Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Kotravaleeswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||Nellaiamman|
|Timing:||7 to 11 & 4 to 8||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Kovilur||District:||Sivaganga|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Karaikudi (5 km)||Pudukkottai (41 km)|
|Madurai (89 km)||Sivaganga (93 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
This area was once ruled by Veerasekara Pandyan, an early Pandya king with his capital at Kalayar Koil. He possessed a formidable sword – called the Kotravaal – which had been given to him by Lord Kaleesar, which he used every day. Once, the king who was fond of hunting, went on a hunt in the forest and was chasing a deer. Siva decided to test the king, and so He first made the king’s favourite sword disappear. Next, appeared a tiger chasing a hapless brahmin, who ran to the king for help. The king was determined to save his subject, and so despite the absence of his Kotravaal, he started fighting the tiger with his bare hands. Pleased with this, Siva immediately made the tiger and the brahmin disappear, and instead Himself appeared as a Lingam under a Vanni tree, with the king’s Kotraval lying beside the Lingam. The king then understood that this was all a play by the Lord, and immediately set out to build a temple for Siva here, with that same Lingam as the moolavar. Because of this story, Siva here is named Kotraval-eeswarar. The Sanskrit name for Siva here is Raja-Khadga Parameswarar.
This place used to be known as Salivadi, the land of rice. After the building of the temple here by the king, it came to be known as Kovil-ur, due to the prominence of the temple in the region.
Amman’s name here – Nellaiamman – is also from a fascinating story. There once lived a farmer couple named Sivaguptan and Sudhanmai, who were extremely devoted to Siva and Parvati, and would worship at this temple every day. One day they sent their young daughter Aradhanavalli to guard their crops. However, the playful daughter instead chose to go to a garden and play there. As lunchtime approached, Sudhanmai took some food to the fields for their daughter, and fed the girl who was there. Later, Aradhanavalli returned home, and asked for food since she was very hungry. The mother was unable to understand why this was the case, when in a flash, she had a vision that showed her that the girl she thought was her daughter and fed, was none other than Parvati. Due to this story, Parvati here is named Nellaiamman (nel in Tamil referring to paddy).
Following from the sthala puranam above, Nellaiamman is considered the guardian of womenfolk of all ages, and devotees worship Amman here for the safety of their daughters.
While the core temple is said to be nearly 2000 years old, the structural temple we see today is the result of several renovations and even complete reconstructions. The present-day temple structure was built about 200 years ago (see below).
There are two main entrances to the east, one leading to the Siva shrine of Kotravaleeswarar, and the other to the Tirunellai Amman shrine. Both face east, making this a kalyana kolam representation of Siva and Parvati.
To the east of the temple is a large tank with a 16-pillared mandapam in the middle. There are fantastic sculptures at the four corners of the boundary walls of the Teertham. The western side has a set of steps leading up to the waters, balustraded by elephants carved in granite. The temple’s 7-tier raja gopuram and the mandapam in front of it are also beautifully etched with stucco images of various deities, and also scenes from various puranams.
The temple is famed for its long, beautiful corridors with intricately carved pillars lining both sides. This feature is present throughout the temple. In addition, each of the pillars on the main corridor to the Parvati and Siva shrines, have additional granite carvings – these include images of Siva in tandavam (Adalvallan), Veena Saraswati, Saradambika, Urdhva Tandava murti, Natarajar, the event of Meenakshi-Sundareswarar’s wedding, Siva and Parvati on Rishabha vahanam, and Murugan on his peacock, among others. There is also a carving of Veerasekara Pandyan, of the Kotravaal fame.
While the architecture here is spectacular and consistent with the Nagarathar style found in the Chettinadu region, the temple stands out for its minimal paint work. Another aspect of this temple is the use of polished black granite for some of the important shrines, such as Bhairavar, the Natarajar mandapam, and Somaskandar.
There are three different Siva Lingams in this temple, including the moolavar Kotravaleeswarar. The others are Somasundarar with His consort Nitya Kalyani Amman in a separate shrine, and Somaskandar, along with Parvati and Murugan in the same shrine – presumably, this is the temple’s utsava murti.
In the koshtam of the garbhagriham are the usual koshtam deities – Vinayakar, Dakshinamurti (in a separate mandapam), Lingodhbhavar, Brahma and Durga.
The other interesting aspect here is that the Navagraham deities are all depicted in a seated posture (as at the Tiruthalinathar temple at nearby Tirupattur), but none of them – not even Suryan – have their consorts with them.
The Kovilur Adheenam, established by Sr Muthuramalinga Gnana Desikar Swamigal about 200 years ago, is located to the south of the temple. He was also instrumental in the reconstruction of this temple during this time.
Other information for your visit
Please do read this Overview on Nagarathar heritage and temples, in connection with temples in the Chettinadu region.
Phone: 94892 78792, 94424 39473, 90435 67074