Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Bhairaveswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||Bhairaveswari|
|Timing:||to & to||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Cholapuram||District:||Thanjavur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Kumbakonam (14 km)||Mayiladuthurai (30 km)|
|Ariyalur (47 km)||Tiruvarur (48 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
Just south of the Kollidam river, tucked away in a corner between Kumbakonam and Tiruppanandal, is this absolute beauty of a temple, for Siva as Bhairaveswarar. The state highway from Kumbakonam to Tiruppanandal splits the town of Cholapuram into two. This temple is located south of the highway.
This place is considered the moola Sthanam – point of origin – of all 64 different forms of Bhairavars in the world. For this reason, the ancient name of this place was Bhairavapuram. Siva, being the moola murti of Bhairavar (which is an aspect of Siva), is therefore called Bhairaveswarar, and is a swayambhu murti. There are 64 peethams inside the temple, and it is believed that each of the 64 Bhairavars sit and perform penance here at all times.
This temple has a Ramayanam connection. By the power of his penance, Ravana kept all the Navagrahams under his control, including Sani, who worshipped Siva here for a solution. However, Ravana did not account for Sani’s unborn son, who was later born here and named Mandi (or Kuligan, which gives us Kuligai, which is actually an auspicious time for activities). Coming to know of this from Siva, Rama killed Ravana at the time of Mandi’s birth.
Padagacheri Ramalinga Swamingal was a Bhairava upasakar, and performed Bhairava puja here often. It is said that several great souls have attained siddhi here. It is also believed that various Bhairava upasakars, siddhars, sages and yogis come here in spirit to worship Siva on the day of Ashtami (eighth day of the lunar cycle). On such days, devotees offer turmeric powder, flour, lemons, citron (narthangai) and milk for abhishekam to Bhairaveswarar.
Bhairavar worship is said to protect devotees from pitru doshams, all negative aspects of life such as problems with enemies, evil effects of curses by others, untimely death, etc. Bhairavar is also the Guru of Sani, and so the ill-effects of Sani are overcome by worshipping Bhairavar. At this place, one can simultaneously worship all 64 Bhairavaras, by worshipping Siva. Special pujas are also conducted here on Saturdays.
The temple is clearly from the Chola period, given its location and architecture. However, there are several elements of architecture here that make it difficult to identify which specific king’s reign this temple pertains to. Perhaps it is an amalgam of various styles over 2 centuries, ending in the 12th century.
There is no raja gopuram, but upon traversing the unimposing entrance passage, one begins to realise the enormity of this temple and its architecture. This is only strengthened as one goes around the prakaram.
The Siva Lingam is a 2-foot tall banam, installed on a 3-foot tall avudai (base). Amman’s shrine faces south, but there is no vigraham here – it was damaged a few decades ago, and has been kept in the Thanjavur museum since then. Instead, there is a peetham representing Amman in aroopa form.
On the outer walls of the garbhagriham and ardha mandapam are a total of eleven koshtams (typically one sees 5 in most temples), each with its own murti in the niche. Going clockwise, these are: Nardhana Vinayakar, Natarajar in Tandavam, Gangadhareswarar, Dakshinamurti, Lingodhbhavar, Brahma, Ashtabhuja Bhairavar, Ardhanareeswarar, Ashtabhuja Durga and Kalyana Sundarar. (Author’s note: It appears to me that some of these may have been original to the temple, while others clearly appear to be more recent additions, as they seem to lack the finesse of the older ones.)
Except for Chandikeswarar, there are no shrines for parivara deities in the prakaram; instead, small shrines for Vinayakar, and Murugan with his consorts Valli and Deivanai, are present in the maha mandapam itself, next to the dwarapalakas outside the garbhagriham. In the south-western part there are two Lingams with their respective Nandis on the ground. These are likely to have been older Lingams and their Nandis, or could have been in the prakaram shrines on the west (where typically one sees Kasi Viswanathar).
The temple was in poor shape about 20 years ago (see pictures). After a 10-year court battle, locals and other organisations were able to complete the renovations in the early 2010s.
Other Information for your visit
There are 3 important temples in Cholapuram, all excellent temples to visit:
Bhairaveswarar, Cholapuram, Thanjavur
Kailasanathar, Cholapuram, Thanjavur (yet to be published)
Kasi Viswanathar, Cholapuram, Thanjavur