Our hearts sank as we stared at the huge green door that was locked.
The temple's facade
(Pan picture, stitched together from 3 separate pictures using Autostitch - freeware)
Those dimensions meant that we could not even try to peep over the doorway. And as per regular schedules, the temple would not be opened for at least 4 more hours.
But my friend – Dwija – who had told me about this temple had also told me that the priest lived right next to the temple. True enough, as we found out, he was sharing a compound wall with Mr Manikandeeshwaran. (Refer pic above)
Though a bit unsure about disturbing him (the priest; not Mani Sir), we had no other choice. So we knocked on his door. After we sheepishly told him that we wanted to visit the temple, he came out at once to open the door. He did not betray even a wee bit of irritation at being disturbed, though he had locked the temple just ten minutes back. And his wife was extremely hospitable and offered us water (while we were expecting her to abuse us for disturbing her husband’s siesta).
Mr Sambu (the priest) unlocked a small part of the huge door and went in, asking us to follow him. My cousin did that without batting an eyelid, while I had to battle with the door-lid to squeeze myself in.
Mr Sambu (right) and his assistant.
(Can you spot the small door-like opening in this picture? Look between the two men)
It was now that I began to actually observe the temple. It was not Herculean as I had imagined it would be, but it sure was huge by normal standards. But I was very disappointed at one thing: everything looked fairly NEW! And I had traveled a distance expecting to ogle at an ancient relic! The priest clarified things when he said that the temple was rejuvenated in 2002.
That was a setback right at the beginning for me. But I labored on into the sanctum sanctorum. The priest then began to narrate the “thala varalaaru” (meaning “the story of the making of Shiva-ji’s temple”.. Not “Thalai Ajith’s Godfather-turned-varalaaru”).
Long long ago, there was a King by name something. He had some minor tiff with a sage named something else and wanted to blast him into after-life with the kind of pyrotechnics we see on TV. But since the sage was actually much more powerful (and also since Standard fireworks had not been established by then), the King could not inflict any harm on the sage. So he worshipped Lord Vishnu to help him in this. The Lord responded by setting his Chakraayudha (cycle-pedal-ring-like wheel weapon) upon the sage. The sage did die, but the Chakraayudha got destroyed as well. So the Lord’s idea of using the boomerang-like weapon boomeranged on him and he was left wheel-weaponless. After a while, another war happened during which the Lord missed his weapon a lot. In order to get another tool of the kind, He came to the spot where we stood and worshipped Lord Shiva asking for a new weapon. After 3 yugas (9000 years), Lord Shiva appeared in front of Lord Vishnu and said “Un thavatthai kandu mecchinom” (meaning “Am pleased with your penance”). Meanwhile, Lord Vishnu had had this habit of offering 1000 lotus flowers everyday to Lord Shiva, but as Murphy would concur, on exactly that day, he had one lotus less. Since there was not enough time to get one from Koyambedu market, Lord Vishnu offered an eye of his own instead. Lord Shiva was mighty pleased and granted Lord Vishnu with a new wheel weapon: the mighty Sudharsana Chakra (which has been used ever since to slay demons at daytime, and mosquitoes at nights).
And it is for this reason that Thirumalpur is also known as Hari-chakra-puram (without the hyphens).
From this, we learn that:- Even the Lords love playing “EYE’s boys”
- Lord Shiva owns the copyright for the most oft-repeated dialog in Tamil mythological movies
Part 3 here