Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Suryan||Ambal / Thayar:||Usha, Chaya|
|Timing:||6 to 12.30 & 4 to 8||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Suryanar Koil||District:||Thanjavur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Kumbakonam (16 km)||Mayiladuthurai (22 km)|
|Tiruvarur (40 km)||Ariyalur (57 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
I wasn’t sure how to refer to this temple, so for convenience, I have titled it as a Siva temple, with the presiding deity / moolavar as Suryan. The reason for this will be evident as we read on.
Of the Navagrahams, Suryan is regarded as the most important, and therefore also gets precedence in order of worship. Therefore, this is regarded as the first of the Kumbakonam Navagraham temples. Though this is most famous as a temple for Suryan, it should be noted that all the temples associated with the Navagraham are typically either Siva or Perumal temples, and this one is no exception – this is also a Siva temple, and in fact, a Tevaram Vaippu Sthalam. Siva here is worshipped as Viswanathar, with His consort Visalakshi Amman. However, the pride of place here goes to Suryan (or Suryanar, also sometimes referred to as Siva Surya Peruman), who is the presiding deity. This is further reinforced by Suryan’s horse being present after the balipeetham (where one would normally find Nandi, in a Siva temple).
It is believed that this temple used complement another ancient temple dedicated to Suryan, called Uchikizha Kottam, in Poompuhar, which was destroyed by a tsunami several centuries ago.
The sthala puranam of this temple is connected intricately with that of the Prananatheswarar temple at nearby Tirumangalakudi.
Sage Galva, through his yogic power, learnt that he would be affected with leprosy. So he prayed to Navagrahams to protect him, and they obliged. However, this caused resentment in Brahma, as be felt he alone was in charge of humans’ destinies. As a result, he cursed the Navagrahams to be afflicted with leprosy. The Navagrahams prayed to Brahma to withdraw his curse, but that was not to be. However, Vinayakar guided them to pray to Prananatheswarar at Tirumangalakudi. The Navagrahams installed a murti of Vinayakar nearby (as is the custom before any major worship) and then worshipped Siva at Tirumangalakudi. Pleased with this, Siva blessed them to be relieved of Brahma’s curse. He also blessed them to be present as anugraha murtis, in a separate temple nearby that Sage Galva would build for them, ie, at Suryanar Koil. Therefore, this temple is considered the Navagraham shrine of the Tirumangalakudi Siva temple, and should be visited along with a visit to the Tirumangalakudi temple.
Suryan is in the garbhagriham as the chief amongst the Navagrahams. However, unlike the Navagraham shrines in other temples, each of the other 8 Navagraham deities are also present here, in separate shrines – this is possibly the only temple in Tamil Nadu with such a layout. Their layout is also quite different here, as is the procedure to worship them. Suryan is present with his consorts Usha and Prayusha (Chaya), and all the Navagraham are present as anugraha murtis, without any weapons or their vehicles.
The worship procedure here is quite unique. As mentioned earlier, one should ideally visit here after worshipping at Tirumangalakudi. Even here, first worship is to Kol Vinai Teertha Vinayakar – named so because he solved the problem faced by the Navagraham (in the sthala puranam) – located in the south-east corner. Next, one proceeds to the main shrine, and first worships Viswanathar and Visalakshi Amman, followed by Suryan in the garbhagriham, and then Guru who faces Suryan – ostensibly to cool down the extreme heat emanating from Suryan. This is where it gets interesting. Typically, one would exit the mandapam from the left. Here, one has to exit from the right, walk counter-clockwise around the rear of the garbhagriham, and reach Chandikeswarar. After this, the order to be followed is clockwise, and worship the shrines in that path, in the order of: Rahu, Sukran, Ketu, Chandran, Sevvaai, Budhan and Sani. Finally, one arrives back at the dhwajasthambam, and performs namaskaram (prostration) facing north.
Various resources – online and offline – suggest that this is one of only two temples dedicated to Suryan. This is simply not true. In ancient times, there are said to have been four temples – one in each of the cardinal directions – at Marthand (in Kashmir, North), Modhera (Gujarat, West), Konark (Odisha, East) and Marthandam (near Kanyakumari, South); these are in addition to other temples such as Suryanar Koil, which are dedicated to Suryan.
The structural temple here dates back to the late 11th and early 12th century, in the time of Kulothunga Chola I, with later additions by the Vijayanagara Dynasty. In the Chola period, this place was called Kulottunga Chola Marthandalayam (Marthandam being a reference to Suryan), according to inscriptions in the temple, which also refer to grants and endowments made by Krishna Deva Raya to the temple.
The temple and the garbhagriham face west, which is a bit unusual since Suryan is typically depicted facing east (there are exceptions in the Navagraham shrines of Siva temples, but one would have expected that in a temple dedicated to Suryan, He would be facing east). On the axial line in front of Suryan in the garbhagriham, is Guru, depicted worshipping Siva.
As one enters the mandapam in front of the garbhagriham, Siva and Parvati as Viswanathar and Visalakshi Amman can be seen on the left.
Other information for your visit
The Ratha Saptami festival – symbolising the change of seasons from winter to spring – is connected with Suryan, and is celebrated with great pomp at this temple.
Phone: 0435 247 2349