Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Sakalabuvaneswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||Minnum Mekalambikai|
|Deity:||Siva||Historical name:||Tirumeeyachchur Ilamkovil|
|Agamam:||Age (years):||Timing:||7 to 12.30 & 4.30 to 8.30||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Paadal Petra Sthalam (Kaveri Then Karai)||–|
|City / town:||Tirumeyachur||District:||Tiruvarur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Mayiladuthurai (19 km)||Tiruvarur (26 km)|
|Kumbakonam (35 km)||Nagapattinam (39 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
Sage Kashyapa had two wives – Kadru and Vinata – who prayed to Lord Siva for a child. Siva gave them each an egg, to ke kept safe for a year. At the end of this, Vinata’s egg broke and Garuda was born. Kadru, on the other hand, hastily broke open her egg before time, and so had a child who was not fully formed – this child was named Aruna, who later became Suryan‘s charioteer, and would therefore become dawn (coming before Suryan). Aruna was a staunch devotee of Siva and would visit Kailasam every day. However, on one occasion, Suryan mocked Aruna for his deformity, preventing him from going to Kailasam. Aruna took the form of Mohini – a woman – to escape further harassment, and worshipped Siva. On his return, Indra saw and was enamoured of Mohini, and had a child with her – Vali, from the Mahabharatam. Later, Suryan asked Aruna about his visit, and when he learnt about the feminine form, he desired to see it. When Aruna showed it to him, Suryan too became enamoured, and also had a child with her – Sugreeva.
Due to misbehaving with Aruna/Mohini, Siva cursed Indra (who lost his throne to Mahabali, as a consequence), and Suryan lost his lustre due to which the universe became dark. Suryan pleaded with the Lord for forgiveness, and was told to go to Tirumeyachur and perform penance, which he did. As part of this, he crafted murtis of Siva and Parvati, placed them on the back of an elephant and celebrated them by flying them to the clouds. For this reason, Siva here is called Meghanathar (Lord of the clouds).
But despite this, Suryan’s effulgence did not return, so he went back to Siva, this time crying out for pity. His cries disturbed Parvati, who was performing tapas, and She was about to curse Suryan to become dark for another seven months. But Siva intervened and pacified Parvati, after which She relented. This last part – Siva pacifying Parvati – is beautifully sculpted in stone in the prakaram of the Meghanathar shrine, as Kshetra Puraneswarar, and Parvati here is called Shanta Nayaki.
When Siva was attempting to pacify Parvati, the ashta vachinees (eight personifications of speech) started praising Parvati by reciting her 1000 names, after which Parvati was pacified. This is the origin of the Lalita Sahasranamam.
This is one of only two cases where there is a Paadal Petra Sthalam Siva temple inside another Paadal Petra Sthalam temple. The other one is the Vartamaneswarar temple at Tiruppugalur, inside the Agneeswarar temple. Such nested temples are called Ilan-koil, and are one of the nine types of structural temple construction mentioned in lliterary sources – Perunkoil, Karakkoil, Gnazharkoil, Kudikoil, Ilankoil, Manikoil, Alakoil, Madakoil and Poonkoil.
Usually, when temples are built, it is normal practice to construct a balalayam (a provisional temple), before proceeding with the construction of the main temple. According to historical records, this temple for Sakalabhuvaneswarar was constructed as the balalayam (which translates into Tamil as Ilankoil) for the main Meghanathar temple. Perhaps because the temple was done so beautifully, it remained even as the Meghanathar temple was being constructed, and remains so till today.
Several temples in and around Mayiladuthurai (which is 18km from Tirumeyachur) are associated with the goddess Kali. This temple is also one such, where Kali is believed to have worshipped Siva, as has Mahalakshmi.
The temple, which finds specific mention in one of Appar’s pathigams, is self-contained as a Siva temple, inasmuch as it has a maha mandapam with separate shrines for moolavar and Amman, Nandi facing Siva, all of the usual koshtam deities, its own pranala (water spout out of the garbhagriham), and even its own shrine for Siva’s prime guardian Chandikeswarar.
Tirumeyachur (specifically, nearby Tirukodiyalur) is also considered to be the birthplace of Saneeswaran. Maybe because of the puranam of this temple, Aruna, Garuda, Vali and Sugreeva are also considered as having been born here.
Given Appar’s pathigam, the temple would have existed at least in the 6th or 7th century, in the saint’s lifetime. The original structural temple here is Chola and dated to the 10th century, but renovations were also made soon thereafter, by both Sembian Madevi and Rajendra Chola. There are inscriptions in the temple that refer to various other Chola kings who ruled the region, and also later Pandyas as well.
The temple being older than the Meghanathar temple is quite evident in the architecture, as well as the sculpting of the murtis. Several of the murtis as well as bas relief sculptures here, are more faded and appear unfinished (or lacking the refinement of later Chola artisans). The fact that it is Vishnu present in the rear koshtam of the garbhagriham, is further indication of the temple’s age. This murti of Vishnu is also rather unique and striking, as it depicts Him with hands folded.
On the outer wall of the garbhagriham, there are many more koshtams, which are empty. However, these niches have exquisitely engraved toranams over them, which will fascinate any lover of temple architecture.
Other Information for your visit
The temple is located in the northern part of the outer prakaram, adjacent to the Chandikeswarar shrine of Meghanathar at Tirumeyachur.