Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Gokarneswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||Brihadambal (Periya Nayaki), Mangala Nayaki|
|Timing:||6 to 12 & 4 to 8||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Vaippu sthalam||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Tirukokaranam||District:||Pudukkottai|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Pudukkottai (3 km)||Karaikudi (44 km)|
|Tiruchirappalli (58 km)||Thanjavur (71 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
This temple for Siva as Gokarneswarar is actually a temple for two separate manifestations of Siva, with separate Ammans for each. However, the main shrine – at least the one associated chiefly with the sthala puranam – is that of Gokarneswarar. Locally, the temple is more popular as the Brihadambal temple.
Once, Kamadhenu – the celestial cow – was late in reaching Indra’s court. Angered by this, the chief of gods cursed Kamadhenu to life as an ordinary cow, on Bhulokam. Much upset by this, and upon advise from sage Kapilar, she came to earth and located this place where a Siva Lingam was in front of a Vakula tree (Magizha Maram, which is also the sthala vriksham here). She then proceeded to install another Siva Lingam using the rock surface, and performed pujas by carrying water in her ears for ablutions / abhishekam of the Lingam. Wanting to test her resolve, Siva once appeared in the form of a tiger and accosted Kamadhenu on her way to worship. The cow pleaded with the tiger to let her complete the Siva puja first, promising to return once the worship was over. The tiger agreed. After her daily worship, Kamadhenu came back to offer herself to the tiger, but found in its place, Siva and Parvati, and realised this was simply, the Lord’s play.
In Sanskrit and Tamil, Go refers to cow, and karnam is ear. Because Kamadhenu carried water in her ears, Siva is named Gokarneswarar, and the place also gets its name as Tiru Gokarnam. The nearby village of Tiruvengaivasal is where the tiger is said to have accosted Kamadhenu (Vengai in Tamil refers to tiger, and Siva there is called Vyaghra Pureeswarar – vyaghra meaning tiger in Sanskrit).
Later, Kamadhenu dug a separate pool with her horns, where rainwater filled up. This was used by her for the daily worship afterwards, and this pool (the Ganga Teertham, also called the sunai, in Tamil) is located on the rocks on the northern side of the temple premises. Because Kamadhenu worshipped with her ears, it was but natural that her horns would scrape the Lingam – these marks as well as hoof marks are seen on the Lingam of Gokarneswarar.
Brahadambal – or Periya Nayaki – is the consort of Gokarneswarar, and her popularity here is due to a story involving the king of Pudukkottai, several centuries ago. Amman here was the ishta-devata of the royal family, who even called themselves Brahadamba-dasas. Once the king was on a voyage, and a little girl appeared in his dream one night to inform him that the boat was on fire. The king instantly woke up, and found that the boat indeed was ablaze, after which it was put out. Recognising the little girl to be Brahadambal, the king arranged to have a perpetual lamp lit in the Amman shrine. Amman is also called Pesum Deivam (the deity that speaks) as a result of this incident.
Amman here is also known as Arakasu Amman, and is also worshipped by those who have lost some possession of theirs. They pray to Amman here after offering jaggery, and it is believed that the lost things are found afterwards. Interestingly, the name Arakasu Amman (or a variant – Padikasu Amman) is given to any Amman deity who is worshipped for recovering lost objects. The name itself is said to derive from the Thondaiman dynasty, who minted coins (kasu) with Amman featured on them.
This temple is a rock-cut temple, and is dated to the 7th century Pallava period. Several renovations have taken place during the centuries that followed, including by the Cholas, Pandyas, Vijayanagara dynasty, Nayaks and Thondaimans.
Although the temple is east-facing, and all the shrines are oriented to that set up, the main entrance is through a long, pillared corridor from the south. The varying floor levels, and also a staircase leading from the Gokarneswarar shrine to the upper parts of the rocky hillock, clearly show the construction involved here.
The entry corridor is lined with some shrines and an open courtyard as well. This corridor leads us to the main raja gopuram (also south-facing, since the east is part of the rocky hillock). Beyond this are several mandapams, including the Silpa Mandapam (decorated with a rasi-mandalam on the ceiling and filled with sculptures from the epics and puranams), Golu Mandapam, Oonjal Mandapam, Anuppa Mandapam, Kili Mandapam and the Sukravara Mandapam. The last two connect the ground level to the inner prakaram. The Sukravara Mandapam is hexagonal in shape, located outside the Amman shrine. To the right is a gate leading outside, to the temple’s tank – the Mangala Teertham.
In a sense, the original temple here is that of Magizhavaneswarar (Vakuleswarar, Vakula being Sanskrit for magizha maram), who has a simple shrine. This shrine, being the earliest temple here, is also a Tevaram Vaippu Sthalam, finding mention in one of Appar’s pathigams. On the southern koshtam of this shrine is Dakshinamurti, and seated next to Him is Vinayakar, which is quite unusual – a south facing Vinayakar. Also enshrined in the koshtam are the sapta matrikas. Brahadambal Amman’s shrine also faces east.
A further short walk brings us to the Gokarneswarar shrine, which is sunk into the hillock, and opposite whom is a separate Nandi and dhwajasthambam, at a slight elevation. Flanking the garbhagriham are Vinayakar, and Siva as Gangadhara. Beyond this are the steps to the upper parts of the temple premises, where one can see a massive rock surface with inscriptions dating back to the Chola period.
At the upper level are also various shrines, including for Siva as Jurahareswarar, Annapurani Amman, Durga, Murugan with his consorts Valli and Deivanai, Brahma, Bhairavar, Suryan and Chandran, the Tevaram four (Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Manikkavasagar), and Naagar. Here is also a shrine depicting Siva as Natarajar, in tandavam, carved beautifully in stone. Possibly the best sculpture here is the Siva Lingam carved out of rock, in the form of what appears to be 1008 rudrakshams.
Coming back down, one can find the south-facing shrine of Mangalambigai Amman, and a large mandapam. The original magizha maram is also located nearby. This Amman shrine is dated to the Chola period, likely in the time of Raja Raja Chola I.
Interestingly, the temple does not have a Navagraham shrine.
The temple features extensive examples of fine sculpture, as well as architecture, done in the styles of each of the dynasties who have had a hand in the building and renovations of this temple.
Other information for your visit
Phone: 04322- 236195;
Contact: 94861 85259