The Temple at Padi

The birdbath  The worship of Navagrahas (9 heavenly bodies) is an ancient Hindu tradition: by propitiating the right planet when it is at a predefined position in the ephemeris, one advances one’s fortunes. Each of the Navagrahas has a temple dedicated to it— all within 60 km radius of Kumbakonam Town in the Chola heartland. This is not surprising, because all of them were built centuries ago, by the  the Cholas. Even if you do not believe in the religious tradition, you cannot miss the immense archeological value of these temples.
Recently I made a serendipitous discovery: there are heritage Navagraha temples within 30 km of metropolitan Chennai. These temples of Thondaimandalam (the kingdom of the Thondaiman dynasty, i.e. Chennai and adjoining districts) are truly of high archeological and spiritual value; less famous may be, but almost equally significant. Given below are the Thondaimandalam equivalents of the Cholamandalam temples:

 No.

NAVAGRAHA DEITY

TEMPLE IN CHOLA-MANDALAM

TEMPLE IN THONDAI-MANDALAM

1 Surya – Sun Suryanar Koil Agasteeswarar – Kolapakkam
2 Chandra – Moon Thingaloor Somanatheeswarar- Somangalam
3 Sevvai- Mars Vaitheeswaran Koil Vaitheeswaran Koil – Poonamalee
4 Budha – Mercury Tiruvennkaadu Sundareswarar- Kovur
5 Guru – Jupiter Aalangudi Tiruvalidaayam – Padi
6 Sukra – Venus Kanchanoor Srivelleeswarar – Mangadu
7 Sani – Saturn Tirunallaaru Saneeswarar – Pozhichalur
8 Rahu – Virtual planet Tirunageswaram Neelakanteswarar – Gerugambaakkam
9 Ketu – Virtual planet Keezhperumpallam Nageswarar – Kundrathur

Most of these Thondaimandalam temples are in the Porur- Kundrathur belt, but the Guru temple at Padi is a pleasant surprise. For years now I have been passing within kissing distance of this heritage site, in total ignorance (The Padi industrial suburb is enroute to my office)! To make amends for the lost opportunities, I visited the temple last week. And I rediscovered our hoary past!
Historically, Padi was not an industrial township, but a military cantonment. “Padi” is short for “Padi-Veedu”, meaning Armoury. In fact, the neighbouring Kali temple in Padi — Padavattaman Koil — derives from the original name Padai-Veettu-Amman (meaning the Goddess of the Military Camp). Military rulers (Cholas, Chalukyas, Vijayanagar Nayaks etc) patronized this military town. The earliest reference (7th Century) to Tiruvalidaayam temple is found in Poet Sambandar’s religious verses (Tevaaram). Probably, this temple was made of bricks then; it got converted to the “modern” granite structure by the sponsorship of Raja Raja Chola –III ( 13th century). Successive warlords who controlled Padi ensured that the temple was always maintained in robust condition. We owe so much to their munificence!
The Temple is built in the Thoongaanai style; so-called because the architectural profile resembles a sleeping elephant (Tamil: Thoongum + Yaanai). The outer prahaara is neat and clean with a small backyard garden: such a relief from the noise and pollution of Padi. There is a well-kept Goshaala for the temple’s cows, and there is even a cute bird bath for the pigeons that live atop the Gopuram.
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The Goshaala….

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 …. and the Bird-bath

As soon as we enter the campus the Guru sanctum is on the right. On Thursdays the Guru sanctum is over-crowded but on other days devotees can get a very peaceful dharshan. The main deity is Tiruvaleeswarar (a beautiful Sivalinga) and his consort is Jagadamba or Tiruveedhi Naachiyaar. The inner prahaara is adorned with artistically carved stone idols— the best being the fierce Bhairava.
In old temples, folklore gets enmeshed with history. So it is with Tiruvalidaayam too.

Sage Bharadwaj was cursed by Menaka to become a black bird called Valiyan. He came to Padi and prayed to Siva and got redeemed. Hence the name Tiru-Vali-Daayam for this temple.
The most powerful Navagraha, Guru once yielded to lust and was full of remorse after the event. He reached Tiruvalidaayam and prayed to Siva for forgiveness. Lord Siva  granted him absolution and blessed him. Ever since then, it became a holy shrine for devotees to receive the grace of Guru.
There is an interesting off-shoot of the Ramayana too. Rama killed Ravana in fair battle, in Lanka. Yet he was haunted by Ravana’s ghost. Ravana was  a Rakshasa but also a Siva-devotee. So elders counseled that if a Siva-Linga could be sourced from Mount Kailas and worshipped at an auspicious time the ghost would be exorcised. Rama dispatched Hanuman to distant Kailas to perform the task. As the auspicious hour approached, Hanuman was still in transit. So Sita took some sand and constructed a “Jugad” Linga, and Rama performed the Puja punctually. Hanuman arrived with the Kailasa Linga shortly after but was distraught to find that “his” Sivalinga was not the presiding deity. Rama assuaged Hanuman, by permitting him to dislodge the Sand Linga and install the Kailasa Linga. But try as he might, the sand would not budge and Hanuman fainted in the effort. Hanuman then realized that it was not his ego that mattered but the faith in the Lord. He was advised by Sage Narada to go to Tiruvalidaayam and obtain Siva’s grace. Thus, in the inner prahaara we find the Hanumar Pujita Linga — the Linga worshipped by Hanuman.
I guess the philosophy behind all the folklore is: no matter how bad you are or the situation is, it can always be improved with a little faith. It merely requires surrender. Me, I am not ready for surrender yet; I only want to soak in the ambience of the temple.
Glossary:
Dharshan = Sighting, or Meeting with God
Gopuram = Temple Spire
Goshaala = Cow shed
Jugad = make-shift
Koil = Temple
Prahaara = Corridor enveloping the Temple
Rakshasa = Demon

Interesting Reading:
You might like to read this interesting article by Temple Historian Dr. Chitra Madhavan: http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/Arunagirinathar-wrote-Thirupugazh-verses-here/2016/06/29/article3504383.ece

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4 thoughts on “The Temple at Padi

  1. Kaushik, you really ought to write for the Local/History section of the newspaper! Perhaps a section on the hidden treasures of the city… though they’d no longer be hidden after you mention it! 🙂

    • Hi Kabushiki,
      Could you please give the exact location of the Paid temple. I live in Mugappair, Chennai.

  2. The simplest way to reach is to drive down the MTH (Madras -Tiruvallur High Road). If you come from Tirumangalam you have to climb on the Padi over-bridge and turn left. Once you turn, you are on MTH road. As soon as you come down from the bridge, you would find the TVS group of companies on the right and a Bus stop on the left. Drive about 20 metres further and you will find Padavattaman Koil on the right and a Kalayana Mandapam on the left. Now, just next to the Kalyana Mandapam is a narrow road called Padavattaman Koil street. You need to drive about 500 metres on this road and then you will find the temple on the right. You need to drive carefully, as there is a lot of repair work going on presently(July’14). All the best.

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