Adipureeswarar, Tiruvottriyur, Chennai

Basic information about the temple

Moolavar:AdipureeswararAmbal / Thayar:Tripurasundari, Vadivudaiammai
Deity:SivaHistorical name:Tiruvottriyur, Adipuri
Vriksham:Magizhamaram, AthiTeertham:Brahma Teertham, Nandi Teertham / Adisesha Teertham

Kamika, Karana agamam

Age (years):

More than 2000

Timing:6 to 12 & 4 to 8.30Parikaram:

Temple group:Paadal Petra Sthalam (Tondai Nadu)
Sung by:

Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar

Temple set:



City / town:TiruvottriyurDistrict:Chennai
Maps from (click): Current location Chennai (13 km)Tiruvallur (53 km)

Kanchipuram (93 km)Vellore (161 km)


Sthala puranam and temple information

Popularly known as the Thyagarajar temple, this Paadal Petra Sthalam is associated with many stories. The temple also has 8 Tevaram pathigams sung on it and is one of the very few places where all the three of the Tevaram moovar (Appar, Sambandar and Sundarar) as well as Pattinathar have sung at.

Despite being known as a temple for Siva as Thyagarajar (the Somaskandar representation of Siva, considered to have been spread outwards from Tiruvarur, by Sundarar), the moolavar is named Adi Pureeswarar. The garbhagriham for the moolavar is a very small room, and the Lingam is small as well.

There are a number of puranams associated with this temple, and each form of Siva here is also based on a separate sthala puranam of its own.

During the creation of the earth, the residual floods from the time of Pralayam were obstructing Brahma’s duties, and so he conducted a yagam for Siva. The Lord appeared from the sacred fire, and heeding Brahma’s request, stayed on as a Lingam at this place, to protect the earth. As He was therefore the first on earth, He is named Adi Pureeswarar. Because he helped keep the floods away, He is also called Ottreeswarar, and the place gets the name Ottriyur (in Tamil, ottri refers to keeping something away).

Vasuki, the naga, was advised by sage Upamanyu to worship Siva here. Siva granted Vasuki’s request for salvation, after He appeared in the form of an anthill, and so He is named Padampakka Nathar (the hood of a snake is called padam, in Tamil). The anthill later became a swayambhu Lingam, which is worshipped even today, but is covered with a metal container, and so no abhishekam is done to it. This is the shrine of Adi Pureeswarar, where Vishnu and Brahma are also present. Once a year, on the full moon day in the Tamil month of Karthigai (November-December), the covering of the Lingam is removed, and punugu oil is applied to the Lingam. The garbhagriham is under a Gajaprishtha vimanam.

The Vadivudai Amman shrine here is one of the 51 Sakti Peethams, and is located on the right hand side, upon entering the temple. There is a Srichakram yantram installed at the Amman sannidhi, upon which Amman stands. Namboodiri priests from Kerala perform the worship for Vadivudai Amman.

On the outside of the Adipureeswarar shrine, is a separate shrine for Vattaparai Amman. Vatta-parai in Tamil means, literally, circular stone or rock, and Amman is named so since there is a round stone outside Her shrine. It is said that after burning Madurai due to her wrath, Kannagi – still seething with anger – came here to worship Siva, who was playing a game of dice with Parvati. Siva threw his dice in the temple’s well, and Kannagi leapt in to pick them up. Immediately, Siva closed the well with a circular rock, thereby ensuring Kannagi’s anger was controlled. The belief is that Kannagi later became a form of Amman. Adi Sankarar also installed a Srichakram near this place, to control her temper.

Vadivudai Amman here represents the Gnana Sakti. Together with the Kodiyidai Amman at the Masilamaneeswarar temple in Tirumullaivoyal (Kriya Sakti) and Tiruvudai Amman at the Minjur Tirumangeeswarar temple (Ichcha Sakti), these three Ammans represent the Tri-Saktis that are of significance in Hinduism, and are said to bless devotees with all their needs and aspirations, particularly if visited on the same day (and more so on full moon days and Fridays).

Sundarar, one of the 63 Nayanmars, had married Paravai Nachiyar in Tiruvarur, but when he came to Tiruvottriyur, he was smitten by Sangili Nachiyar (this was fated to be the case, since both Sangili and Paravai were previously celestials named Anindita and Kamalini, and Sundarar had fallen in love with both of them, which was what caused them all to be born on earth in the first place). He made a vow to Sangili that he would not leave her, and married her here, with Siva as witness. But eventually did leave her, causing him to lose his eyesight (which was restored only later at other temples on his journey back to Tiruvarur).

Tiruvotriyur is the avatara sthalam and mukti sthalam of Kaliya Nayanar. This devotee of Siva was so committed to worshipping the Lord, that once during a famine, when there was no oil to be found to light the temple’s lamps, Kaliyan cut himself so that his blood would fuel the lamps. When he finally came to cutting his throat, Siva appeared, blessed him and elevated him to the status of a Nayanmar, and made his devotion known to the world.

There are several more stories associated with this temple, including ones relating to Elelasingar (due to which Siva here is known as Manikka Thyagarajar), Pattinathar (who later became a linga-swaroopi here) and Vallalar (who was fed by Amman Herself, when the saint reached here late one night, and could not find food to eat). There is also a story about a king who issued an order for collecting taxes, but found that it exempted the Lord here – later, he realised it was Siva Himself who had carved the exemption on the order!

There are several shrines at this temple, including for different forms of Siva, including as Thyagarajar, Adi Pureeswarar, Meenakshi Sundarar, Tiruvottreeswarar, etc. There is also a separate shrine for Bhairavar, and the mandapam where Sundarar married Sangili Nachiyar.

This temple has a strong connection with duality – everything here is present in twos. There are two moolavars or presiding deities (Adi Pureeswarar and Tiruvottreeswarar), two Ammans (Vattaparai Amman and Vadivudai Amman), two sthala vrikshams (Athi and Magizham), and two Teerthams (Nandi and Brahma Teerthams).

One can also see several parallels between this temple and the Tiruvarur Vanmeekanathar (Thyagarajar) temple. In both cases, the moolavar (Adi Pureeswarar here and Vanmeekanathar in Tiruvarur) have a sthala puranam connected with an anthill, the temple is otherwise more famous for Siva as Thyagarajar and therefore connected with the Ajapa Natanam, Sundarar married Sangili Nachiyar here and Paravai Nachiyar in Tiruvarur, and he also lost his eyesight here and eventually regained it at Tiruvarur. Both places are also associated with Vishnu witnessing Siva’s tandavam.

One of Siva’s dances is called Padma Natanam, which He performed at Nandi’s request, here. The unique aspect of this Natanam is that it is performed seated! Apparently, Vishnu witnessed the Ajapa Natanam at Tiruvarur, but missed the Padma Natanam, and so was asked to come here to witness it, when it was performed for Nandi. This was also seen by Brahma, sage Romaharshana, poet-sage Valmiki, Vasuki the naga, and Chandran.

The temple has a Ramayanam connection as well. Kambar – who wrote his own version of the Ramayanam – is believed to have written it here. He would pray every day to Amman here, who took the form of a woman and held a torch to provide light for the poet.

Arunagirinathar has sung about Murugan at this temple, in his Tiruppugazh. This is one of the places where Siva showed Agastyar, a vision of His celestial wedding with Parvati. While not on the list of the official 5 mayana koils, this temple is also regarded as a Mayana koil, where Siva is referred to as Tiruvotriyur Mayana Udayar. Thyagarajar of the Carnatic music trinity, who was an ardent and almost exclusive devotee of Rama, composed the Ottriyur Panchanama in praise of Tripurasundari Amman here, after being mesmerized by her appearance.

According to some versions, this temple was built by the ancient Tondaiman kings of the region who are mentioned in Sangam literature. This would date the temple back by over 2500 years. In any event, the temple certainly existed in the Pallava period, at least from the 6th or 7th century. Later, the Cholas in the time of Rajendra Chola I, significantly expanded the temple, although some earlier Chola kings like Gandaraditya were also involved in its upkeep etc, according to inscriptions here. There are records indicating this temple was a centre for learning, covering various subjects including philosophy, grammar, and even religious discourses. During the Islamic invasion of the south, much of the temple was destroyed, and then later revived during the time of the Vijayanagara dynasty. Most of the bronze idols we see today are from this post-revival period.

The sannidhis of each of the three main forms of Siva here – Adi Pureeswarar, Thyagarajar and Tiruvottreeswarar – are large, though as mentioned above, the actual garbhagriham of the moolavar Adi Pureeswarar is itself very small. The temple is spread over a large area. Interestingly, the main gopuram is on the axial line of the Adi Pureeswarar shrine, but the Nandi and dhwajasthambam are oriented to the Thyagarajar shrine, to the left. The Nandi there is also unusually placed and sculpted, so as to see both Siva and Amman at the same time (this is normally the case in virtually all Siva temples, but the angle and distances involved in this temple make it even more special and interesting).

Other Information for your visit


Phone: 044-25731032, 044-25733703

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