Ucchi Pillayar Temple at Rockfort
In the bustling city of Trichy, or Tiruchirappalli as its also called, in Tamil Nadu, there is a 7th-century temple built atop a 273-feet high rock that’s believed to be about a billion years old. There is an old fort built atop the hill too, and the hill derives its name from it – Rockfort. The fort has witnessed many a fierce battle between the various kingdoms that have strived to rule over this region. The Carnatic war was also fought here, laying the foundation for the rule of the British Empire in the country.
The Ucchi Pillayar Rockfort temple is built in the typical Dravidian-style architecture and is dedicated to Lord Ganesha. It has a very interesting legend associated with it. According to mythology, Lord Ganesha ran to this rock after angering King Vibishana, the moralistic younger brother of the Asura King Ravana.
It is believed that the truth-abiding King Vibishana helped Lord Rama in defeating King Ravana and later returned with him to Ayodhya for his coronation. In his appreciation, Lord Rama bestowed an idol of Lord Ranganathaswamy to him, but with the clause that the idol shouldn’t be placed on the ground or it will remain there forever. While returning back south, King Vibishana came across the beautiful Kaveri River and decided to bath there. But he was in a quandary on what to do with the idol as he couldn’t place it on the ground. Upon seeing Lord Vinayaka in the guise of a cowherd boy, he asked the boy to hold onto the idol while he bathed.
Instead, the boy placed the idol on the river bank at Srirangam, as Lord Vinayaka didn’t want the Ranganathaswamy deity to go to the land of the Asuras in Lanka. Upon completing his bath, Vibishana found the deity to be immovable from its location. In his anger, he chased the cowherd boy up the rock and hit him on the head. Lord Vinayaka then showed himself to Vibishana who became very repentant and apologized.
To this day, the Vinayaka deity in the Ucchi Pillayar temple shows a scar on its head. The Rockfort complex houses two temples dedicated to Lord Ganesha – one at the base of the rock and the Ucchi Pillayar temple at the top of the rock. A Shiva temple is also there about 200 steps up the rock.
A visit to Tiruchirappalli should include the Rockfort and the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple on the Srirangam Island on the Kaveri River. It is one of the world’s largest functional temple complex.