Worship of Lord Brahma, Part 79


Goddess Saraswati, Kuthanoor Temple

Oct 26, CANADA (SUN) — A serial exploration of places of Lord Brahma's worship.

Saraswati and Lord Brahma at Kuthanoor

It should come as no surprise that we find many reports that Saraswati temples in India are rare, and "there is only one", or two. It's true, there are even fewer Saraswati temples than there are Brahma temples, but we do find them at Basara, Shringeri, Pushkar, Panachikkad, Pehowa, Ubud-puri, Bhadrakali, Gairidhara, Kuthanoor, Nellaiappar, at Surabaya Java, and in Nepal. As the Goddess of Speech, Saraswati resides on the tongue of Lord Brahma, and that is her most sacred temple.

Saraswati Temple at Kuthanoor, also known as the Maha Saraswathi Ambal temple, is located on the Mayiladuthurai-Tiruvarur rail route, 1.5 km. from the village of Poonthottam in Tamil Nadu.

Kuthanoor Temple gopuram

Kuthanoor (Koothanur) is associated with the mingling of three sacred rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, who are said to converge here as the Harisol River, also called the Arasalaru. It is believed that one gets liberation from previous births by taking bath here in the Triveni Sangam. The temple is also known as Dakshina Triveni, and is considered a Gnanapeetam, or shrine of wisdom due to Saraswati's presence.

This site is also associated with the pastime of Saraswati, having a disagreement with Lord Brahma. After the argument, and after worshipping Brahma and Shiva, she was allowed to mingle with the Harisol River here, and have a shrine on the river bank. Lord Brahma, who had already been cursed to have his worship restricted to Pushkar, was deprived of having a shrine here. After further prayers to Shiva, however, it was allowed that puja for Lord Brahma be done here, in association with sacrifices made for the departed souls, an activity conducted in Shiva's realm.

Saraswati Devi, gopuram sculpture

Kuthanoor is also well known for its association with Ottakoothar, the famed Tamil poet. The origin of the word 'Koothanur' refers to a village gifted by Raja Raja Chola II to the singer Ottakkootthan. There are several stone inscriptions which validate the temple's antiquity. It is believed that Ottakoothar erected the shrine very early in the 2nd Millennium. He is also said to have observed Vijaya Dasami here, the day following the 9-day Navaratri festival in the Tamil month of Purattasi.

The presiding deity, Saraswati Devi is here with her vahana swan. Just as the swan separates milk from water, so the Goddess Saraswati sees only the good in her devotees, and blesses them. The Devi Mahatmiyam praises Her as follows:

    "Clad in a white garment, seated in Padmasana in a white lotus, holding a book in the left hand, a veena in the right hand, with eyes expressing compassion and the third eye revealing knowledge, along with the lips rendering a warm smile."

Saraswati, who is also known as Kalaimagal, is seated on a white lotus in Padmasana, facing east. She is dressed in a pure white silk saree. In her upper hands she holds the Akshara Mala and the Book of Knowledge (palm leaves), in her lower left hand the Amrutha Kalasha, her lower right hand in Chinmudra. She holds her Veena, Kachapi, across her lap. Her eyes are full of compassion, her third eye, Jatamudi, symbolizing Gnanasakshas. Her deity form is five feet tall.

Temple entrance

On entering the temple, which is relatively small with a three-tiered gopuram, devotees come to the Bali Peetam, followed by the Mukha mandapam. Next is the Artha mandapam housing Lord Brahma, Brahmapureeswarar, Vallabha Ganapathi (Valampuri Vinayakar), and Bala Dandayuthapani. Other subsidiary deities include, Nagaraja, Murugan, and Narthana Vinayakar, who is a self-manifesting deity.

Purushotham Bharathi is said to have worshipped here, and the Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt is beneficent to the temple authorities.

Vendors selling notebooks, offering bhoga

On full moon nights, children come here in droves with their parents, who have written the word “Om” on their tongues with a stick, dipped in honey. It is believed that these children will get the blessings of Saraswati Devi, and will blossom into fine orators, poets and musicians. Devotees also come here to pray for the success of their children’s education, placing notebooks, pencils and pens at Devi's feet, for blessings. It is also believed that the Goddess rectifies speech defects.

Devotees sing the following prayer to Saraswati:

    Saraswathi Namasthubhyam, varade Kama roopini,
    Vidhyarambham karishyami, sidhir bhavathu me sada

    My salutations to Goddess Saraswati,
    Who can take any form,
    Who is the bestower of all boons,
    And I start learning now,
    With the prayer to her,
    To make it very effective.

    Yakundendu Thushara Hara Davalam, Ya shubra vastravrutham,
    Ya veena vara danda manditha kara, Ya shwetha padmasana,
    Ya brahmachyutha Sankara prbhruthibhi Daivai sada poojitha,
    Saa maam pathu saraswathi bhagawathi Nissesha jadyabaha.

    My saluations to Goddess Saraswati,
    Who is while like a Kunda flower,
    Who shines like the full moon,
    Who carries in her hand a Veena and a stick,
    Who is seated on the throne of white Lotus,
    Who is worshipped by the holy trinity,
    With a prayer to drive away all my slothfulness.

Here is a very nice prayer composed in Durga raga, set to Adi tala, which Dr. Vellore A.R. Srinivasan sings in praise of Koothanur Sri Saraswati Devi:

Temple Events

The temple is filled with devotees during Saraswathi Pooja and Vijayadashami. A regular program of morning and evening worship is also held. Navaratri festival is celebrated each year. On full moon days, Moola nakshatra days (Goddess Saraswati's star) and Wednesdays, special puja and abhishekam are offered. Saraswati is offered coconuts, flowers, bananas, betel leaves and nuts, white saris and lotus flowers.

Recently, thousands of devotees came to witness the Maha-kumbabishekam of this temple, which has been conducted here in 1941, 1968, 1987 and 2003.

Kuthanoor Temple


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