Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Thiruvarur Thyagaraja Temple

Foremost and Largest among Saivite Temples
Praised by all Four Great Saint Poets

Food for the Needy, Justice for the People, Special Initiatives for Cultivation for the Harvest Season were highlights of Vikrama Chozha's contribution to Thiruvarur

Dance Arangetram took place every year in Chitrai and Certificates were awarded personally by the Chozha King at the Mandapa inside the temple
The Birth place of Somaskandar and the foremost among the temples praised by Saivite Saint Poets, the Thyagaraja temple in the heart of Thiruvarur is the largest Saivite temple in Tamil Nadu with 9 huge Gopurams, 5 Prakaras 108 Lingams and 54 Vimanas.  The temple tank and the temple chariot are both huge and special features at the temple. The temple represents Sand among the Pancha Bhootha Sthalams.

It was here at this temple that the famous Saint Poet Sundarar got his right eye (He got his left eye at Kanchipuram). It was also here that Lord Shiva walked for Sundarar (The only other temple where a similar event happened was at the Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple).

There are several inscriptions dating back over a 1000 years on the walls of the inner and outer prakaras.  Just under a 1000 years ago, there were 56 festivals celebrated every year in a grand manner during the rule of the Chozhas. Vasantha Utsavam is celebrated now in a grand manner in memory of the legend relating to Manmatha, the God of Love.

Thyagaraja’s idol
Lord Vishnu took the idol back to Parkadal and held him in his chest and performed pooja even while in his yogic state. Once when an asura continuously troubled the Devas, Indra sought Vishnu’s help in Parkadal. Vishnu handed him the idol of Thyagaraja and asked him to perform pooja to this idol to help him in his battle with the asuras. With this, the troubles for Indra went away.

Later when another asura troubled him, Vishnu informed Indra to seek the help of Chozha King Musukuntha as the asura had obtained the boon of being killed only by humans and that the king.  Musukuntha was also a great Saivite Devotee.

Indra had kept the idol in a big temple in the Indra Loga. Thanks to the King’s help, the asura was trounced. A delighted Indra took Musukunta to his abode. There when Musukuntha found the idol of Thyagaraja, an invisible voice directed him to take the idol to Thiruvarur.

After having taken him around, Indra offered a boon to the king for helping him win. The king asked for the idol leaving Indra stunned. That night, Indra asked sculptor Vishwakarma to make 6 similar idols. The next day, Indra offered the king any of the 6 idols hoping that the king would not be able to distinguish the real one and would take one of the 6 that were created the previous night.

Thanks to his true devotion, as he stood in front of the original idol, Musukuntha Chozha sensed that this was the original one. Delighted with the sincerity of the king’s devotion to Lord Shiva, Indra handed him all the 7 idols. Musukuntha made his way to Thiruvarur in a Chariot procession and celebrated with a grand festival.

Saptha Vidanga Kshetram
He took the other 6 idols and installed it at Thiru Kolili, Thiru Kaaraayil, Thiru Maraikkadu, Thiru Vaaimoor, Thiru Nallaru and Thiru Nagai. These 7 are referred to as Saptha Vidanga Kshetram.

Thiru Navukarasar in his Devaram song states that Musukuntha stayed in Thiru Nallur (near Papanasam) and then passed through Patteeswaram, Manakkal, Thalichathangudi before arriving in Thiruvarur where he built the temple and installed the idol of Thyagaraja (

At the entrance to the Thyagaraja Sannidhi, there is a beautiful sculpture of Musukuntha Chozha in memory of this event. There is also a sculpture of Indra.

The Lord’s dance is special here at Thiruvarur and presents the true philosophical meaning of each of his steps.  18 musical instruments are used to praise Lord Thyagaraja at different pooja times ( earlier it used to be 21)

The story of Musukuntha
Once while Shiva and Parvati were resting in the groves of Kailasam, a male monkey kept throwing Vilva leaves on them. This irritated Parvati who was about to curse the monkey when Shiva intervened. He reminded her that it was Shivarathri that day and the monkey had indeed performed a divine deed by placing Vilva leaves on them. Thus, a likely curse turned into a blessing and the two. Pleased with this, the male monkey requested that he be born with a monkey face in memory of his previous birth. Also, he asked if he could be born as a great devotee of Lord Shiva.  This was Musukuntha Chozha who ruled the Chozha kingdom with Karuvurai as his capital.

Manmatha’s Birth
It was here that Goddess Lakshmi undertook penance invoking the blessings of Lord Shiva. The severity of the penance is seen from the fact of standing on water and on hot sand in the summer. Pleased with the penance, Shiva, Devi and their son appeared before Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi and blessed them with a child. However, Uma Devi was upset that Vishnu had ignored her presence and cursed that the new born will also see death from the same person (Lord Shiva) who blessed his birth.

A saddened Vishnu asked sculptor Viswakarma to create an idol similar to the one who appeared before him. This was Somaskanda and he offered his prayer to this idol. The three of them appeared again and a pleased Uma Devi said that while the curse will have to be fulfilled, she will bring him back again and will make him the leader of the army. He was to be the God of Love.

Vasantha Utsavam is one of the most special festivals at the Thiruvarur temple. Manmatha who knitted flowers for the Lord had grown arrogant and was reduced to ashes by Lord Shiva’s eyes as per the earlier curse of Uma Devi. Rathi invoked the blessings of Uma Devi who then provided Rathi with an exclusive darshan of Manmatha (for her alone).  Delighted at this, the two celebrated by creating a festival for Lord Thyagaraja in Panguni invoking his blessings. In his memory is celebrated the Vasantha Utsavam.

Lord’s right foot – 2 days a year
Two days in a year, the right foot of the Lord can be seen – on Panguni Uthiram and Margazhi Thiruvathirai. On these days, Uma Devi’s left foot can be seen. At Chidambaram, on Margazhi Thiruvathirai, the Lord’s left foot can be seen.

Chitrai Prayers and the reward
In the 2nd prakara is the sannidhi for Aada Kechchuvram. Vishnu, Brahmma and Indra invoked the blessing of this Lord. Belief is that those who offer their sincere prayers to this Lord on Chitrai Krishna Paksha Chaturdasi will be blessed to attain the status equivalent to Indra.

All four great Saivite Saint Poets have sung praise of the Lord at this temple. This is also the temple with the highest amount of praise from the saint poets along with Chidambaram, Sirkazhi and Madurai.

Sembian Devi built the temple in its current form and structure converting it to stone construction. She donated generously for the daily pooja and rituals handing silver vessels to the temple.

During the Raja Raja I, a special palanquin was made for the street procession of Lord, for which money was granted from the temple coffers.

Grand Celebrations in Aipasi Sathayam and Aadi Thiruvathirai were introduced. There was a temple assembly  that met regularly at the mandapa to discuss the activities of the temple.

There were 56 grand festivals each year during the rule of Kulothungo I.

Vikrama Chozha and Thiruvarur

During the rule of Parakesari (Vikrama) Chozha, a mandapa was created at the temple where in food was distributed to the needy and to the travelling devotees.

Vikrama Chozha also stood in front of the ‘Mandapa for Justice’ that was erected at the temple from with God as Witness, cases were heard and Justice provided to people.

Also it was during his rule that dance arangetram was initiated in the month of Chitrai every year for young talented dancers at the Devasiriyin mandapa and he awarded them a certificate as proof of the event.

Inscriptions at the Eastern entrance provide insights into the appointment of temple staff during his rule.

Also, during this period, the respected and senior residents of Thiruvarur congregated and made donations for ghee  that was to be used to light the lamp for the Lord every day.

Even though he ruled from Gangai Konda Cholapuram, he had special liking for the Lord of Thiruvarur and organised special grants for the people of Thiruvarur. A couple among these were granting of lands for the people and construction of lakes for cultivation purposes ahead of the harvest season - which were well appreciated by the people of Thiruvarur. 

The Names
In centuries gone by, the temple has been referred to as Aadaga Kshetram, Kamala Puram, Vanmeega Puram, Muchu Kunda Puram, Andar Gadheswara Puram, Sri Puram, Inder Maageswara Puram and Skanda Puram among many other names.

One finds Nava Durga inside the temple.

Grand Panguni Utsavam
Aruthra Utsavam – Lord’s legs can be seen on that day.
Chariot Festival in Panguni
Vasantha Utsavam

Quick Facts
Moolavar          : Vanmeegar
Ambal:              Soma Kulambai / Kamala Ambal / Nilothpalaambigai
Utsavar            : Thyagaraja
Time                 : 6am-12noon and 430pm-9pm
Contact             : Somaskanda Gurukal @ 99659 57725 or 04366 244484 /
                           Ravichandran Gurukal @ 94439 72209


SK said...

Nice reading. Well written.

PRabhu S said...

Thank You for the Kind Words