Bhoo Varaha Swamy Temple




Bhu Varaha Swamy temple is a Hindu temple, located at Srimushnam, in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is dedicated to Varaha (Bhu Varaha Swamy), the boar-avatar of the god Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi as Ambujavalli Thayar.

The temple had contributions from Medieval Cholas of the 10th century with later expansions by Thanjavur Nayak king Achuthappa Nayak. A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all the shrines and the temple tanks. There is a seven-tiered rajagopuram, the temple’s gateway tower.

Six daily rituals and three yearly festivals are held at the temple, of which the Chariot festival, celebrated during the Tamil month of Vaikasi (April–May), being the most prominent. The festival also symbolises Hindu-Muslim unity in the region – the flag of the chariot is provided by Muslims; they take offerings from the temple and present to Allah in the mosques. The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.
The temple is associated with Varaha, the boar avatar of Vishnu. The demon king Hiranyaksha stole the earth and took it to his realm of the netherworld. The earth-goddess Bhudevi prayed to Vishnu to rescue her. Pleased, Vishnu appeared here in the form of Varaha, a boar, killed the demon. The sweat of the demon king dropped here, creating the temple tank. In his dying wish, the demon king asked Vishnu to turn towards his direction; Vishnu obliged. The central icon faces towards the demon in the South, while his human body faces the devotees in the West. The festival icon, Yagya Varahaswamy, as requested by Bhudevi displays the regular features of Vishnu with his conch and Chakra in his hands.
The existence of Bhuvaraha Swamy temple during the medieval Chola period is seen from the inscriptions from 11th century. The temple was expanded by Thanjavur Nayak king Achuthappa Nayak (1560 – 1614 AD). The life size image of the king and his brothers are found in the sixteen pillared hall of the temple. An epigraph dated 1068 in the nearby Shiva temples indicates gifts by Virarajendra Chola (1063–1070 AD) to the Varaha shrine. Another inscription dated at 1100 by Kulothunga Chola I (1070–1120) indicates a gift of a village to the temple, where the presiding deity is referred as Varaha Azhwar. The later inscriptions are from Vijayanagara kings of the 16th century like Virupaksha Raya II (1465-85 AD) dated 1471 AD, Sriranga I (1572–86), Venkata II (1586 – 1614) indicating various gifts to the temple. The most notable contributions of the temple were from Achuthappa Nayak (1560 – 1614 AD) who built the sixteen pillared Purushasuktha Mandapa along with other smaller shrines of the temple.
There are two gopurams (temple-towers at the entrance) in the temple and two precincts enclosed within large granite walls; the western tower is seven-tiered and is the commonly used entrance. The five-tiered one on the eastern side is opened only during Vaikunta Ekadasi. There is a small image of Srinavasa Perumal (Vishnu) on the upper portion of the inner side of the tower. Outside the temple, there is a 80 ft (24 m) tall monolith pillar with the image of Garuda on its top facing the presiding deity of the temple. The Sthala Vriksha of the temple is Ashvatha tree.

The central shrine houses the presiding deity Varaha (Bhu Varahaswamy). The 2 ft (0.61 m)-Saligrama stone image depicts the boar-faced Varaha standing in a victorious posture with his hands on his waist; the human body faces West, while the head is turned towards the South. The Utsavar (festival icon), Patharaavi, is made of panchaloha (a five-metal alloy) and is accompanied by two consorts as in most Vaishnava temples. The festival icon is housed in the Artha Mandapa, the hall before the sanctum. The temple has two Dvarapala (guarding deities) on both sides of the entrance of the central shrine made of panchaloha, one of which is commissioned during the modern times. The older one on the left side was confiscated during the Mysore war and was having a wooden replica till it was replaced in 2004.

The sixteen pillared hall is called Purushasuktha Mandapa and it is the place where the hymns of Purusha sukta are recited each day during sacred ablution of the presiding deity. The vimana over the sanctum is called Pavana Vimana and is surmounted by a gold-plated Kalasa. The 16 columned pavilion is considered a masterpiece of Nayak art built by Achutappa Nayak. The columns are sculpted with images of musicians, dancers and miniature idols. The ceiling has lotus medallion sculptures and scroll work. The central shrine is topped by a conical roof. The decorated outer walls are atypical of Chola Art. There is a shrine of Garuda and Nammazhwar facing the sanctum away from the sixteen pillared hall. There is a separate shrine for Ambujavalli Thayar, the consort of Bhu Varaha Swamy in the second precinct which also houses the shrines of Andal and Ramanuja. Udayarpalaya Mandapam, as indicated by its name was built during the period of zamindars and it houses the Kannadi Arai (room of glasses). There are other shrines for Venugopala, Vishwaksena, Vedanta Desika, Thirumangai Azhvar, Manavala Mamunigal, Kuzhanthai Amman and Tirukachi Nambi. There is a garden on the northern side of the temple that houses a shrine of Rama. In this temple there is a statue of Hanuman lifting Rama and Lakshmana on his shoulders. The temple is administered by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department of Tamil Nadu government. The religious head, the Pedda Jeeyar of Tirupati is the permanent trustee of the temple.
The temple follows the traditions of the Thenkalai sect of Vaishnavite tradition and follows vaikanasa aagama. The temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. As at other Vishnu temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Vaishnavaite community, a Brahmin sub-caste. The temple rituals are performed six times a day: Ushathkalam at 7 a.m., Kalasanthi at 8:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 12:00 p.m., Sayarakshai at 6:00 p.m., Irandamkalam at 7:00 p.m. and Ardha Jamam at 8:30 p.m. Each ritual has three steps: alangaram (decoration), neivethanam (food offering) and deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for both Sri Bhuvaraha Swamy Perumal and Sri Ambujavalli Thayar. During the last step of worship, nagaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument) are played, religious instructions in the Vedas (sacred text) are recited by priests, and worshippers prostrate themselves in front of the temple mast. There are weekly, monthly and fortnightly rituals performed in the temple.

Some of the festivals of the temple has been practiced during the Nayak times as indicated by the inscriptions on the walls of the first precinct. The inscriptions indicate patronage for the festivals to be conducted during the presence of Sun in 12 zodiac signs during various months of the year. The usage of processional vehicles during this occasion is also prescribed. The temple follows Pancharatra mode of worship. There are two Brahmotsavams celebrated in the temple, one each during the Tamil month of Masi and other during the month of Chittirai (April -May). During the first, the festival deity of Bhu Varaha Swamy is taken for seven days around the villages of Srimushnam. The chariot festival is a symbol of Hindu – Muslim unity in the region, with the flag of the temple chariot offered by the local Muslims. They also accept the offerings from the festival deity and present it to Allah in the mosques. The Muslim devotees thank Allah to have brought Bhu Varaha Swamy to their place. The other festivals are Sri Jayanti Utsavam during Aavani, Navaratri, Vijayadasami, Deepavali and Makara Sankranti.

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