Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Nageswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||Brihannayaki, Periyanayaki|
|Deity:||Siva||Historical name:||Tirukkudanthai Keezhkottam|
|Vriksham:||Vilvam||Teertham:||Singamukha Teertham (well)|
|Timing:||6 to 12.30 & 4.30 to 9||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Paadal Petra Sthalam (Kaveri Then Karai)||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Kumbakonam||District:||Thanjavur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Kumbakonam (1.6 km)||Mayiladuthurai (38.9 km)|
|Thanjavur (40.9 km)||Tiruvarur (41.7 km)|
The temple is located in the heart of Kumbakonam, the temple town.
Sthala puranam and temple information
There are two prominent Nageswarar temples in and around Kumbakonam, both Paadal Petra Sthalams. One is the Nageswarar temple at Tirunageswaram (one of the Kumbakonam Navagraham temples), and the other is this temple in the heart of Kumbakonam.
This temple is also referred to as Kudanthai Keezhkottam (Kudanthai is an older name for Kumbakonam. Kottam refers to a structure with high walls, like a fort (or kottai). So this is the lower fort of Kudanthai / Kumbakonam).
This is one of 12 temples directly associated with the origin of Kumbakonam and the Mahamaham festival. According to that puranam, Brahma put together the seeds of all living organisms and also the Vedas and Puranas, in a pot which came to be called the Amrita Kalasam (pot of nectar). Kumbham is the Sanskrit and Kudam the Tamil, for a pot of this type. This was decorated with various items like flowers, vilvam, auspicious cloth, chandanam (sandal paste), and sacred thread, a coconut was kept on top of it. The whole thing was tied together, similar to the kalasams we see today at domestic functions and in temples. The pot was kept on the top of mount Meru. When the pralayam began, it destroyed all creatures on earth. The Kumbham prepared by Brahma was also displaced, and floated on the flood waters for years and years. Finally, it settled at a spot (which is regarded as modern day Kumbakonam). Siva, in the guise of a hunter, broke open the kumbham with his bow and arrow. This is the place where the vilvam leaves adorning the kumbham, fell (Siva here is also called Vilvavaneswarar.). (Read the full story of the origin of Kumbakonam, and about the related Mahamaham festival.)
Adiseshan, the king of Nagas, was carrying the burden of the earth on his 1000 heads. As the human race continued committing sins and living immorally, the weight of the earth increased and Adiseshan found it difficult to carry the load, and so prayed to Lord Siva to give him strength to carry the burden. The kind-hearted Lord took pity on him and granted him the power to carry the earth load on his single head for any length of time. As the Lingam was installed and prayed to by Adiseshan, the Lord is called Nageswarar.
On the night of Mahasivaratri, Nagaraja (lord of the nagas) is said to have worshipped Lord Siva at four 4 temples – Nageswarar (Kumbakonam), Nageswarar (Tirunageswaram), Seshapureeswarar (Tirupampuram), and Naganathar (Nagore). Therefore, this is a Rahu dosham nivritti sthalam, with Mondays and Thursdays being the special days of worship for this, as well as marriage and childbirth.
The Nataraja Madapam here, called Perambalam, is constructed in the shape of a horse drawn chariot. There are 12 arms in each wheel of the chariot, with each of the arms representing one rasi. Ambal, in the form of Sivakami, is seen keeping the beat for Lord Nataraja’s cosmic dance and Lord Vishnu is seen playing the flute. Mahakali and Veerabadhrar have separate shrines opposite each other, and the sculptures look so real that it looks like they are competing with each other in dance, as they did in Chidambaram!
There is architecture everywhere at this temple – on the walls, pillars, kosthams, gopurams, etc! It is worth spending some time just to admire these at this temple.
In the 1920s, a person called Ramalingaswamy from Padagacheri undertook the temple’s Kumbabhishekam with money collected only by begging.
The temple itself was built during the period of Aditya Chola I, and over time, various other Chola kings have made additions, as well as donations, improvements, etc, to the temple. There are inscriptions in the temple that relate to various kings, from Aditya Chola to the Vijaynagar empire.
There is a view that Sekkizhar (compiler of the Periya Puranam) did the arangetram (staging) of the Periya Puranam here, but there is a conflicting view that it may have been at the Tirunageswaram temple.
Other information for your visit
This is a fairly large temple, and takes time to look around. Visitors should therefore keep sufficient time in their schedule when visiting this temple.
The temple is in the heart of Kumbakonam, and therefore there are numerous options for accommodation and food nearby.