Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Vriddhapureeswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||KachchaNimulai Ammai, Periyanayaki|
|Vriksham:||Punnai||Teertham:||Lakshmi Teertham, Brahma Teertham|
|Timing:||6 to 11.30 & 5 to 8.30||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Paadal Petra Sthalam (Pandya Nadu)||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Tirupunavasal||District:||Pudukkottai|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Karaikudi (50 km)||Ramanathapuram (75 km)|
|Pudukkottai (80 km)||Thanjavur (127 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
This is one of the 14 Paadal Petra Sthalam temples located in Pandya Nadu, and has pathigams sung on it by Sundarar and Sambandar. Sundarar visited this temple along with his friend Cheraman Peruman, who is also regarded as one of the 63 Nayanmars. Sambandar perhaps visited this place after his trip from Vedaranyam to Madurai where he cured Koon Pandyan, and before parting ways with the king at Sundara Pandiya Pattinam.
Murugan once challenged Brahma about the latter’s knowledge of the meaning of the Pranava mantram. For not having known the intricacies of this, Brahma’s punishment was to be dispossessed of his powers of creation. At Parvati’s advice, Brahma came to Bhulokam, and installed a Lingam (marked with the face of Siva in the four directions, and hence called Chaturmukha Lingam) on a square avudai, and worshipped it with due penitence. As a result, he was given back his role as creator. Since this temple is said to have existed from the oldest known time, ie, the time of Brahma, Siva here is called Vriddhapureeswarar (the Sanskrit name; the Tamil name is Pazhampathinathar. Both Vriddha and Pazham refer to old age, and thereby the fact that Siva here is from a very ancient period.)
Indra is said to have worshipped here to be rid of the curse of sage Gautama, for having misbehaved with the sage’s wife Ahalya. Chandran worshipped here to be rid of Daksha’s curse to lose his lustre, for having been partial to Rohini and ignored the other 26 of Daksha’s daughters. Sevvaai (Mars) suffered a curse which was relieved after he worshipped Siva here. The temple is a therefore Sevvaai dosham parikaram sthalam.
The Lingam at this temple is the second largest in Tamil Nadu, after the one at the Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar temple. The Lingam itself is 9 feet tall, while the avudai (base) has a circumference of 33 feet and a height of 5½ feet. As a result, the vimanam over the garbhagriham is proportionally large. It is said that this temple and the Lingam here were one of the main inspirations for Raja Raja Chola I in building the Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar temple.
The etymology of Tirupunavasal is quite interesting. The river Pambaru flows to the south of the temple, and reaches the sea which is around 3km east of the temple. In Tamil, punal refers to river. So Puna-Vasal is the gateway (vasal) to the river entering the sea. The “Tiru”, as ever, is an honorific.
The deities of the 14 Paadal Petra Sthalam temples in the Pandya country (Pandya Nadu) are manifested as 14 different Siva Lingams in this temple. In essence, worshipping the 14 Lingams at this temple is regarded as having visited all the 14 temples separately. The other 13 temples are:
There is also a belief that Yama and his assistants cannot enter this temple, or even an area with a radius of 5 kroshams (about 6.5 miles) from this temple.
The temple’s architecture is a mix of Chola and Pandya styles, developed over between the 10th and 13th centuries. As a result, one can see several elements of both styles throughout the temple. One noticeable aspect is that the vimanam and the gopuram are almost of the same height, which is unusual (the vimanam is only marginally taller than the 65-foot raja gopuram). Again, this is a marriage of the Chola style (vimanam taller than the raja gopuram) and Pandya style (taller raja gopurams), consciously constructed in this way, in the time of Maravarman Sundara Pandyan I.
Arunagirinathar has sung about Murugan at this temple, in his Tiruppugazh.
The temple and this place are believed to be older than even Kasi, and so one of the names given to Tirupunavasal is Vriddha-Kasi. The temple is said to have existed in all four yugams. It was known as Vajravanam and Indrapuram in the Krita yugam, Brahmapuram in Treta yugam, Vriddha Kasi in Dwapara yugam, and Vriddhapuri and Pazhampathi in Kali yugam. In each of these yugams, the temple also had different sthala vrikshams – Sathura Kalli, Kurunthai, Magizham and Punnai – respectively.
Those who have worshipped here include the four Vedas, as also Brahma, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Indra, Suryan, Chandran, Yama, and Airavata, and the sages Agastyar and Vasishtha. Sage Agastyar was worshipping Siva here when Rama arrived at Teerthandathanam, and so the sage went there to meet Rama.
Devotees worship Amman with an offering of bangles, symbolising the valai-kappu ceremony that takes place during pregnancy, with a view to ensuring safe childbirth. Devotees also offer vastram (cloth) to the moolavar and the avudai as a principal offering.
When he came to worship Siva here, Indra first installed a vigraham of Vinayakar for worship. So Vinayakar here is called Aakandala Vinayakar (Aakanda referring to Indra).
The raja gopuram at the entrance to the temple is flanked by Vallabha Ganapati (depicted as Uchishta Ganapati) and Murugan. Inside is the dhwajasthambam followed by a bali peetham which is itself on a sculpted circular base. The pradosham Nandi that follows is also quite large.
This brings us to the maha mandapam which has ornately crafted pillars. The upper level of the maha mandapam on the inside, has a frieze of sculptures in various dance poses, and is fantastically done. Two dwarapalakas flank the entrance to the ardha mandapam. The ardha mandapam also has several pillars from different periods, most of which are covered in typical Nagarathar / Chettinadu style artwork and painting. There are vigrahams for Appar, Sambandar, Sundarar, Manikkavasagar and Sekkizhar, on one side. A further set to dwarapalakas guard the entrance to the antarala.
The large Lingam in the garbhagriham is said to have been installed here around the 10th century, replacing the Chaturmukha Lingam that was originally here. The Chaturmukha Lingam is the one that is now in the south-eastern portion of the temple, in the prakaram.
In the koshtam are Nardhana Vinayakar, Dakshinamurti (in yoga), Maha Vishnu (which speaks to the age of this temple), Brahma and Durga. Vishnu on the western koshtam wall is accompanied by Anjaneyar. In the outer prakaram are Pancha Vinayakar, Suryan, Bhairavar, Chandran, the Natarajar sabhai (known as Siva Gnana Sabhai here, where Siva as Natarajar is said to have danced the tandavam for sage Agastyar), the Pandya Nadu 14 Lingams, Chaturmukha Lingam (a replica of the one said to have been installed by Brahma), the nine sons of sage Kapilar all of whom worshipped here, Murugan with his consorts Valli and Deivanai, Gajalakshmi, Chandikeswarar, and Sastha.
Periyanayaki Amman has a separate shrine to the right, when facing the moolavar shrine. In addition, in the northeast portion of the temple is the shrine for Kudaivarai Kali in aroopam (formless), who is said to be so fierce (ugram) that one cannot view Her directly. Instead a mirror is placed in front, from where devotees can get a glimpse of Shakti.
There is an interesting story to this Kali. Once, this place was a forest of Sathura Kalli (the sthala vriksham here during Satya Yugam). Sage Garga was performing penance here, when a demon disguised as a tiger, attempted to attack him. Parvati, in the form of Kali, came to the sage’s rescue and kicked the tiger. The moment Her foot touched the animal, the demon was relieved of a curse he was under, and requested that he be under Her blessed feet forever. Kali agreed, and the demon, who was transformed into a bull, stayed here as Vyaghra Nandi, at Kali’s feet. She then stayed as a guardian just outside the eastern gate of the Amman shrine of the temple, but because the devotees could not handle her anger and fierce energy, they closed the gate (this entrance now remains perpetually closed). This is how the practice of worshipping through a mirror started. Of course today, the Kali shrine is open from the western side, but in keeping with custom, devotees worship Her only through a mirror.
In the western part of the temple is a Lingam under the Kurundhai tree, called the Agastya Lingam, which receives a abhishekam and puja only on Mondays. On other days, since the Lord is silent, He is called Mounanila Easwarar.
The temple has ten Teerthams, namely: Indra Teertham, Lakshmi Teertham, Sarpa Teertham, Brahma Teertham, Chandra Teertham, Sivagangai Teertham, Kalyana Teertham, Chakra Teertham, Varuna Teertham and Surya Teertham. Several of these Teerthams are named for those who worshipped here for relief from various curses or other problems, according to the sthala puranams of the temple.
There are several inscriptions in the temple. Some of them include a reference to the deity as Tirupunavayiludaiya Nayanar, and references to grants and endowments by various kings, to the temple. Among them are Vikrama Pandyan, Kochadaiyan Veera Pandyan II, and Sundara Pandyan.
Other information for your visit
Subbiah Gurukkal: 99652 11768