Friday, February 8, 2013

In Thambiran Thozhar's Land!

The Bhakthajaneswara Temple at Thirunavalur
The stories of Nayanars has always fascinated me - Their devotion, the ultimate and unimaginable sacrifices they made for the love of the Lord, their steadfastness and determination demonstrated during the most trying circumstances really move me.

Among the Nayanmars, my personal favourite has always been Sundaramurthy Nayanar. Merely for the relationship he shared with Lord Shiva." I give myself to you as a friend" said the Lord to Sundaramurthy Swamy. What better privilege could he have sought !

And the things Lord Shiva did for his friend, often make you smile, become awe-struck or even wonder, and  even make you feel jealous about this special bonding that Sundaramurthy Nayanar had with the Lord!

My in-laws stay very close to Tiruvennainalllur and hence the life and times of Sundaramurthy Nayanar, the incident during his marriage ceremony where the Lord appeared as an old man, and stopped the wedding to proclaim Sundarar as his slave, are very close to my heart. Whenever I visited the Kripapureeswarar temple at TV Nallur, where the Lord gave Sundarar the first syllable of his first song - " Piththa", the 100 pillared mandapa where the hearing of the case took place, the footwear that Lord Shiva wore when he appeared as an old man, preserved over all these years, made me experience the magic in Sundara's life. Yes, you read correctly indeed! God's own footwear! You can read all about it here on Aalayam Kanden.

There was this burning desire to visit Thirunavalur, the birth place of Sundara to see more of his life and times. The occasion just did not present itself. This Pongal, all of a sudden, my husband asked me if I would like to go to Thirunavalur. I dropped what I was doing and within a few minutes, we were on the road from Thiruvennainallur towards Thirunavalur.

When we got close to the Bhakthajaneswara temple, we could see a number of saffron clad devotees involved in reconstruction of a broken portion of the outer wall, some of them whitewashing portions of the wall already repaired, while others were busy in placing signages in the shrines. The women were making garlards of flowers, some of them brewing porridge for those who were working, and the others busy cleaning the temple. I was amazed at the number of people who were working. There were close to 300 people all working in silence, in the hot sun, not minding their discomfort one bit.

We walked into the temple and my eyes fell on one of the few remains of the Kalinari Eswara temple that once stood in the place of the Bhakthajaneswara Temple. As Shri K.A.Nilakanda Sastri mentions in his book The Cholas, several important heritage monuments have been razed down, in the name of modernization or improvement. Inscriptions have been broken down and used again as stones in the new constructions. One such temple was the Kalinareswara which was brought down and the Bhakthajaneswara temple, which exists in the form today, constructed by the Chola King, Rajaditya, son of King Paranthaka I and the hero of the Thakkolam War. The village was originally called Thirunamanallur. The temple was called Rajadityeswaram, after the king who built it and then Thiruthondeeswaram, after Sundaramurthy Nayanar who sang the Thiruthondarthogai.

On entering the Rajagopuram, we find a seperate shrine for Sri Sundarar along with his wives Paravaiyar and Sangiliyar. The Elephant Vahanam which symbolises the white elephant that took him to Kailasa is seen in front of the shrine.

Although this temple is said to have existed for a very long time before Sundara's time, the connection with him is seen in every aspect of the temple. This temple is said to have existed before the four Yugas. When Lord Shiva drank the poison that was generated during the churning of the Ocean, some of it spilled down and grew as Jamun (Jambu) trees. Shiva appeared in their midst as a Swayambu Linga, and was called Jambunatheswara. Jambu in Tamil is called Naval and hence, the village was called Thirunavalur and Sundarar called himself Navaluraan. (a person belonging to Navalur).

A glimpse of the Sanctum Sanctorum and Sri Bhakthajaneswara
This was the place where Lord Shiva was worshipped by Lord Vishnu in Kritha Yuga before taking the Narasimha Avatara

Linga worshipped by Vishnu during Kritha Yuga

Chandikeswara who was originally a potter called Sivapriyar, worshipped Shiva here during Thretha Yuga to achieve the position of Chandikeswara.

Linga worshipped by Chandikeswara during Thretha Yuga

During Dwapara Yuga, Lord Brahma worshipped Shiva here and during Kali Yuga, he was worshipped by Sundara. The Lingas worshipped by all these four people are found in the temple.

Linga worshipped by Lord Brahma during Dwapara Yuga
Linga worshipped by Sundarar in Kali Yuga
That's not all. Sukracharya, was worshipping Lord Shiva in Kasi (Varanasi) for a very long time. Pleased with his devotion, Lord Shiva taught the Sanjeevini Mantra to Sukracharya. The Mantra when chanted, had the power of bringing back the dead to life. Knowing about this, the Asuras accepted Sukracharya as their Guru. During the war between Devas and Asuras, every time the Asuras were killed, Sukracharya brought them back to life. Frustrated, the Devas complained to Lord Shiva, who swallowed Sukracharya.

Sukracharya spent many years in Shiva's stomach, meditating. Pleased, Shiva brought him out, and gave him a position among the Navagrahas, and granted him the boon of offering wealth to those who worshipped him. Sukracharya installed a Shivalinga to thank the Lord for his generosity, and worshipped him. The Bhargaveswara Linga installed by Sukracharya is also found at this temple and it serves as a Sukra Dosha Parihara Sthalam.
The Bhargaveswara Linga installed by Sukracharya
Those who seek Sukra Dosha Pariharam, worship this lingam on fridays, offering White silk vastram, White Chickpeas and White Lotuses to the Lord. They light lamps with white ghee as well to get relief from Sukra Dosha.

The Sun facing the West among the Navagrahas
The Navagrahas near the Sukralingam are also unique here. Usually, Surya among the Navagrahas is seen facing East. Here he is seen facing the Lord in the Sanctum Sanctorum, towards west. By this, he is said to be worshipping the Lord himself. The Sun's rays fall directly on the Lord from the 23rd to the 27th day of the tamil month of Panguni. My husband's brother-in-law and ex-Chairman of Thirunavalur, Mr. Sundaramurthy, explained how the sun rays bend from the main entrance and then fall upon the Lord, even though the architecture does not facilitate it to fall directly. Several hundreds of people throng the temple to witness this spectacular occurrence every year.

The Awesome Dhakshinamurthy at the temple
The extremely handsome Dhakshinamurthy at the temple needs special mention. Leaning on the Rishaba  Vahana, in a standing posture, with no Kallala Tree behind him, he looks absolutely stunning. Worshipping this Dhakshinamurthy is said to be special for those born under Pooradam star.

Shrine of Goddess Manonmani
In a temple so unique can the Goddess be an exception? Goddess Manonmani, is said to have done penance here in order to marry Lord Shiva. With her hair open and falling behind her, she is seen her in a meditative posture. Girls seeking good marriage alliances worship her to get a groom of their choice.

Since this is the shrine where Sivapriyar has worshipped Lord Shiva to acquire the position of Chandikeswara, there is a beautiful panel that describes the whole incident on the outer prakara.

Chandeswara Panel
The temple has several beautiful moorthis of both the Pallavas and the Chola Era period. There is no word to describe the beautiful Urchava Moorthis too in this temple, which have also featured in Shri Nilakanta Sastri's book on The Cholas.

Outside the temple one can see a beautiful stone staircase through which the deities were placed on the Ratha while being taken out on procession. This beautiful structure, though dilapidated now, shows the craftsmanship of yore.
Stone Structure to place deities on the Ratha during procession
Right next to the temple is the birthplace of Sri Sundaramurthy Nayanar. After his times, there was a small shrine there and over time, this became dilapidated. It was indeed painful and shocking to hear, that this temple for last many years, was a cowshed where cows were tethered and dung collected and dried.

The birthplace of Sundaramurthy Nayanar
After struggling for almost four years with property rights and building approval from the concerned authorities, the Thirunavalur Thambiran Thozhar Trust has finally been able to clear the premises and perform Bhoomi Puja on the 23rd of January 2013. Words fail me when I try to describe the tireless efforts that Mr. Muthukumaraswamy and Mr.Kalyanakumar as well as the other members of the trust have put in in order make this possible. Today, all efforts are on to build a small but beautiful temple, to the saint who showed the other Nayanmars to the World.

Idol of Sri Sundarar in Balalayam within the temple complex
It is indeed a rare opportunity and our duty to lend a helping hand to make sure that this temple of Sri Sundaramurthy Nayanar is raised in his birthplace . The total cost of construction is estimated at around Rs. 43 lakhs and every single rupee towards this objective will be greatly appreciated.

Please send in your generous contributions through Cheque/Demand Draft or Money Order to the Thirunavalur Thambiran Thozhar Trust, No.8/44, VOC Street, Ulundurpet, Villupuram - 606 107
Contact Numbers: 94424 24456/94427 78711. You may also send funds through bank transfer through Account No.31714920381, State Bank of India, Ulundurpet Branch. IFSC Code: SBIN0011071.

How to get here:

On NH 45, towards Ulundurpet, after crossing Parikkal Narasimha Swamy temple on your right, take the service lane to the left at the Gedilam Bridge. The temple is about 2 kms from the bridge.

Temple Timings: 6 am to 12 pm, 4 pm to 8 pm

Contact Details:

Mr. Sundaramurthy - Former Chairman - 94435 38279
Mr. Sambandam Gurukkal - 98461 50804


  1. Nicely written and detailed post . Nice to know about this place .

  2. ஆலயம் தொழுவது சாலமும் நன்று. நல்ல செய்திகள். உழவாரப்பணி தேவைப்படும் ஆலயங்கள் தமிழகத்தில் பல உள்ளன. நன்றி.

  3. another lovely post!!! had heard about this temple, but no idea of all these details

  4. Excellent post. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Lots of info! Thannks so much

    Blue water marvel Phi-Phi islands:

  6. I admire your enchantment with holy places.

  7. I had limited idea about the Nayanars or associated myths...
    Thanks for this great writeup...

  8. This is dhamodharan from thirunavalur. First I should thanks to all did that great thing in my native temple. I was enjoying that days with your peoples. I never ever seen like this peoples. Thanks for this writeup. Now temple is looking good we will try to keep the same.

  9. I really thank for the people who took initiate for posting about our beautiful temple.
    Compound Walls of our temple fell down due to heavy rain.we need a support to reconstruct a wall.