Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Kasi Viswanathar||Ambal / Thayar:||Visalakshi, Ulagamman|
|Timing:||6 to 11 & 4 to 8||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Tenkasi||District:||Tirunelveli|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Tirunelveli (63 km)||Nagercoil (109 km)|
|Thoothukudi (117 km)||Virudhunagar (124 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
Tenkasi gets is name from the sthala puranam of this temple. The entire town as it is today, is centred around the temple, and tourism in and around the area.
The Pandya king Parakrama Pandyan wanted to visit Kasi, but was never able to make the trip. Once, he had a dream in which Siva advised him to follow an army of ants, and build a temple at the spot where the ants entered their anthill. The very next day, the king saw the ants, and located the spot by the Chitraru river, to build the temple. As he always wanted to go to Kasi on pilgrimage, he trusted the divine intervention and built a temple for Siva as Viswanathar (at Kasi), with the Lingam being brought from Kasi itself (one version of the sthala puranam says this was a swayambhu murti already present at the location of the anthill). Because this temple is said to represent all that is Kasi, but is located in the south, the place gets the name Ten-Kasi (southern Kasi).
The temple was built in the 14th century by Parakrama Pandya, and later additions were made by the Nayaks and the Vijayanagara Dynasty. The inscriptions in the temple refer to the establishment of this city in the 13th century, and gifts made by king Vira Pandyan to various people in the late 14th century.
There is a statue of Parakrama Pandyan in the garbhagriham, which is accorded worship during all temple festivals. According to some versions of the puranam, Tenkasi is considered to be Nandi’s birthplace (rather than Tirumazhapadi). Among others, Agastyar, Indra, Vali and Nandi are said to have worshipped here.
The temple is spread over nearly 5 acres, and houses a plethora of interesting art and architecture from the Pandyas, Nayaks and Vijayanagara Dynasty. In particular, the pillar art is uniquely Pandya in style, featuring classic representations of various tandavams of Siva, Agni Veerabhadra, Aghora Veerabhadra, Vishnu, Kama and Rati, and Kali, amongst others.
The massive 180-foot tall raja gopuram itself has a rather interesting history. Initially a flat gopuram (mottai gopuram) had been built by the Pandyas, which as almost entirely taken down and renovated during the time of the Vijayanagara Dynasty. In 1824, a fire burnt it down, and the gopuram was in ruins till the mid 1960s, when restoration work started, which was finally finished in 1990.
The pattern of wind that blows through the gopuram entrance is also quite unique. When one enters the gopuram arch from the east, the wind seems to be pushing against us. As we step down to from the entrance, the wind whirls around, and when we are out of that, and as we proceed into the temple premises, the same wind seems to push us from behind!
The temple is considered a prarthana sthalam for those undergoing Sevvai dosham, and for those praying for relief from delayed marriages and for easy childbirth. The temple’s annual Masi Magham festival celebrated in the Tamil month of Masi (February-March) is the most popular of three annual festivals of this temple.
After the Pandyas moved out of Madurai post the Vijayanagara Dynasty coming in, they retained this place and its surrounding areas as their domain. This temple is where the coronation of Pandya kings took place. Tenkasi is considered to be the last major domain of the Pandyas before their dynasty came to an end.
Other information for your visit