Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Naganathar||Ambal / Thayar:||Karpooravalli, Tripurasundari|
|Timing:||8 to 11 & 4 to 6||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Vaippu Sthalam||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Sembangudi||District:||Cuddalore|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Mayiladuthurai (28 km)||Kumbakonam (65 km)|
|Tiruvarur (68 km)||Nagapattinam (68 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
During the churning of the ocean, Swarnabhanu – one of the asuras – crept into the line of the Devas. However, he was identified by Suryan and Chandran, and as punishment, Vishnu (in the form of Mohini) hit the asura on the head with the serving spoon. But because the asura had partaken of amritam by then, he survived. His head detached from his body, and fell at a place that therefore came to be called Sirapuram – today’s Sirkazhi (one can see some etymological similarity here), specifically at the location of the Nageswaramudayar temple there. Later, the head was attached to the body of a snake, which became Rahu.
The body of the asura fell here, and attached to the head of a snake, becoming Ketu. Rahu and Ketu then worshipped Siva, and were granted special status at Siva temples, even becoming part of the Navagraham.
Rahu and Ketu worshipped Siva, sustaining only on air. Siva and Parvati appeared on their Rishabha vahanam, and blessed them, and asked him for a boon. Ketu and Rahu asked the couple to bless them with the power to swallow Suryan and Chandran, who caused his current state. Siva replied, that while they were indeed Ketu’s sworn enemies, the sun and moon were essential to the world. Therefore, to keep a sense of balance, Ketu and Rahu were blessed that they would rule over Suryan and Chandran on the days of full moon, new moon and eclipses.
This is one of the places where Ketu is said to have worshipped Siva, and is present as Adi Yoga Ketu, perpetually worshipping Siva, and is enshrined in the northern prakaram of the temple. Siva Himself is present as Ketheeswarar, due to Ketu’s worship. Nala, the king from whose story Tirunallaru gets its prominence, is said to have worshipped here.
In ancient literature, Siva is called Rudrakoteeswarar and also Naganathar (the present name), while the place is referred to as Ketupuram and Sempaambinkudi. Sembangudi is a modern corruption of Sem-Paambin-Kudi – the residence of the holy snake.
There is a separate shrine for a more-recently-installed Kadan Nivritti Lingam, which devotees worship for being freed from debt. A beautiful sculpture of the Sapta Matrikas is under a tree in the outer prakaram.
Special abhishekam for Siva here takes place with cow’s milk and red-lilies, which are said to be the ones used by Ketu in his worship of Siva. Unlike in other temples that are specifically associated with Ketu, here, a special Ketu-Kalam puja is performed every Sunday between 12 noon and 1.30 pm, and Rahukala puja from 4.30 to 6 pm. Devotees worship here at that time to be rid of Sarpa dosham. In addition, pradosham is celebrated here with special pomp and ceremony.
The temple has been significantly rebuilt in recent years, and so there are very little historical evidence or indications available. However, from the vimanams on the various shrines, particularly over the garbhagriham, this appears to be an early-Chola structural temple. The temple is built in accordance with Agamic principles, and so there are also shrines for the other major deities as one would see in any other Siva temple.
Other information for your visit
We visited this temple late in the evening, and there was no power. The pictures below are the courtesy of our associate and good friend, Kadambur Vijay, who is extremely passionate about temples and performs yeoman service for many of them.