Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Nageswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||Girigujaambikai, Kundramaamulaiyammai|
|Timing:||6 to 12.30 & 4 to 8.30||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Paadal Petra Sthalam (Kaveri Then Karai)||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Tirunageswaram||District:||Thanjavur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Kumbakonam (6 km)||Mayiladuthurai (33 km)|
|Thiruvarur (37 km)||Thanjavur (47 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
On the night of Maha Sivaratri, Nagaraja (lord of the nagas) is said to have worshipped Lord Siva at four 4 temples– one during each jamam of the night. In order, these temples are the Nageswarar temple at Kumbakonam, Nageswarar temple at Tirunageswaram, Seshapureeswarar temple at Tirupampuram, and Naganathar temple at Nagore. This place used to be called Champakavanam (or Shenbagaranyam), after the forest of Champaka (Shenbagam) trees that dominated the area.
Sekkizhar, the compiler of Periya Puranam, performed the inaugural recital of his epic here, and this is considered one of his favourite temples (for which reason, the presiding deity at the temple at Kunnathur in Chennai – Sekkizhar’s birthplace – is Naganathar).
Once, Sukarma (the son of Sage Suseelar) was bit by Takshaka the snake, as a result of which the sage cursed Takshaka to be born as a human. Takshaka approached Sage Kashyapa for a solution, and the sage asked him to install a Lingam and offer worship to Siva, at this place. After much penance, Takshaka was blessed by Siva and relieved from his curse.
After hearing the above incidents, Rahu realised that this would be the safest place for him, and so he moved here permanently with his wives Simhi and Chitralekha. Rahu is said to be in benevolent form here, blessing devotees with positive outcomes and removing hurdles in their lives. For this reason, this temple is considered a Rahu sthalam, and is one of the Kumbakonam Navagraham temples, as well as being a sarpa dosha nivritti sthalam. Rahu has a separate shrine in the north-eastern portion of the 2nd prakaram, and unlike at most other temples, Rahu here is depicted here with a human face. It is believed that the milk offered to Rahu for abhishekam during rahukalam time, turns blue.
During the churning of the ocean, Vishnu as Mohini determined that only the Devas would receive the amritam. However, one asura – under the advice of Sukracharya – disguised himself as a Deva and received amritam. Suryan and Chandran brought this to Vishnu’s attention, who tapped the asura with the ladle used to distribute the amritam, causing the asura’s head to be severed. The remorseful asura prayed to Lord Siva, who gave the two parts of him the body of a snake, and place among the planets, as celestials – these two are Rahu and Ketu. So Rahu and Ketu occasionally get their revenge on Suryan and Chandran by causing solar and lunar eclipses!
In addition to Takshaka and Rahu, several nagas are associated with worshipping at this temple, including Karkotakan and Adiseshan, the first of the nagas who was also given darsanam of Siva here. As a result of this, the deity here came to be known as Nanganathar or Nageswarar.
There is a separate sub-complex for Devi at this temple, located on the right (north) when entering the vast temple complex from the eastern entrance. Here, at the request of Sage Bringhi, Amman, Lakshmi and Saraswati are enshrined together in the same sannidhi – this is a very unusual and rare depiction. It is believed that they are in deep meditation upon Siva, and Maha Bhairavar is said to be guarding and assisting them. Girigujambigai Amman at this temple is said to be a swayambhu murti and so no abhishekam is performed for the murti.
Indra is said to have worshipped Parvati as Girigujambigai here, to be relieved of the curse by Sage Gautama, for having behaved inappropriately with Ahalya. Sage Bhagirata as well as Nala (of Tirunallar fame) are said to have offered worship here. According to the sthala puranam, Nandi worshipped Siva here and received the title Nandeeswaran, thereby being elevated to a status equivalent of Lord Siva Himself. Similarly, Vinayakar received the title of Ganapati here.
This Chola temple was built initially by Aditya Chola I in the 10th century, with subsequent additions and renovations by later Chola kings, and also by other dynasties including the Nayaks, who constructed the large mandapam inside the temple. The Vinayakar shrine on the east of the temple complex has a Ganapati yantram inside, and was installed by the saint Sadasiva Brahmendrar. The temple also houses some fabulous examples of classic Chola architecture.
Other information for your visit
This is one of five temples around Kumbakonam called the Kumbakonam Pancha Krosha sthalams, which represent the temples where some of the amritam fell, when Siva as a hunter broke open the pot containing the seeds for germination of new life. These five temples are: Nageswarar, Tirunageswaram; Mahalingeswarar, Tiruvidaimaruthur; Swaminathar, Swamimalai; Sundareswarar, Koranattu Karuppur; and Airavateswarar, Darasuram.
Very close to this temple is the Oppiliappan temple (Divya Desam temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu).