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The Hill Temple

The temple of Lord Dhandayuthapani on the Sivagiri hill is unique in several respects. Since it is on an elevation of 1500ft above sea level,it is a charming campus from where one can take a look at the Idumban hill, the Kodaikanal hills, the Western Ghats, the greenery of the paddy fields, rivers, tanks, Palani Town and the Colleges. On a lovely, clear and mist-free day, the Kurinji Andavar Temple is visible from here against the bright Sun. In daytime, Palani is HILL BEAUTIFUL; at night, it is HILL RESPLENDENT.Unlike other temples, here the Lord does not take a siesta and the temple-doors are open continuously from twilight to night for nearly 16 hours at a stretch without interval. The presiding deity in any temple is of stone. Here, it is an amalgam comprising Navabashana or nine different kinds of medicinal minerals (some say 'poisons') blended together in certain rare proportions, the resultant substance resembling hard wax. The slim figure has withstood the effect of Abishekams for centuries - about 700 Abishakams are done on a Karthigai day - most miraculously and beyond human explanation. Some knowledgeable persons have felt that it is an under-statement to call the image of Dhandayuthapani as an "amalgam". The nine pashanas (poisons) of Siddha Science are all elements and compounds which evaporate under slight heat and there is no conceivable way in which they could have been-"amalgamated" into a castable metal. Only spectroscopic, radio - graphic and Carbon C 14 tests of the image can throw final light on this.

   Agastya wanted to take two hills - Sivagiri and Sakthigiri to his abode in the South and commissioned his disciple Idumban to carry them. Idumban bore the hills slung across his shoulders, in the form of a Kavadi one on either side. When he was fatigued, he placed the Kavadi near Palani to take rest. At this stage, Subramanya or Muruga had been outwitted in a contest for going round the world. Ganapathi had won the prized fruit (Pomegranate) by simply going round his parents. Long after, this, Subramanya came sweating on his peacock to find that the prize had already been given away. In anger, the frustrated child left the divine parents and came down to Thiru Avinankudi at the Adivaram ( pronounce Adivaaram, It means foot of the Sivagiri Hill ). Siva pacified him by saying that he (Subramanya) himself was the fruit (Pazham) of all wisdom and knowledge; nee - you. Hence the place was called ' Pazham Nee ' or Palani. Later, he withdrew to the hill and settled there in peace and solitude. When Idumban resumed his journey, he could not lift the hill. Muruga had made it impossible for Idumban to make it. In the fierce battle which ensued, Idumban was killed but was later on restored to life. Idumban prayed that (i) Whosoever carried on his shoulders the Kavadi, signifying the two hills and visited the temple on a vow, should be blessed and (ii) He should be given the privilege of standing sentinel at the entrance to the hill. Hence we have the Idumban shrine half-way up the hill where every pilgrim is expected to offer obeisance to Idumban before entering the temple of Dhandayuthapani. Since then, pilgrims to Palani bring their offerings on their shoulders in a Kavadi. The custom has spread from Palani to all Muruga shrines.

The Golden Chariot
   The Lord - the festival deity called Chinnakumarar, a graceful figure in bronze - is placed riding on a golden peacock mount whose feathers are spread out beautifully. The mount is then fixed to the golden car and the car taken round the prakaram on the top of the hill in a ceremonious procession on all Karthigai days and six other festival days in a year. On payment of Rs. 900/- a devotee can have the golden car drawn round the temple on any evening of his choice, along with nadhasvaram, Thiruppugazh music, other temple paraphernalia etc. The illuminated Golden Car is a veritable fairy-land. There is a heavy demand for such service to fulfill vows of thanksgiving for recovery from physical afflication or success in important undertakings. At the conclusion of the procession, the donor is honoured with Parivattam. The procession makes brief stops at each of the nine bali-peetams (altars for religious offerings.)

Raakaalam or the last puja for the day commences at 8 p.m. with abishekam. The deity is dressed in large quantities of sandal paste which remain overnight. Early morning they are removed. Medicinal value accrues to the paste throughout the night and it is utilised to maximum advantage by the devotees. The menu for the last puja is called Thinai, a cereal grain powdered and mixed with kandasari sugar.

Marchto Palli Arai
   The next item in the temple ritual is the ceremonial procession to the Palli Arai. When this is over, the temple staff call it a day!. In the other temples, Palli Arai is the bed room of the Lord i.e. the Chamber of His spouse. Here the Lord is a child with no family tie, His spouse or spouses are nowhere in the hill temple. The Moolavar (immovable deity) stays where he is as his representative. His foot-steps are taken ceremonially. The Oduvar and the Kattiyakkarar recite passages from the Scriptures. Then a silver palanquin is brought to the doors of the sanctum sanctorum and the footsteps placed on it. ( On Fridays, Mondays and Karthigai days, a golden palanquin is put into use; on these days, the procession route includes the outer prakaram too). The edible part of the coconut is mixed with jaggery and cardamom and distributed to the devotees.

   Palani and festivals are synonymous. The most important festival is ' PANGUNI UTHARAM ' in March - April on the day Utharam Star (Nakshatra) is ascendent. This 10-day event at the Thiru Avinankudi temple, at the foot of the hill occurs in the off-season and so agriculturists and other rural folk participate in it and give offerings of paddy to the temple. Some of the monthly Karthigais draw a crowd of one lakh.The Karthigai Deepam and Vaikasi Visakam get two lakhs of persons each. The same may be said of Skanda Sasthi. Three lakhs persons attend the Thai Pusam. Panguni Utharam spectacle has been estimated at five lakhs of simple and unsophisticated people with formidable faith in Lord.

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