Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Gangadheeswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||Pankajambal|
|Timing:||7 to 11 & 4.30 to 9||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Vaippu Sthalam||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Purasaiwakkam||District:||Chennai|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Chennai (1 km)||Tiruvallur (48 km)|
|Kanchipuram (82 km)||Vellore (154 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
This is one of the rare Tevaram Vaippu Sthalam temples located in Chennai, this one finding mention in one of Sundarar’s pathigams.
Why is the river Ganga named Bhageerathi? King Bhageeratha (or Sagara) of the Surya dynasty, ruled over Ayodhya. He once attempted a large yagam, and got several horses for the purpose. Afraid of the power the king might achieve, Indra stole the horses and hid them in the Patala Loka, at a place where sage Kapila was performing his penance. Sagara sent his 60,000 sons to retrieve the horses, but they ended up disturbing the sage, who burnt them to ashes with the power of his penance. Sagara then sent his grandson Amshuman to locate his sons, and Amshuman reported back after a conversation with Kapila, that they could be brought back only by the celestial river Ganga. Sagara then worshipped Siva, and after much penance, secured Siva’s benevolence by getting the Ganga to flow to earth. To make sure the force of the river was bearable, Siva contained the river in the locks of His matted hair, and released them slowly. The waters were taken to the ashes, and the 60,000 sons were revived. Since the river was brought to earth by Bhageeratha, she is also called Bhageerathi. When she was being taken to Patala loka, a few drops of the river’s waters fell here and created the temple’s tank. This is also the reason Siva here is named Gangadheeswarar, the Lord of the Ganga (or Gangadhareswarar, the one who bears the river Ganga).
At another time, the king ended up offending Sage Narada, and was cursed for this affront. As penance, the king had to hand-sculpt and install 1008 Siva Lingams. The last of these was installed here and was developed by the king into a temple. This place used to be called Purasaivanam, being a forest of Purasai (Palasam) trees, commonly known as flame of the forest – this is the same etymology as that of Palasavaneswarar at Naalur near Kumbakonam. Over time, the name has corrupted to Purasaiwakkam. The Purasai tree, located inside the temple complex, is also the sthala vriksham of this temple.
The core temple is said to be about 2000 years old. While the origins of the structural temple are unclear – they could be from the Pallava period – there are late Chola inscriptions here dated to the 12th century, and those pertaining to the Vijayanagara dynasty, from the 15th century.
There are shrines for the usual deities normally found in Siva temples. However, among the more unusual elements of iconography here, are the representation of Siva as Manonmani Lingam and Vaitheeswarar, as well as Uchishtha Ganapati, and Vishnu as Satya Narayana. There is also a murti of Ramalinga Adigal, who worshipped here.
The temple has a Kurundhai tree – which by itself is rare. It is under another Kurundhai tree that Manikkavasagar received Siva deeksha at Tiruperundurai (Avudaiyar Koil). It is believed that Manikkavasagar preached under the tree in this temple.
On the wall of the garbhagriham and maha mandapam, and also in the prakaram, are stucco images of various scenes from the sthala puranam of Bhageeratha’s disrespect of Narada and the consequent events. There are also scenes from other puranams and Tiruvilaiyadal, including the Ananda Tandavam, Siva kicking Yama to protect Markandeyar, burning of the three worlds (Tripura-Samharam), Ravana lifting Kailasam, etc.
This temple also has the distinction of housing the Siva Lingam, as well as various murtis including those of Amman, Vinayakar, Murugan, etc, belonging to the Tiruvenbakkam / Poondi temple, during the construction of the Poondi reservoir.
Other Information for your visit
Being associated with the Ganga river and therefore water, this temple is the Aapa sthalam (representing water) forming part of one set of Pancha Bootha Sthalams located in and around Chennai. There are two such sets. The five that belong to this set are:
Gangadheeswarar, Purasaiwakkam, Chennai
Arunachaleswarar, Sowcarpet, Chennai
Ekambareswarar, Sowcarpet, Chennai
Kalahasteeswarar, Parrys, Chennai
Chidambareswarar, Choolai, Chennai