Srivanchiyam – Vanchinathar Temple – A Temple for Yama !!

Srivanchiyam temple is located in a place called Srivanchiyam that is 35 Kms from Kumbakonam. This is the 70th Paadal Petra Sthalam located in the South of Cauvery. The main deity of this temple is Lord Shiva and He graces His devotees as Suyambu Lingam by the name Lord Vanchinathar and the Goddess is known as Mangalanayaki. This temple is estimated to be 1100yrs old and is built by Rajendra Cholan during 850 AD.

This temple is one among the six temples located on the banks of Cauvery that are equivalent to Kasi Temple. (The other five temples are Thiruvaiyar, Thiruvidaimarudur, Mayiladudurai, Thiruvengadu, and Sayavanam). It is said that the visit to these temples would resolve all the sins of a person and his ancestors. This Sthalam is considered as one of the Pitru Kadan Nivarthi Sthala and so it is auspicious to perform Tharpanam (a ritual to pay tribute to ancestors) on a New Moon day (Amavasya). Yet another prominent feature of this temple is that Yama, the God of Death is having a separate shrine for Him and is given preference in the daily worship.

As per the Sthala Purana, once Yama, God of Death, was worried that he was assigned the job of taking the life of people. He thought that he was gaining their hatred and harsh criticism and he was suffering the Brahmmahati Dosha caused by his duty. Seeing his worries, Lord Brahmma advised him to go to earth in search of a place on the banks of Cauvery where he can see an abundance of Sandal trees. He advised Yama to sit in that place and perform penance towards Lord Shiva. So Yama, as per Lord Brahmma’s advice, found a place called Gandhaaranyam (the fragrant forest) and sat there to do His penance. Being pleased with his penance, Lord Vanchinatheswarar appeared before him on the Bharani Star day during the month of Masi (February-March) and granted Him the wishes. The Lord assured Yama that he will not be blamed or criticized by the people for their death. Lord also emphasized that Yama should make their end/death peaceful. Lord Shiva gave Yama the status of Kshetra Palaka and granted him a separate shrine for him in this temple itself. He also assured that devotees would worship him first and then only offer their prayers to the Lord. After that Yama stayed in this temple as the Vahana (Vehicle) for the Lord.

As per another legend, it is said that the Goddess Ganga once sought a solution from Lord to cleanse Herself since she was left with all the sins of the people who took bath in the river.  Lord directed Her to pray at a place where Yama (God of Death) was blessed by Him. As per the Lord’s advice, Ganga took bath in the temple’s tank to purify herself. Hence the Theertham is called Gupta Ganga Theertham. Moreover, it is still believed that this tank is holier than the river Ganga and a dip in this tank liberates us from all of the sins and there would be no rebirth.

As soon as we enter the temple, the Gupta Ganga tank is seen on the right side and on the left we could see the separate shrine for Lord Yama facing South. As said before, Lord Yama should be worshipped first in the temple (Even before we worship Lord Vinayaka !! ). Special Poojas will be performed to Yama in the name of the people seeking peaceful death as well for the people who seek longevity.

The main God Lord Vanchinathar is the Suyambu Moorthy and He is considered more auspicious than the one in Kashi. The Suyambu Lingam is seen on the Square Aavudaiyar facing West. The Goddess Mangalanayaki graces Her devotees in a standing posture facing South.

Yet another interesting feature of this temple is the Vennai Pillayar or the Butter Ganesha. This Ganesha is seen in one of the pillars in the First Prakaram of the temple. It is said that smearing butter on His bulging stomach relieves all the stomach related ailments.

Other shrines seen in this temple are Lord Vinayaka, Lord Bala Muruga, Yoga Bhairavar (Bhairavar in Yoga Posture without Dog Vahana), Lord Dakshinamoorthy, Lingothbavar, Mahalakshmi, and Mahishasuramardhini. There is no separate shrine for Navagraha in this temple. Separate shrines are found only for Shani and Rahu-Ketu. This temple is also considered as Parihara Sthala for the overcoming the effects of Rahu and Ketu. A unique feature is that both the Rahu and Ketu are sculptured in a single stone. It is said that the milk poured on this statue during abishekam turns Blue.

This Sthalam is considered as the Moksha or Mukti Sthalam as the Lord gives Moksha to all the souls that depart in Srivanchiyam. It is believed that there is no rebirth for the people who die in this Sthalam.  Generally, the temple poojas will not be conducted if there is an unfortunate event or death nearby. But here in Srivanchiyam temple, these events will not have any impact on the daily routine or the pooja of the temple. The temple will not be closed even during the times of Lunar and Solar eclipses. Instead, special Abishekam and Poojas will be conducted to the Lord Vanchinathar and Yama on these days.

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