhathu Vinayakar (aazham = depth).

Other information for your visit

The number five is a recurring motif in this temple.

– There are five main deities – Siva, Parvati, Vinayakar, Murugan and Chandikeswarar; and five chariots – one for each of them.
– Siva has five names – Vriddhagiriswarar, Pazhamalainathar, Vriddhachaleswarar, Mudukundreeswarar and Vriddhagiri.
– Five sages have worshipped and had a vision of Siva here (Romaharshana, Vibhasiddhu, Nada Sarma, Kumaradeva and Anavardhini).
– Five prakarams (Therodum tiruchutru, Kailaya tiruchutru, Vanniyadi tiruchutru, Nayanmar tiruchutru, and Panchavarna tiruchutru)
– Five Nandis (Indra, Atma, Veda, Dharma and Malvidai Nandi), five dhwaja sthambams.
– Five inner mandapams (ardha, idaikazhi, tapana, isai, and maha mandapams).
– Five outer mandapams (20-pillar or irupathu kaal mandapam, deeparadhanai mandapam, 100-pillar or nootru kaal mandapam, Vibhasiddhu mandapam and Chithirai mandapam).
– Five pujas types – Tiruvanandhal, Kalasandhi, Uchikalam, Sayarakshai and Ardhajamam.
– Five names for the place – Tirumudukundram, Vriddha Kasi, Vriddhachalam, Nerkuppai, Madhugiri.

Contact

Phone: 04143 230203

Gallery

Author: TN Temples Project

A personal project to catalogue information on temples (both mainstream and off-the-beaten-track), so that people can learn about them and visit those temples more regularly.

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