Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Brahma Gnana Pureeswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||Pushpambika|
|Timing:||11 to 12 & 5 to 6||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Keezha Korkkai||District:||Thanjavur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Kumbakonam (4 km)||Tiruvarur (39 km)|
|Thanjavur (39 km)||Mayiladuthurai (41 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
Brahma was responsible for the safe keeping of the Vedas. However, during a period of inattentiveness, the demons Madhu and Kaitabha snatched away the Vedas from Brahma and hid them under the sea. A distraught Brahma prayed to Vishnu for a way out to retrieve the Vedas, and so Vishnu did so and handed them back to Brahma. But because of his fault, Brahma could no longer perform his duties of creation properly. Again, he approached Vishnu for a solution, who told him to go to this place and worship Siva. Specifically, Brahma was instructed to perform Adi-Pradakshinam, circumambulating the temple by walking with abutting footsteps – this was so as to ensure that the lines on his foot marked the earth, to prove his presence and devotion! Devotees seeking improvement in their lives perform adi-pradakshinam here even today.
After much penance, Siva appeared and blessed Brahma with wisdom. Hence Siva here is named Brahma Gnana Pureeswarar, for having blessed Brahma with wisdom. As a mark of gratitude, Brahma came here along with his consort Saraswati, and worshipped Parvati here, offering flowers. So She is named Pushpambigai.
Brahma was blessed by Siva on the day of Avittam nakshtram, in the Tamil month of Avani, and so this temple is regarded as a prarthana sthalam for those born under that star. As this episode reflects the upadesam given to Brahma – Brahmopadesam – this is also why the annual thread-changing ceremony is performed on the day of Avani Avittam.
There are two stories for how the place gets is name, both connected. One of them is similar to the story of how Korukkai (of the Veeratteswarar temple fame) got its name, and so it is possible they are conflated. You will see why, as you read on.
The primary story is that Gorakka Siddhar came here as part of a pilgrimage, and spent a night at a mutt here. During the night, he noted that a lady devotee was sleeping nearby, and here sari was touching his hands. Shocked that he had – even unknowingly – allowed such a travesty to occur, he cut off his hands. As his arms (kai, in Tamil) were shortened (kurukkal) as a result, the place got the name Kuru-kkai, which over time has morphed into Korkkai (this is similar to the story of Sage Dheerghabahu at Korukkai). Later, the sage continued his stay here, bathing in the temple’s Chandra Pushkarini, and worshipping Siva and Parvati together. Over time, he was blessed by getting back his hands that he had cut off.
The other story is that Gorakka Siddhar indeed came here, and the place was named in his honour as Gorakkai, which has become Korkkai over time. Gorakka Siddhar himself could have got that name because he was protective (rakkha or Raksha) of cows (go).
This is an extremely ancient temple. While the original temple here is said to be over 2000 years old, the structural temple here is from the period of Kulothunga Chola III.
While the temple is in a poor state of maintenance, it is structurally not as bad as several others. All the key elements of a large temple – ardha mandapam, maha mandapam, mukha mandapam, etc are present here, though the temple is devoid of a raja gopuram.
According to inscriptions here, when it was built, the temple complex was massive, with seven prakarams – to put that in perspective, what we see today is only the innermost two prakarams. The entire village of Korkkai was contained within the seven prakarams.
The iconography and architecture here are also very interesting. For instance, there are two Nandis at right angles to each other, one facing Siva to the west, and the other facing north towards Parvati. The reason this is interesting, is the installation of a separate Nandi for Parvati is typically a later Pandya style of iconography, but is found in a Chola temple, in the heart of the Chola kingdom.
At the entrance to the garbhagriham is a yali frieze, typical of Chola temples of the period. There are also other interesting sculptures here, such as one of (supposedly) a Chola king with folded hands, adhikara Nandi (standing, also with folded hands), and also a beautiful depiction of Siva as Kirata Murti (hunter) with a bow slung on His left shoulder. The murtis of Murugan and Vinayakar outside the garbhagriham produce musical notes when tapped, and so Vinayakar here is called Sapta Swara Vinayakar! In the garbhagriham, only the dwarapalakar to the right is present. Locals state that the other one was stolen.
There are also several inscriptions running along the entire perimeter on the outer walls of the mandapam and garbhagriham. On the west, in the koshtam, is Ardhanareeswarar – again, quite unusual, as Siva temples go, and regarded to be from a time before Lingodhbhavar or Arunachaleswarar started to occupy that spot.
There is no Navagraham shrine at this temple, which again speaks to the age of this temple. The reason for this is Chandran is said to have worshipped here to ward off the ill-effects of Rahu and Ketu on him!
There is a separate mandapam in the north-west part of the prakaram, housing murtis of Bhairavar, Sani, Chandran and Suryan. In keeping with the sthala puranam, there is also a separate temple for Perumal nearby.
Other Information for your visit
Not to be confused with Korukkai, which is the site of one of the 8 Ashta Veerattanam temples, this place is located just south of Kumbakonam, about 3.5km from the Mahamaham tank.
There are two places called Korkkai in the vicinity. This is Keezha Korkkai, reflecting that it is further from the TR Patnam river that runs nearby. Mela Korkkai is a little further to the south.
Ravi Gurukkal: 98658 04862
Temple video (walk around) and narration in Tamil, by Sriram of templepages.com: