Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Mukteeswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||SwarNavalli, Porkodinayaki|
|Deity:||Siva||Historical name:||Tirutthilaippathi, Madhimutham|
|Vriksham:||Mandaarai||Teertham:||Chandra Teertham, Brahma Teertha, Arasalar river|
|Timing:||6 to 12 & 4.30 to 8||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Paadal Petra Sthalam (Kaveri Then Karai)||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Sethalapathy||District:||Tiruvarur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Mayiladuthurai (21 km)||Tiruvarur (24 km)|
|Kumbakonam (34 km)||Nagapattinam (38 km)|
Situated on the southern bank of the Arasilar river, Sethalapathi or Tilatarpanapuri is located close to Koothanur, between Peralam and Mudikondan.
Sthala puranam and temple information
Til or Tila is Sanskrit for sesame. Tarpanam refers to the rites performed for the deceased. The place gets is historical name Tilatarpanapuri, due to its association with last rites performed using pindams (balls of rice and sesame; tila is Sanskrit for sesame / gingelly).
During their journey to Lanka to find Sita, Rama and Lakshmana learnt of their father King Dasaratha’s demise. They needed to perform last rites, and attempted to do so at many places, but pindam offered during those rites kept turning into snakes. Desperate, Rama prayed to Lord Siva, and was instructed to come to this place, where, upon offering pindam, they turned into Siva lingams. These can be seen by the southern wall in the temple’s outer prakaram, along with an idol of Rama. As the performance of the rites here provided salvation (Mukti) to King Dasaratha, the Lord takes the name Mukteeswarar.
Lord Brahma once fell in love with the celestial Urvasi, because of which he was cursed by Siva to go to the earth and worship him. Brahma visited Tilatarpanapuri and performed rigorous penance, after which Siva relieved him from the curse.
Another legend associated with this place is that of a king from Banaras (Kasi) called Narchothi. The king wanted to perform the rituals for his deceased father, but also wanted to offer food (pindam) to his ancestors directly. He was unsuccessful at many places, till he finally arrived at Tilatarpanapuri, where he was able to do so.
The river Arasilar flows from north to south, near this temple. Such a directional flow of a river is highly suitable for conducting rites for deceased souls. Because of this, and the temple’s association with such rites and rituals, the temple is a parikara sthalam for conducting ancestral rites, as is the case with Rameswaram, Sri Vanchiyam, Tiruvenkadu, Triveni Sangam (Allahabad), Gaya, and Kasi. These 7 places that are considered to be very auspicious for performing rituals for deceased ancestors.
Parvati, Lakshmi, Brahma, Suryan and Chandran are said to have worshipped Siva here. The idols of Suryan and Chandran are seen together at this temple, because they worshipped Lord Siva together here. For this reason, at this place all days are considered equivalent of Amavasya (new moon day). This adds to the significance of the place, for rituals to the deceased (Amavasya is the day for such monthly rituals), or indeed for any auspicious activity, and it is considered that one does not have to look for a specific auspicious date and time.
A unique feature of this temple is that Lord Vishnu is seen in three places and forms in this temple – as Rama (with the lingams that came from the pindam), as Vishnu on the rear koshtam of the main sanctum (in place of Lingodhbhavar) and as Perumal along with Sreedevi and Bhoodevi.
The name Sethalapathy is actually Sitilapathi, which is itself a corruption of (Seer+tila+pathi). Seer refers to something of high regard, tila (as above) refers to sesame, and pathi is taken to mean “place” in general.
Beautiful paintings of all the 63 Nayanmars can be seen on the walls of the main hall in front of the sanctum sanctorum.
Other information for your visit
Just outside the Siva temple is also a shrine for Adi Vinayakar or Nara Mukha Vinayakar, where the deity is Vinayakar but with a human face. It is believed that Sage Agastya, in both his sthula sareeram and sukshma sareeram, worships the Adi Vinayakar (Nara Mukha Vinayakar) outside the temple, every month on Sankatahara Chaturti.
The Koothanur Saraswati temple is located very close to this temple.
P Swaminatha Sivacharyar: 94423 90299; P Viswanatha Sivachariar: 94427 14055
Pics below, courtesy Sriram (Templepages.com).