Alanthurainathar, Tiruppullamangai, Thanjavur


Basic information about the temple

Moolavar:AlanthurainatharAmbal / Thayar:Alliyamkothai, Soundaranayaki
Deity:SivaHistorical name:TiruppuLLamangai
Vriksham:AalamaramTeertham:Siva Teertham, Kaveri river
Agamam:

Age (years):

1000-2000

Timing:6 to 11 & 4 to 8.30Parikaram:

Temple group:Paadal Petra Sthalam (Kaveri Then Karai)
Sung by:

Sambandar

Temple set:

Chakrapalli sapta sthanam

Navagraham:

Nakshatram:

City / town:TiruppullamangaiDistrict:Thanjavur
Maps from (click): Current location Thanjavur (16 km)Kumbakonam (30 km)

Ariyalur (36 km)Perambalur (62 km)

Location

Sthala puranam and temple information

In addition to being a Paadal Petra Sthalam that Sambandar has sung a pathigam upon, the temple is also one of the Chakrapalli Sapta Sthanam temples, which are about the sapta matrikas worshipping Siva at seven different places. At this temple, Chamundi worshipped Siva’s neck and the snake that He adorns around it as an ornament (Nagabhooshana darsanam), and this is celebrated on the 7th day of Navratri.

But why worship the neck? During the churning of the ocean by the devas and asuras, the deadly Halahala poison emanated from the sea. In order to protect the universe and all the beings in it, including the celestials, Siva swallowed the poison. Parvati, however, held His neck, ensuring that the poison would not be fully consumed by Him. The neck turned blue, giving Siva the name Neelakantha – the blue necked One. Seeing this, and repenting for the fact that it was one of theirs (Vasuki) whose churning the Halahala emanated from, the eight primary Nagas offered 30 crore Nagalingam flowers as their worship to Siva on a Sivaratri night. Siva wore these around His neck, along with the snake that is wrapped.

Pullamangai (the ancient name of the place) is located on the banks of the Kudamurutti river, and in olden times, this used to be a banyan forest (which is also why the sthala vriksham here is the banyan). Therefore, this place came to be called Alan-thurai (Ala: Banyan; Thurai: place on a river bank), and has the Sanskrit name Vata-Teertham as well, for the same reason. During the 10th century, the place was called Nitthavinodha Valanattu Kilar Kootrathu Brahmadesam Tirupullamangalam. There are several inscriptions in the temple, and these also refer to the moolavar here as Alanthurai Mahadevar. Today, this place is called Velalar Pasupati Koil (which is different from its nearby namesake, the Kallal Pasupati Koil, the home of the Chakrapalli Pasupateeswarar temple, also a Chakrapalli Sapta Sthanam temple.

Kamadhenu the cow (Tamil: pasu) worshipped in this region, and so the place gets the name Pasupati Koil. This is also the case with the nearby Kallal Pasupati Koil (Chakrapalli) where the Pasupateeswarar temple is located, which was part of the overall area called Pasupati Koil, for the same reason. The village was carved into two, in the recent decades. That temple is also part of the Chakrapalli sapta Sthanam, and is often mistaken for this temple at Pullamangai. Siva here also goes by the names Pasupatinathar and Brahmapureeswarar. The latter name is because Brahma worshipped Siva at this temple.

The word “pull” in Tamil refers to the eagle (as seen at Pullaboothangudi and Pull-Irukkuvelur / Vaitheeswaran Koil, both of which are connected to Jatayu). This used to be a nesting spot for eagles in the days of yore, and so the place got the name Pullamangai in ancient times. Even now, one can often see eagles in the temple’s gopuram.

The core temple must have existed in the 7th century, as Sambandar has sung on this temple. The original structural temple is likely to have been a brick structure and can be dated to the time of Parantaka I, as this is mentioned in the inscriptions here.

The main portion of the temple, comprising the garbhagriham and its immediate vicinity as they stand today, are likely from a few years after, possibly between the reign of Sundara Chola (Parantaka II), Aditya Karikalan and Raja Raja Chola I, all of whom are also mentioned in the inscriptions here. Of course, the temple has seen several renovations and expansions since then, but fortunately, much of the original structure remains, which gives us the beautiful exterior of the garbhagriham and the splendid architecture that is present there. The maha mandapam was constructed in the time of the Marathas.

There is no dhwajasthambam or bali peetham here. Instead, a long corridor leads us from the raja gopuram to the maha mandapam, which houses the Tevaram four (Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Manikkavasagar), garbhagriham flanked by Vinayakar and Murugan, and the Amman shrine.

The temple is constructed in such a way that the lower part is of granite, while the upper portion is constructed from brick, mud and plaster. The main garbhagriham, flanked by Vinayakar and Murugan, is built with a moat around it, although this serves no purpose today, as the extended ardha mandapam and maha mandapam cover the width of the outer moat. The Vinayakar panel and also Dakshinamurti in the koshtam are spectacularly depicted, including the extended architecture on the sides of the koshtam.

The Dakshinamurti vigraham we see in the koshtam today is a recent one. A closer look will actually show us a second, older and perhaps the original Dakshinamurti, behind the main one in the koshtam. You can also see this in the video here.

The Durga panel in the koshtam is extremely unusual – possibly the only one of its kind in Tamil Nadu temples. She is depicted standing in Tribhanga, with eight arms (and hence, She is Ashtabuja Durga), standing on Mahishasura. Rarely seen outside of Chola temples, is the umbrella (called the Venkotra Kudai) over Her head. In Her hands, She holds the Sangu, Chakram, mace (gadha), spear (soolam), shield, ankusam, sword and a bow. On the sides of the koshtam are a lion and a deer. Below the lion is a man depicted as cutting off his own neck (navakandam), and on the right is a man depicted cutting off a part of his body as an offering to Durga.

Whether it is the quality or the quantity of it, every sense the word “rich” comes to mind, when one looks at the architecture here! In addition, there are various spectacular miniatures throughout the temple (see some below), exemplifying the height of Chola art, architecture and sculpture, including Ardhanareesarar, Gajasamharamurti, Kama Dahanam, Urdhva Tandavam, and scenes from the epics and puranams.

In the Navagraham shrine, Nandi – who brought the Halahala poison to Siva – is positioned in the centre. This sort of depiction is absolutely unique, in the temples I have seen. (Unfortunately, the pictures of the Navagraham shrine are corrupted, so I am unable to upload them here.) The vigraham of Amman / Durga at this temple, Tirunageswaram and Patteeswaram are said to have been created by the same sculptor.

Given its proximity to the river, the temple was inundated by floods several times, but covered by the river sand. Therefore, it was passed by during the various Mughal and Islamic invasions, and hence not much damaged.

Other information for your visit

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