Pillayarpatti Temple

Pillayarpatti,  near Karaikudi, is the site of the celebrated Sri Vinayaka temple.  The presiding deity, Sri Karpaga Vinayaka, was hewn out of a rock from a nearby hillock.  He is a popular deity, nearly two metres tall (six feet) and 1.5m broad (5 feet).  Vinayaka is in the artha padmasana (half-lotus) pose here, and, after the morning abishekam, is draped in a gold-plated kavacham (covering).  Sri Ganesha is in bas relief, in an excavated cave.  He is portrayed with two arms, the trunk curled to the right, in the Valampuri mode.  Valampuri, obviously, is the appearance of Vinayaka in the way Om is written in Tamil.  It also confirms that He is the Lord of Wisdom, opine some scholars.

This 1,600-year-old temple was built by the early Pandyas.  There are 14 stone inscription here, dating from 400 to 1238 CE. Some of the rulers whose names find mention include Kullotunga Chola III (1178-1223) and Sundara Pandyan (1216-1238).  It is one of the oldest caves temples in Tamil Nadu, though the present outer structure might give it a modern appearance.  The pillars as well as the Vinayaka image establish that the shrine belongs to the pre Pallavan era.  This point becomes important in view of the fact that the Pallavas have been identified as the most prolific builders of rock-cut temples.  But while most of the Pallava temples were built in the Seventh century CE, the Pillayarpatti shrine dates back to the Fourth century.  The Nagarathars, apparently, became the custodians of the temple during the 13th century, when the second phase of the temple's growth was witnessed with the construction of the Vimanams and gopurams.

The main entrance is topped by a seven-tiered Rajagopuram.  There is also a side entrance, with a smaller tower, which leads to the Vinayaka shrine.  There are also separate shrines for Shiva and His divine consorts.  Shiva is worshipped here as Sri Marudheeswarar. The Lingam, like the Vinayaka idol, has also been hewn out of rock.  Shiva is known as Sri Marudheeswarar, after the sacred Marudhu tree.  There are two other aspects of Shiva, in the Lingam form, worshipped as Sri Thiruveesar and Sri Sivagami amman, Sri Soundara Nayagi amman and Sri Vadamalar mangai, are in one place.

Sri Kubera, the Lord of Wealth, is said to have worshipped at this temple.  Among the many sculptures here are one depicting a cow offering milk to Shiva and another of a five-headed serpent with a Lingam on its neck.  The five heads are said to represent the five senses, while the Lingam symbolizes the Supreme.

Since Vinayaka here is a wish-fulfilling deity, He is called Karpaga Vinayakar, after the Karpaga tree in Swarga Loka.  The celestial tree is said to possess the same quality.  People come here to pray to Vinayaka for removal obstacles, then return for the thanks giving.  Opposite the temple is a big, well-maintained tank.  Nearby, on a tiny hillock, is a tiny shrine for Vinayaka.

How to get there: Pillayarpatti is in Sivaganga district.  It can be accessed from the southwest, from Tiruppattur, (10km) or from the Southeast, from Karaikudi, 20km away.  Karaikudi Junction is on the Chennai-Rameswaram rail route.  The Chennai-Rameswaram Express halts at Karaikudi.  Accommodation:  Comfortable rooms are available in Pillayarpatti.  Karaikudi is a prosperous city with plenty of hotels and restaurants.

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