Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Swarnapureeswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||Kayarkanni, Abhayambikai|
|Vriksham:||Mantharai||Teertham:||Siva Teertham, Manduka Teertham|
|Timing:||9 to 11 & 5 to 7||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Vaippu Sthalam||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Aththur||District:||Nagapattinam|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Mayiladuthurai (14 km)||Kumbakonam (39 km)|
|Tiruvarur (56 km)||Ariyalur (68 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
There are several places in Tamil Nadu named Aththur (or variants of that spelling). This place is located between Manalmedu and Pandanallur, close to the banks of the Manniyaru river.
In ancient times, this place used to be called Mantharaivanam, due to the sthala vriksham here being the Mantharai (Bauhinia Variegata) and the place itself was a forest of those trees. There are several interesting sthala puranams associated with this temple. Siva here is also called Mantharavaneswarar.
Karikala Chola is said to have come to this place with two dogs. One of the dogs started sniffing around a mantharai plant (located adjacent to the Dakshinamurti shrine inside the temple), and circling it repeatedly. Intrigued by this behaviour, the king had the place dug up, and found a Lingam under the plant. The king realised that the dog had brought him to this particular spot only to find the Lingam, and so he had it brought out and installed here, and then built the first temple at this place.
Kayarkanni was a young girl in the village, from a Vaishnavite family, but a Siva devotee who insisted on marrying only the Lord. Her parents, also devotees of Siva, worshipped here to ensure she got married into a good family. They heard a voice telling them to get her married to the next person who came asking for her hand. The following day, an old man came to their home, and asked for the girl’s hand in marriage. Trusting Siva’s voice they had heard, the parents agreed, but wanted to ensure their daughter was safe. Once the wedding was over, they followed the departing couple, who reached this temple and then, suddenly, disappeared. To the surprise of the parents, they instantly reappeared as Natarajar and Sivakami Amman. Needless to say, this temple therefore becomes a prarthana sthalam for those seeking to get married, who pray to Siva and Amman here, by placing the horoscope of the person at the feet of the deities, on a full moon day, and taking it back with Their blessings.
Connected with this sthala puranam, the custom at this temple is that a family of Vaishnavites take Natarajar out in procession. This puranam is also the reason one of the Ammans here is named Kayarkanni.
Murugan came here and worshipped Siva, but found there to be no temple tank. So he used his spear (Vel) to draw a line in the sand, which turned into a river, and later named Subrahmanya Nadi. In recent years, this river has come to be known as the Manniyaru river (today, it is a distributary of the Kaveri river). Water from this river is said to have come near the temple and settled as a pool, which came to be called the Siva Teertham.
A frog (mandukam in Sanskrit) lived in the Siva Teertham tank of this temple. Once, a snake got hold of the frog and was about to devour it, when the frog cried out to Siva and Abhayambigai Amman for protection, saying it was living in Siva’s water all these years. At Amman’s instructions, the frog uttered the panchakshara mantram, and instantly the snake let go of it. Siva took the snake and wore it around His neck as an ornament! On the southern koshtam wall is a panel titled Mandukam, as a reminder of this. the temple’s tank is also called Manduka Teertham. Due to this puranam, this temple is regarded as a naga dosham nivritti sthalam.
It is believed that our ancestors, taking the form of Nandikeswarar, worship Siva here during pradosham time.
Interestingly, there is a temple for Sukhavasi Perumal temple located nearby, in the village of Kesingan. Perumal there, together with His army, is said to have sought the blessings Siva here, and gained strength to overcome the asuras, in one of His many avatarams. Celebrating Vishnu’s victory is the murti of Perumal on the western koshtam, behind the garbhagriham. This also indicates that this is an ancient temple since the practice of having Lingodhbhavar or Ardhanareeswarar installed at that spot is a relatively recent practice.
Another specialty in this temple is the Swarna Bhairavar, unusual in that He is seen with two dogs instead of one. This is probably connected to the story of Karikala Chola as above.
The structural temple we see today is 10th or 11th century Chola, though according to the sthala puranam mentioned earlier, the original temple was built during the time of Karikala Chola. Many of the murtis here are fascinating and intricately carved, and the architecture here is splendid as well. There are several inscriptions here, dating back to the medieval Chola period.
Other information for your visit
Ramesh gurukkal: 9443504388 ; 96553 51754
Several inputs above are from Sriram of Temple Pages, and his video on this temple can be viewed here (Facebook link).