Naganathaswamy provides darshan to Rahu on Maha Sivarathri
Thiru Gnana Sambandar,Appar and Sundarar describe the temple, the surroundings and the life of the people in their Thevaram verses
Located 6kms East of Kumbakonam on the Karaikal Highway in the then ‘Shenbagam Forest’ area is the Naganathaswamy temple in Thiru Nageswaram, whose legend relates to the removal of Naga Dosham. An inscription inside the temple provides insights into the construction and renovation of the temple in its current form and structure by Kandirathiya Chozha in the 8th Century AD.
Thiru Gnana Sambanthar and Thiru Navukkarasar have sung praise of the Lord of Thiru Nageswaram in the 7th century AD and have provided insights into the life in and around this temple during that period.
Rahu who tempted and lured a Rishi and disturbed his penance was cursed to be born as a human serpent with a body of a snake and the face of a human. To liberate himself from the curse, Rahu went to different temples including to the Nageswara temple in Thiru Kudanthai.
It was at the 2nd period on the Maha Sivarathri day in Masi that Rahu was liberated from the curse here at the Thiru Nageswaram temple when he performed pooja invoking the blessings of Lord Shiva who appeared before him. Hence Lord Shiva here is referred to as ‘Naga’ natha swamy.
Not only was Rahu liberated from his curse but he was also granted the boon of liberating devotees from Naga Dosham who come here and offer their sincere prayers. To prevent devotees from fear of invoking the blessings of a Snake God, it is believed that the venom is washed away in the milk abhisheka that is performed every day when the milk turns blue. It is also to take away the fear of devotees that Rahu provides darshan in an Abhaya Varada Posture with Naga Valli and Naga Kanni by his side.
In memory of this event, Rahu goes on a procession across the four big streets of Thiru Nageswaram on Maha Sivarathri in Maasi and then invokes the blessings of Lord Naganathaswamy.
Saint Poets - 7th Century AD Scenario in Thiru Nageswaram
Thiru Gnana Sambandhar, Thiru Navukkarasar and Sambandhar have sung praise of the Lord of Thiru Nageswaram. In his Thevaram verse, Thiru Gnana Sambandhar refers repeatedly to this place as Thiru Nageswaram, one where devotees throng in large numbers to perform pooja and present the Lord with gifts. In one of the verses he refers to the place as Nageswara Nagar referring to the overflowing Cauvery and bountiful crops.
நெடியா நோடுனான் முகன்நே டலுரச்
கடுமா லேரியாய் நிமிர்சோ தியனே
நாடுமா வயல் நாகேச்சர நகரே
இடமா வுறைவா யென இன் புறுமே
Sundarar refers to the happy people living in this place that has extensive paddy fields. He says that devotees express their thanks every day to the Lord for providing such rousing crops year on year.
அருந்தவ மாமுனிவர்க் கருளாகியோ ராலதன்கீழ்
இருந்தற மேபுரிதற் கியல்பாகிய தென்னைகொலாம்
குருந்தய லேகுரவம அரவின்னெயி றேற்றரும்பச்
செருந்திசெம் பொன்மலரருந் திரு நாகேச் சரத்தானே
Chozha Period Architecture
There is a 5 Tier Raja Gopuram at the Eastern Entrance. There is one big tower on each of the four sides of the temple. Construction dates back to early Chozha period with improvements done during later periods by other rulers including by the Nayaks.
1000 year old Inscriptions
Several Inscriptions dating back to the early Chozha Period provide insights into the conduct of festivals, the construction and improvements at the temple at different points of time.
There was a donation of 48houses during the rule of Rajendra Chozha I. The income from this was used to maintain the lamps at the temple. The temple was referred to as ‘Mahadeva’ temple of Thiru Nageswaram during the rule of Rajendra Chozha I. Temple vessels in Silver were donated as per his orders. In the 11th Century AD, there was a counting done and a classification made of all the jewels and coins belonging to the temple. There was a provision made for bring sacred water from the Cauvery for Anointment of the Lord during festive occasions.
A very interesting piece of inscription is found on the Western wall of the Naganatha Swamy temple. As per this, 100gold coins were donated to a Kumbabhishekam Committee during Rajendra Chozha’s rule. This donation was to be used for the repair of agricultural canal that was ravaged by floods in the Cauvery. Also, a part of this donation was to be used for providing lectures and conducting Upanyasams to spread the message about Shiva Dharma.
An inscription on the southern wall refers to a procession of the Pasaya Devar Idol. This is now found on the Northern side of the temple.
An inscription on the same wall refers to donation of a land and Gold Coin by Krishna Raman who also assisted Raja Raja Chozha in building a Mandapa at Brihadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur and the installation of the Artha nareeswararar Idol there.
One more inscription on the Southern wall dating back to the rule of Raja Raja Chozha refers to donation of land as well as gold coins for performing daily rituals at the temple.
Sekkizhar, the minister of Kulothunga Chozha and an ardent devotee of Naganathaswamy was largely responsible for the construction of the inner mandapas, the huge outer walls, the beautiful tank on the southern side and the big gopurams at the temple. In recognition of his contribution, his sculpture along with those of his mother and brother are seen inside the temple. There is also a grand festival celebrated in Vaikasi in memory of Sekkizhar.
Reference to Giriguja Ambika Sanndhi
An inscription on the stone pillar from a mandapa in the Sannidhi Street refers to Giriguja Ambika Sannidhi being inside the Naganathaswamy temple.
Achuthappa Nayakar’s minister Govinda Deekshithar renovated the outer mandapas at the temple in the second half of the 16th and the early 17thcentury AD
Nagaraja worshipping Shiva is celebrated in the 2nd period of Maha Sivarathri in Masi
10day Brahmotsavam starting 3rd Friday of Karthigai - Chariot Festival on the 9th day and Theerthavri on the 10th day
Nataraja Procession on Thiruvathirai in Margazhi
1st day of Thai – Giriguja Ambigai adorned with Punugu
Raghu Procession around 4streets on Maasi Maha Sivarathri
Deity : Naganathaswamy East Facing
Goddess : Giriguja Ambika (Separate Sannidhi North of Naganathaswamy)
Speciality: Raghu with Nagavalli and Nagakanni
Time : 6am-1pm and 4pm-9pm
Contact : Prakash Gurukal @ 97908 94408
How to reach
Thiru Nageswaram is 6kms East of Kumbakonam on the Karaikal Highway and 1km North of Thiru Vinnagar Oppiliappan Divya Desam.
Buses ply every 15minutes from Kumbakonam Bus Stand on the Karaikal route. Town buses every half hour to Thiru Nageswaram.
Kumbakonam Taxi Contact: Saravanan @ 99945 46416
Thiru Nageswaram Auto Senthil @ 94432 75004
When here also visit Thiru Vinnagar Oppiliappan Divya Desam (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2007/11/108-divya-desam-thiru-vinnagar.html )