The palace of Dwaraka constantly rang out loud with laughter and gentle talks, with Vedas and chants, with shouts of ecstasy and cries of joy. Soon it was joined by the cries of babies, of sons and daughters born to Krishna’s various queens. The city of Dwaraka on the whole celebrated the birth of the princes and princesses on a grand scale. The proud queens were paraded on the street with their babies cuddled close to their bosom. Happiness spread in waves every time a child was born in the palace and left everyone in a state of pleasure. Except for Jambhavathi, Krishna’s young queen, for whom the birth of another child brought pangs of pain in her heart.
Jambhavathi was the daughter of Jambhavan, the heroic bear leader of the battle of Lanka in the Ramayana. He had been forced by fate to fight against his own master when Krishna came in search of the famed Syamantaka jewel which Jambhavan had in his possession. It was only when Krishna revealed his true form that Jambhavan saw Shri Raama himself in Krishna. Begging for apology, Jambhavan gave the jewel to Krishna and along with the jewel he also gave Jambhavathi, his beautiful daughter, in marriage to Krishna.
Jambhavathi was a model wife and served well as a queen. But alas, she could never become a mother. Years passed and her womb still remained un-blossomed. Every time she heard the about birth of a child within the palace precincts she would weep uncontrollably for days together. “What sin have I done, to remain a woman incapable of bearing a child?” she would whimper to Krishna.
The lord stared helplessly at the suffering of his queen. He could not figure out what was causing the problem. He sought the help of Upamanyu Maharishi, a seer par excellence. “Thava Sreshta” said Krishna, “Why is Jambhavathi not able to bear a child? Is it her Karma to remain childless all her life? Is there any way that she could bear me a child? I cannot bear to look at her sufferings. Please show me a way out.”
Upamanyu smiled at Krishna, “You, who are the Omniscient approach me for a solution. You also know what I will say and what is to be done. I am a mere puppet in your hands and you make me speak back to you, the supreme. Can I refuse?”
“Jambhavathi is fertile. Yes. But what she needs is help from the heavens above. Take her to the South of Bharatha Kanda to Mayooragiri. There she will be blessed with the fortune to become a mother.”
“Maharishi”, begged Jambhavathi, “What is Mayooragiri? Who lives there? How did it come into existence? Wouldn’t it be more rewarding if we hear about the place from your own tongue?”
Upamanyu smiled again at Krishna, “Eons ago in Kailasha, Shiva split his power, his shakthi, into two. He called forth Skanda, his second son, and gave him one part of the shakthi. Skanda was very pleased by this act of his father. ‘Father, what do I do with this shakthi?’ he asked.”
“’Karthikeya, accept this shakthi and take over the left portion of Kailasha. Make a temple for yourself there and from the temple carry out the five cosmic duties.’ Shiva also gave him a beautiful peacock, Indraneelaratha, as a gift and asked Skanda to use it as his mount.”
“Extremely overjoyed with the command of Parameshwara, Skanda did exactly what his father told him. The temple on the left of Kailasha became Skanda’s abode.”
“One day Brahma came along to pay Skanda a long-pending visit. On reaching the temple entrance he looked at the peacock that strutted around the gardens with pride. His eyes were full of pity. Calling to the peacock he said, ‘Oh peacock, the mount of Guha, be warned. Sooran along with his brothers, Thaarakan, Singhan and Padman are at present performing severe penance in Kanchi to be granted the great fortune of being the mount of Skanda. If you are not careful, your days as his mount are counted.’”
“The peacock was very upset on hearing this. It knew no peace and walked around the gardens in a haze. The spring in its walk had disappeared. Immediately after Brahma left the peacock approached Skanda and expressed its fear. ‘Skanda, my lord, please do not neglect me. I cannot bear it if you shun away from me’, it cried. Skanda took pity on his mount and called upon the four brothers. He blessed them and made them his Bhoothaganas. The brothers accepted this unexpected fortune, but only grudgingly. The peacock breathed with ease again.”
“Ages passed and one day Vishnu and Brahma came together to meet Skanda and gossip. They left their mounts, Garuda and the swan respectively at the entrance of the temple and went inside.”
“The four Bhoothaganas immediately recognized Brahma as the person who was responsible for depriving them off their possible fortune of being Skanda’s sacred mount. ‘I am sure that is him. He was the one who shattered our dreams. We should teach him a lesson for poking his four noses into our lives’, shouted Sooran, his voice laced with a murderous rage.”
“After scratching their heads over what is to be done, the Ganas approached the peacock. ‘Oh most fortunate peacock, the mount of Kumara, the mounts of Vishnu and Brahma think lowly of you. They insult you saying that you are no match to their flight speed. We felt utmost ashamed and rushed to tell you this.’ they told the peacock slyly.”
“The peacock was livid with anger and in one go it swallowed the swan and Garuda.”
“When Brahma and Vishnu came out, they couldn’t find their mounts, search as much as they could. They went back to inquire about this strange disappearance to Skanda. The all knowing Kumara came out of the temple, fuming with rage and ordered the peacock to spit back Garuda and the swan. The peacock meekly regurgitated the mounts.”
“Skanda was extremely angered by the behavior of his mount and in his mounting rage he cursed the peacock, ‘May you become a mountain and remain so.’ He also cursed the Ganas to become asuras and remain thus until he himself freed them from their curse.”
“Accordingly, the peacock flew southwards and turned into a mountain. However, it still faced Kailasha, with its face looking north and its tail spreading south and began its penance to get relieved from the curse. The mountain came to be known as Mayooragiri (Mayoora- Peacock, Giri-hill). The Ganas too were born as Asuras who won many boons from Shiva and tortured the devas to no end.”
“As per his word, Skanda incarnated as Shanmuga (The Six Faced Lord) and killed the asuras liberating them from their curse. Then he proceeded to Mayooragiri and gave Vimochanam to the peacock too. Extremely pleased with its liberation, the peacock asked Skanda to grant a boon. ‘The Mountain that I was should remain as it is and you too should continue to remain here with your six faces and bless every human who comes here in need of any help.’ Skanda happily granted the boon and continued to reside on the peacock hill” ended Upamanyu. “It is here that I ask you to go Devi, for Shanmuga leaves no wish ungranted.”
Jambhavathi was extremely pleased to hear the purana and immediately started to Mayooragiri. After several days of worship and service at the temple, she too was blessed with a child. Krishna named him Sambha.
This temple at Mayooragiri is what is today known as Kundrakkudi Shanmuganathan temple. Located close to Kaaraikudi, the temple is an important place of pilgrimage for the people of the Chettiar community. The temple dedicated to Shanmughar is situated on the summit of a 200 ft high hill. At the bottom of the hill are three rock cut cave shrines dedicated to Shiva. They are located at the west face of the hill. The idol of Thennatru Naathar and Azhagammai were worshipped by Agastyar, the dwarf sage, and are believed to be swayambu moorthis. These shrines are rich with sculptural details and architectural wonders, containing a plethora of statues of various gods and goddesses in unique postures.
At the foothills there are two temples, the Thogaiyadi Vinayagar temple and the Dhandapani temple. Since the entrance to the hill temple, which is located at the foothills, appears like the trailing feathers of a peacock, the Ganesha temple located there is known as the Thogaiyadi Vinayagar kovil (Thogai –Peacock feather). The Dhandapani temple belongs to the Nagarathar division of the Chettiars. Surprisingly, the idol here is placed on a bar and is not fixed. Every year during the Thaipoosam festival, this idol is taken to Pazhani on foot.
While climbing 149 steps leading to the hill top temple, we come across the Karthigai Pillayar shrine and the Idumban shrine. Idumban was the first person who carried a Kaavadi in the form of two hills slung across his shoulders. Since he was cured of a severe stomach ache at Kundrakkudi, he continues to serve the lord here. Finally after passing the shrines of Veerabahu (Skanda’s assistant) the Raja Gopuram comes into view.
The utsavar, Arumuga Nayinar, gives darshan in a beautiful mandapa embellished in marble. In the sanctum Skanda is found as Shanmuga, the six faced vanquisher of Soorapadman, seated on a peacock, with the Vel in his hands. On either side are his wives Valli and Devayani, each seated on individual smaller peacocks, lighting up the sanctum with their smiles. This is a rare sight indeed, for no where else do Valli and Devayani sit on individual peacocks.
The temple has provided shelter for many and granted the wishes of people who come there seeking help. Among many other notable stories, it is believed that it was here that Brahma regained his lost sheen for having lied to Shiva. When Shiva stood as a column of fire and asked Brahma and Vishnu to find his head and foot respectively, Vishnu accepted defeat after much searching. However Brahma lied that he had sighted his head. Shiva, extremely irritated, cursed him for his lie and Brahma obtained liberation from the curse at the foot hills of Kundrakkudi.
It was here that Surya came running in his time of distress. When Ushadevi, the wife of Surya, ran away from the skies not being able to bear the heat of her husband, Surya was greatly saddened. As he went from place to place in search of his beloved, it was at Kundrakkudi that he lost a part of his shine and thus convinced Usha to come back with him.
The temple was held in great respect by the warrior clan of the Maruthupandiyars. While riding into Kaaraikkudi or while riding out, the Maruthupandiyars used to walk on foot, pulling their horses along, while the gopuram of the temple remained in their sight. Such was their devotion.
Sanctified by such tales and glorified by the songs of Arunagirinathar and Pamban Swamigal, Kundrakkudi promises to be a place worth seeing on any pilgrimage trip in the south. The birth place of the Violin Vidhwan Kunnakkudi Vaidhyanathan and richly endowed with the unique cultural heritage of the Chettiars, Kundrakkudi is easily reached from Kaaraikkudi and Pillayarpatti. The beautiful peacock hill!!!
“It is here that I ask you to go, for Shanmuga leaves no wish ungranted.”