Saturday, May 24, 2014

Emerald (Maragatha) Lingams and Idols in Tamil Nadu Temples

Shiva Lingam Sapta Vitanka Shrine: Source: The Hindu
Emeral Natarajar, Uthirakosamangai (near Ramanathapuram) - Wikimapis
Emerald Lingam @ Siddhar Bogar Samadhi, Palani Murugan Temple (Source: Artist Shilpi.Blogspot)
Emerald Lingam @ Thiru Engoimalai Maragathachaleswarar Temple (Source: Temple Dinamalar)
Between fourth and twelfth centuries the huge temple complexes were raised by Chola, Pandiya, Pallava and Vijayanagara kings in South India. The remnants of stone architecture could be dotted all over India.  Each Hindu temple is normally dedicated to the principal deity and there will be sub-ordinate deities associated with the principal deity. The principal Hindu deities mostly represented Hindu temples include Lord Siva, Lord Vishnu, goddess Parvathi (consort of Lord Siva), Lord Vinayaka or Ganesha and Lord Subramanya. Lord Siva is usually represented as Siva Lingam. Siva Lingam is known as an icon of strength and fertility power. Another well known format of Siva is Lord Nataraja (the Lord of Dance). Lord Vishnu icons pose in three different forms – standing, sitting and lying. Most distinct form is Lord Ranganatha reclining on serpent bed. The icon serves as a tangible link between the worshiper and God. The image is often considered a manifestation of God, since God is immanent.

The Indian granite is regarded as the best variety. In exceptional occasions the South Indian sculptors chose emerald as the sculpting material.  Emerald is known as the gemstone from ancient times. The emerald stone traditionally deemed as the antidote of poison, is also associated with Garuda. Emerald is the naturally occurring mineral - silicate of beryllium and aluminum. It is obtained from as the hexagonal and pyramidal crystals. The natural and flawless emerald is regarded as the rare variety. The chromium content of the mineral beryl influences the natural color. The color and brightness determine the quality. Some varieties are in pale green in color or bluish green and some other varieties range from grass green to dark green colors.  The toughness of the stone according to Moh’s scale (hardness) is measured between 7.5 and 8.0 and since it brittle easily, extra care is required while sculpting. Of course you will also get synthetic emerald like stones.

The Religious Agamas (Saiva and Vaishnava), Shilpa Shastras and Hindu iconography speak volumes about this subject. The symbols and forms of Hindu icons show large variations from one period to the other; one region to the other and one sect of followers to the other. The Hindu iconography comprises the elements of Hindu temple architecture and ornamentation. It also provides ‘iconometric measurements’ and guidelines for sculpting the icons Hindu gods and goddesses. The well known Shilpa shastra text is called ‘Shipa Ratnakara.’

Most of the icons are seen mounted on some specific vehicles (vahanam). The hands (four or eight – some times more) bear weapons, flower, book, holy water pot, fire, snake, drum, rosary, conch, wheel etc., The Hindu iconography includes many guidelines and rules for sculpting various forms of Hindu icons.


Sapta (Seven) Vitanka Sthalams

Seven Saiva temples dedicated to Lord Thiyagaraja or Somaskanda (a form of Lord Siva) are located in the vicinity of the temple town Tiruvaroor in Tamil Nadu (Ancient Chola country –Southern banks of the holy river Cauveri). The Chola emperor Musukuntha Chakravarthy said to have obtained seven icons of Lord Thiyagaraja from Lord Indira. The emperor enshrined these seven icons at these seven shrines.All these seven Saiva shrines are referred as  ‘Sapta Vitanka Sthalams (Shrines). The tern ‘vitanka’ suggests that the Maragatha (emerald) Siva Lingam icons are self formed (swayambu) and not chiseled or sculpted. The seven Lord Thiyagaraja shrines are located at:
  1. Lord Thiyaraja temple, Thiruvaroor. Here Thiyagaraja (Gomethaga Lingam enshrined) is called as Veedi Vitankar. The Lord is in a dance pose called ‘Ajapaa Natanam.’ 
  2. Lord Dharbaranyeswarar temple – Thirunallaru, Pondichery Sate (near Nagapattinam). Here Thiyagaraja (maragatha Lingam enshrined) is called as Naga Vitankar. The Lord is in a dance pose called ‘Unmatta Natanam.’ 
  3. Lord Kayarohaneswarar temple – Thirunagaikaronam (Nagapattinam) temple.  Here Thiyagaraja (Maragatha Lingam) is called as Sundara Vitankar. The Lord is in a dance pose called ‘Paraavaara Taranga Natanam.’ 
  4. Lord Kannayira Natheswarar temple – Tirukkaaraayil, Tiruvarur district, Tamil Nadu. Here Thiyagaraja (maragatha Lingam enshrined) is called as Aadi Vitankar. The Lord is in a dance pose called ‘Kukkuta Natanam.’ 
  5. Lord Sundareswarar temple  - Tirukkuvalai, Thiruvaroor district, Tamil Nadu. Here Thiyagaraja (maragatha Lingam enshrined) is called as Avani Vitankar. The Lord is in a dance pose called ‘Bhringa Natanam.’ 
  6. Lord Vaimurnathar  temple - Tiruvaimur (near Tirunellikka) Tiruvaroor district, Tamil Nadu. Here Thiyagaraja (maragatha Lingam enshrined) is called as Neela Vitankar. The Lord is in a dance pose called ‘Kamala Natanam.’ 
  7. Lord Maraikkaadanaar temple, Vedaranyam, Nagapattinam district, Tamil Nadu. Here Thiyagaraja (maragatha Lingam enshrined) is called as Bhuvani Vitankar.  The Lord is in a dance pose called ‘Hamsapaada Natanam.’
The ‘Gomethaga Lingam’ of Lord Thiyaraja temple, Thiruvaroor and the ‘Maragatha Lingam’ of Lord Kayarohaneswarar temple – Thirunagaikaronam (Nagapattinam) temple were stolen during early 1990s. The police case regarding the theft of these two priceless Siva Lingams remains undetected.

The Tamil Nadu CID police of  Economic Offences Wing (EOW) - Idol Wing has recovered the Maragatha Lingam icon - weighing 990 grams - belonging to  Lord Maruntheeswarar temple Thiruthuraipoondi, Thiruvaroor district, Tamil Nadu from the two member gang. The idol was stolen by the team of five gang members from the temple on February 22, 2009 during night time. The police acted up on tip-off and hatched plan to catch the criminals. On October 26, 2009, Monday,  the police team encircled the gang at Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus or CMBT, Koyambedu, Chennai. The antique value of the stolen Maragatha Lingam idol is estimated about Rs. 50 crore. Few days later the stolen Maragatha Lingam was handed over to the temple authorities (HR & CE). The CID police have emphasized the need for tight security to protect the priceless maragatha lingam icons in seven Saptha Vitanka sthalams and 27 upa-vitanka sthalams in Tamil Nadu.

Lord Mangalanaathar temple at Uthirakosamangai (near Ramanathapuram) in Tamil Nadu is another ancient Saivite shrine glorified in Thiruvasagam by Saint Manickavasagar. The temple houses the most precious and rare emerald (maragatha) Natarajar icon. The six feet (1.83 meter) tall and huge sized Lord Nataraja statue has separate shrine at Lord Mangalanathar temple. Normally bronze icon of Lord Nataraja will be enshrined in Saivite temples. You can not find such a huge emerald Nataraja any where in the world. The idol will be covered in sandal paste all through the year. On the eve of Aardhra or Tiruvathirai star (Lord Siva’s birth star) the temple celebrates Arudhra darshanam festival. The sandal paste will be removed on this day. Thousands of people come here to witness the event. Thereafter the icon will be protected with sandal paste.

Tiruvidaichuram Temple
Lord Idaichuranathar temple, Tiruvidaichuram, Sembakkam (Vada Thiruvanaika) (Pancha pootha sthalam) is an ancient Saivite shrine located in the Chingleput, to Tirupporur bus route. The shrine represents water (one of five elements). Similarly Thiruvanaikka temple (near Tiruchirapalli) represents water element. It is one of the 32 Thevaram shrines located in Thondai Nadu region of Tamil Nadu. The self formed principal deity is the Maragatha Lingam.

Thiru-engoi-malai Temple
Lord Thiruvenginadhar Temple at Thiru-engoi-malai is another ancient Saivite hill-shrine located in the Tiruchirapalli – Musiri bus route. It is 40 km away from Tiruchirapalli. The self formed (Swayambu) Principal deity Lord Maragatheswarar(Malaikozhnthar) is an emerald (Maragatha) Lingam. It was reported that the Maragatha Lingam was stolen from the temple.

Panchetti (Panjetty) Temple
Sri Aanandavalli sametha Lord Agastheeswarar temple Panchetti (Panjetty),Chennai, Tamil Nadu is another Saivite temple located in the Chennai – Calcutta National Highways and the shrine is 30 km away from Chennai. Sri Anandhavalli, the consort of Lord Siva, has separate shine in this temple. It is a south facing shrine. The icon of this goddess is made up of emerald (maragatha) stone. 

Palani Temple (Hill Shrine)
Sri Dandayuthapani Swamy temple at Palani is the saivite shrine devoted to Lord Subramanya. The icon of Lord Dandayuthapani Swamy is sculpted out of the material formed after composing nine deadly poisons - Navapashanam” ( a combination of  Gauri Pasanam,  Jathilingam, Kandagam, Mridharsingh, Pooram, Rasam, Silasat, Veeram and Vellai Pasanam). The idol was conceptualized by Saint Bhogar (one of the 18 Siddhars of Tamil tradition) . You may find the shrine of Bhogar at the southern part of the Palani hill shrine. The Maragatha Lingam found at this shrine was believed to be worshiped by Saint Bhogar.

Siruvapuri or Chinnambedu Temple
Sri Unnamalai Amman Sametha Lord Agasteeswarar temple, Siruva puri, Chennai is Saivite shrine devoted Lord Subramanya and is located in the Chennai – Calcutta National Highways and the shrine is 37 km away from Chennai. The icon of Lord Agasteeswarar is the self formed one. The peacock (the vehicle of Lord Subramanya) is carved from emerald (maragatha) stone.

  1. Arulmigu Dhandayudhapani Temple, Palani
  2. Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu Tourism
    Sapta Vitanka. Templenet
  3. Siruvapuri Murugan Temple
  4. Stolen ‘Maragathalingam’ idol recovered from gang The Hindu
  5. Tiruvidaichuram -Idaichuranathar Temple
  6. Thiruvarur. WhatisIndia
  7. Uthirakosamangai Sivankoil, Wikipedia


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