Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hridayaaleeswarar Temple, Thiruninravur

Hridayaaleeswarar Temple entrance
This time I choose to write about a temple that is very close to my heart. If I were to name my favourite location close to Chennai, I would say Hridayaleeswarar temple without any hesitation. The history of Poosalar Nayanar, his passion and devotion to the Lord, the magnanimity of the Pallava King, all make this place extra special. The vibration that you feel when you stand in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum is very strong. So why is Lord Shiva called Hridayaaleeswara here?
Poosalar was a poor devotee of Shiva who sat under an "Iluppai" tree in Tiruninravur chanting the name of the Lord all the time. He was called Poosalar because his body was always covered with Sacred Ash (Poosudhal means to apply in Tamil). For several hours in a day, he used to sit in a trance, lost to the material world, thinking about his Lord and chanting his name. People took pity on him, and offered him food and money for survival.
Inside the temple
Poosalar had one burning desire, which was to build a magnificient Shiva temple in Tiruninravur which did not have a Shiva temple at that time. So whenever someone offered him money for food, he would talk to them about his desire, and ask them for money to build a temple. People laughed at him. A man who did not have money to buy a square meal building a temple...that's impossible, they would say. Any amount of ridicule did not deter the spirit of Poosalar. He thought if he would not get money to build a temple, he would do so in his heart.
So he laid the foundation in his heart, and started constructing the temple for Lord Shiva. Step by step, stone by stone, he went on constructing the temple. Slowly the temple rose in shape as Poosalar desired. For several days he would go without food or water, engrossed in his construction and would sit motionless under the tree. The passers-by did not know what was happening to him, but would witness him sitting in utmost serenity, with a blissful smile on his lips. Finally, the temple was ready. Poosalar invited Lord Shiva to attend the consecration ceremony of the temple he had built in his heart.
Around the same time, the Pallava King Rajasimha was building the Kailasanatha Temple in Kanchipuram. A magnificient exhibition of Pallava architecture, and a unique temple paralleled to no other, rose up exquisitely.
Kailasanatha Temple in Kanchipuram
The most unique feature of this shrine was the Circumambulatory path around the Shivalingam, which signifies the various stages of human life. One has to enter the path on his back, which signifies birth into this world and then turn over and crawl a while. The tunnel then widens allowing a person to stand up and then go around. This signifies childhood and adulthood. As one goes around, the tunnel starting reducing in height, whereby one has to keep stooping. This signifies maturity and old age. Finally, the exit from the tunnel is on one's stomach, hands stretched forward, which symbolises "Saranaagathi" or final surrender to almighty and Death.
Having built such an architectural wonder, he consulted with famous astrologers of his land, and fixed the date for the consecration of his temple. That night, King Rajasimha, went to bed a satisfied man. Lord Shiva, appeared in his dream. The King was ecstatic. He prayed to the Lord and thanked him and invited him to attend the consecration. The Lord smiled and said " I cannot do so on that day, as I have already committed to my devotee Poosalar of Tiruninravur that I would attend the consecration of the temple he has built. Please choose another day and I will be there". With these words, he disappeared.
The statue of King Rajasimha at the temple
The King woke up confused and surprised. Who is this devotee who has built a temple that is more magnificient than the Kailasanatha shrine and how is his devotion better than mine that the Lord preferred to attend his consecration? The King asked all his courtiers about Poosalar's temple. None of them knew about it. So he set out to Tiruninravur. When he reached there, he asked the Brahmins whom he came across, about the temple. None of them knew of it, but they all knew Poosalar - the Sivanadiyaar who sat under the Illuppai tree. So they guided the King to him. Poosalar sat there oblivious to the whole world - his eyes closed, his heart full and his mind busy making all the arrangements for the consecration. The King waited patiently before him with folded hands waiting for him to open his eyes.

When he finally did, the King introduced himself, and asked him about the temple he had built, and expressed his desire to attend the consecration. Tears of joy rolled down the eyes of Poosalar. He could not believe that Lord Shiva had accepted the temple he had built in his heart and chosen to attend the consecration of the same, over the magnificient structure built by the King. With uncontrollable tears, he narrated the entire story.
The King stood still, listening to Poosalar. Tears rolled down his eyes, realising the nobility of Poosalar's actions, his love and devotion for the Lord that had won him recognition from none other than the Almighty.
He swore to construct the temple for Poosalar just the way he had imagined it to be. The King placed a magnificient Shiva Linga in the Sanctum Sanctorum along with an idol of Poosalar beside it, and called the Lord Hridayaaleeswara (Hridaya + Aalaya + Eswara) meaning the Lord of the Heart Temple.
The backside of the Sanctum Sanctorum shaped like a
Sleeping Elephant (Thoongaanai Maadam)

There are shrines for all the 63 nayanmars in several temples, but none of them, I think are privileged to share the same Sanctum Sanctorum as the Lord. Poosalar has this unique privilege which makes the Hridayaaleeswara temple so special. Anyone visiting the shrine is able to worship the Lord and his worthy devotee together.

The temple is about 1300 years old and bears testimony to the Pallava architectural style. It is right across the street from the Bhaktavatsala Perumal Temple, which is one of the 108 Divya Desams.
The Goddess here is called Maragathambigai. She looks at you with a kind smile that melts your heart.
Goddess Maragathaambigai
Tiruninravur is about 32 kms from Chennai and is well connected by suburban train( Chennai Central - Arakkonam) and buses from the Koyambedu Bus Terminus. The temple is open between 6 and 12.30 in the morning and from 4 pm to 8.30 pm in the evenings. Hridayaleeswara temple is also said to cure persons with heart ailments if they pray with ardent devotion. So if you want to visit a temple that would melt your heart, this is the place to go!

Contact Details: Shri Balakrishnan - 94441 64108


  1. priya,it is beautifully narrated.i remember reading this story in school &in comics.but to actually go see &read it again,i was so overwhelmed with emotions.thank you so much for fulkfilling all my dremas about temples through your are doing an amzing job.

  2. Thanks Suganthi. You have actually echoed my feelings. when I stood there the first time, I was so overwhelmed with emotion too.Here I was, standing in a part of history, a story that is not just a tale but a real incident of passion, devotion and utmost love for the Almighty. To stand there and think of Poosalar and his devotion, brings tears to one's eyes. Glad you felt the same way too and prayers for you to visit soon.

  3. That is a lovely row of matrkas including Jyeshta! Proves it's early. Excellent murthis! Thanks

  4. Well written.I cannot stop myself from quoting the periapuranam paadal that I learnt in my 8th class which goes thus:
    nindravur poosalanban nedithu naal ninaindhuseidha
    nandru needalayathu naalai naam puguvom
    nee ingu nanniya thirunaalai naalai marunaal
    kollvai endru kondrai vaar sadaiyar koil
    kondarulappondhaar. (sekkizhar) (as far as my memory goes)

  5. Beautiful! Thanks my friend Suganthi has remarked, it was part of our childhood when we visualised how Poosalar would have built this temple in his heart and to actually be there where it happened, was a wonderful experience!

  6. @Injamaven, I think the temple dates back to 6th Century AD....will have to check back on exact dates though! Thanks for your feedback!

  7. //There are shrines for all the 63 nayanmars in several temples, but none of them, I think are privileged to share the same Sanctum Sanctorum as the Lord. Poosalar has this unique privilege which makes the Hridayaaleeswara temple so special. Anyone visiting the shrine is able to worship the Lord and his worthy devotee together.//

    True. Also the sanctum santorum so vast like that of Poosalar Nayanar.

  8. absolutely! They also say that the roof of the temple is shaped liked a human heart...although I missed out on observing that!

  9. Priya madam, I thank and greet you for rendering such an article on Poosalaar Nayanaar. The upcoming generation should know all about the Nayanmars in an elaborate manner. Why I am saying this means, when I was seeing the Arubatthu Moovar festival in my town I happened to listen the wordings of an old lady to her grandson. The boy asked the lady " who are these statues?" The lady replied they are the 100 brothers of Duriodhana, the Gowrava king. In such a knowledge the people are living. To make an awareness to the pepole like these I think that this type of articles may help. Thank you.
    Nagarajan from Kanchipuram

  10. Dear Mr. Nagarajan,

    Thanks for making a very pertinent point. The idea of sharing my experiences in English is specifically with the view that several young people are able to read and understand the cultural values and history attached to all our social infrastructure.

    Do visit the blog as and when you find time.


  11. Dear Priya,

    The story of Poosalar and his passionate to the Lord made me literally cry. How wonderful was Poosalar devotion towards the Lord andshowed his utmost affection and respect to the Lord.

    Thanks Priya for posting a wonderful Poosalar nayanmar story. It really touched my inner feelings of my Heart.

    Keep Posting.

    Regard And Best wishes

    Veerakumar - Tirunelveli

  12. Thank you Mr Veerakumar. The devotion of Poosalar is such that it touches the innermost chords of our heart. I am longing to write about Thirukurippu thondar and his devotion too when He makes me write! Regards Priya

  13. hai priya this is our village thanks for this artical this are true you check it easyly the power of this temple you any problems in your mind or any other thinking in mind it all are forget in a fraction of second when u enter in to temple and ur mind will be calm and cool

  14. Thanks so much Mr Kanagaraj...It is indeed a wonderful temple Regards Priya

  15. if anybody wants to go that temple please contact Mr.Suresh. Because he is stay in near that temple. He will explain all the details of the temple. His cell no is +91 - 9790290451

  16. dear sister priya.............words just don't flow when i want to thank you for your article..........i live in thiruninravur........i am a proud resident............i exactly feel the same way as you imagine that this small town is the place where the great poosalaar lived 1300 years really makes us humble...........thanks a thousand times for the article.............haven't gone through the entire blog.......shall make it a point to read everything...........may God Bless you and always be with prasad.

  17. Dear Mr Prasath,

    thank you so much for sharing your emotions about Hridayaleeswarar temple. It is one of my favourite temples too.


  18. beautifully written blog. It makes every one think and feel proud of the devotion that Poosalar had for Lord Shiva. How Lord Shiva preferred Poosalar over King. That is why India is called the 'Dharma Poomi'. Thank you very much for enlightening us with your temple trip.

  19. Today I planned to visit here,,, thanks for your info


  20. Thank you and god bless you for writing about Poosalar and the temple.


  21. I visited this temple. it is more than what you wrote here... i had a very good, peaceful experience... I really enjoyed this temple... Thanks for the message...

    Planning to go again in sometime.

  22. nindravur poosalanban, nedithunaal ninaindhu ........... wonderfull writings by Sekkizhar swamigal .... Poosalar is a classical example for his dedication, determination and focus... he has lived and proved with all this what an ordinary man do extraordinary things... he teaches us the need for focussed determination and the beautifull and calm temple gives you the calmness inside. the temple requires support and we the bhaktha's need to be part of it and ensure the requirements of this temple is met. avan arulale avan thaal vanangi - sriram

  23. This is a temple should be visited by those who are having symptoms of heart ailments for getting a favourable solution to the disease. Lord Shiva is Swayambo, It is padal petra sthalam.

  24. The serene atmosphere of Hridayaleshwarar temple is fine and I visited it. Thank you for the nice article. But why the temple authorities depict it as cardiology special temple when truth is that your entire mind gets purified by visiting? Madan.

  25. Hi priya,

    I can't understand why the back side is called sleeping elephant.
    I could not feel so.
    What is the number to the poosalar among 63, in case of numbering is present?

    1. The circular structure on the backside of the sanctum is called Gajaprstha in temple architecture. Poosalar is named 58th among the nayanmars.

  26. Thank you very much.Nicely narrated.Desire has set in me to visit this temple soon.

  27. A desire has set in to visit this temple soon.

  28. Iam Nagappan from Trichy.Iam headed about this temple two days back.Immediately I send my relative to the temple for me to pray because suffered by heart problem. Iam expecting the grace of Hirudayaliswaran.

  29. Excellent write up on Sri Poosalar and the temple.