A Mini Ponniyin Selvan Trail-Polla Pillayar Temple-Thirunaaraiyur, near Chidambaram

The Birth Place of Nambi Andar Nambi- Saivite Saint

Covid is not officially over but we decided to take a risk by planning a much awaited long pending road trip. The lure of glorious temples not yet visited outweighed the risk of falling ill.After all we are twice vaccinated! And we promised ourselves that the mask will always be on!

Had heard about the Polla Pillayar temple from our relative and well wisher VR Vaidyanathan uncle and he had insisted that it is a must visit place. So, surfing around for temples nearby gave me this list which I realized much to my excitement that all these places figured in Kalki’s magnum Opus Ponniyin Selvan.

All these temples are in the Kattumannarkoil road near Chidambaram.

We are both early risers and like most South Indians need that 1 cup of coffee, if its filter coffee, all the better 😊 at dawn. Sadly the hotel where we stayed, Saradha Ram at Chidambaram did not give us that ‘must have brew’ at dawn, so we both decided to take a brisk walk and find a local roadside coffee shop. A temple dikshathar guided us to this awesome Ramesh Coffee House just opposite the temple in keezha veedhi. There was quite a crowd there, people from different walks of life, priests from the Nataraja temple, women in madisaars, rag pickers, lone mamas who came to savour the coffee, and went back home alone, tourists alighting from cars, the local caretaker from a nearby lodge who filled cans of this exquisite filter coffee to distribute to his guests…a great social equaliser this place is. Rs 15 for a Dabara Tumbler of steaming kaapi. He had options of white sugar as well as brown sugar and for the connoisseur in me, it was perfect.

The first stop for the day was Thirunaraiyur.

The Polla Pillayar Temple at Thirunaraiyur:

This place is just 18kms from Chidambaram on the Kattumannarkoil route. The temple was totally deserted, much to our joy. Nothing like walking into an ancient temple which has no noise, distractions, crowds and covid fear. Peaceful.

Polla Pillayar near chidambaram


Nambi Andar Nambi:

This is the place where the Saivite Saint Nambi Andar Nambi was born. This poet and saint is mentioned several times in Ponniyin Selvan.

Legend goes that Nambi as a little boy was sent by his father to give Naivedyam to Lord Ganesha.  He was not aware that this ritual is just symbolic and the Lord never actually comes to eat. As time passed by in spite of earnest pleading by Nambi , Lord Ganesha never appeared to eat the Naivedyam. Nambi became distressed and started banging his head on Ganesha’s idol. At that time the Lord appeared before him and ate all the Naivedyam. Nambi went back with an empty vessel much to his parents’ disbelief. His parents the next day followed him to the temple and saw through a crack on the door, what he was up to inside the garba graham. They were dumbstruck after they witnessed what happened.

Nambiyaandaar nambi

This miraculous story spread far and wide and King Raja Raja Cholan wanted to test Nambi. So he brought his offering to Lord Ganesha but the miracle never happened. The king began to doubt Nambi’s prowess. Nambi began singing the Irattai Mani Malai song so beautifully with full devotion that Ganesha appeared and ate the offerings.

The Irattai Mani Maalai is rendered in this temple on every sankata hara chathurti day.

Nambi and Raja Raja cholan

Statue of Raja Raja Cholan

Raja Raja Cholan sought Nambi’s help to locate the original manuscripts of the Devaram hymns. Nambi with the help of Ganesha’s divine intervention said that the manuscripts were in a chamber in the Chidambaram Nataraja Temple. Nambi and the King along with several scholars retrieved the Olai Suvadis which were sadly termite ridden and only 10% of what was written could be retrieved. Nambi with the other scholars compiled all the hymns which were available and that is how we are able to experience these ancient works today. Nambi wrote the 11th Thirumurai, the Panniru Thirumurai.

Polla Pillayar idol is a Swayambu. The word Polla means “Not Chiselled” Paintings depicting the story of Nambi are on the walls.

Lots of positive vibrations in this sannidhi. Sat there and sang the famous Kalainirai Ganapathy Saranam Saranam written by Ramalinga Adigal.

Soundereswarar, the Shiva Lingam is also a Swayambu (appeared on its own)

The Naarai Legend, how Thirunaaraiyur got its name:

Sage Durvasa’s penance was disturbed by a celestial dancer Gandharva. Durvasa cursed him to become a crane (Naarai in  Tamil) When the Gardharva pleaded for forgiveness Durvasa said he will get back his form if he performs abhishekam to the Shiva Lingam in this place with the water from the Ganges. The crane flew everyday to Kasi and brought back the water in its beak. One day there was a storm and the bird lost all its feathers and crawled by foot to this place to perform the abhishekam. Most of the Ganga water also spilt from its beak. The Lord pardoned the crane and the curse was broken. The place came to be known as Thiru Naaraiyur and the place where the bird lost its feathers came to be known as Sirakizhandha Nallur (3 kms away) and the spilt ganga water became the Karunya Theertham pond. All these places exist even today.

There is a place called Thirunariyur which is Nachiar Koil near Kumbakonam where the famous Kal Garudan is there. This place near Chidambaram is Thirunaaraiyur. So if you are googling make sure it’s thirunaaraiyur with the Tamil nedil/ double A.

The place where Nambi Andar Nambi’s house stood, which is opposite to the temple is being renovated to house the idol of the saint which is currently in the Polla Pillayar Sannidhi.


From 06.30 AM to 11.30 Noon and from 04.30 PM to 07.30 PM.

Temple Address

Sri Soundareswarar Temple,

Thiru Naaraiyur,

Kattumannarkoil Taluk,

Cuddalore District.

Tamil Nadu – 608 303.

Mob: +91- 98420 73704, 94439 06219.

The temple priest Sri Muthukumaraswamy Gurukkal can be contacted at 99432 54861.

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