Kovur Sri Sundhareswarar

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By Saravanan Iyer


Kovur is a small town situated about 22 kms from Chennai, on the road going from Porur towards Kunrathur. The temple is located about 200 meters off the main road.Kovur has a massive temple for Lord Shiva built by Kulothunga Chozha, dating back to 7th century. The main deity of this temple is Sri Sundhareswarar (also called Thirumaeneeswarar) and Goddess Sri Soundharaambigai (also called Thiruvudai Naayagi).

According to legend, Goddess Kamakshi was performing thapas on Panchagni (fire) in Maangaadu praying Lord Shiva to marry Her. Her penance was so intense that the whole surroundings became too hot and all living beings suffered because of enormous heat. But Lord Shiva was meditating deeply with His eyes closed. Sages and Devas worshipped Lord Vishnu to save the world from the heat of the penance. Lord Vishnu directed Sri Mahalakshmi to save the world.

Goddess Sri Mahalakshmi came down here to this place in the form of a cow and worshipped Lord Shiva to make Him open the eyes, so that the world is saved. Pleased with Her prayers, Lord Shiva opened His eyes, after which the heat of the place subsided and became cooler. As Sri Mahalakshmi worshipped here in the form of a cow, the place came to be known as Kopuri (In Thamizh, Ko means cow) and later corrupted to become Kovur. At later stages Kulothunga Chozha had built this temple beautifully.

The temple is facing south with a beautiful 7 tiered Rajagopuram. The entire Sannadhi street itself is so beautiful with shady trees and ancient houses. This temple is one among the Navagraha temples of Chennai (or Thondai Mandalam) for Sri Budhan (Mercury). Lord Sri Sundhareswarar and Goddess Sri Soundharaambigai are said to be so beautiful here and hence they are called so. It is said that, by worshipping Sri Sundhareswarar, one will be cured of many ailments. The temple has undergone Kumbhabhishekam (consecration) recently and looks fresh and new.

Other deities present in the temple are Sri Veerabadhrar, Sri Valli Devasena Samedha Sri Subramanyar and Navagrahams. All 63 Naayanmaars are also present in this temple. Saint Thyagaraja has visited this temple on his way to Thirupathi. It is said that Saint Thyagaraja traveled on a palanquin towards Thirupathi and passed through this place. He also visited this temple on his way. A local headman called Sundharesan asked the saint to compose and sing some songs on him. Thyagarajar refused and said that he won’t sing praise of any individual and he will sing praise of God only and left Kovur.

While going from Kovur, his palanquin was obstructed by a group of bandits who threw stones on the palanquin and his servants to stop him from going further. The saint Thyagaraja stopped and got down from the palanquin to explain the bandits that he was not so rich to be robbed and also he was on a pilgrimage to Thirupathi. The bandits came near Thyagaraja and asked him who threw the stones back at them. Thyagaraja told them that there were no other people with them except the carriers of palanquin. But the thieves told that they saw 2 youngsters furiously throwing back the stones on them to save Thyagaraja. Saint Thyagaraja realized that they were none other than Sri Rama and Sri Lakshmana who came to his rescue.

Saint also realized that there is some holy power to this place and again came back to Kovur temple and sung 5 compositions (Keerthanas) called ‘Kovur Pancharathnam’. The local headman was too proud thinking that Saint Thyagaraja sung in praise of him only. But the saint explained him that the 5 compositions were made in praise of the Lord Sri Sundhareswarar and not the individual called Sundhareswaran. The Kovur Pancharatnams are "Ee Vasudha" (Sahaana Raagam), "Kori Sevimpa"(Karaharapriya Raagam), "Sambo Mahadeva" (Pantuvarali Raagam), "Nammi Vachina" (Kalyani Raagam) and "Sundareswaruni" (Sankarabharanam Raagam).

Most of the compositions of Saint Thyagaraja are in praise of Lord Rama only. This is one of the few places where he had composed Keerthanas on other Gods. Sri Sekkizhaar, who was born in the nearby place ‘Kunrathur’, started writing ‘Periya Puranam’ from this temple only. Another rarity of this temple is the Sthala Viruksham called Maha Vilvam tree. The Maha Vilvam of this temple is a very rare one that each stalk of Maha Vilvam has 27 leaves to it. This Maha Vilvam also has many medicinal properties in it.

The Theertham for this temple is called Siva Gangai Theertham. This temple also has a beautiful chariot which requires renovation. Such another marvelous temple, standing tall across centuries is definitely a boon to pilgrims.