Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Maha Ganapathi||Ambal / Thayar:||–|
|Timing:||6 to 12.30 & 4 to 8.30||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Ganapathi Agraharam||District:||Thanjavur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Thanjavur (20 km)||Kumbakonam (29 km)|
|Ariyalur (33 km)||Perambalur (60 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
There are many temples in Tamil Nadu where one of the deities is Vinayakar who is worshipped specially, such as the Vellai Pillaiyar at Tiruvalanchuzhi. There are also several temples in virtually every street that is dedicated to Vinayakar – the ubiquitous Pillaiyar Koil – and many of these are of recent origins. However, this temple on the route from Kumbakonam to Tiruvaiyaru, is one of the very few ancient temples in Tamil Nadu dedicated to Vinayakar as the principal deity.
It is said that Agastyar established this temple, referring to this place as Chaturvedi Mangalam in his Nadi works. Sage Garga has referred to this temple in his works, specifically mentioning that the temple was established by Sage Agastyar, and worshipped by Sage Gautama. But there are two stories by way of sthala puranam here.
The first story is of Sage Agastyar, who was of great intellect and wisdom, but diminutive in stature. The river Kaveri – because of her vast length and breadth – considered herself superior to the sage. To subdue her arrogance, the sage confined her in his kamandalam. As a result, this place and others along the river’s path suffered famine, given how dependent they were on the river. Realising this, Vinayakar took the form of a crow and tipped the sage’s kamandalam when he was meditating, thereby releasing the river. The sage attempted to find out who had caused this to happen, but Vinayakar appeared to him and explained the need to release the river. The sage understood, and installed a temple here for Vinayakar.
The second story is of Sage Gautama who was traveling through this village, when the locals recognised him and asked him to invoke the rain gods, since the place was hit by severe drought and famine. The sage realised the reason for this to be the fact that a temple for Vinayakar established by Agastyar, was buried underground over time, and Vinayakar was therefore not being worshipped. The sage asked the villagers to dig for the vigraham and when it was found, it was re-consecrated at this temple. It is also said that the River Kaveri turned her course, to flow past this village and have a glimpse of Vinayakar.
This temple is also connected to the story of Siva’s journey from Tiruvaiyaru to Swamimalai. When Siva wanted to hear the meaning of the Pranava mantram from Murugan, the latter asked Him to come to Swamimalai, as a disciple. When going to a Guru’s place for upadesam, one is supposed to leave behind all worldly attachments. In order to fulfil this requirement, Siva left various aspects of His persona as also His entourage, in various places. At Ganapati Agraharam, Siva left behind His elder son, Vinayakar.
Kuzhandai Ananda Swami – the saint of Madurai – visited this place in his time, and reported that this temple’s deity has been worshipped by several great souls, and decreed that during the kumbhabhishekam and other restorations, the deities should not be moved from their places. Kanchi Maha Periyavaa has reckoned that the Vinayakar at this temple is older than the Vellai Pillaiyar at Tiruvalanchuzhi.
The village itself is rather small, and given the prominence of Vinayakar at this temple, there are some unique customs here when it comes to Vinayakar worship. The locals do not have idols, photographs or images, of Vinayakar in their homes, and do not perform Vinayakar specific pujas separately at home. All such events are conducted as a community at this temple. On Vinayaka Chaturti, this is perhaps the only place where clay idols of Vinayakar are not prepared and worshipped. Further, all the villagers make modakams at their respective homes, offer it together at the temple, and partake of the common prasadam. Apparently this stems from one occasion when the villagers tried to perform the neivedyam at their homes, but all the modakams turned into scorpions! The customs have changed ever since.
The original structural temple must have been from the Chola period, although the multitude of renovations means very few vestiges of Chola heritage remain.
In the main mandapam is the dhwajasthambam with a Vinayakar at the base. Although not a Siva temple, the rules of Saiva Agamas have been applied in much the same way here as in any Siva temple. Therefore, the layout of the garbhagriham as well as other aspects of the temple, are just like most Siva temples. This includes a darpanam in front of the moolavar, dwarapalakas at the garbhagriham entrance, Murugan to the right, and even a south-facing Amman shrine inside the ardha mandapam. The inner walls of the prakaram are embellished with various forms of Vinayakar in bas relief and plaster sculptures.
In the garbhagriham, Vinayakar is installed on top of Sani, and so this is a favoured place for those with Sani dosham to worship and be rid of their troubles.