Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Meenakshi Sundareswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||–|
|Timing:||6 to 11 & 4 to 9||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Devakottai||District:||Sivaganga|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Karaikudi (19 km)||Pudukkottai (59 km)|
|Ramanathapuram (81 km)||Madurai (98 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
Locally known as the Nagara Sivan koil, this temple for Siva and Parvati as Sundareswarar and Meenakshi is located in the heart of Devakottai, near Karaikudi.
The temple is also popularly referred to as the Sekkizhar temple, referring to the author of the Periya Puranam, though he has virtually no direct connection to the temple. So how did this reference come about?
The core tenet of Saivism and Siva worship is service to devotees of Siva, as exemplified in Sundarar’s Tiruthondar Thogai, which the saint begins by stating that he is the servitor of the servitors of the 3000 Andhanars of Chidambaram (who are, in turn, servitors of Siva). The entire pathigam of 11 stanzas enumerates the 62 others Nayanmars as well as others, and describes Sundarar as the servitor of each of them.
In keeping with the above theme, a Tamil scholar and Siva devotee named Vanthondar (a fitting name in many ways, since Sundarar was given the epithet Vanthondar, supposedly by Siva Himself) wanted to build a temple for Sekkizhar, who had authored the Periya Puranam and thereby indicating he was a servitor of each of the 63 Nayanmars. Vanthondar approached the scholar and dramatist Manonmaniam Sundaram Pillai for help, who readily agreed. However, for various reasons that are not known, the temple that was built turned out to be a temple for Siva instead. Later, in keeping with the wishes of Vanthondar, a separate shrine for Sekkizhar was built here, and more importantly, a vigraham of Sekkizhar is taken out in procession as the utsava murti of the temple.
The original temple was built sometime in the late 19th century. To the east is a large pond that is also the temple’s Teertham. There are two raja gopurams facing east – the slightly smaller one on the left for Meenakshi Amman, and the larger one on the right for Sundareswarar. Since both Siva and Parvati face east, this can be regarded as a kalyana kolam representation. This is reinforced by a depiction of the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar wedding scene in a stucco panel between the two gopurams.
The a long corridor to the Siva shrine first has a dhwajasthambam followed by Nandi. Inside the mandapam is a simple but well decorated inner prakaram. There is a raised platform on which are the ardha mandapam and garbhagriham. Interestingly, in front of the moolavar are two Nandis – one of stone and the other of brass. While this is not unique, it is quite fascinating to look at!
In the inner prakaram of the Siva shrine, on the southern side are the 63 Nayanmars, and a separate Navagraham shrine. There are the usual koshtam deities – Nardhana Vinayakar, Dakshinamurti, Lingodhbhavar, Brahma and Vishnu Durga. There are also shrines for Vinayakar, Viswanathar and Visalakshi, Murugan with his consorts Valli and Deivanai, Gajalakshmi, Bhairavar, Chandikeswarar, Chandran and Sani. There is a separate, beautiful Natarajar sabhai.
Amman’s shrine is also at a slight elevation, and in the koshtams are vigrahams of Ichcha Sakti, Gnana Sakti and Kriya Sakti. There is also a separate shrine for Chandikeswari, which is unusual but not unique to this temple.
Between the Siva and Amman shrines is a mandapam, where various events and functions are conducted. We visited this temple in December 2021, on the day of Tiruvadhirai, and witnessed part of the swami purappadi, including the utsava murti of Sekkizhar, all of which were taking place in the mandapam.
The architecture here is splendid, and the vegetable dye paint artwork is vibrant. Both of these are in classic Chettinadu style, but do not come across as excessive.
The temple is also famous for its bell – called the Sekkizhar Mani – which has a unique and loud ring to it.