Girivalam shrines – Gautama Rishi kovil
The shrine of Sage Gautama can be found on the outer girivalam road, on the left side, a few metres before one comes to the Surya lingam shrine. What used to be a derelict shrine falling to ruins has now been renovated in a fairly correct manner, keeping intact many of the ancient aspects. After the renovation, the Kumbhaabhishekam ceremony to reconsecrate the shrine in all its sacred elements was performed on a grand scale a few months ago.
The foyer of the temple is an ancient classic mandapam with sculpted stone pillars and statues of some lesser deities. Leading from this, a small ante-chamber opens to the main shrine where-in stands the deity of Gautma Maharshi in the form of an ancient stone sculpted figure with a very fine, venerable head seeing which one feels obliged to bow and pay obeisance to this great saint of yore.
Indeed Gautama Maharishi is one of the Saptarishis (Seven Great Sages) and one of the Maharishis of Vedic times. He is revered as the inventor of the Mantras — ‘Mantra-drashtaa’, in Sanskrit. The Rig Veda has several suktas (Sanskrit: ‘hymns’) that chant with his name. He was the son of Rahugana, belonging to the line of Angiras. There is even a legend that the river Godavari is thus named because of its connection with Gautama. He had two sons by name Vamadeva and Nodhas. His wife isAhalya, the ‘mind born daughter’ (Sanskrit: manasa putri) of Brahma. The puranas contain the story wherein it is described how Gautama won the hand of Ahalya by circumambulating the divine cow in order to fulfill the stipulation of Brahma that whoever first goes round the whole Earth would win the hand of Ahalya. The ‘chief priest’ of King Janaka by name Shatananda was the son of Gautama and Ahalya. Gautama’s sixty-year long penance is mentioned in the Mahabharatha. Among the renowned deeds of Gautama there is one in the Narada purana which describes the story of the 12-year famine during which Gautama fed all the Rishis and saved them from starvation!
The Puranas also say that sage Gautama came and worshipped Arunachala at one time and Ramana speaks of this in his Aksharamana maalai verse 26 “Gautamar potrum karunai maamalaiye kadaikannil thaalvai Arunachala” – “Arunachala, compassion incarnate in the form of a glorious mighty hill, praised and worshipped by the Sage Gautama of great penance, turn thy gracious glance of grace upon me, shower me with thy grace and govern me !”