Thursday, 24 February 2011

Velachery Temple Walk: The Greatness of Devotee

Today we are going to join Pradeep on his Velachery Dandeeshwara Temple Walk... So Hop in !!!!
"Oh, the Lord with vEl (Divine weapon of Lord Skanda), if you ask what is big, world is big. But the world was created by BrahmA. Brahma was born in the navel of Vishnu. Vishnu sleeps in the ocean. The ocean was drunk by Agasthya. Agasthya was born from a pot. Pot is a small grain (in size) in this earth. But this earth is hold by the serpent in just one head. But that serpent is a small ring in UmA's finger. UmA is there in one part of Siva, Siva is in the heart of the devotee. So the greatness of the devotee is great to explain." (AVVAIYAR thani paadalgal)

(The above line expresses the true power of the devotion and it is the same devotion has helped this temple to survive till date without any major donation from the royalty)

Pradeep in his poetic best.....
About the Place : Velachery once a southern Outskirt of Chennai is now a bustling place full of life. In its current avatar it is a place of IT companies, Commercial Establishments and lavish apartments. But even in this hustle bustle, once a Brahmadeya (Gift to Brahmans) has lost its old charm but still holds its old identity as place of rich tradition and Heritage.The Dandeeshwara temple, even though a temple with bare structure and little history, this temple encapsulates a dynamo in form of inscriptions and inscriptions. There is no records of how the temple came about but the features of Sanctum Sanctorum including Dwarapalakas inside points out a Late Pallava Era most probably Pallava King Dantivarman which might have influenced the name of the temple also.

Valuable Inscriptions in the Temple
According to Wikipedia: Velachery was known as Vedashreni (meaning "Abode of Vedas") and Vedanarayanapuram during the Chola period. Eventually, the Tamil word Veyl that represents King or the Leader that also denotes Lord Sri Narasimha Swami Sri Vedanarayana Perumal is one of the deities of the Sanctum Sanctoram of The Yoga Narasimha Swamy temple. He has a wonderful form with a Prayoga Chakram on His right hand aimed at destroying the evils haunting the devotees.

Beautiful Lingothbhavar

Sri Yoga Narasimha Swamy Temple is one of the ancient temples in Velachery which historians have rated to be of more than 1300 year old. This temple is presently being renovated completely and is expected to be consecrated by end of this year. The temple is surrounded by streets with traditional names (Brahmanan Street, Telugu Brahmanan Street etc) denoting the presence of an Agraharam (residence of Sri Vaishnavites typically around the temple). One could also see innumerous houses that still are hosting the ancient construction styles, but the agraharam as such does not exist anymore around the temple as the houses have been taken over by new Constructions (

A Close-up

Note: But a recent discovery in the Yoga Narasmiha Temple has brought a new meaning to the Velachery, which is Vela (Outskirts) + Cherry (Settlement) Link to the Article

Unique Vrishiba Vahana at Temple

The earliest Saptamatrika temple is in Velachery’s Selliamman temple at Velachery, to the right of the Velachery main road (Across the Dandeeshwara Temple). Saptamatrikas are the guardians of water bodies suggesting that the current teertham (Temple Tank) was a major source of water at ancient times.

Temple Flag Staff

We will be looking various aspects Related to Velachery and its temple in detail now

The Rise of Subsistence Economy

Beautiful Placed Shiva Ganas in the Temple

It is said that necessity is the mother of the all inventions and that did play a role in development of Self Sufficient Village Economy to prosper. As the mode of communication was in its primitive stage at ancient time, people in a village formed the group to manage their livelihood resulting in subsistence form of economy. So this was a kind of feudalism the persisted in ancient times where a chief in the village had the control over the revenues and produce from the production. But due to the irregularities and corruption, there arise a need f0r a system to be put in place which help the village as well as the exchequer of the empire. that is where temple played a great role in the Southern India. We see an existence of highly developed autonomous rule in these villages

Beautifully Placed Shiva Ganas in the Temple 

Role of Temples in Chola Era

When temple started performing the function of collecting revenue, there was a system in place and accountability in place. These temples which were a mini economy in themselves started providing exchequer healthy revenue and to reward these temples royalty started the practice of generous land grants to temples and their Brahmans. If the royalty was extra pleased with these temples or the temple was very important in the eyes of royalty then the whole taxes from these temples were waived. Making Temples as the medium of revenue collection was one of the greatest economic decisions taken by then kings which were more efficient than today's Tax Collection.

The large empire of Cholas thrived because the Local Bodies followed the protocols to the dot with full integrity and commitment even with the primitive communication modes.

When it came to punishing the guilty and defaulters, nobody was spared. Defaulters were handled with heavy hand and punishments meted out to them acted as a lesson to other.There are instances where people have committed suicide to escape from the punishment.

The Concept of Brahmadeya and Rise of Local Governance

The land grants given to religious institutions were called Brahmadeya, (i.e. Donated to Brahmins) Devadana (Donated to Gods) and Agrahara (For Highly Learned Brahmins).

Pradeep answering queries of "Walkers"

Administration of Brahmadeya villages was carried out by Group of Elite Brahmins and Land Owners came to be known as Mahasabha that laid the foundation of Local Governance.Uttaramerur inscriptions or what we can call a World's Oldest Constitution records the functioning of one of these Mahasabhas in detail. The Rules Followed by these Mahasabhas was so just and proper that if implemented today many of our politicians will not be qualified to run.

Beautiful Stucco Work at Sellaiamman Temple

In Chennai we find majority of these inscriptions in Madambakkam, Tirusulam, Velachery, Tiruvittyur,Chengulpet and Tiruvanmyur (Places where these Mahasabhs Existed) . One more striking feature of these Mahasabha was that they did regular business with other Mahasabhas and also recorded the same as inscriptions in their temple because of which we know about existence of these mahasabhas in other locations.The Local Economy was thriving in these times so was the empire.These Mahasabhas were the eye of Chola kings and enjoyed many benefits.

Another Beautiful Stucco Work at Sellaiamman Temple

The success of Mahasabhas ensured that Chola Kings designated one Brahmadeya in each of the Provinces called Nadu. Mahasabha therefore became the greatest find of the Later Pallava era. These Mahasabhas were later refined in Chola era and were named Vaariyam, the Current system of Corporations.

Beautiful Stucco Vimana at Sellaiamman Temple 

Velachery a Brahmadeya itself came under Thondaimandalam Nadu and Kotturpuram Ur (The Present State -District Level).From the inscriptions we know that Velachery had 5 committees to handle day to day activities.

In Velachery, we know from the inscriptions that there was a Structured Administrative Body in place to take care of village.

These were:
  • The Alunganathars (Executive Committees having one or more member)
  • The Eri Variyam that took care of lakes and water bodies;
  • The Pon Variyam checked the quality of the gold donated
  • Guarding of the temple and Village was done by the kavalkarars (Local Police)

Temple as a Mini Economy

Temple in Ancient times like the one in Velachery and even today played the role of a mini economy in themselves. they provided employment to many in form Upkeep and Maintenance. Even Donation from the patrons resulted in generation of employment and revenue.

As the Temples Enjoyed a high position in the Empire, People from all walks of life started donating to the temple esp. Rich Landlords. Many Treated donations to the temples as a kind of status symbols therefore High Donations Meant Higher Position in Social Circle. These Donations were mostly in form of the Cattle and Precious Metals. Special People were hired in temple to check the standard of Gold and other precious item that were donated to temple.

In Case Of Cattle, the two main purpose of donating these cattle were to light the Temple Lamps using butter and producing milk to be used for Religious purposes. To maintain these Cattle, donor was asked to pay for the maintenance of the Cattle. For maintaining these cattle, People from the nearby village were employed. The Size of the some of the Cow Pen these temples had was enormous and the produce was gigantic in proportions. This opened new avenues of employment. The remaining Produce from these cattle after the consumption by temple was sold in open market hence generating more revenue.

From Inscriptions, we come to know of an interesting instance of a donor from far away Aarkadu(Arcot) having donated for building the Small Ganesha temple inside the temple.Showing the strong flow of communication among the provinces especially about temples.

Hence we see a case of Hybrid Administration and mini economy running within a local economy in ancient southern India.

I am thankful to Pradeep for his efforts and bringing such a vast knowledge he possess to novice like us. Incidentally this is Pradeep's 30th Walk.

A Thing or two about Keerthimukha

Keethimukha Among the Shiva Ganas

During the temple walk, I was able to see Keerthiukha among the Shiva Ganas.

The worship of yakshas and ganas and other folk deities constitutes the most important part of the primitive religious beliefs, in which 'Bhakti' had a very conspicuous part to play. Early literature as well as archaeology supplies us with ample evidence about the prevalence of this form of worship among the people.

This terrible looking mask with animalistic ears and horns is once again, Shiva's favourite. The tale of its creation goes like this: Once, infuriated by a yaksha's insolence, Shiva created an ogre to eat him alive. The yaksha begged for mercy and Shiva, whose temper falls faster than it rises, let him go. "But what about me?", asked the ogre who had just been created. "I was created to eat the yaksha. What will I eat now? I am still hungry". "Eat yourself", said Shiva casually. The ogre took Shiva's word seriously and began eating himself. He ate his hands, his legs his trunk, he ate every part of his body and was left with only his head.

Shiva was amazed at the ogre's obedience. He said, "I'm pleased with you. Henceforth, you will be known as Kirtimukha, face-of-glory. Your face will be seen on every arch, located even above the gods."

So it is that on every arch, in every temple and shrine, on the arches one finds the terrible yet blessed face of Shiva's gana, Kirtimukha. It is the perfect symbol of life, feeding on itself for survival.(

Our Expert Reader Kathie Adds

"Dear Swami, glad you spotted that belly-face. I've been collecting them, wondering if they appear in the same position on different temples. This guy, tho, isn't just a face. He has a full body also. It's like the gana w a belly-face on 'descent of the Ganges' Mallai, standing next to Lord Shiva, where Shiva gives Arjuna His weapon, Pasupat-astra. Dr. Nagaswamy has called it "Udaramukha" or "kabanda"."

Want to join us:

If you are interested to join us in future Temple Walks.
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As Always your suggestions and feedback welcomed!!!



injamaven said...

Dear Swami, glad you spotted that belly-face. I've been collecting them, wondering if they appear in the same position on different temples. This guy, tho, isn't just a face. He has a full body also. It's like the gana w a belly-face on 'descent of the Ganges' Mallai, standing next to Lord Shiva, where Shiva gives Arjuna His weapon, Pasupat-astra. Dr. Nagaswamy has called it "Udaramukha" or "kabanda'.

Lakshmi said...

nice seemed to have had a good walk..

Mitr Friend - Bhushavali said...

Parappalaru Falls - A picture Album

Rajesh said...

Wonderfully informative.