Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Sivalokanathar||Ambal / Thayar:||Sokka Nayaki, Soundara Nayaki|
|Timing:||7.30 to 12 & 5.30 to 9||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Paadal Petra Sthalam (Kaveri Vada Karai)||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Tirupunkur||District:||Nagapattinam|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Mayiladuthurai (14 km)||Kumbakonam (51 km)|
|Thiruvarur (57 km)||Nagapattinam (63 km)|
Tirupunkur is located between Vaitheeswaran Koil and Tiruppanandal, in the Mayiladuthurai district.
Sthala puranam and temple information
Tirupunkur gets is name from the fact that in the old days, this was a forest of pungai (Indian Beech) trees. Located very close to Vaitheeswaran Koil, Tirupunkur is on the state highway that leads to Tiruppanandal. This stretch of road is also the route to at least 6 more Paadal Petra Sthalams, one Vaippu Sthalam, and other several temples of prominence or note. This temple is known for its association with Nandanaar (also known as Tirunaalaipovaar), one of the 63 Nayanmars.
Nandanaar, a resident of Mel Adhanoor near Swamimalai, wanted to pray to the Lord in Chidambaram. However, he would always defer his visit stating he would go the following day or in the future (which gave him the epithet Tirunaalaipovaar – the one who will go the next day!). When he finally did leave for Chidambaram, he visited this temple at Tirupungkur on the way. Being of a lower caste (Nandanaar worked with leather and was involved in making percussion instruments), he could not enter the temple, but also found that Nandi (who is normally aligned to the sanctum) was blocking his view from the entrance. Disappointed, he prayed to Lord Siva, who ordered Nandi to step aside a little so that Nandanaar could see the Lord. This order was so unique, that the dwarapalakas were surprised by it. The expression of surprise – arising from Siva’s order to Nandi – is clearly evident on the faces of Nandi and the dwarapalakas (see pictures in gallery below for both Nandi and the dwarapalakas).
A very old temple, it was renovated in the time of Rajendra Chola at a time when there was drought all across the Chola empire. The king had a dream in which the Lord told him to pray at Tirupungur. When he went there, Sundarar was also visiting, and helped the king pray for rains. Heavy rains followed, and the king had to request Sundarar to get the rains to stop, lest they do great damage. In return, Sundarar asked the king for 12 velis of land, which were duly given, and the rains stopped after Sundarar’s prayers.
Author’s commentary: Being all-powerful, why did Lord Siva not simply let Nandanaar enter the temple? Did he also practice untouchability and caste bias? Of course note. The point of the puranam is that for a true Bhakta, the Lord can make the impossible possible. It is to demonstrate this, that Nandi was asked to move aside – not something that happens very often!
Even today, one can see the huge Nandi idol not being in line with the dwajasthambam (flag mast) and bali peetham (which is normally the case, but both of those are subsequent additions to the temple structure). The moolavar and nandi are said to be the original structures at this temple, while the rest of the temple was built around the shrine, much later.
Vinayakar knew of Nandanaar’s plans to visit this temple. So in order for Nandanaar to have a ritual bath before worshipping, Vinayakar came here the previous day, and helped Nandanar dig the temple pond overnight, aided by Siva’s ganas. He is known here as Kinaru Vettiya Vinayakar (the Vinayakar who dug the well). Nandanaar also has a separate shrine at this temple.
The Swayambhu Lingam is essentially an anthill, and so is provided with a copper cover during normal visit hours. Once a week, the cover is removed to apply punugu (civet) oil. The outer prakaram also has the pancha Lingams (representing the five aspects of Lord Siva – Sadyojatam, Vamadevam, Aghoram, Tatpurusham, and Isanam).
The temple has a 5-tier Rajagopuram. Kulam Vettiya Vinayakar sannidhi is in the outer prakaram.