Rushes to the devotee's rescue

TIRUKKOLUR IS BIRTHPLACE of Nammazhwar's ardent devotee, Madurakavi, whose praise of Nammazhwar is always recited before reciting Nammazhwar's work. In his hymns on this temple, Nammazhwar assumes the role of the heroine's mother, who complains of the young girl forsaking everything to be with her lord at Tirukkolur. The first stanza captures the essence beautifully, ``The food she eats, the water she drinks even the betel leaves she chews are all submerged in her passion for Kannan. Eyes streaming in the pangs of separation she winds her way to the town Tirukkolur, which travellers say is the finest in the world... " (Thiruvoimozhi 6.7.1) ``With her hands supporting her narrow waist, she drags herself, heart aching with the pain of separation, eyes brimming with tears of loneliness, even as she has forsaken me." (Thiruvoimozhi 6.7.8) ``Her prized possessions she surrendered to Kannan forsaking even those she has left to reach Tirukkolur... unmindful of the slur on the family's reputation... unwilling to even glance back at us who love her so much... (Thiruvoimozhi 6.7.9)

It is difficult to say why this temple ranks as my favourite. One reason, perhaps, is the sheer magnificence of the Moolavar deity and it is not difficult to empathise with the heroine, who is obsessed with the Lord here. Perhaps it is because of the archakar's explanation that the guna visesham or the main characteristic of the Lord here is coming to the help of those in distress — Aabathsakhathvam. He is a foul weather friend for those, who have lost everything, but consider Him as the nourishing food, thirst quenching water, et al. In the last stanza he insists that those who sing the 10 stanzas will be blessed with great wealth and prosperity. In his frequent references to wealth, Nammazhwar is clearly inspired by the Sthalapurana of the temple, which takes us to an interesting tale. As punishment for his impertinence, Kubera is cursed by Parvathi to lose his Nava Nidhis — Mahapadma (Divine lotus), Padma (Lotus), Shankha (Conch-shell), Makara (Crocodile), Kachhapa (Tortoise), Mukund (Quick silver), Kund (jasmine), Neelam (Blue sapphire), and Kharva (a Dwarf).

The nine items find their way to Thirukkolur. Parvathi relents and advises Kubera to cleanse himself in the river near Thirukkolur and pay obeisance to the Lord there. Kubera does so and his Nava Nidhi is returned in tact. In testimony to this, the Moolavar, a gigantic image of approximately eight feet who is reclining on the five-headed Adiseha has by his side a Marakaal, a vessel of measurement.

One of his arms is slightly raised with the palm outstretched as if shading his eyes while looking in the distant horizon for robbers, who might come for Kubera's property.

At a deeper level, the 12 pasurams of Nammazhvar could mean that while Thayar rushes to Tirukkolur to get to her Vaithamanidhi Perumal, others too could follow her way to get their nidhi/wealth. Thus a poem composed by an anguished mother about her adamant daughter's love for the lord of Tirukkolur can also be interpreted as Alwar's advice to those who are in search of the purpose of their lives. The name of the Moolavar, Vaithamaanidhi (one who guards the great wealth) further alludes to the Sthalapurana. The image is of Varna Kalabham and not stone.

There are additional shrines for Vishwaksenar, Narasimhar, the Azhwars, and two separate shrines for Kumudavalli Thayar and Kolurvalli Thayar which are all of later date.

The temple is rich in inscriptions though some are undecipherable. They speak of gifts of land and cattle to defray the cost of conducting annual festivals. The earliest inscription seems to be that of a Chola Rajarajakesari Rajaraja of AD 1009 who must have been in the area after the defeat of the Pandyas. Inscriptions of Jatavarman Chola-Pandya, Maravarman Sundara Pandyan (AD1236) refer to the deity as Jalasayanathu-k- kidantharulina Emberuman (He who lies in water) and the town as Uloka-chintamani-nallur. Many inscriptions also speak of similar gifts given to the nearby Cheracholapandeyswaran temple, a Siva temple, somewhat eclipsed by its Vaishnavaite counterpart.

Many inscriptions also record gifts made by women independently. Tirukkolur has its annual festival in the Tamil month of Purattasi and Pavitrotsavam in Aippasi. Like the other eight temples, the temple dons a festive look for Vaikunda Ekadasi. The Nava Tirupati temples are also associated with the navagrahas, Tirukkolur dedicated to Guru. A few trees surround the temple and reading Nammazhwar's verses — of the prosperous town blessed with gardens of fragrant flowers and large tanks — in that serene ambience made one long for the verdant touch in the now rather arid terrain. The cool breeze and peaceful atmosphere, however, do not fail to offer solace to the tired traveller. It was time to move on to the next stop, Thentirupperai.


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