Tirunavukkarasar Koil, Tiruvamur, Cuddalore


Basic information about the temple

Moolavar:Tirunavukkarasar KoilAmbal / Thayar:
Deity:OtherHistorical name:Tiruaavur
Vriksham:KalariTeertham:
Agamam:

Age (years):

Timing:9 to 12 & 4 to 7Parikaram:

Temple group:
Sung by:

Temple set:

Navagraham:

Nakshatram:

City / town:TiruvamurDistrict:Viluppuram
Maps from (click): Current location Viluppuram (25 km)Cuddalore (38 km)

Tiruvannamalai (87 km)Mayiladuthurai (94 km)

Location

Sthala puranam and temple information

Tiruvamur is the avatara sthalam (birthplace) of Appar, one of the three most prominent saints in the Tamil Saivite bhakti tradition. This temple is a shrine to the great saint, and also serves as the matham that is run in his name. The actual house in which the saint was born is a proper brick construction today, located in the same premises as the temple.

Tiruvamur used to be known as Tiru-Aavur (aa in Tamil referring to a cow), which name was derived from the sthala puranam of the Pasupateeswarar temple nearby, which is also closely associated with this temple. The two temples are within walking distance of each other.

What we all (and us on this website) loosely call the Tevaram, should actually be the Tirumurai, which is an anthology of 12 volumes of songs and hymns, in praise of Siva, in the bhakti tradition. Of these, the 4th, 5th and 6th books are specifically called Tevaram (the Lord’s garland), and are authored by Appar. These are also interchangeably called Tiruthandagam.

The temple is a simple one-room structure, with an inner shrine (garbhagriham) for Appar. Outside the garbhagriham, to the is a small shrine for Vinayakar, and to the right, a single shrine for Appar’s parents Pugazhanar and Mathiniyar, and his sister Tilakavatiyar, who was instrumental in the saint embracing the Saivite faith, later in life (see Appar’s life history below). Those suffering from chronic stomach problems are said to get relief by worshipping here (see Appar’s story).

Outside is the Kalari tree, believed to be close to 1500 years old, whose leaves are given to devotees as prasadam. The leaves are meant to be eaten, and uniquely, it tastes sweet, sour, salty and bitter at the same time.

Typical depiction of Appar with his Uzhavaram

There are several resources that provide a detailed account of Appar’s life. Here is a shortened version.

Born as Marulneekiyar, sometime in the 6th or 7th century, the saint’s early life is not very well documented. Orphaned soon after birth, his sister Tilakavatiyar took care of him from an early age. She herself was widowed soon after her marriage, and decided not to end her life, only because of her young brother’s request that she take care of him.

Taking on the name Dharmasena, Marulneekiyar converted to Jainism and even became the head of the Jain monastery at Tirupathiripuliyur. This quite displeased his sister, who lived inside the Tiruvadhigai temple nearby, and she prayed to Siva to set her brother on the right path.

It is believed that the Lord caused Dharmasena to suffer unbearable and incurable stomach pains, and came to his sister for help. She gave him the holy water and vibhuti from the temple, which cured him immediately. Out of instant gratitude, he sang his first pathigam, impressing the Lord with his literary and poetic skills. Siva Himself is said to have given the name Navukkarasar (quite literally, King of the Tongue; the Tiru is a typical honorific added as prefix).

Tirunavukkarasar spent a lot of time at Tiruvadhigai, in Siva worship along with his sister. Later, he started visiting several other temples, singing many hymns (which have today been collected and presented as the Tevaram). Sambandar, the child saint, lived around the same time when Tirunavukkarasar was past middle-age, and was the one who referred to him as Appar (literally, father), at Sirkazhi. Together, the unlikely pair visited several temples and sang their pathigams. In total, it is calculated that Appar visited 126 temples on which he sang pathigams, and several others are mentioned in some of his other verses, which are Vaippu Sthalams. He is also the only Nayanmar to have visited the Mahabaleshwara temple in Gokarna, in today’s Karnataka.

According to Sundarar’s Tiruthondarthogai, Appar composed 4900 hymns. This is also confirmed in the works of Nambiyandar Nambi and Sekkizhar. However, out of these, only 313 hymns (representing 3,120 verses in total), are available today.

His departure from the Jain monastery upset those in charge there, who put the saint through several trials and tribulations. This included poisoning, trampling by elephants, and being tied to a rock and thrown into the sea (this last one is part of the sthala puranam at Tirupathiripuliyur). But Appar was able to survive these, unscathed, through the grace of Siva.

Apart from his hymns, Appar’s service to the Lord was the cleaning of Siva temples with his hoe (Uzhavaram / உழவாரம்), and to this day, all such temple maintenance work is referred to as Uzhavarappani (உழவாரப்பணி). The last temple he performed such services was the Agneeswarar temple at Tirupugalur, where the saint attained mukti on the day of the Sadaya nakshatram, in the Tamil month of Chithirai (April-May), which is annually commemorated as the day of Guru Puja for Appar, across various Siva temples.

Other Information for your visit

The priest of the nearby Pasupateeswarar temple also coordinates efforts for this temple, and is closely connected to the caretakers here. Both he and this temple’s caretakers are usually reachable over phone, and are very helpful to devotees who visit.

Contact

Phone: 86105 93617

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