About a month back I visited a couple of temples on the outskirts of Chennai, Gnayiru Gramam and an hitherto unknown temple near Poondi. Pushparatheswarar Temple at Gnayiru Gramam is one of the Navagraha temples around Chennai dedicated to Suryan. The village itself gets its name from Suryan or Sun God, Gnayiru in Tamil means Sun.
I had first visited this temple about 8 years back and it was a balalayam. It was unknown too. During that visit I had waited for an hour for the temple priest to come after finishing the rituals at another temple in a neighbouring village. Today, the temple is getting popular. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the temple has been renovated thanks to the efforts of the local villagers and few other devotees. It is very well maintained too. I would say that it is one of the better maintained temples that I have visited. Work on the temple pond is still on and hopefully it should be ready in about 6 months. I also found a rare tree here, in fact, the first time I have seen this tree. Thiruvodu (begging bowl of the sanyasis) is a half of the outer shell of the fruit of these trees. It is also used by them to drink or eat food from and is believed to prevent viral infections.
Thee are a few interesting legends behind this temple. A Chola King was returning after successfully waging a war on a kingdom in Andhra Pradesh. He camped at Cholavaram. He was a staunch Shiva devotee and went in search of lotus to perform his daily pooja. During his search he saw a pond full of lotuses. One of the flowers was taller, bigger and more beautiful than the rest. The King wanted this flower for the pooja and tried to reach the flower. As the King neared the flower it moved away and was elusive. After several futile attempts, the King was very angry and threw his sword at the flower. The sword broke into pieces. One of the pieces fell on a Lingam which was in the pond. The pond turned red in no time because of the blood that was oozing from the Lingam. This scar can still be seen on this Shiva Lingam. The King fainted there. His horse fled from the scene before fainting. Lord Shiva then appeared before the King and blessed him. The King apologized to the Lord. Lord Shiva asked the King to build a temple for the Lingam that was found in the pond. The Shiva Lingam is a Swayambhu (self-manifested). Here, Lord Shiva is known as Pushparatheswarar. His consort here is Swarnabigai. The God is also known as Poothereeswarar. Both the names convey the same meaning; Poo or Pushpam means flower and ratham or ther means chariot. Since the Lingam was found in Lotus, He got this name. Lotus is the flower that is offered to the God here.
Here is the story on why this place got the name Gnayiru Gramam. A Chola King was on a Pilgrimage to Kasi and was passing through this village. He saw the beautiful lotus in the pond and as he tried to pluck the same he was blinded. He prayed to the Lord that he would build a temple here on his way back from Kasi. Immediately, his eyesight was restored in one eye. As promised he came to the village on his way back. Lord Shiva appeared to the King and shone brightly on the lotus as Suryan. The King then built a temple as instructed by the Lord and got back his eyesight in the other eye as well. Since then, this place is known as Gnayiru Gramam and came to be known as a Surya Sthalam. People come here to get themselves cured of eye related ailments.
The ancient temple here had shrines for Pushparatheswarar and His Consort Swarnambigai apart from shrines for Karaneeswarar, Kapaleeswarar, Jambukeswarar and Hiranyeswarar. Inscriptions here suggest that some additions were also made by the Pandyas and Vijayanagar Kings.
In my earlier post on Suryanar Koil near Aduthurai, I had narrated the story behind the Navagrahas being cursed by Lord Brahma, as a result of which Suryan was afflicted with leprosy. Suryan, during his pilgrimage to get absolved of the curse also visited this village. He saw a pond filled with lotuses and was enamoured by its beauty. Some of the lotuses even had a thousand petals. Surya decided to stay here and offer His prayers to Lord Shiva. As time passed, one fine day Lord Shiva was pleased with Suryan’s devotion and appeared as a Lingam in one of the lotuses and blessed Suryan. A grateful Suryan built a temple for Him here. Since Lord Shiva appeared from a lotus or a flower, He is known as Pushparatheswarar. Lord Shiva also gave Suryan an Akshaya pathram (a bowl which is always full). Suryan blesses His devotees who pray to Him here with prosperity, good health and happiness.
Sage Agasthiyar, the author of Ādityahṛdayam is believed to have stayed here and worshipped Lord Shiva. Ādityahṛdayam is a sloka recited by Agasthiyar to Lord Rama in the battlefield before the fight with Ravana. The sage teaches Lord Rama the procedure of worshipping Suryan for strength and to gain victory over the enemy. Recting this sloka of about 30 verses everyday is said to be highly beneficial. Here is a nice link explaining everything about Ādityahṛdayam.
Surya Moola Mantram: Aum hram hrim hraum sah suryaya namah.
Surya Gayathri: om ashwadhwajaaya vidmahae padma hasthaaya dheemahi tanno surya: prachodayaath
The navagraha temples around Chennai are as follows.
- Suryan Sthalam – Gnayiru Gramam, Surya Sthalam & Agastheeswarar Kovil, Kolapakkam
- Chandran Sthalam – Somanatheswarar Temple, Somangalam
- Chevvai Sthalam or Angakaran Sthalam – Vaitheeswaran Kovil, Poonamalee
- Budhan Sthalam – Sundareswarar Kovil, Kovur & Karaneeswarar Koil, Saidapet
- Guru Sthalam – Ramanatheeswarar Koil, Porur & Thiruvaleeswarar Koil, Padi
- Sukran Sthalam – Valleeswarar Kovil, Mylapore, Valleeswarar Kovil, Mangadu
- Saneeswaran Sthalam – Agastheeswarar Kovil, Pozhichalur
- Rahu Sthalam – Nageswarar Temple, Kunrathur
- Kethu Sthalam – Neelakanteswarar Kovil, Gerugambakkam
Gnayiru Gramam is located at a distance of about 10 Kms from Red Hills (Chenkundram). There are buses available from Red Hills to Gnayiru Gramam. Route numbers T 57, 58 A and 58 G ply from High Court to Gnayiru Gramam.
Travel Base: Chennai.
Temple Timings: 7 AM to 12 Noon & 4 PM to 8 PM (3 PM to 8 PM on Sundays)
Chennai 600 067
Phone: 044- 29021016, Mobile: +91- 99620-34729.
PS: After worshipping at this temple, we proceeded towards Poondi to visit Shree Agneeswarar Temple at Neyveli (near Thiruvallur). The story behind its discovery and the subsequent events are quite interesting. I came to know about this temple through Raju’s blog.
Here are a couple of photos of this temple from that visit.
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