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This temple is one among the 276 Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams, and the 4th Shiva Sthalam in Kongu Nadu. The presiding deity is Swayambhumoorthy (self-manifested) and is made of Nava Pashanam. This temple is at the top of a hill. It is located at a height of about 1900 feet and to reach the top, one has to climb 1200 steps. Those who cannot climb the steps can reach by using the motorable road, as vehicles go right up to the temple entrance. The shrine of the Moolavar or presiding deity faces west. The deity was supposedly worshipped by Lord Vishnu and Adiseshan.
The temple is very ancient, and the wall inscriptions hint that it was probably built around 2000 years ago. The hill on top of which the temple is found is composed mostly of sandstone and has a reddish color. Hence, the place is called Sencode. There is also another probable reason for the name - the hill is a ‘Senguthana malai’ or a hill, which has a straight formation. It has other names too. One is Nagagiri or snake mountain. Nagam means ‘snake’ and giri means ‘hill’. It’s also called Vayumalai or Windy hill, Vayu meaning ‘wind’.
According to mythology, Adiseshan and Vayu had frequent fights as to who was superior among the two. Adiseshan is the huge serpent on which Lord Vishnu rests, and Vayu is the Wind God. During one of their fights, Adiseshan could not hold on to Mount Meru, as Vayu sent a strong wind. As a result, three portions of Meru Malai fell to earth, with Adiseshan’s bloodstain on them. This hill is one among them, and its red color is attributed to Adiseshan’s bloodstain. That is also why it is called Sencode. Interestingly, the hill itself is regarded as the Lingam. The statue of a large Nandi, 7 ft long and 4 ft tall, can be seen on the west side, in front of the hill. The idol of the main deity is 6 ft tall. Its right half is male and the left half, female, hence it is called Ardhanareeswarar – half man, half woman.
The idol’s male part is seen with jadamudi (a knot of tangled hair), Rudraksha mala, Silambu (anklet), and thandam (baton). The female part has a thali around its neck and a kazhal on the leg. Madhorubagan and Ammayappan are two other names for the Lord here. It is believed that in the whole of Asia, only this temple is the main deity represented in this very rare form. There is an emerald lingam called ‘Maragatha lingam’ and a small statue of Sage Bhringi in front of the main deity.
Mythology says that whenever Sage Bhringi visited Mt. Kailas, he used to turn into a small insect and worship Shiva by flying around him, ignoring Shiva’s consort, Ambal or Parvati. An annoyed Ambal cursed the sage, but Lord Shiva tried to calm her down by saying that she was inseparable from him. The legend also explains how Ardhanareeswarar came into being. It represents the union between the masculine and feminine energies in the universe.
There is one more reason for the androgynous form of the Lord here. It is linked to the belief that Ambal worshipped the Maragatha Lingam. Pooja is performed three times daily to the Lingam, and they are supposedly performed by Ambal herself.
It is said that Saint Thirugnanasambandar visited Thiruchengode once and found many people were suffering from ‘Vishakaichal’ or viral fever. This was due to the ‘vishakkatru’ or polluted air. To bring relief to the sick, he sang the ‘Thiruneelakanda Pathigam’.
As the main deity is Ardhanareeswarar, Ambal has no separate shrine here. On the back side of the sanctum sanctorum is the shrine for Senkottu Velavar. A separate shrine can be seen for Vishnu and his consorts, Sreedevi and Bhoodevi. Vishnu is revered here as Adikesava Perumal and the daily poojas are performed by a Bhattachariyar, according to Vaishnava traditions.
Under the Lord’s feet is a small ‘Neer Ootru’ or fresh water spring. It is a perennial spring. Called Devatheertham, it is given to the devotees as prasadam. Lord Murugan worshipped here is called ‘Senkottu Velar’ and his idol is self-manifested. It is made of Vellai pashanam, or white poison.
Legend says that Murugan and his brother, Ganesha, entered into a contest once. The prize was the Gnanapazham or divine fruit. Having lost the contest, Murugan became angry and left Mt. Kailas and his parents. He arrived in south India and reached Thiruvavinankudi. From there, he went to Nagachala Hills (Thiruchengode) and began to reside there and bless devotees.
There is a 60 ft long relief of the serpent Adiseshan inscribed in the hill. This can be seen en route to the temple and is very famous. Those who wish to get relief from the ill effects of Sarpa Dosham, Rahu Dosham, Kalathra Dosham, and Kala Sarpa Dosham, worship this relief. In front of the Senkottu Velavar shrine is a hallway, and here, one can see sculptures of intricate design and beautiful workmanship. The hallway also has beautifully chiseled pillars and sport many rock reliefs. In short, this temple showcases the expertise of ancient Tamilnadu’s craftsmen and artisans.
Ardhanareeswarar is believed to be the Lord of ‘Sadayam’ star, and hence, special poojas are held here on Sadaya Nakshatram days. Popular belief has it that walking around the hill on Pournami (full moon) days gives the benefit of visiting Vaikuntam and Mt.Kailas. Doshas related to snakes are believed to be alleviated by praying to Adiseshan at this temple.
In Purattasi month (September-October), women perform a special pooja called Kedara Gowri Vratham for 21 days. This is done for ensuring the longevity of husbands and conjugal bliss. Vaikasi Vishaka festival is celebrated grandly here. A distinguishing feature of this festival is that there are 4 car chariots. The first is for Lord Vinayakar, the second for Sengottu Velavar, the third for Ardhanareeswarar, and the fourth for Lord Adikesava Perumal.
This temple has been immortalized in the poems of great saints and poets like Ilango Adigal, Arunagirinathar, Kaviraja Pandithar, etc. Thirupugazh on Senkottu Velavar was composed by Arunagirinathar, at this temple.
Thiruchengode is around 20 kms from Erode and 35 kms from Namakkal. Coimbatore and Trichy airports are the nearest, and both are about 130 kms away. Erode railway station is the nearest.
Sri Arthanareeswarar Temple
Phone No:04288 255925, 93642 29181.
6 am to 6 pm
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