Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Ekambareswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||Kamakshi|
|Timing:||7 to 11 & 4 to 7||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Sundara Pandiya Pattinam||District:||Pudukkottai|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Karaikudi (54 km)||Ramanathapuram (75 km)|
|Pudukkottai (83 km)||Thanjavur (129 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
Sundara Pandya Pattinam – or SP Pattinam locally – gets its name from the Pandya king Sundara Pandyan (who was previously known as Koon Pandyan due to his hunched back). The king, who suffered an illness and also had a hunched back (giving him the name Koon-Pandyan), had fallen under the spell of the Jain monks. His queen Mangayarkarasi and minister Kulachirai (both Nayanmars) pleaded with Sambandar, who visited Madurai and cured the king, after suffering several tribulations and challenges thrown at him by the Jains. The king eventually became a believer in Saivism, and ever grateful to Sambandar, followed the child saint on his return journey. This place is where the two parted ways, and as a symbol of their relationship, the king is said to have built the original temple here.
Siva is named Ekambareswarar / Ekamreswarar here, as He manifested as a swayambhu murti under a lone mango tree, much as He presents at Kanchipuram.
There are many many stories of faith and belief in the deity of this temple, including of a family who had a girl child with an illness that could never be fathomed. The family underwent all sorts of hardship, and were eventually told by elders of their village, to worship here. They did so and were relieved of all their troubles. There are several such stories attributed to this temple, attesting to the greatness of the Lord here.
While the original temple is said to have been built in the Pallava period, based on some of the existing architecture, the structural temple could be from after the time of the early Pandyas, and therefore perhaps sometime in the 8th or 9th century, making it about 1200 years old. Some pillars and also some of the shrines in the prakaram display classic Chola characteristics and are likely to have been later additions or renovations.
On the outer part of the eastern wall of the temple is a very interesting bas relief sculpture, depicting what is referred to as the Swaya Kandana Kriya. This refers to the act of ritual sacrifice in olden times, by one member of the army, to propitiate the war gods and bring victory to his side. The unusual part of this sacrifice is that the person holds a sword to their neck, and jerks it backwards using both hands, thereby decapitating oneself!
The temple has a 3-tiered raja gopuram, followed by a Nandi mandapam. There is no dhwajasthambam. After the Nandi mandapam is the mandapam which houses the east-facing garbhagriham and south-facing Amman sannidhi. Vinayakar is at the entrance to the garbhagriham.
In the koshtam, there are shrines only for Dakshinamurti and Lingodhbhavar. The entire northern part is empty. In the prakaram, there are shrines for Vinayakar, Murugan with his consorts Valli and Deivanai, Chandikeswarar, Bhairavar, Suryan and Chandran. There is no separate Navagraham shrine here. In the prakaram, one can find a number of damaged vigrahams as well.
To the immediate south of the temple is a separate mandapam, which served as a chattiram or rest house on the important coastal road that this temple lies on. The bhakti saint Appar is said to have stayed in this mandapam.
Built in the Chola period, rest houses like this were spaced about 50km apart throughout this coastal route. However, most of them do not exist today. These were to facilitate both travellers, and what were known as oorugaai vandi (ஊறுகாய் வண்டி), which transported foodstuffs (including pickle, and hence the name oorugaai) and foodgrains across the land.
The large mandapam facing the entrance has a beautiful stone vigraham of Natarajar in dance, and a bas relief image of a king – presumably Sundara Pandyan – on a pillar. Even before this, to the right, is an empty chamber today, but going by the iconography, was possibly a Siva temple in days of yore (some even suggest that it may be a Jain temple, given the connection with Sundara Pandyan). Being south-facing, it may have even housed Natarajar. Both the mandapam and the shrine are from the same time period as the main temple, and evidence a mix of Pallava and Chola styles.