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SURUTTUPALLI

Pallikondeswarar

By

TAMARAPU SAMPATH KUMARAN


About the Author:

Mr T Sampath Kumaran is a freelance writer. He regularly contributes articles on


Management, Business, Ancient Temples and Temple Architecture to many
leading Dailies and Magazines. His articles for the young is very popular in “The
Young World section” of THE HINDU.
He was associated in the production of two Documentary films on Nava Tirupathi
Temples, and Tirukkurungudi Temple in Tamilnadu. His books on Hindu Saints,
and Temples of Pilgrimage centers have been well received in the religious circle.
His book “Guide to Chennai” – a comprehensive Guide – is popular amongst
tourists visiting the city.

Acknowledgement: Google for the pictures and several authors for the information
of the temple.
Suruttapalli is near Uthukottai, a town on the border between Tamilnadu and
Andhra pradesh.
Palli Kondeswarar translates to reclining deity. Shiva as Palli Kondeswarar is seen
in the reclining posture on the lap of his consort Parvati (Sarva Mangalambika),
which is typical of Vishnu, as Ranganatha in Srirangam. The temple was built
during the late Vijayanagara period and the deity here is termed as Bhoga sayana
Siva. This icon of Shiva is unusual; as most of the Shiva temples contain
a Lingam, his aniconic symbol.

As per the legend, Once Indra, the King of Gods, while riding on his white
elephant Iravatha came across Sage Durvasa and paid respects to the sage. Pleased
with Indra, Durvasa offered him a special garland. Indra accepted the garland but
without giving much importance he gave it to his elephant, Iravatha. Irritated by
the smell of the flowers in the garland Iravatha threw the garland on the floor and
stamped on it. This act enraged sage Durvasa as he obtained the garland from
“Sridevi” as prasada. Enraged by this Durvasa cursed Indra and all devas to be
bereft of all their strength, energy, and fortune.
Due to this curse, in the battles that followed Devas were defeated by
the Asuras led by Mahabali chakravarthy, who gained control of the universe.
Devas sought help from Lord Vishnu who advised them to take the path of
diplomacy with Asuras and win over the curse by drinking Amruta (nectar). Devas
came to an agreement with asuras to jointly churn the ocean for the nectar of
immortality and to share it among them.
During the Samudra Mathan (churning) of the Ocean of
Milk, Mount Mandaranchal was used as the dasher (churning tool), and Vasuki, the
king of serpents, became the churning rope. The gods held the tail of the snake,
while the demons (Asuras) held its head, and they pulled on it alternately causing
the mountain to rotate, which in turn churned the ocean. However, once the
mountain was placed on the ocean, it began to sink. With request from both Devas
and Asuras, Lord Vishnu coming to their rescue, took the form of a turtle (Kurma
avatara), and supported the mountain on his back.
Poison was the first to come when churning started, and this terrified the Devas
and Asuras because, the poison was so toxic that it might have destroyed all of
creation. On the advice of Vishnu, both Devas and Asuras approached Lord
Siva for help and protection.

Out of compassion for the living beings, Lord Shiva


transformed himself into Vishabhakarana Moorthy and consumed the poison.
Noticing this Goddess Parvati held her hand against Shiva’s neck and stopped the
poison from going any further, resulting the poison to remain in His throat without
affecting His body. Hence Lord Shiva got the name as ‘Neelakanta’ (‘Neela’- blue
with poison and ‘Kanta’- throat) because of the accumulation of the poison in his
throat and Goddess Parvati was called as ‘Amudhambigai’. On their way back to
Kailasa, due to the severity of the poison Lord Shiva started feeling little giddy and
rested on the lap of His wife for a while in the place where the village stands today.
Hence the village got its name as Suruttapalli, Surutta meaning ‘Little dizzy’ and
Palli meaning ‘Resting’
Pradosha Pooja is said to have originated from this temple.

Legends has it that, the Devas and Asuras resumed their


effort to get the nectar from the ocean on the Dhwadashi day (12th moon day). In
their happiness, they forgot to thank Lord Siva who consumed the poison for the
wellbeing of all. Realising their mistake, they started praying Him on the
Trayodasi day (13th moon day). Pleased with their prayers Lord Shiva in a happy
mood, began His celestial dance (Shiva Tandavam) between the horns of Nandi
(the mount of Lord Shiva) where all the Gods, Goddess and sages joined Him.
This moment is celebrated as Pradosham every fortnight. On this occasion Nandi
also gets importance, and is given special abhishekam in milk, sandal water,
fragrant fluids among others. People whisper their wishes into his ears to pass on
to Shiva. It is believed that during Pradosha Punya Kalam, anyone who offers
prayers will attain shanti (peace), sakala sowbhagyam, and will be not have any
obstacles of life. Even Lava and Kusha, who unknowingly fought with their father
Lord Rama, over Aswamedhayana horse, came to this temple along with Sage
Valmiki, to worship Lord Siva and to get rid of their sin.
The Samudra Manthan pastime ended with the rejuvenated Aditya’s defeating the
asuras.

The symbolism can also be explained as under:

The story represents the spiritual endeavor of man for gaining immortality through
concentration of mind, withdrawal of senses, control of desires and practice of
austerities and asceticism. The gods represent the pleasure principle in ourselves.
The demons represent the pain principle. The gods also represent the senses, while
the demons the evil and negative thoughts and impulses. The participation of both
the devas and the demons signify the fact that when one is seeking immortality
through the spiritual practice one must integrate and harmonize both the positive
and negative aspects of one’s personality and put both the energies for the common
goal.

The ocean of milk is the mind or the human consciousness. The mind is always
compared to an ocean (mano sagaram) while the thoughts and emotions to the
waves. The mind as an ocean is in fact a universal symbol, known to other
religions and cultures also.

Mandhara, the mountain stands for concentration. The word “Mandhara” contains
two words “man” (mind) and “dhara” (a single line) which means holding the mind
in one line. This is possible only during mental concentration.

The mountain Mandhara was upheld by Lord Vishnu as a Tortoise (Kurma). The
tortoise here stands for the withdrawal of the senses into one self as one practices
mental concentration and meditation or contemplation. It also suggests that the
mind should rest itself upon or freely surrender itself to the divine will.

The great serpent Vasuki stands for desire. The desire is always compared to a
thousand hooded serpent. The Vasuki used in the churning of the ocean denotes
that the deva’s and the demons held desire (to seek immortality) as a rope and
churned the mind with the help of concentration and withdrawal of the senses. You
can hold desire in your hands and manipulate it only when you have control over
your desires. So, control of desire is suggested through this symbolism.

The Halahala represents suffering and pain we undergo at the beginning


of spiritual sadhana. When the mind is subjected to intense churning by opposing
forces, the first thing that comes out of the process is intense suffering and great
inner turmoil. We are told by many that when an initiate starts his spiritual
sadhana he faces several difficulties. The problems become intensified because of
inner conflicts, where one part yearns to pursue the spiritual path while the other
opposes it. In the initial stages of sadhana a seeker’s mind throws out all kinds of
reactions, negative thoughts, desires and impulses out into open so that he can deal
with them appropriately. These problems are basically physical suffering and
mental suffering without resolving which further progress is not possible. In short,
we can say that Halahala is the instability of the body and the mind that arise as a
counter reaction against one’s spiritual practice.
Lord Shiva represents the ascetic principle. He is the destroyer of illusion, one who
is inertly detached, pure and austere. His role in this story as the consumer of
poison suggests that one can deal with the early problems of spiritual life, such as
the instability of the mind and its restlessness, by cultivating the qualities of Lord
Shiva, namely, courage, initiative, willingness, discipline, simplicity, austerity,
detachment compassion, pure love and asceticism. Alternatively, it also means
gaining control over the mind through breath control. Lord Shiva is controller of
breath. He is prananath, or praneshwar, Lord of the Breath.

Lord Vishnu in the form of Mohini stands for delusion of the mind in the form of
pride. It is the pride of achievement to which the asuras or the demons succumbed
and thus lost their right to enter the world of immortality. Pride and egoism are the
last hurdles one must overcome in spiritual life before experiencing self-
realization.

The temple has an interesting Sthala purana. Sage Valmiki prayed to Rama and the
Lord gave him darsan. After defeating Ravana, Rama before reaching Ayodhya
stayed at this place and prayed to Lord Shiva. The Lingam which Rama prayed is
called Ramalingeswara and the one by Valmiki is called Valmikeswarar

The Ambal shrine is at a slightly elevated level than the


Pallikondeswarar sannadhi to highlight that it was she who saved the Lord.
The uniqueness of the temple is that Surya and Chandra are present on either side
of Goddess Parvati. Many others including Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma, Goddess
Laxmi, Sage Maarkandeyar, Sage Agasthair, Valmiki, Indran, Sage Naradhar, Lord
Subramaniya with His consort and Lord Ganapati are also present in the temple. It
appears as if the whole Kailasham (Lord Shiva’s aboard) assembled here to know
the well-being of Lord Shiva after He consumed poison to save the universe.
In this temple Dakshinamurthy is seen holding
Gowri on his lap on the left side, known as Dampadya Dakshinamurthy.