Thiruvarur Thyagaraja temple Gopuram

Thiruvarur Thyagaraja Temple- Ponniyin Selvan Mini Trail

We drove into Thiruvarur at around 10 AM. Had booked a room at Hotel Selvies, (Mob:8489101091) in the heart of Thiruvarur. A decent hotel with great food. Since we wanted to visit the Thyagaraja temple for the famous Sayarakshka pooja which will commence at around 5 pm, we decided to visit a few other famous temples around Thiruvarur in the forenoon. We chose, Thirukannamangai, Thirukannapuram and Thirupugalur. The last one I hadn’t heard of earlier, but the person who took us around, Mr Suresh said it was a temple worth visiting. It was the place where Appar (Thirunaavukarasar) attained salvation. All these 3 temples are famous and will be detailed in another blog, but this blog is about the experiences at the Thyagaraja temple at Thiruvarur, our long-time dream and wish which was fulfilled recently.

We were there at the Gopura Vasal at 4 pm. All ready to go around the massive temple which I had read earlier…that it will take a full day to see and absorb. We were greeted by stone pillars which were unfinished.

Thiruvarur Thyagaraja temple Gopuram

Probably a 1000 pillared hall. There was evidence of attempts of kings in various periods to reconstruct. We moved inside into the next enclosure.

Everything about this temple is large and significant. 8 Gopurams, 80 Vimanas, 12 tall walls, 15 wells of Theertha importance, 3 gardens, 5 prakarams, 365 Shiva Lingams representing the days of the year, shrines numbering above 100, 86 Vinayaka idols and temples within the temple numbering above 24. Wherever you turn there is a Shiva lingam or an idol. Reminded me of the song, “காண ஆயிரம் கண்” I was worried if I blink, I might miss something!

Thiruvarur temple Prahaaram

The temple was almost empty and we leisurely walked around. The weather was so good and I wondered whether it will rain.

As per records it is seen that the present structure was built during the Chola dynasty in the 9th century, while later expansions were made by Vijayanagar rulers of the Sangama Dynasty (1336–1485 CE), the Saluva Dynasty and the Tuluva Dynasty (1491–1570 CE).

Some inscriptions

Inscriptions at Thiruvarur temple

Legend of Somaskanda

According to legend, a Chola king named Mucukunta obtained a boon from Indra for helping the latter wage a battle against the Asuras. Mucukunta asked for the Somaskanda idol which Indira worshipped everyday, the very same idol which Lord Vishnu held in worship. Indira did not want to break his promise nor part with the Somaskanda, so he ordered to make 6 identical idols of Somaskanda. But Mucukunta with the help of divine intervention identified the real one. Indira overwhelmed by Mucukunta’s devotion gave all the 7 Somaskandas to him. Somaskanda is a manifestation of Shiva featuring Shiva, Uma and Skanda; Shiva in a seated posture, with Parvati to his left and with Skanda his son, seated in between the two. It is said the original Somaskanda is the Thygaraja Swami at Thiruvarur and the 6 other Somaskandas have been installed in surrounding areas and they are all called Saptha Vidanga sthalangal.

Thiruvarur Thyagaraja

Manu Neethi Chozhan

As we walked around, we saw the Bell Tower and I recalled reading about the Manu Neethi Chozhan story. The King had installed a bell so that the citizens can ring the bell when they need help. Once a cow rang the bell as its calf had been crushed by the wheels of the prince’s chariot. The king ordered that his son be killed too like the calf which died. This incident is beautifully depicted in stone form in the Thiruvarur temple and the bell is housed in a tower. This incident is present in Silapathikaaram and Periya Puranam.

Manu Neethi Chozhan

Manu Neethi Chozhan Ther Chariot

After having darshan of Neelotpalambal, Vanmeekanadhar (Swayambu) we decided to go to the Kamalambal sannidhi and come back to the Thyagaraja sannidhi in time for the Sayaraksha or evening pooja.

Kamalambal Sannidhi

Was excited to stand there in front of Goddess Kamalambal, seated in a yogic posture. Having learnt the Navavarnam from my Guruji Smt Shayamala Krishnadas, I had yearned to have darshan and sing in this sannidhi. After all these years of waiting I was rendered speechless by the sheer beauty of the Goddess and the lofty vibrations silenced me into a trance like state.

Goddess Kamalambal at Thiruvarur

Sharing the specialty of this Sannidhi…this was displayed at the entrance.

History of kamalambal

The Navagrahas are unique in this temple, they are all in a straight line. These Navagrahas are present in the form of 9 lamps in the Thyagaraja Swami Sannidhi.

On the way to the Kamalalayam tank on the gopuram wall is an Anjaneya idol. Happened to see the regulars look up and pray, wondered where they were looking and spotted this Anjaneya…I believe this Anjaneya is famous for retrieving lost items. My sister’s father-in-law, when he visited this temple, had a wallet in his hand which fell from his hands when he tripped a bit as he missed a step. The wallet which he had in his hand went missing and after a search was found resting on this Anjaneya’s feet several metres above the ground!

The Kamalalayam tank was huge, 33 acres in size. I believe the waters overflow during the chariot festival in reverence to the Lord.

Saayaraksha Pooja:

The deserted temple suddenly started to fill up and soon enough there was quite a crowd in the Thyagaraja sannidhi. Devotees sat on the ground; all eyes directed towards the Garba Griham. We were lucky to get a vantage spot right in the front.

With select Devaram hymns chanted by a priest (I really thought he was using a microphone) with such a wonderful, loud clear voice the scene was set for something magical to happen. The Panchamukavadyam is played only in a few temples and that includes Thiruvarur. The present performer of this instrument in the Thiruvarur temple is a descendant of Tambiyappa, one of the disciples of the Composer, Muthuswami Dikshitar.

The Chief Priest started the pooja. Interestingly unlike other temples he stood right in front of God to perform the rituals. Two other priests stood on the sides waving the Chaamaram. There was a teenager who was chanting along, a regular probably and he had memorised all the devaram hymns sung. The rituals went on probably for 30 minutes, a sight to be seen by all shiva devotees at least once in a lifetime. The devas and rishis are supposed to descend everyday to see this holy ritual which is also called Nithya Pradosha Pooja.

The Somaskanda image was totally covered with flower decorations. The devotee can see only the faces of Shiva/Parvathi. His right foot and Parvathy’s right foot are revealed on Aarudhra Dharshan in the month of Margazhi, while his left foot and amman’s left foot are revealed on Panguni Uthiram.

We decided to stay on to witness the Abhishekam of the emerald shiva lingam which will commence at 7.45 PM. We went outside to sit in the prahaaram, gave up the idea of having a repeat darshan of Goddess Kamalambal as it was raining heavily. My thoughts went to Ponniyin Selvan, and I was imagining Kunthavai sitting there with her friend Vanathi in the times of Raja Raja Cholan. My reverie was pleasantly cut short by a local good Samaritan, Mr Prabhakar (works for ONGC) who started narrating never heard before specialties about the naivedyams for Lord Thyagaraja. I quickly took my phone out and typed away while he listed out. Very unique to this temple and Lord Thyagaraja. Even Vanmeeganadhar is also not offered these unique specialties.

Daily Naivedyam for Lord Thyagraja Swamy, Thiruvarur

1. Early Morning: Fresh Cow’s milk

2. Plain White rice

3. White rice with pepper.

4. Vendaikkai Mor kuzhambu, Paavakka kootu, Enna kathirika kuzhambu, Ulundu Vadai, Thoothuvalai thugayal.

5. Saayaraksha time: Thenkuzhal, Appam, Vadai, Paniyaaram, Maa ladoo

We were lucky to get the prasadam of the Saayaraksha pooja, usually it gets booked well in advance and difficult to get.

It was now time to witness the Maragadha Lingam Abhishekam so we trooped back to the sannidhi and again I was fortunate to gain a vantage spot just a few metres away from the table where the Chief Priest stood to perform the abhishekam. Abishekam is performed only to the Maragatha Lingam known as Veedhi Vidanga Lingam, believed to have been worshipped by Indira. Three abhishekams are performed every day.

A beautiful silver box was brought out. The medium sized emerald (looks like jade) lingam was taken out and placed outside. The abhishekam began. The flowers placed in the box were distributed to the devotees. The milk used for the abhishekam was also distributed as prasadam. After the abishekam, the Maragatha Lingam was placed in a silver box with great reverence in the presence of officials and placed on the right side of Lord Thiagaraja.

The annual chariot festival of the Thygarajaswamy temple is celebrated during the Tamil month of Chitrai (April – May). The chariot is the largest of its kind in Asia with a height of 90 feet and weighing 300 tonnes. The chariot comes around the four main streets surrounding the temple during the festival. The event is attended by lakhs of people from all over Tamil Nadu. The chariot festival is followed by the “Theppam”, (float festival).

The Tanjore painting of the Chariot at Hotel Selvie’s Lobby

We could not see the chariot as it was enclosed in a translucent enclosure.

Tiruvarur is also known for nurturing art forms, like dance and music. The musical trinity of Sri Thyagaraja, Sri Shyama Sastrigal, and Sri Muthuswamy Dhikshitar—who laid the foundations for the Carnatic music—lived here. Eagerly awaiting the next trip to Thiruvarur to visit the Trinity’s houses as well as revisit all over again, the holy magical temple of Thyagaraja Swamy Temple. Once is definitely NOT enough.

This Shiva Sannidhi has a secret passage which supposedly goes to Thanjavur. 


The Sthala Viruksham

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