Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Kutralanathar||Ambal / Thayar:||Kuzhalvaaimozhi Ammai|
|Deity:||Paadal Petra Sthalam||Historical name:||TirukuTraalam|
|Timing:||6 to 12 & 4 to 7||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Paadal Petra Sthalam (Pandya Naadu)||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Tirunelveli||District:||Tirunelveli|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Tirunelveli (66 km)||Nagercoil (107 km)|
|Thoothukudi (122 km)||Kanyakumari (122 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
This is one of the pancha sabhai temples, where Siva performed His cosmic dance. This temple represents the Chitra Sabhai where Siva performed the Tripura Tandavam. The other 4 are:
Tirumulanathar / Natarajar at Chidambaram (Por Sabhai, Ananda Tandavam)
Sundareswarar at Madurai (Velli Sabhai, Sandhya Tandavam)
Nellaippar at Tirunelveli (Tamra Sabhai, Muni Tandavam) and
Vataranyeswarar at Tiruvalangadu near Chennai (Rajata Sabhai, Kali Tandavam).
When the gods and Devas gathered at Kailasam for the celestial wedding of Siva and Parvati, the shift in weight caused the south of the land to rise. Siva dispatched Agastyar, whose small stature belied his powers, to offset the imbalance. Agastyar was also told that he could witness the celestial wedding from the place where he recognised Vishnu as Siva (with the added bonus that later, he could also see the celestial couple in their wedding posture at any time the sage wished). Agastyar reached the Podhigai hills in the region, worshipped Murugan at the Ilanjikumaran temple there, and also to a Lingam he made out of sand. Murugan advised him to go to this temple which was a temple for Vishnu, and worship in the garb of a Vaishnavite. Agastyar did so, and as he approached the garbhagriham here, the conch in Vishnu’s hand changed to a deer, the garland of tulsi became Siva’s crescent, Vishnu’s necklace became a snake, and the mark on His forehead became Siva’s third eye. Remembering Siva’s words, Agastyar pressed the head of the murti of Vishnu, which instantly sank into the ground, with only Vishnu’s crown remaining above, which morphed into a Lingam. Instantly, Agastyar was able to witness the wedding of Siva and Parvati. It is believed that Agastyar worships at this temple every night, to date. It is said that Agastyar’s finger marks when he pressed on the murti, can be seen on the Lingam. Since Siva appeared as a groom to Agastyar here, He is also called Manakkola Nathar.
Following Agastyar’s path, devotees often worship at the Ilanji Kumaran Murugan temple (located about 3km from this temple) and the Siva Lingam installed there by Agastyar, before coming to the Kutralanathar temple.
Giving further credence to the point that this was earlier a Vishnu temple, the temple itself is shaped like a conch (see side picture). At the point where the conch bends, is the Amman shrine, and there is just about enough gap between the walls of the shrine and the temple, for a person to walk through. Also, the shrines for the two consorts of Vishnu – Sridevi and Bhudevi – became shrines for Kuzhalvaaimozhi Amman and Parasakti (the latter being seated on a Chakra peetham).
When Agastyar pressed the head of the murti of Vishnu, it became a Lingam, but due to Agastyar’s power, this action itself caused Siva a headache. To treat this, Agastyar anointed the Lingam with a concoction of 64 herbs, milk, green coconut and sandal paste! This tradition is continued even today, where the paste is applied to the Lingam at night, and then given as prasadam to devotees.
Another sthala puranam here is connected to the Mahabharatam. When Arjuna visited Kasi, he lost the Siva Lingam he carried with him for worship, there. He got it back when he worshipped her at Kutralam. For this reason, devotees worship here to get back lost properties, and Siva here is also called Thulainda Porul Tharum Nayakar.
The core temple here is said to have existed since the early Sangam times (Sangam literature has several references to the Podhigai hills). According to some sources, Kochchenga Cholan planted the sthala vriksham here. The construction of a structural temple was by the early crop of medieval Pandyas in the 8th or 9th century. Later, the temple saw renovations by the Cholas in the 10th century, and some later additions by the Nayaks (who could not construct their trademark raja gopuram here, due to the limited space available). The temple walls have several inscriptions as well, including those from the time of Parantaka Chola I. One inscription has been deciphered as referring to the temple as that of Tirukutrala Perumal, referring to the Vishnu temple that this used to be.
The temple has 5 entrances – one representing each of the four Vedas, and the fifth for Pilavendhan, who came here and witnessed Siva’s tandavam. Natarajar here is depicted in Nritya Tandavam. The Parasakti shrine here is regarded as one of the Sakti Peethams. Murugan’s shrine has Valli and Deivanai facing each other.
Another interesting aspect on the iconography here is the dwarapalakas in front of the garbhagriham, who appear to be consulting with each other – the story goes that since Agastyar is said to worship here every night, they are checking with each other if Agastyar has come today!
The Chitra Sabhai is located across the road, to the north of the temple, opposite the temple tank. This is where Siva danced his Tandavam. While the Sabhai itself has existed from ancient times, construction of the physical structure we see today began in the time of Parakrama Pandyan in the middle to late 15th century, and was completed during the reign of Udayamarthanda Varman. Today, the place is a vast storehouse of murals and paintings from puranams and epics, painted using natural dyes. The paintings here are mostly from the time of the Nayaks, much of which have been restored in recent years.
Other information for your visit
There are several resort accommodations available near Kutralam, which in the right season, can be a great tourist / vacation spot as well.
Also refer to these official websites:
Tirunelveli NIC site
TNHRCE page on this temple