Thenatrunathar, Kunnakudi, Sivaganga

Basic information about the temple

Moolavar:ThenatrunatharAmbal / Thayar:
Deity:SivaHistorical name:

Age (years):


Timing:7 to 12 & 4 to 7Parikaram:

Temple group:
Sung by:

Temple set:



City / town:KunnakudiDistrict:Sivaganga
Maps from (click): Current location Karaikudi (12 km)Pudukkottai (38 km)

Madurai (85 km)Sivaganga (89 km)


Sthala puranam and temple information

Located at the base of the Shanmughanathar temple in Kunnakudi is the cave temple for Siva as Thenatrunathar. The temple is not in active use, and is currently an ASI site.

The temple complex of Thenatrunathar comprises three adjacent cave temples on the western side of the Murugan temple’s base. All three caves face west, and inside each are enshrined Siva Lingams. While the third of these cave shrines is rather simple, the first two have intricate rock-hewn sculptures, as also dwarapalakas (see below).

There is no sthala puranam for this temple. Siva is named Thenatrunathar, because of the river Thenaru which is said to have flowed in the region (it is also one of the Teerthams of the Murugan temple).

The rock-cut shrines date back to the 8th century Pandya period, and are the pioneering examples of one aspect of temple iconography – the dwarapalakas. These are perhaps the earliest representation of dwarapalakas in sculptural form. This is established by the fact that the Pallavas who came before the Pandyas, did not have dwarapalakas in their temples (any dwarapalakas we see today in Pallava temples, can be said with certainty to be later additions).

The dwarapalakas are also seen dressed in the attire of commonfolk, and not the grand celestial attire that is seen in, say, Chola temples. They are also seen sporting two arms and not four (which is the typical representation of celestial dwarapalakas). They are also depicted with a pleasant countenance, as opposed to the fierce looking ones with fangs that we see in the Chola region. They are also seen resting on their club, rather than indicating towards the Lord inside.

The shrines also have sculpted murtis and bas reliefs of other deities such as Vinayakar, Lingodhbhavar, Vishnu with Sridevi and Bhudevi, Harihara and Durga.

In addition, there are two shrines, one with a Siva Lingam and another with a murti of Vinayakar. This is in addition to a pedestal which also features a small Siva Lingam (with its own Nandi) and Vinayakar seated on the left.

There are also several inscriptions on the walls and pillars. Some of the load-bearing pillars themselves are architectural specimens, displaying the superb craftsmanship of the Pandya architects. However, the mandapam inside which the shrines are carved out, is likely to be a later period addition. There are also carvings and bas relief images on the walls of the mandapam, from various epics and puranas – in particular, there is the story of Vishnu offering his eye when he found one of the 1008 lotuses missing during his worship of Siva, and a pleased Siva bestowing the Sudarshana Chakra upon Vishnu.

On the outside is a separate shrine for Idumban, and one for Vallabha Ganapati.

This temple counts itself among the important specimens of Pandya rock cut architecture, the others being Vettuvan Koil, Tiruparankundram and Tirumalaipuram.

Other information for your visit

Please do read this Overview on Nagarathar heritage and temples, in connection with temples in the Chettinadu region.


One thought on “Thenatrunathar, Kunnakudi, Sivaganga

  1. Your posts are very much useful to me in helping me to add more and more temples under Temple info series in my blog


Please do leave a comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s