Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Aiyarappar||Ambal / Thayar:||Dharmasamvardhini, AramvaLarthanayaki|
|Deity:||Paadal Petra Sthalam||Historical name:||Tiruvaiyaaru|
|Vriksham:||Vilvam||Teertham:||Surya Teertham, Ayana Teertham, Kaveri|
|Timing:||6 to 11 & 4 to 8.30||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Paadal Petra Sthalam (Kaveri Vada Karai)||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Tiruvaiyaru||District:||Thanjavur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Thanjavur (15 km)||Ariyalur (35 km)|
|Kumbakonam (40 km)||Perambalur (58 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
The king who ruled over this area was traveling with his entourage, when the wheels of his chariot got stuck in the mud. His soldiers attempted to release it by digging the ground, but they struck a hard object. Upon careful excavation, they found it to be a Siva Lingam. They continued digging, and retrieved the murtis of Amman, Vinayakar, Murugan and Nandi. They also saw a sage who was meditating, while buried underground. They all prostrated to the sage, who got out of his trance and advised the king to build a temple there for Siva, and that he would then find treasure under Nandi’s hoof. The construction was duly completed, and the king indeed found the treasure.
At one time, it was reported to the king of the region, that the temple priest was not at the temple performing his duties. The king – who was otherwise hot-headed – found this to be unusual, because the priest was extremely devoted to the temple, and so could not believe what he had just heard. So he rushed to the temple to find out. What had happened was, that the priest had not yet returned from Kasi. But when the king reached the temple, he saw the priest performing his duties, and was satisfied. As the king and his entourage were leaving the temple, they saw the original priest return. It was then that it dawned on them, that in truth, the priest who was officiating was actually Siva in disguise!
The traditional belief is that Tiruvaiyaru and the Lord there get their name from the fact that five rivers (aindhu aaru, in Tamil) need to be crossed to reach the place (or it is the confluence of the five rivers – Kaveri, Kudamurutti, Vadavaru, Vennar, Vettar). However, according to one puranam, Pancha Nadeeswarar (Aiyarappar in Sanskrit), is a corruption of Pancha Naadeswarar. The puranam says that Japesar’s penance (see puranam on the Tirumazhapadi Vaidyanathar temple) was so intense, that Siva had to bathe in five different liquids (water from the Ganga river, water from Brahma’s kamandalam, milk from Parvati, water from the Kaveri river, and froth from Nandi’s mouth), to revive Japesar. Together, these five are called Pancha Naadam, and hence Siva is named Pancha Naadeswarar. Siva also blessed Nandi by making him his chief Gana, giving him the position of Adhikara Nandi, and also as his mount / vehicle.
Surathan, a king of Hastinapuram, did not have children. He was advised by some sages to do a pradakshinam (circumambulation) of Kailasam for one mandalam (48 days). Realising the difficulty of this task, the king asked Sage Durvasa for advise, and so the sage worshipped Siva for a solution. The benevolent Lord asked Nandi to shift Kailasam to Tiruvaiyaru. Nandi did so, but as he was laying the hill to rest in its new location, the hill split into two, which are today regarded as separate temples in the complex – called Vada Kailasam and Then Kailasam (see below for more).
Sundarar visited here with his close friend Cheraman Peruman, the Nayanmar. At the time, there were floods in the Kaveri river, which prevented them from reaching Tiruvaiyaru. They worshipped Siva, who parted the floods in the Kaveri to allow them safe passage to the temple.
Appar, the Saivite saint, trudged towards Kailasam on his hands and knees, with barely an strength left in him. An old man appeared and asked Appar to take a dip in the nearby waterbody, to regain his energy. The old man was none other than Siva, and so when Appar took a dip, he emerged on the banks of the Kaveri river at Tiruvaiyaru, where Siva and Parvati appeared and blessed him. For this reason, Tiruvaiyaru is also considered as the Dakshina Kailasam.
It is said in the sthala puranam that Agastyar – who is regarded as being diminutive in size – was originally of normal height, but his height reduced at Tiruvaiyaru. Dharmasamvarthini Amman is said to have worshipped Siva with two measures of rice, at this temple.
In some puranams, Tiruvaiyaru (and not Tirumazhapadi) is considered as the birthplace of Nandi, who is also regarded as the founder of the Tirukailayam monastic dynasty. Siva’s bathing of Nandi as mentioned above is said to have been done when Nandi was born, according to these puranams.
Arunagirinathar has sung on Murugan at this temple, in his Tiruppugazh. This temple is regarded as a Surya sthalam, since Suryan worshipped here. There is a particular spot in the temple, from which if one stands and calls out “Aiyarappa”, the voice echoes five times.
The present day temple is an amalgam of styles from several dynasties and periods. The core temple is Chola, dated to the 9th century. Subsequent renovations and additions, including all four gopurams, were made by the Pandyas, Nayaks and Marathas. Because of this, it is often difficult to the untrained eye to identify which aspects of the temple belong to which periods.
The temple complex itself consists of three separate temples inside – the main Aiyarappar temple which encompasses five prakarams or precincts, the Then Kailasam, and the Vada Kailasam (called Ulohamadeveeswaram or Ulohamadevichuram, having been built by Raja Raja Chola I’s queen Ulohamadevi). There is a separate shrine for Aatkondar (Kalasamharamurti), outside which a homa kundam for yagams exists, which was installed by Adi Sankara.
It is believed that the locks of Siva’s matted hair flows behind the garbhagriham as well, and so it is not permitted for devotees to do pradakshinam (circumambulation) around the sanctum, for fear of stepping on Siva’s hair.
Inscriptions in the temple refer to various rulers from the above-mentioned dynasties, including Karikala Chola, Raja Raja Chola I, Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan, and Krishna Deva Raya. Ulohamadevi had also made several endowments and grants to the temple.
The temple has some really interesting elements of iconography and architecture as well. For instance, Dakshinamurti is depicted with His foot on a tortoise, instead of on Muyalagan who represents ignorance. Also, the walls of the innermost pillared corridor are filed with art from the Nayak period.
Other information for your visit
This is one of the temples forming part of Tiruvaiyaru Sapta Sthanam festival, which celebrates Nandi’s wedding. All seven temples are located relatively close by, and except for Tiruvaiyaru (which is a large temple) they could be covered in about 6 hours. Alternatively, an entire day can be spent leisurely visiting all seven temples, including Tiruvaiyaru.
In recent times, Tiruvaiyaru has become synonymous with the Thyagaraja music festival. Very close to the Aiyarappar temple is a house (renovated today, but would have been a small dwelling in Thyagarajar’s time) where he lived and composed some of his greatest works. His samadhi is also on the banks of the Kaveri river.
Phone: 0436 2260332