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Kumbhabishegam row: How the old Aryan-Dravidian tussle played out in an iconic Tamil Nadu temple

  • Category
    History & Culture
  • Published
    13th Feb, 2020

Tens of thousands of people thronged Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu’s Cauvery delta to witness the kumbhabishegam (consecration) ceremony at the Sri Brahadeeswarar Temple.

Context

Tens of thousands of people thronged Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu’s Cauvery delta to witness the kumbhabishegam (consecration) ceremony at the Sri Brahadeeswarar Temple.

About

  • This enormously significant event was held after 23 years.
  • The judgment delivered the struggle for supremacy between the Sanskrit and Tamil traditions that lies at the heart of several cultural battles in the state — and which also played out in the kumbhabishegam ceremony.

Sri Brahadeeswarar Temple and kumbhabishegam ceremony

  • The consecration ceremony that culminated with the maha poornahuthi or the main puja
  • The Sri Brahadeeswarar Temple (also spelt Brihadisvara, and called Peruvudaiyar Koyil, which translates simply to ‘Big Temple’) is the most famous of the many temples in Thanjavur.
  • The temple, one of the world’s largest and grandest, was built between 1003 AD and 1010 AD by the great Chola emperor Raja Raja I (c. 985-1014 AD).
  • Holy water brought from the yaga salai — the site of the yajna in the temple compound — was poured on the gold-plated kalasam that tops the 216-foot vimanam over the sanctum sanctorum.
  • The other idols at the temple too, were sanctified with holy water from the yaga salai.

About Kumbhabhishekam

  • Kumbha-abhishekam is a purification ceremony to sanctify the temple structures and the Deities.
  • Kumbha (kalasa) is a pot and the abhishekam -generally means ‘bathing’ (Sanskrit root word-Shic- to sprinkle – , abhi -all around-).
  • When the two words are combined, it ‘means ceremonial pouring of sanctified materials.’
  • In temple worship, sixty-four worship procedures are recommended by Agama Sastras.
  • Of these sixty-four, five upacharas (paadyam, gandham, pushpam, dhoopam, deepam) are of paramount importance.
  • These five are then followed by naivedyam, which is distributed to devotees as prasadam.
  • Among the five upachara, paadyam, or offer of water is most important.
  • This is the reason why during the Kumbha-abhishekam, water contained in pots is first sanctified with Vedic prayers (Theertha kalasa Pooja), after which it used for abhishekam for the deities and other structures.

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