I was on a tour to south about thirty years ago and during that time I visited the Kovil Venni and had dharshan of Sri Vennikarumbiswarar and Soundaryanayagi. After that I wanted to visit Needamangalam, Tiruvarur district of Tamilnadu. At the bus stop, while having a chat with a person waiting for the bus, I was told that there is an ancient temple for Sri Anjaneya in the village Chettichatram which is about five kilo meters from that place. I decided to visit the ancient Sri Anjaneya temple. As told by that person, I crossed the Nagapattanam main road and started moving in the road perpendicular to the main road. A cyclist gave me a lift for some distance. He left me at Munnavalkottai and told me to go in the same route for some more distance and enquire about the Hanuman temple which is near Kollanpatti and told me that the temple will come on the right side.
Thanking him I started walking and in a short while I reached the temple which was located adjacent to a huge lake. The sight of the temple was mesmerizing from this distance with the huge lake full of lotus flowers as its background. The temple’s beautiful vimanam was extremely attractive from a great distance. The temple was extremely simple in its design and outlook. It had a Gharbhagraha which houses the main deity and a small hall in front sanctum sanctorum. The hall is covered by a huge grill door, which enables the devotees to have dharshan of the Lord even when the temple is closed.
I could not see much of the temple except for having dharshan of Sri Anjaneya through the closed grill door. The Lord was gigantic in size and was extremely pleasant to look at. Although the murtham is made of stone, it was shining as if it was made of a copper metal. It was a rare sight to look at this huge murtham with copper metallic finish.
I recited few prayers and made a sketch of Sri Anjaneya. I enquired from people nearby about the temple. They were unaware of the history of the temple and they told me that the priest Sri Raoji who stays in Needamangalam may be able to tell details about the temple. Raoji from Needamangalam is the person who is performing puja in this temple. I enquired about Kollanpatti, for which they said that the place opposite to the temple is known as Kollanpatti locally, but the village name is Chettichatram. The temple is known as Chettichatram Hanuman koil.
About five years later a friend of mine went to Thanjavur from Delhi with the digital camera he had bought from Germany. Digital cameras were not introduced in India at that time. I requested him to visit Chettichatram Hanuman temple and enquire about the legend of the temple and requested him to take some pictures of the temple. During his visit also the temple was closed and he could not muster any details about the legend of the temple from the people of the village. But he took some pictures of the temple.
My efforts to find details about the temple through the friends in Thanjavur had not yielded any result. It is worth mentioning that such a huge idol of Sri Anjaneya is not easy to find in the surroundings of Thanjavur. Of course, there is one such big idol of Hanuman known as “chudamani Anjaneya” in Thanjavur itself. Apart from these two, I am not aware of any gigantic idol nearby. While “Chudamani Anjaneya” is one of the many Anjaneya temples within Thanjavur, this temple is in a remote place and there is no other Hanuman temple nearby. It is left to our imagination as to how this temple had comeup in this present remote village.
First thing that came to my mind was the place opposite to this temple is called “kollanpatti” meaning of which is – the dwelling place of black smiths. It is possible that there was a workshop or manufacturing facility for armament here. Secondly the road on which the temple is located leads to Rayapuram. The name “Rayapuram” is normally given a village that has relation with Rayars ie. Kings representing Vijayanagar and in this case name might have been given during Thanjavur Nayaks period. Thirdly there is a village named “Ayyanpettai” nearby at a walkable distance. The name “Ayyanpettai” shows the connection of Sri Govinda Dikshitar the learned scholor, advisor and minister of Thanjavur Nayaks to this place. Forthly the idol of Sri Hanuman sculpted as a full murtham, unlike Marata period murthams which are of ‘ardha shila’ in nature. Lastly the ‘chatram’ found in the name of the village “Chettichatram”. Chatram means travellers rest house. It is possible that this present village comes in the path taken by pilgrims of those days and a wayside rest house had been provided for these pilgrims. It may also be noted that all the wayside rest houses had a temple and a tank attached as in this case. All these put togather it prompts me to think that this place must have been busy with activity during the Thanjavur Nayaks period.
Although the idol looks like an embossed statue [ardhashila], the back of the statue is sculpted with all the features of a complete statue. Sri Jayaveera Anjaneyaswamy is facing south and is seen walking eastward. Both His lotus feet are firm on the ground. Nupur, anklet known as thandai both adds beauty to the lotus feet. The calf muscle, knee and thigh are strong and well built. He is wearing dothi in kacham style and one head of the dothi falling between legs with grace. The decorative hip belt is holding a small knife known as bichuwa. Broad chest and narrow stomach show the great physical power of the Lord. Yagnopaveetham is seen across His broad chest and also three rosary malas with beads. His left hand placed on the left thigh is holding the stem of sowgandhika flower. The flower is seen rising above the left shoulder. His right hand is raised above the head showing abhaya mudra. In His both the hands He is wearing wrist band known as ‘kankan’, in the upper arm keyur. The shoulders are ornamented with ‘buja valayam’. His cheeks are glowing and plumpy enhancing the beauty. Ears are big and the earring known as kundal is seen touching his chest. His kesam is neatly combed and tied in a knot. The kesam is held by a head band known as ‘kesa bhandha’ which is diamond studded seen as a crown. The eyes of the Lord are live with karuna pouring out in a mellow stream. One look at these eyes the devotee is sure to rivet his look, thought, attention on Lord.
The gigantic shantha swarupi prabhu is sure to captivate the devotee’s attention. His devotees are sure to forget the worries they feel once the santham engulfs them.
Ed: March 2021
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SRI HANUMAN THINKS DIFFERENTLY, THINKS FAST, THINKS AHEAD AND ACTS FOR SURE.
Our salutations to this Hanuman who always brings subham - everything that is good - for His devotees and eliminates the bad and the evil. He removes even the traces of bad thoughts and deeds from His devotees. i.e He makes them pure in words, thought and deed.