By Sivashankar Chandrasekaran
Pillaiyarpatti is a small town twelve kilometers from Karaikudi, near Madurai, in the Sivagangi District of Tamil Nadu. The town is named after the Ganesa Temple that adorns it. Here, Lord Ganesa is known as Pillaiyar, Tamil for revered and noble son, and 'Karpaga Vinayakar', Lord who offers his blessings like the celestial tree Kalpaka whose specialty is ' you ask and it will be given'.
This temple is 1,600 years old. It contains fourteen stone inscriptions dated between 400 AD and 1238 AD that reveal that the place was known as 'Ekkattur', 'Thiruveengaikudi', 'Maruthankudi' and 'Raja Narayanapuram' before it became to be called Pillaiyarpatti. An inscription dated 1284 AD, on the right side wall of the Thiruveesar sanctum, suggests that the original name of the Ganesa was 'Desi Vinayaga Pillaiyar',
Pillaiyarpatti Temple is a rock cut temple. The image of Karpaga Vinayakar and that of a Siva Linga were carved out of stone by a sculptor called 'Ekkattur Koon Peruparanan' who put his signature on a stone inscription found even today in the sanctum. He put his name in the ' Tamizhi language' which was in use between 2nd and 5th century AD. It can concluded that the icon of Karpaga Vinayakar must have been carved around 4th century AD
Karpaga Vinayakar is one of the oldest Vinayakar images in the world for it has only two arms. The significance of the two arms is that the first god evolved by ancient man was in the shape of man. This male god created out of stone was called Yaksha and the female god was called Yakshi. Later on to show the superiority of god to man the head of the man was removed and in its place a head in the shape of OM was fixed. The OM head was similar to that of an elephant. There are only two images of Vinayakars with two arms in the world. One is at Pillaiyarpatti the other is in Afghanistan. The one at Afghanistan must have been made later, for it is in a standing posture and has a number of ornaments adorning it. The one at Pillaiyarpatti is in a sitting posture mediating. He does not have Modakam (the most favourite sweet of Pillaiyar) but a Siva Linga in his palm. He mediates for the well being of the people and so their prayers are answered immediately.
The first notable feature of this Vinayakar is that the trunk of the Lord is turned to the right, which is a rarity like the conch that is turned to the right. Moreover, this Vinayakar is facing north, which is unusual. It is believed that anyone who worships this 'Valampuri Vinayakar facing north' will be blessed with all wealth. The second is that the Temple walls reverberate with Veda mantras recited by students throughout the day. This increases the divine power of the icons to enable them to grant all devotes their requests irrespective of their number.
The Vinayakar here is also called Marudhessrwarar after a holy Marudhum tree inside the temple.
A striking beauty of this temple is the Pasupatheeswarar sculpture where a cow, known as Kaaram Pasu with a black colored tongue and teats, worships Siva by allowing milk to pour on the Siva Linga. The meaning behind this sculpture is that if living beings 'Jeevatmas " help one another they will please god 'paramaatma' and attain salvation. Also, worship of this Linga brings prosperity as Kubera, the god of wealth, also worships it
Next to Pasu Pasupatheeswarar is a sculpture of Naganathar, a five-headed snake encircling a Linga, whose worship is supposed to bring harmony in the family. It teaches that any man who controls his five senses, represented by the five hoods of the snake, can realise god, represented by the Linga.
Of the two Devis, Moodevi (goddess of misfortune) and Sridevi (goddess of good fortune) only the latter is usually worshipped but in Pillaiyarpatti Moodevi or 'Jesta Devi ' is also worshiped to ward of problems and difficulties in life caused by her.
Another beauty in Pillaiyarpatti is that Saraswathi, goddess of learning, and Durga, goddess of bravery, flank Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, on both sides. Worship of this shrine will grant all three attributes.
One more wonder at Pillaiyarpatti is the 'Growing Linga' in midst of the roots of the Peepal tree near the temple kitchen. When it was consecrated in the olden days, it became covered with earth due to rain and wind. Later on when the roots of the tree began to grow, the Linga became visible and this led people to believe that it was growing.
Unlike any other place we find three Lingas and three Ambals here, namely 'Thiruveesar', 'Marudeesar', and 'Chenchades', and 'Sivakami Amman', 'Vaadamalar Mangai Amman' and 'Soundaranayaki Amman'. Devotees visiting this temple will be trebly blessed.
One more feature of this temple is the presence of an image of Karthiyayini Amman, who is supposed to unite in wedlock those women whose marriages have been postponed due to chevvai dosha and other reasons. One can also see the seven forms of Sakthi, namely 'Brami', 'Maheswari', 'Kowmari', 'Vaishnavi', 'Varahi', 'Maahendri' and 'Chamundi' in the south prakaram. The worship of Kongu Natchiamman is a wonder. Though the shrine for this Amman is outside the temple, the urchava moorthy is worshipped daily at Pillaiyarpatti.
The puranic pictures painted on the ceiling of the Alankara Mandapam are hundreds of years old. In one such painting the graceful eyes of Lord Vinayakar are drawn wonderfully well that they look at the devotee wherever he or she stands.
Wonder of wonders is the copper stature of the Nataraja carrying a small metal drum. Equally splendid are the icons of Lord Chandrasekarar and Uma Devi made of Panchaloka.
The worship of Dakshinamoorthy is done in a grand manner in this temple. A special projected shrine from the side wall of the Marudeesar sanctum houses the lord of wisdom. He is seated on a throne supported by six lions, a magnificent sight for devotees.
This temple is one of the nine important temples for Nagarathars. Nagarathars are divided into nine sects depending on the temples they worship. Pillaiyarpatti stands for the major sect of the Nagarathars who are ardent believers of Saiva sidhantha. So they always install 'pathi' and 'pasu' on raised pedestals and lay a prakaram around them at a lower level. The implication is that each life should strive to reach the level of paramaatma. Marudeesar shine at Pillaiyarpatti is no exception to this principle of 'pathi', 'pasu', and 'pasam'.
Vinayakar chathurthi is the most important festival of the temple. The temple has also had five Astapandana Kumbabishekams, the first in 1899 and the fifth in 1992.
The Lord Karpaga Vinayakar, in his yoga state in Pillaiyarpatti, offers his blessings to all his devotees. He propagates silently the principle that living for others brings bliss to us.