I have been visiting the Swamimalai temple for the past 45 years. This temple is the fourth of the six aaru padai veedu (sacred shrines) of Lord Muruga. I have seen it grow by leaps and bounds as the years roll by. The temple is located about 7 km from the centre of the nearby town Kumbakonam. It is located near the banks of the river Cauvery. It is now accessible within 30 minutes with different types of transport—car, taxi, autorickshaw and train (Swamimalai railway station on the Kumbakonam to Tiruchirapalli line, but not all trains stop here). In earlier days we had to travel in a bullock-cart. The temple is located on an artificial hillock as all temples of Lord Muruga are always on a hill. The temple gets its importance as it was here that Lord Swaminatha after imprisoning Lord Brahma (who could not give the meaning of OM) taught his father Lord Shiva the meaning. The temple has three floors, the lower one, the middle one and the top most one having the sanctum sanctorum. These can be reached by a very steep staircase. The temple administration is in the process of putting up a lift to help the elderly to reach the top. In the top-most floor comprising the sanctum-sanctorum, one worships Lord Ganesha first, and goes into the sanctum sanctorum. There are two queues—general darshan and the other by payment. A person who is doing Abhishekam is taken into the inner sanctum sanctorum free without any tickets. The Abhishekam takes about an hour. All hyms are sung, and different offering given to the Lord. The aarti with multiple types is awe-inspiring. The prasadam that is given to the devotee who performed the Abhishekam comprises of different types of offerings that were blessed by Lord Muruga such as sweet rice (sakarapongal), rose water, milk, sandalwood paste, kumkum, vibhuti, and flowers. After the completion, one goes around the Lord in the outer corridor. The pandits do not demand money and go about their work with devotion. All tickets need to be purchased at the temple office counter and do not get into the sweet talk of a few touts around. The middle segment is a walk around the temple. People who do ‘kavadi,’ for fulfillment of their wishes go round in prayer. The ground floor comprises of the temples of Lord Shiva known here as Lord Sundareswarar and Goddess Meenakshi. The navagraha temple is located behind these temples-going around this nine times completes the visit to the temple. There are different festivals at the temple that draw a huge crowd. On auspicious occasions, devotees on payment can draw the temple chariot with the Lord placed in it. The temple has different rooms and cottages where one can stay. Food can either be picked up in the temple kitchen or from restaurants around the temple. The temple opens early in the morning and closes around 1230 h and opens again in the late afternoon till around 2000 h. Offerings and bookings can be done with the temple office directly. The arrangements have always been perfect each time, I did it. Do not deal with anyone who promises anything but go directly to the temple office.
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