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iXiGOers Dec 09 2012

Which are the popular religious sites in Tiruchirappalli?

Rb Trivedi DEC 10 2012
0 people found this answer useful Useful ?Yes

Tiruchirappalli has always been a busy city, one of the thriving nerve centers of every dynasty and era that has charted its path through South India, in the quite undertones, distinct to this city. Even today, new construction is going on everywhere, bringing in new highways, industries and, in the next few years, a new hotel scene. Even as the constant stream of civic delights grow, it has made sure to make its past relevant to its present and future Experience the city’s thriving pulse and cultural fabric at its religious sites, some of which are:

  • Rock Fort

3.8 billion years old, the rock is as old as those in Greenland and much older than the Himalayas.  At its full height of 83 meters is the 2 storey Rock fort temple built by the Pallavas and rebuilt by the Nayaks. You have a climb of about 437 steps, cut out from the rock itself, before you reach the temple completely out of breath and with stars in your eyes that has nothing to do with the view from the rocky outcrop. The fort is really a complex where you can visit 3 more temples built in different eras over the course of time; Manikka Vinayakar temple at the foot of the hill, dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the Ucchi Pillayar Temple at the top of the hill, dedicated to Lord Ganesha and the Taayumaanavar Koyil Shivastalam, a rock cut temple dedicated to Taayumaanavar, a Nayak era saint. On your way to the Ucchi Pillayar Temple, you can pay homage at Mathrubutheswarar, dedicated to Lord Shiva, that has a lingam, a projection of the rock itself.

Be sure to pay particular attention to the inscriptions on the temples, they date back to Mahendravarman I, the Cholas, the Vijayanagar rulers and the Nayaks of Madurai.

As you approach the foot of the rock, there is a tank and a pavilion that is used during the float festivals and was built by Viswanatha Nayaka of Madurai to hold major religious festivals. Right next to the tank is a house and church built by Reverend Schwartz of Denmark in the 18th century. The incredible palace you see at the base of the rock was built by Chokkanatha Nayak, and is known as Rani Mangammal Mahal. It features a Durbar hall (Mughal court and ceremonial hall for gatherings during the British Raj). Daily six prayer services are offered here in addition to the festivals that are celebrated year round.

  • Sri Rangam Ranga Nathar Temple

Dedicated to Rangnatha, reclining form of Lord Vishnu, Sri Rangam Ranga Nathar Temple, is one of the most illustrious temples of South India, rich in lores and history. Millennia old, the temple enclosed by 7 concentric walls. with 21 gopurams (towers), 39 pavilions, 50 shrines, Ayiram kaal mandapam (a hall of 1000 pillars) and several small water bodies inside the complex, spread out over an area of 156 acres, is one of the largest religious complexes in the world. As you enter the complex you are faced with the 7 prakarams (the concentric walls), with the outer 2 being lined with shops, restaurants and flowers stalls where you can buy the necessary ritual items to pay homage. Non-hindus can continue their exploration uptil the 2 prakaram but beyond that, inside the gold topped sanctum sanctorum, you will not be allowed. Over the sanctum sanctorum, is the Ranga Vimanam, in the shape of the Om symbol, plated with gold. Sri Ranganthar reclines on Adisesha, the coiled serpent and at his feet sits Ranganayaki. Images of Vibhishana, Brahma, Hanuman, Garuda and the symbols of Vishnu can also be seen inside the sanctum. The temple complex also houses shrines of the various forms of Vishnu including Chakkarathazhwar, Narasimha, Rama and Gopala Krishna. There are separate shrines for Ranganayaki and the major saints in the Vaishnava tradition.

When you come across the majestic, granite cut sculptures of rearing horses trampling the heads of tigers in a planned theater like structure, you have entered the Hall of 1000 pillars, which is really 953 pillars. The one wide aisle that runs through the center of the hall, intersected by transepts running across at right angles, is the path to take to explore the length of the hall. Built by the once mighty Vijaynagar empire, the Garuda Madapa located on the south side of the third enclosure is an addition by the Nayaks as well as the Sesha Mandap, where leaping animals are carved onto the piers at its northern end.

Adorned by grand sculptures and architecture heavily rooted in Dravidian architectural style, the scultpures throughout the magnificent, glorious complex include deities, dancers, musicians, mythological creatures and animals and scenes from courtly life.

Dominating the skyline of Tiruchirappalli is the 236 feet Rajagopuram, the second tallest temple tower in Asia. The 13- tiered Rajagopuram was built in 1987 by Ahobila Mutt and can be seen rearing in the distant skies for miles around, while the remaining 20 gopurams (tower gateway) were built between the 14th and 17th centuries.         

The inscriptions you come across in the temple belong to the Chola, Pandya, Hoysala and Vijayanagar dynasties-each having shaped the destiny of this small city. They range in the date between 9th and 16th century A.D.

Throughout its history, the temple has been invaded, its idol stolen, been the site for military encampments of various armies-its walls, inscriptions and sculptures tell a thousand stories from the Vijanagar empire’s golden age in the

Today, the temple still stands tall proudly and as majestically as it eons ago. Throughout the year various festivals are celebrated in the temple like Vaikunta Ekadeshi, Jyestabhisheka, Brahmotsavam, Rathothsavam (the temple chariot festival) and many more.

The origin of the Orlov diamond, part of the Diamond Fund of the Moscow Kremlin’s collection, can be traced back to this temple, where it once served as the eye of the presiding deity. Among historic diamonds, this resplendent relic, in the shape and proportions of half a hen’s egg, is considered unique as it still retains its original Indian rose cut style.

  • Lourdes Church


With gigantic Gothic spires illuminating the skyline, Lourdes Church stands out majestically in the city of temples like some medieval castle. Infact, the Church’s 200 feet spire will be visible to you from a distance of 8 km. Inside, the stained glasses poignantly depict stories from the Bible. About a 100 years old, the Church is visited by people of all faiths, especially during the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes held on 11th February.

  • Thiruvanaikaval

A suburb in Tiruchirappalli, located on the northern banks of river Kaveri, parallel to Srirangam island, the place is famous for the Jambukeswarar temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Sree Akhilandeshwari. Built around 1800 years ago by the Kocengannan, one of the Early Chola, the temple, being one of the five major Shiva Temples of Tamil Nadu (Panchabhoota Sthalams) representing Mahābhūta or five great elements, represents the element of water, or neer in Tamil. Inside the sanctum, is the Shiva lingam, called the Appu lingam. According to legend, Parvathi, to conduct her penance, in the form of Akilandeswari, made the lingam out of the water of river Kaveri. Inside the temple complex, there are 5 enclosures, called precincts. The massive outer wall you find you way, called Vibudi Prakara, is a mile long, 25 feet high and 2 feet thick and is said to have been built by Shiva with the help of workers. The 4th precinct has a hall with 796 pillars with a small tank fed by springs. The 3rd precinct contains the 2 gopurams (gateway towers), one 73 feet tall and the other 100 feet tall. The 2nd precinct has another gopuram 65 feet high and several small shrines. It is the last precinct where the sanctum with the Appu lingam is. The inscriptions and sculptures you see in the temple and the complex date back to the Chola era.

Since Akilandeswari worshipped Lord Shiva in this temple, even today, at noon the priest dresses like a female and offers his prayers to Jambukeswara, the main deity of the temple, and Gau Maatha (Cow). The noon prayer is very famous and a number of devotees attend it every day. A special variety of black cow, called Karam Pasu, is used for this occasion. Annabhishekam to lingam (ablution with cooked rice) is a daily ritual performed in the temple. If you are interested in traditional musical instruments, do ask the temple natives about it, as the temple also runs a school for training in nagaswaram, a classical pipe instrument in Tamil Nadu and you might be able to get some training in it.

The temple is filled with legends, myths and fascinating local lores and do remember to ask the priest about them to complete this mystical experience.

  • Hazrat Nathervali Dargah

    Dedicated to Sufi saint
    Nathervali, who was interned here in a tomb about a 1000 years back, the Hazrat Nathervali Dargah is a major pilgrimage center for Muslims. Nathervali was the first Sufi saint to visit this part of India with a mission to propagate Islam. According to legends Hazrat, upon arriving in Tiruchirappalli, stayed for some time at Rockfort and when asked by the Chola king to select a place and make it his home, he threw his amulet from the Rockfort and it landed where the dargah lies today. The beautiful 70 foot dome you see where the saint lies interred was built by Muslim King Chandha Sahib. Surrounded by minarets, distinct in its sea green colour, the dargah alights with festivities during the Urs festival held in August attended equally by Muslims and Hindus.

On the verge of becoming a true metropolis rather than a small city of exotic temples and religious communities the world has known, experience earthly Tiruchirappallis’s splendor and extraordinary legend before cosmopolitanism comes calling.

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