Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Sundaramurti Swami||Ambal / Thayar:||–|
|Timing:||to & to||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Tirunavalur||District:||Viluppuram|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Viluppuram (29 km)||Cuddalore (49 km)|
|Tiruvannamalai (81 km)||Ariyalur (96 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
Tirunavalur is famous for the Bhaktajaneswarar temple, one of the Paadal Petra Sthalam Siva temples. We have also perhaps heard of Sundaramurti Nayanar, or Sundarar, one of the Tevaram moovar along with Appar and Sambandar; collectively, these three are regarded as the foremost saints in the Saivite bhakti movement. Tirunavalur is also the birthplace of Sundarar, born as Nambi Aruran, who lived in the 8th century.
Just a little further down the street from the Bhaktajaneswarar temple, is a newly consecrated temple for Sundarar. This temple has been built on the same spot as the house in which Sundarar was born. The story of Sundarar is as colourful as it is spiritual, and is described in detail in the Periya Puranam as well as the Siva Bhakta Vilasam and Upamanyu Bhakta Vilasam, all of which deal with the lives of the 63 Nayanmars. Though the authorship of these last two are different, their contents are largely similar, the main difference being the first is in Tamil while the second is in Sanskrit.
In Kailasam, Alala Sundara was Siva’s attendant, who had brought Siva the Halahala during the churning of the ocean. He was also regarded as Sivas’ friend, who was endowed with most of Siva’s qualities, particularly His handsomeness. Sundara once fell in love with two hand-maidens of Parvati, named Kamalini and Anindita. Disappointed at this, Siva wanted Sundara and the two women to understand more about life, and so he banished them to earth to live as humans.
Sundara was born in Tirunavalur to Sadaiyanar and Isaignaniyar (both of them also Nayanmars). When he was a child, he was playing on the streets when the local king / chieftain – Narasinga Munaiyaraiyar (also a Nayanmar) – noticed him and brought him up as his own son, with the permission of Sundarar’s parents.
In due course, on the that Sundarar’s wedding was to take place, an old brahmin appeared with a deed signed by Sundarar’s grandfather that bound Sundarar into being the old man’s servant. Despite his remonstrances, Sundarar was unable to get away, particularly after the old man proved to the assembled elders, the authenticity of his document. His fighting attitude later earned him the name Van-thondar (violent-follower).
The old man took Sundarar along, and at Tiruvennainallur, he disappeared into the temple. Sundarar realised at that point that it was nobody else but Siva who had come to lead him away from the pleasures of human life, and inducted him into bhakti. Immediately he sang his first pathigam – Pitha Pirai Soodi – and commenced his pilgrimage to various places, while keeping Tiruvarur as his home. He treated Siva as his friend, often being referred to as Thampiran Thozhan, and went so far as to often make bold requests to Siva for gold and money, which he used for feeding people on his route.
But since he was destined to endure human life, at Tiruvarur, he fell in love with and married Paravai Nachiyar, a love story for which he asked Siva Himself to be the emissary! Later, he came to Tondai Nadu and married Sangili Nachiyar at Tiruvottriyur, despite promises given to Paravai and his new bride that he would stay true only to them. Having made his vows with Siva present, and then broken them, he lost sight in both eyes, and wandered around until he reached Koovam Tripurantakeswarar temple, where he regained sight in one eye. He would later get back sight in the other eye at Tiruvarur.
His acquaintance with Cheraman Peruman made him travel twice to Tiruvanjikulam (in today’s Kerala). On his return from his second visit, he chose to depart back to Kailasam on a white elephant that was sent for him, accompanied by Cheraman Peruman. This last incident took place on the day of Swati nakshatram in the Tamil month of Aadi (July-August), and is celebrated as Sundarar’s Guru Puja day.
Several stories of his life, association with several other Nayanmars, and the miracles he performed, are connected to various temples – you can read about them here.
The Tirumurai is a compendium of 12 volumes of songs and hymns in praise of Siva. What is generally referred to as Tevaram represents the first seven of these 12 volumes, originated by Sambandar (parts 1 to 3, called the Tirukkadaikaappu), Appar / Tirunavukkarasar (parts 4 to 6, which is actually called Tevaram), and Sundarar (part 7, called Tirupppaattu). Among the most famous of Sundarar’s compositions is the Tiru Thondar Thogai, an impromptu 11-stanza hymn in praise of all of Siva’s devotees who preceded Sundarar or were his contemporaries, sung in Tiruvarur.
The temple houses Sundarar in the garbhagriham, and vigrahams of his parents Sadaiyanar and Isaignaniyar are just outside the garbhagriham. In the various pillars of the mandapam are bas-relief images of all the Nayanamars.
The three sides (south, west and north) of the entire inner perimeter of the prakaram, bounded by the outer wall on the other side, is filled with bas-relief sculptures of various incidents from Sundarar’s lifetime. These are in vivid detail, and anyone with even a passing knowledge of the saint’s life will be able to identify and appreciate these images, which run chronologically in clockwise direction.
Other information for your visit
You may also be interested in these videos which include information on the temple’s construction, and the kumbhabhishekam in 2018: