Swamimalai
 

Swamimalai:

It is situated about Eight kilometers(5 miles) west of Kumbakonam on the banks of a tributary of river Cauvery. It is well connected to and surrounded by important places like Mayiladuthurai, Papanasam, Tanjore and Kumbakonam.

Swamimalai, is fourth among the Six Sacred Shrines devoted to Lord Muruga. Here is the place where Lord Muruga, the Legend propounded the meaning of “Om”, the Sacred Pranava Mantra to His Father Lord Shiva, and thus assumed the title Swaminatha(“Lord of Lords”).

Vimanams of Swamimalai
Lord Muruga expounding the meaning
of 'OM' to Lord Shiva

Once when Brahma, the Lord of all creations was proceeding to Kailasa, the ever-playful child Lord Muruga asked him for the meaning of the Pranava OM. When Brahma admitted his ignorance, the Lord imprisoned him. With Brahma imprisoned, all creations came to a standstill and Devas prayed to Lord Siva to get Brahma released.

When Muruga insisted that the imprisonment was a just punishment for the ignorance of Brahma, Lord Siva asked him whether he himself knew the meaning of the primordial Pranava OM. Lord Muruga said that he knew the meaning of OM and can expound it to the end only if he can accept him as guru and listen to the exposition as a devoted disciple. As Lord Siva agreed to the request of Lord Muruga and heard the exposition of OM as a disciple, thus this place is known as Swamimalai and the presiding deity as Swaminathan.

The temple, situated on a hill, has an impressive statue of Murugan in the sanctum. He has an elephant as his vehicle instead of the typical peacock.

This small village is also an important centre for Bronze casting, where artisans still use traditional methods to create beautiful images for temples.

Guidelines for fashioning Bronze Idols:

The Thanjavur region’s wealth of artistic traditions includes the creation of exquisite bronze images through the process known as Cire Perdue or the “Lost Wax” technique. A model of the image is first made in wax and then coated with layers of clay to create a mould, which is heated to allow the melting wax to flow out through a hole at the base. A molten alloy of five metals (Pancha Loha) is poured into the hollow. When it cools the mould is broken and image is finished and polished. Finally the image’s eyes are sealed with a mixture of Honey and Ghee, and then ritually “opened” by a priest, using a golden needle.

Even today, traditional artisans, known as Sthapathis, create these images according to a fixed set of rules and guidelines laid down in the Shilpa Shastra, an ancient treatise on art. The main centre for bronze casting in Tamil Nadu is Swamimalai.