ODHIMALAI – A PILGRIMAGE
by Damal Pattangi Rangan
I have been enamoured of visiting temples, especially those situated in hill top. It is not only a journey of devotion to have a darshan of the god or goddess and worship them, but also one of enjoying the bountiful nature while ascending the hill and also having a birds eye view of the plains which stretch below far into the horizon.
I came to know of the Murugan temple at Odhimalai through a blog. The author of the blog hails from Singapore. His description of the temple and the few photos appended whetted my desire to pay my obeisance to this deity lording over all from the heights of the hill. He quoted instances of how devotees who worshipped here got their long standing wishes fulfilled like a child etc. He called the Odhimalai deity a “varaprasadi”. The blog had scant particulars of the location of the hill and how to reach there. On scanning the comments section of the blog, I came across particulars of a gentleman hailing from Erode. I did contact him and he was kind enough to offer his assistance to visit the Murugan temple at this place and gave me the mobile number of the priest of the temple – Shri Ganapathi Sivam (9865970586). I contacted him and obtained all details of the route to the temple. I made two visits to the hill temple. The first visit was on 3rd April 2015 (Panguni Uttiram) with my wife from Erode hiring a car for the day and the second one in January 2016 all alone using public transport only. I wish to share my experience with all Muruga bhaktas and explain how to reach the temple in an easy way. It is in an offbeat location and not well known to the average devotee. It is often confused with the other temple at Oodhimalai. I am a photography buff and have added lot of photos visualizing the ascent from base to the top and the scenery which unfolded at varying heights. I have also written titles for each photo in brevity. Photos will convey a sense of realism and I hope the readers will find it easy to proceed themselves if they desire to do so.
The hill is located in Coimbatore district. It can be easily accessed from Mettupalayam, Coimbatore or Tiruppur. Please see the google map for further details. GPS location for Odhimalai Hill is as follows:
- Latitude - N 11 – 21 – 50 Longitude : E 77 – 05
- Temple elevation : 573 metres or 1879 feet
- Hill steps – A shade over 1800
For those proceeding from Chennai and down south, the best option is to alight at Tiruppur
by rail to save time by night travel. Elders who will be the main travelers can avail of concessional railway fare too. One can hire a car and proceed direct to the base of the hill from here. The journey will be less than 2 hours.
Public buses ply at regular intervals from Tiruppur to Puliambatti
in an hour. Auto rickshaws are available there but would fleece people demanding a hefty amount. Buses proceeding towards Mettupalyam touch Irumbarai
after a journey of about twenty minutes from here and the hill is visible on alighting and the base is just 2 kilometres away. Irumbarai
is a small village and I saw no auto rickshaws or taxis there. It has to be a journey by foot. There is frequent motor traffic and one can expect to be picked up by fellow pilgrims and taken to the base of the hill. The view of the hill with the temple nestled at the top is a glorious sight and the thought of Murugan fills our mind.
Two photos, Irumbarai and Odhimalai hill are appended below :
The temple is seen as a small white dot on top of the hill.
As you reach the base of the hill, the vista of temple on top of hill is captivating. Here are three photos of how the temple looks like as one stands in the bottom.
We are greeted by the sight of a mandapam at the start of the ascent. Muruga Peruman welcomes us all and the panel in the sannadi displays him and his two consorts.
After offering prayers to him before commencement of yatra, we start ascending the steps. The steps are etched from the rock one above the other and proceeds upwards in a continuous chain. Shelters have been built on the hill path for rest and stay in shadow from sun. Originally there were few shelters, hardly 3 in number. Over the years devotees have constructed more shelters. There are 8 shelters up to the mid point. They are displayed below.
After crossing the 8th
shelter we will now be approaching the mid point of the ascent. There is a small mandapam housing vinayagar idol.
A devotee was carrying a kavadi and ascending the steps.
Mandapam and the vinayagar statue positioned therein is depicted below:
The path to the temple takes a sharp left turn and is almost at right angles to the steps we were climbing so far. The ascent is now quite steep and the struggle will continue for rest of the trip to reach the temple.
The vista widens and we can a enchanting view of the plains below as we start our steep ascent. It is a sort of balm for our tired muscles. The 9th shelter will loom before us.
We have to cross the 10th and 11th shelters before the end of the journey is in sight.
We will now be approaching the main gateway to the temple. It presents a façade similar to the mandapam we crossed. The resident of all hill complexes, simians greet us.
I now saw a new spectacle of our Lord Murugan. He presented himself in an unique way. He had 5 heads and 8 hands only. I have not seen him in such form in the other Murugan temples I was lucky to visit and offer my prayers. As per legend the great saint Bhogar, who created the Pazhani moolavar statue, was on a visit here. To spare the devotee the trouble of climbing up the hill, he himself came down with one hand and four hands to give him darshan and did not go back. He left behind himself with 5 heads and 8 hands. There is a Bhogar Kundam here, but I could not visit it. Other devotees who may come here in future could look for it.
We enter the gate and the hill temple looms before us. At last our journey has come to a close and we can worship him at leisure. The temple stands majestically atop the hill. When we go around, we are treated to a feast of enthralling scenery all around. We can see the Neelagari mountains shrouded in mist and the Bhavani river and the dam to the south.
The temple has been refurbished and the inner courtyard was well decorated.
On 3rd April 2015, the temple was crowded as it was panguni uttaram day. The utsavar was carried around the temple by devotees. The priest had a hard time conducting the pooja and handing out prasadams. My wife and I had a soul satisfying darshan of Lord Murugan in all his splendour and the image is forever enshrined in my memory.
The priest Ganapathisivamji distributed prasadam to the horde of devotees present. I have also appended a photo of my wife and me.
The splendid views from top of the temple was a sight for sore eyes.
The temple is open only on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays on a regular basis. Darshan can also be had on Amavasya days. In addition it will be kept open during Sasti, Thai Pusam, Panguni Uttaram. Tuedays are best for a relaxed darshan with lesser devotees. It is better to have a talk with the temple priest well in advance before planning a trip. In January 2016, there was no crowd at all and I had wonderful darshan in all his splendid solitude.
I will round off my write up with a few images taken during descent.
One devotee had placed mud lamp with wicks on all the steps and lighted the same as can be seen above.
I would urge all to visit this varaprasadi Murugan in Odhimalai and have a great darshan. You will never tire of it. He is a great attraction for all people living around the hill and their devotion is superb. I observed a lady carrying a kudam of milk on her head. She just balanced it on her head and was proceeding upwards.
I had visited Murugan temples in Malaysia, Singapore and Sydney to name a few and think of writing about them accompanied by photos.
I am presenting this brief write-up before the great fraternity of Murugan devotees and please pardon me for any deficiencies.
Damal Pattangi Rangan