Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Sankaranarayanar||Ambal / Thayar:||Gomathi Amman, Avudai Nayaki|
|Timing:||5 to 12.30 & 4 to 9||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Sankarankoil||District:||Tirunelveli|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Tirunelveli (66 km)||Virudhunagar (81 km)|
|Thoothukudi (100 km)||Theni (115 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
This temple with a rather interesting sthala puranam is considered an expression of the oneness of Saiva-Vaishnava philosophies. While at Chidambaram and Kanchipuram, there are Divya Desam temples located inside a Siva temple (and Paadal Petra Sthalam at that), here, Sankara Narayanar is a unified form of Siva and Vishnu together – not just in the same shrine, but in the same murti as well.
Sangan and Padman – both kings of snakes – were staunch devotees of Siva and Vishnu, respectively, and this led to frequent arguments between them as to which of their deities was superior to the other. To resolve their dispute, they approached Parvati – consort of Siva and sister of Vishnu. Knowing the oneness of Siva and Vishnu, Parvati prayed to both of them to appear together. Heeding her request, Siva and Vishnu appeared as one. Today, in addition to the Sankara Lingam shrine in the temple, there is a separate shrine for Sankara Narayanar, where the murti’s left half is Vishnu (adorned with yellow silk cloth, crown, jewellery, and chakram that are all associated with Vishnu), while the right half is Siva (wearing tiger skin, holding a staff, adorned with a rudraksham, and other classic depictions of Siva). The shrine of Sankara Narayanar is located between the Siva and Parvati shrines.
Equally interesting is that some aspects of both Siva and Vishnu worship are practised simultaneously here – for instance, devotees are given Teertham and tulasi during the daytime worship, and vibhuti in the evenings!
Another local legend – a variation of the above – is that Parvati wanted to see both her brother and husband at the same time. But when invoking them, She made a grammatical mistake, resulting in them appearing fused together!
At Parvati’s request, a Siva Lingam also sprouted of its own accord here (swayambhu murti), and over time, it was covered by an anthill, where Sangan and Padman – who were worshipping the Lingam – were also blissfully trapped. Much later, a local named Manigreevan (who was the earthly form of a celestial who had been cursed by Parvati to take birth on Bhulokam) tried to clear the anthill but ended up accidentally cutting of Sangan’s tail. Horrified by the blood that oozed out, he reported the matter to the local king, and a team of workers immediate came over to dig up the place. At the very same time, the royal elephant also started digging the earth of its own accord. Together, they found the Lingam inside the anthill. In accordance with the instructions of a celestial voice that the king heard, he built a temple here. Given the association with the anthill, Siva here is also known as Vanmeekanathar.
When Parvati prayed to Siva and Vishnu, her penance lasted 10 days, during which time, celestial women came to be with her, in the form of cattle – this gives Amman the name Gomathi, here. This 10-day period of Parvati’s penance is celebrated even today as the Aadi Tapas festival, which ends on day 12 with the appearance of Sankara Narayanar.
The core temple goes back prior to recorded history. However, the structural temple is considered to have been built around the 10th century CE, in the time of Ugra Pandyan, an early Pandya king after their resurgence around that time. The anthill is still inside the garbhagriham here and is said to have medicinal properties. Sand from the anthill (putru-mann) is distributed to devotees as prasadam. In front of Gomathi Amman’s shrine is a hole with a chakra design; local belief is that worshipping Amman while sitting on this Chakra Peetham helps cure mental illnesses. Because of the association of this temple with snakes, it is also considered a parihara sthalam for Rahu and Ketu doshams. Vinayakar here is called Sarpa Vinayakar, and is seen holding a snake. In addition, the temple is marked by fascinating architecture throughout the premises. The temple’s chariot – Aazhi Ther – is one of the largest in the state, competing with the one at Tiruvarur!
Other information for your visit
Around this area is a group of 5 temples – Pancha Bootha sthalam – dedicated to the five aspects of nature: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Ether. This temple is one of these sthalams, representing Earth.
Phone: 04636-222265; 9486240200