Kampahareswarar (Sarabeswarar), Tribhuvanam, Thanjavur

Basic information about the temple

Moolavar:KampahareswararAmbal / Thayar:Dharmasamvarthini
Deity:Vaippu SthalamHistorical name:
Vriksham:VilvamTeertham:Sarabha Teertham

Age (years):


Timing:7 to 12 & 5 to 8Parikaram:

Temple group:Vaippu Sthalam
Sung by:

Temple set:

Great Living Chola Temples



City / town:TribhuvanamDistrict:Thanjavur
Maps from (click): Current location Kumbakonam (8 km)Mayiladuthurai (30 km)

Tiruvarur (39 km)Thanjavur (50 km)


Sthala puranam and temple information

The Pandya king Varaguna Pandyan was once riding a horse, when he accidentally ran over a brahmin and killed him. The dead brahmin’s spirit – in the form of brahmahathi dosham – clung to the king, who could not stop trembling in fear – quite literally. Eventually, he went to Tiruvidaimaruthur in chase of a Chola king, and fearing the Lord inside, the brahmahathi dosham stayed outside the eastern entrance, while the king exited through another gate. He reached Tribhuvanam where, due to the grace of the Lord, his shivering stopped. As a mark of his gratitude, he built a temple for Siva there. Siva is called Kampahareswarar because he helped overcome (hara) of the king’s trembling (kampa). In Tamil, He is called Nadukkam Teertha Nayakan, meaning the same thing – the Lord who stopped the trembling.

In Vishnu’s Narasimhavataram, Narasimhar killed Hiranyakashipu and drank his blood. As a result, Narasimhar imbibed asuraic qualities and became uncontrollable in his rage. The gods requested Siva to pacify Narasimhar, and so Siva took on the form of Sarabha – a strange creature, which the Sarabha Upanishad (which forms part of the Atharva Veda) describes as a creature with two heads, two wings, eight legs of the lion (including two which faced upwards) with sharp claws, and a long tail. Sarabha took hold of Narasimhar and took him into space (because if even a drop of blood fell to earth, it would create many asuras), and made all the bad quality blood ooze out, and Narasimhar became normal again. There is a separate shrine for Siva as Sarabeswarar at this temple. One can see Sarabeswarar in many temples – but only as a bas relief image on the pillars. This is the only place to have a separate shrine for Sarabeswarar, who is said to be a combination of four deities – Siva, Vishnu, Kali (or Pratyankara Devi) and Durga (Shoolini Durga).

Sage Markandeyar wanted to give clothes to the gods, and so created a sage named Bhavanam from his sacrificial fire. Bhavanam rishi had a ball of thread collected from Vishnu’s navel, which he spun into a fine cloth and gave to the gods. Padmashali and other weaver communities in this region regard Bhavanam rishi as their ancestor, and this gave the place its name as Tribhavanam, which over time has come to be called Tribhuvanam.

Another prevailing story as to the origin of the name of the place, is that this place was visited by Jatavarman Tribuvana Chakravarthin Parakrama Pandyadeva, the Pandya king, and his name was lent to the place.

This is a Tevaram Vaippu sthalam, and Appar has referred to this temple in one of his Tiruthandagams.

The temple was built by Kulothunga Chola III in the late 12th century, to commemorate his successful campaign in north India. The inscriptions in the temple refer to the king’s contribution to the Natarajar shrine and the temple’s mukha-mandapam, and also refers to other temples such as the Chidambaram Natarajar temple, Kanchipuram Ekambareswarar temple, Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple, Tiruvidaimaruthur Mahalingaswami temple and the Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar temple. The bronze image of Sarabeswarar is also from Kulothunga Chola III’s period.

The temple also has several interesting and astonishing elements of architecture and iconography in its 5 acre premises. In particular, the Sarabeswarar shrine has polished granite pillars with fine carvings.

Interestingly, the main shrine including the maha-mandapam, ardha-mandapam and the garbhagriham, as well as Sarabeswarar’s shrine, are built at a significant elevation from ground level. It is believed that this was done to ensure that these places remained dry for use by village folk, in the event of floods in the Kaveri river.

This temple is the last one built, out of the four Great Living Chola Temples, and is recognised as a UNESCO Heritage monument. The general style of temple architecture here is consistent with the Brihadeeswarar temple at Thanjavur, and an example of classic Chola architecture. However, the structural temple we see today was built much later, and though some experts regard this as the least astounding of the four, architecturally.

As with the other temples in the group, the vimanam over the garbhagriham is very tall, and is significantly higher than the raja gopuram.

Other information for your visit

The temple is located very close (2km) to the Tiruvidaimaruthur Mahalingaswami temple, and is a must-visit if one is in the area.

Tribhuvanam is also known for its textiles, particularly sarees.


Phone: 0435 2460760

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