CHENNAI: Ponneri, situated in Thiruvalluvar District, about 35 km north of Chennai, is home to a temple for Siva, worshipped as Agastheeshwarar. The Linga is believed to have been worshipped by Sage Agastya (Kumbhamuni) and therefore this place is called Kumbhamuni Mangalam.
There is a three-storey gopuram at the entrance. The flag-post (dvajastambham), bali-pitham and Nandi mandapam are to the right of the gopuram and directly in front of the main sanctum. The principal shrine, which is of the Chola times, is apsidal in shape, called Gajaprishta in Sanskrit meaning ‘back of an elephant’ as it is curved at the rear.
Goddess Parvati who is worshipped here as Anandavalli Amman is in a separate shrine which is next to the Agashteeshwara sanctum. A narrow circumambulatory passage (prakaram) goes around both these sanctums where there are a number of smaller shrines for various deities like Ganesha, Subramanya, Bhairava, Angaraka (Mars), and the rarely seen Virabhadara Svami. There is a large
16-pillar mandapa right outside the temple.
A festival called ‘Harihara Sandhippu Utsavam’ is conducted in the Tamil month of Chittirai (April-May) when god Agashteeshwarar proceeds to the main market-place. God Kari Krishna Perumal from the Vishnu temple in Ponneri also comes there on Garuda. Vishnu and Siva exchange garlands in the market which is aptly called Harihara Bazzar.
A 9th century Chola epigraph, discovered at the entrance to the shrine of Agastheeshwara mentions a donation made for appointing a scholar who could teach one Veda and ancillary subjects.