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Thursday, October 14, 2010

A temple for Saraswathi

On Saraswathi pooja day, Ms. Hemalatha has sent these details about Saraswathi temple. I was born and brought up in a village (Pavattakkudi) that was just 10 miles away from this place and studied at Peralam which is 5 miles away.
Saraswathi Ambal temple at Koothanur

The ancient Saraswati Ambal temple at Koothanur is a one of its kind temple dedicated exclusively to the Goddess of Learning Saraswati. Although there are shrines to Saraswati in most Saivite temples as well as niche shrines to Bhrahma, temples dedicated exclusively to Brahma or Saraswati are very rare.

Koothanur is located near Poonthottam on the railway line between Mayiladuturai and Tiruvarur, in the heart of the Temple belt of India in Tamilnadu.
This ancient shrine is rich in legends and beliefs and is closely associated with the Tamil poet Ottakoothar - a contemporary of Kamban and the author of works such as Kulottunga Cholan Ula. Ottakkoothar enjoyed the patronage of the Imperial Chola rulers.
Legend has it that a young devotee desirous of knowledge performed severe penances at the Saraswati shrine here (11th-12th century CE), seeking the blessings of Saraswati. Saraswati took the form of a courtesan and materialized before him and expressed her desire to bless him. The devotee refused to accept her blessings, not knowing who she was. Upon hearing of this incident, and recognizing the identity of the courtesan, the poet Ottakkoothar rushed to the spot and prostrated before her seeking her blessings. It was after this incident that the fame of Ottakkoothar is said to have spread throughout the Tamil land. In fact, the name Koothanur derives from the poet's name Ottakoothar.
Antiquity: The shrine here is said to have been erected by the poet Ottakoothar very early in the 2nd millennium CE. He is also said to have celebrated Vijaya Dasami, the day following the 9 day Navaratri festival in the tamil month of Purattasi here.  Several stone inscriptions, validating the antiquity of the temple are seen here.

It should come as no surprise that we find many reports that Saraswati temples in India are rare, and "there is only one", or two. It's true, there are even fewer Saraswati temples than there are Brahma temples, but we do find them at Basara, Shringeri, Pushkar, Panachikkad, Pehowa, Ubud-puri, Bhadrakali, Gairidhara, Kuthanoor, Nellaiappar, at Surabaya Java, and in Nepal. As the Goddess of Speech, Saraswati resides on the tongue of Lord Brahma, and that is her most sacred temple.
Saraswati Temple at Kuthanoor, also known as the Maha Saraswathi Ambal temple, is located on the Mayiladuthurai-Tiruvarur rail route, 1.5 km. from the village of Poonthottam in Tamil Nadu.

Kuthanoor (Koothanur) is associated with the mingling of three sacred rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, who are said to converge here as the Harisol River, also called the Arasalaru. It is believed that one gets liberation from previous births by taking bath here in the Triveni Sangam. The temple is also known as Dakshina Triveni, and is considered a Gnanapeetam, or shrine of wisdom due to Saraswati's presence.
This site is also associated with the pastime of Saraswati, having a disagreement with Lord Brahma. After the argument, and after worshipping Brahma and Shiva, she was allowed to mingle with the Harisol River here, and have a shrine on the river bank. Lord Brahma, who had already been cursed to have his worship restricted to Pushkar, was deprived of having a shrine here. After further prayers to Shiva, however, it was allowed that puja for Lord Brahma be done here, in association with sacrifices made for the departed souls, an activity conducted in Shiva's realm.

Kuthanoor is also well known for its association with Ottakoothar, the famed Tamil poet. The origin of the word 'Koothanur' refers to a village gifted by Raja Raja Chola II to the singer Ottakkootthan. There are several stone inscriptions which validate the temple's antiquity. It is believed that Ottakoothar erected the shrine very early in the 2nd Millennium. He is also said to have observed Vijaya Dasami here, the day following the 9-day Navaratri festival in the Tamil month of Purattasi.
The presiding deity, Saraswati Devi is here with her vahana swan. Just as the swan separates milk from water, so the Goddess Saraswati sees only the good in her devotees, and blesses them. The Devi Mahatmiyam praises Her as follows:
    "Clad in a white garment, seated in Padmasana in a white lotus, holding a book in the left hand, a veena in the right hand, with eyes expressing compassion and the third eye revealing knowledge, along with the lips rendering a warm smile."
Saraswati, who is also known as Kalaimagal, is seated on a white lotus in Padmasana, facing east. She is dressed in a pure white silk saree. In her upper hands she holds the Akshara Mala and the Book of Knowledge (palm leaves), in her lower left hand the Amrutha Kalasha, her lower right hand in Chinmudra. She holds her Veena, Kachapi, across her lap. Her eyes are full of compassion, her third eye, Jatamudi, symbolizing Gnanasakshas. Her deity form is five feet tall.
On entering the temple, which is relatively small with a three-tiered gopuram, devotees come to the Bali Peetam, followed by the Mukha mandapam. Next is the Artha mandapam housing Lord Brahma, Brahmapureeswarar, Vallabha Ganapathi (Valampuri Vinayakar), and Bala Dandayuthapani. Other subsidiary deities include, Nagaraja, Murugan, and Narthana Vinayakar, who is a self-manifesting deity.
Purushotham Bharathi is said to have worshipped here, and the Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt is beneficent to the temple authorities.
On full moon nights, children come here in droves with their parents, who have written the word “Om” on their tongues with a stick, dipped in honey. It is believed that these children will get the blessings of Saraswati Devi, and will blossom into fine orators, poets and musicians. Devotees also come here to pray for the success of their children’s education, placing notebooks, pencils and pens at Devi's feet, for blessings. It is also believed that the Goddess rectifies speech defects.
Devotees sing the following prayer to Saraswati:
    Saraswathi Namasthubhyam, varade Kama roopini, Vidhyarambham karishyami, sidhir bhavathu me sada My salutations to Goddess Saraswati, Who can take any form, Who is the bestower of all boons, And I start learning now, With the prayer to her, To make it very effective. Yakundendu Thushara Hara Davalam, Ya shubra vastravrutham, Ya veena vara danda manditha kara, Ya shwetha padmasana, Ya brahmachyutha Sankara prbhruthibhi Daivai sada poojitha, Saa maam pathu saraswathi bhagawathi Nissesha jadyabaha. My saluations to Goddess Saraswati, Who is while like a Kunda flower, Who shines like the full moon, Who carries in her hand a Veena and a stick, Who is seated on the throne of white Lotus, Who is worshipped by the holy trinity, With a prayer to drive away all my slothfulness.

Temple Events
The temple is filled with devotees during Saraswathi Pooja and Vijayadashami. A regular program of morning and evening worship is also held. Navaratri festival is celebrated each year. On full moon days, Moola nakshatra days (Goddess Saraswati's star) and Wednesdays, special puja and abhishekam are offered. Saraswati is offered coconuts, flowers, bananas, betel leaves and nuts, white saris and lotus flowers.
Recently, thousands of devotees came to witness the Maha-kumbabishekam of this temple, which has been conducted here in 1941, 1968, 1987 and 2003. 

mail received from Ms. Hemalatha of Bangaluru 

Here are few songs to enjoy for the occasion (Saraswathi pooja)

  1. Aaya kalaikkellam - Dr. Balamuralikrishna 
  2. Sri saraswathi - Nithyashree 
  3. Vellai thaamarai - Maharajapuram Santhanam
Blogger BHASKARAN said...
Thank you very much, right in time and excellent details, thanks to Ms Hemalatha Regards bhaskaran
October 15, 2010 6:48 AM
Blogger Dr D Srinivasan said...
Thanks for the details befitting the occasion.Have worshipped at this temple. One can also visit the temple a few kms nearby of Ambal where it is said Lalitha Sahasranamam was first recited.
October 15, 2010 2:14 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said...
This is not related to the subject.I am keen on R.K.Padmanabha and M.s.Sheela music which I do not find in this blog.Actually Mysore musicians are left out.Can this be remedied? Bala
October 15, 2010 5:33 PM