Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Jambunathar||Ambal / Thayar:||Akhilandeshwari|
|Timing:||7 to 10 & 4 to 7||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Nallicheri||District:||Thanjavur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Thanjavur (14 km)||Kumbakonam (31 km)|
|Ariyalur (39 km)||Tiruvarur (62 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
Nandi serves as the mount and vehicle of Siva. Every time Siva is seated on the him, Nandi – the prime and eternal servitor of Siva – experiences waves of spiritual ecstasy due to the touch of Siva (just as Manikkavasagar received sparsha deeksha at Avudaiyar Kovil). However, Nandi longed for the touch of the Lord’s holy feet on his body. So, he undertook to perform 1008 pradosham pujas, which he completed with the greatest of devotion. Much satisfied with Nandi, Siva granted Nandi’s wish at this temple, placing His holy, beautifully arched feet (kunchitapadam) on Nandi. Since then, this place came to be called Nandimangai.
There is another sthala puranam involving Nandi, who was seeking Panchakshara siddhi by meditating on Lord Siva. He first did so at the venue of his wedding – Tiruvaiyaru – but to no avail. Then, realising the potential of this place, Nandi came here and meditated upon Siva, and was blessed with the siddhi that he was seeking.
The name of the village – Nallicheri – is said to be a corruption of Nandicheri, after the sthala puranam of this temple. It could also be derived from the sthala puranam of the nearby Rajagopala Perumal temple.
The temple is one of the Chakrapalli Sapta Sthanam temples, which are about the sapta matrikas worshipping Siva at seven different places. At this temple, Vaishnavi – the sakti of Vishnu – worshipped Siva’s ankets and feet (kazhal darsanam), and this is celebrated on the 4th day of Navratri.
The temple faces west, which by itself qualifies as a superior temple for spiritual pursuits and also for pitru worship. Beyond the temple’s western perimeter is a cremation yard, much like at the Tribhuvana Chakravarteeswarar temple at Unjanai near Karaikudi (such a setup is called mayana kolli). This combination of a west-facing temple and also adjacent to a cremation ghat takes this temple to the highest orders of Siva worship.
Although the temple faces west, and there is indeed a sort of faux raja gopuram in that direction, it is not practical to enter from that direction due to the burning ghat and agricultural fields that are located beyond. Therefore, the entrance to the temple is from the south, through a much smaller gopuram.
Entering the temple leads us straight through a vavvaal-nethi mandapam, to the shrine of Akhilandeswari Amman. In a departure from traditional depictions, Amman is shown seated. Her upper hands are in holding a japa mala and a flower, and the lower hands are in abhaya and varada hastam.
Adjacent to this is a shrine for Rettai Vinayakar – two Vinayakar murtis in a single shrine. On the right is a longish corridor / mandapam with Chola period pillars, that leads straight to the ardha mandapam and garbhagriham. As part of this main mandapam is also a Murugan shrine, thereby completing the first family!
As we walk around the prakaram, we see the ancientness of the temple, built largely in late Chola style – dated perhaps to the 11th century CE. The western entrance is permanently closed but is flanked by smaller shrines for Chandran and Suryan. The majesty of Chola architecture at this temple then comes alive, as we get a side-on view of the exterior of the maha mandapam, ardha mandapam and garbhagriham. It is also evident that the ground level of the prakaram has been significantly raised, based on the height of the koshtams around the garbhagriham. Of course, there is also a fair degree of subsequent renovation that is apparent, and the influence of the Thanjavur Marathas in the temple’s construction is quite clear.
There are no deities in the koshtams, which speaks to the age of the temple. The prakaram features a handful of independent shrines, including an empty one for Natarajar and Sivakami Amman, and one for Meenakshi Sundareswarar. There is a separate Navagraham shrine as well as the koshtam shrine for Dakshinamurti and a shrine for Adi Sankarar. But there are some bas relief images on the outer walls and some of these – particularly the miniatures – are spectacular! The highlight of the architecture here is perhaps the miniature bas relief in granite, of Nandi worshipping Siva.
Amongst the various art depictions in the temple, is Nandi’s pursuit of pada deeksha from Siva, and his performing 1008 Pradosha pujas.