Ramaswami, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur


This Nayak period temple was built at the start of the decline of the Vijayanagara dynasty. The irony of this is that worship of Rama gained popularity only during the Vijayanagara dynasty’s rule! The entire temple and its extensive and detailed architecture celebrates only one thing – the Ramayanam. The temple is also one of the five Perumal temples associated with the Mahamaham festival. But what is so interesting and absorbing about the depiction of deities in the garbhagriham?… Read More Ramaswami, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur

Hari Mukteeswarar, Ariyamangai, Thanjavur


This Tevaram Vaippu Sthalam is one of the Chakrapalli Sapta Sthanam temples, this one being connected to Maheswari, who worshipped the River Ganga on Siva’s head. The place gets its name from the sthala puranam, in which Lakshmi worshipped Siva here, in order to be with Her husband Vishnu forever. The temple today is a shadow of its former self. But what is very different and unique about some of the other deities in this temple?… Read More Hari Mukteeswarar, Ariyamangai, Thanjavur

Kailasanathar, Thingalur, Thanjavur


This temple is one of the nine Kumbakonam Navagraham temples, and specifically connected to Chandran (the moon), because he worshipped Siva here. Thingalur – which gets is name from the Tamil word for Chandran – is the birthplace of Appoodhi Adigal, one of the 63 Saiva Nayanmars, and a great devotee of Appar (Tirunavukkarasar). The story of the two Nayanmars’ interaction is fascinating! But how is this temple also connected to Siva’s journey from Tiruvaiyaru to Swamimalai, to receive upadesam from Murugan? … Read More Kailasanathar, Thingalur, Thanjavur

Desikanathar, Nagara Surakkudi, Sivaganga


One of the famous 9 Nagarathar temples of the Chettinadu region, this temple is also a Bhairavar sthalam. The sthala puranam here is connected with Daksha’s yagam, and so the name of the place was taken from the fact that Suryan gets first worship at this temple. The temple’s architecture is classic Nagarathar style, but the iconography of deities as well as some worship customs here are quite unique. In what way are these unusual?… Read More Desikanathar, Nagara Surakkudi, Sivaganga

Vanmeekanathar, Tiruvetriyur, Ramanathapuram


This Tevaram Vaippu Sthalam finds mention in the pathigams of all three Tevaram saints – Appar, Sundarar and Sambandar, and is a sthala puranam for those seeking to get married, and those seeking relief from illnesses – particularly cancer. The latter is because of the sthala puranam here, which starts with a rat at Vedaranyam, connects with the Vamana Avataram, and ends with the river Ganga pacifying the earth Goddess Dharma. But how is Vishnu’s relief from illness connected with this temple?… Read More Vanmeekanathar, Tiruvetriyur, Ramanathapuram

Sundareswarar, Kambanur, Sivaganga


This Nagarathar temple near Karaikudi and Pillaiyarpatti celebrates Siva and Parvati as Sundareswarar and Meenakshi, as they are in Madurai. Also for this reason, this temple is a favoured venue for both fixing and conducting marriages. Dated to the 14th century, this temple is best known for Kottai Vinayakar, built by a feudatory of the Pandyas. But why is Vinayakar named so, and how is this relevant to other places in the region? … Read More Sundareswarar, Kambanur, Sivaganga

Tirukandeeswarar, Chokkanathapuram, Sivaganga


It is disappointing to find a temple with great architecture and fantastic names of the deities, but very little information on the temple’s puranam and history. This is one such temple, though we do know that the sthala puranam here is connected with Kamadhenu, and sage Agastyar has worshipped here. Fortunately, this temple has not met the neglect that several others seem to face. But what makes this temple quite interesting is the internal layout and iconography.… Read More Tirukandeeswarar, Chokkanathapuram, Sivaganga

Aatkondanathar, Iraniyur, Sivaganga


One of the 9 main Nagarathar temples of the Chettinadu region, this temple’s sthala puranam could perhaps explain the reason for the popularity of Sarabeswarar worship in this region. The temple is popularly referred to as the temple of sculpture (sirpa koil), for obvious reasons as can be seen in the pictures of the temple interiors. But how is this temple, and indeed the name of the place, connected to one of Vishnu’s avatarams? … Read More Aatkondanathar, Iraniyur, Sivaganga

Thenatrunathar, Kunnakudi, Sivaganga


Missed by most visitors to the Kunnakudi Murugan temple, is this cave temple for Siva as Thenatrunathar, located on the west of the Kunnakudi hillock. The temple, which is not in active use and is today an ASI maintained site, features three shrines for Siva, in addition to excellent specimens of early Pandya architecture. But what is so special about the dwarapalakas at this temple?… Read More Thenatrunathar, Kunnakudi, Sivaganga

Sundareswarar, Chattiram Karuppur, Thanjavur


Once known as Pathirivanam due to being a forest of pathiri trees, this Chola period temple is one of the Kumbakonam Pancha Krosha Sthalam temples, and is possibly adjunct to the Koranattu Karuppur temple, also for Siva as Sundareswarar. The local belief is that Yama does not bother those those who have seen Sundareswarar here. But why was this small and non-descript temple, and indeed this whole place, important to the celestials? … Read More Sundareswarar, Chattiram Karuppur, Thanjavur

Brahma Gnana Pureeswarar, Keezha Korkkai, Thanjavur


The sthala puranam of this temple is about Brahma losing the Vedas to the demons Madhu and Kaitabha, and regaining them with Vishnu’s help, and also regaining his wisdom after worshipping Siva here. This Chola temple from the time of Kulothunga Chola III has some excellent examples of Chola sculptures, including Adhikara Nandi and Siva as Kirata Murti. But how is this temple connected to the annual ritual of Avani Avittam?… Read More Brahma Gnana Pureeswarar, Keezha Korkkai, Thanjavur

Sakalabuvaneswarar, Tirumeyachur, Tiruvarur


Even the celestial world is filled with complex stories of intrigue, desire and passions. This temple shares its sthala puranam with that of the Tirumeyachur Meghanathar (Lalithambigai) temple, and is about how all of these led to the birth of Vali and Sugreeva, and Surya then being forgiven by Siva. This Paadal Petra Sthalam was built as a balalayam (Ilankoil in Tamil) and so is older than the Meghanathar temple that it is part of. But why was this temple retained, which is unusual for balalayams? … Read More Sakalabuvaneswarar, Tirumeyachur, Tiruvarur

Sivalokanathar, Keeranur, Tiruvarur


When the king’s horse trod on an object which started bleeding, the shocked king and his entourage saw a cow come over and pour its milk on the wounded object, which later turned out to be a Siva Lingam. Parvati had Herself come in the form of a cow, and because of her action, She is called Ksheerambigai here. But how is this temple’s other sthala puranam connected to one of ashta Veerattanam temples?… Read More Sivalokanathar, Keeranur, Tiruvarur

Vaitheeswaran, Chintamani Nallur, Viluppuram


This 900-year-old temple was built by Vikrama Chola, and the presiding deity named Kulothunga Chozheeswaramudaiya Mahadevar, in honour of Vikrama’s father Kulothunga Chola I. Vikrama Chola’s mother’s names are also the basis for the name of this place and the well-known nearby town of Madhurantakam. But what is unusual about the deities in the koshtam, at this temple?… Read More Vaitheeswaran, Chintamani Nallur, Viluppuram

Vyaghrapureeswarar, Tiruvengaivasal, Pudukkottai


When Kamadhenu was delayed in reaching the celestial court, Indra cursed her to be born on Bhulokam. Once here, she started worshipping Siva by bringing water in her ears. On one occasion, a tiger accosted her but she wanted to finish her worship and begged the tiger for permission. She was allowed, and when she came back to offer herself to the tiger, it turned out to be Siva and Parvati, who were testing her! The temple has several sculptural masterpieces, but what is so unique and fascinating about Dakshinamurti at this temple?… Read More Vyaghrapureeswarar, Tiruvengaivasal, Pudukkottai

Mukteeswarar, Theppakulam, Madurai


This Pancha bootha sthalam in Madurai is associated with the celestial elephant Airavata being relieved of the curse he received from Sage Durvasa. This Nayak period temple features beautiful architecture and iconographic depiction of various deities. But what is the interesting reason that this temple, and the adjacent Theppakulam Mariamman temple, do not have gopurams? … Read More Mukteeswarar, Theppakulam, Madurai

Madanagopala Swami, Madurai, Madurai


At Siva’s coronation as the ruler of Madurai, the celestials in attendance found the heat and effulgence unbearable, and requested Vishnu for help. In turn, Vishnu took the form of the cowherd Gopala, and played the flute, mesmerising everyone present and cooling them down. Periyazhvar and his daughter Andal visited here, on their way from Srivilliputhur to Srirangam, for Andal’s marriage to Ranganathar there. The temple has some very unusual architectural aspects, as far as Perumal temples go. But in what infuriating way is this temple in Madurai connected to the Philadelphia Museum of Art?… Read More Madanagopala Swami, Madurai, Madurai

Brahmapureeswarar, Karaveeram, Tiruvarur


When celestial women prayed to Parvati that they get married soon, She looked at Siva, who told them to come to this place on earth and worship him. The Lingam they were to worship was guarded by Sage Gautama, who sought to remain here after his mortal life, and so he merged into the sthala vriksham of this temple. But why is a donkey the reason for there being no tall structure between this temple and the sea at Nagore, 30km away?… Read More Brahmapureeswarar, Karaveeram, Tiruvarur