Aadi Vaidyanathar, Radhanallur, Nagapattinam


Regarded as the foremost of the five temples for Siva as Vaidyanathar – the panacea and the physician to resolve all problems and illnesses – this temple is believed to have been constructed in the time of Rajendra Chola I. The sthala puranam here is from the Mahabharatam, where the the Pandavas worshipped at this temple for cure from some ailments. But what is the specialty of Surya Puja at this temple, for seven days in a year?… Read More Aadi Vaidyanathar, Radhanallur, Nagapattinam

Aadi Vaidyanathar, Mannipallam, Nagapattinam


Regarded as the foremost of the five temples for Siva as Vaidyanathar – the panacea and the physician to resolve all problems and illnesses – this temple from the Pallava period stands today thanks to two individuals supported by an entire village. The name of the place is connected to the nearby Pandanallur and the temple itself, to Vaitheeswaran Koil. But there is a part of this temple in the other four Pancha Vaidyanathar sthalams. How so?… Read More Aadi Vaidyanathar, Mannipallam, Nagapattinam

Aadi Ratneswarar, Tiruvadanai, Ramanathapuram


Having existed in all four yugams, the temple also has a Mahabharatam connection. The place is today a prarthana sthalam for those seeking relief from the ill effects of their misdeeds committed both knowingly and otherwise. In turn, these are connected to Suryan’s pride and Vaaruni’s playfulness. What are these fascinating stories, which also explain the cover image, about this place with 12 names, and where Siva has 4 names of His own, and is both a Paadal Petra Sthalam and a Tiruppugazh temple?… Read More Aadi Ratneswarar, Tiruvadanai, Ramanathapuram

Shanmuganathar, Kunnakudi, Sivaganga


This early-Pandya temple from around the 8th century is a classic example of a hill temple for Murugan. Stories of the curative power of this temple range from the time of epics, to as recent as the 18th century. Interestingly, the temple has seen contributions from the Cholas as well, despite its location. But what connection does Murugan’s vehicle, the peacock, have with this temple?… Read More Shanmuganathar, Kunnakudi, Sivaganga

Abatsahayeswarar, Sendamangalam, Viluppuram


This vast temple managed by the ASI, is currently undergoing renovation, which is heartening! The temple’s sthala puranam is from the Mahabharatam, but that may well be a later interpolation. However, Sendamangalam is of great importance in the history of Tamil Nadu, effectively being the location of the last battle that the Cholas fought, which they lost. But that location has defined the temple and its brilliant architecture as it stands today. How so? … Read More Abatsahayeswarar, Sendamangalam, Viluppuram

Kachabeswarar, Eachangudi, Thanjavur


Prior to the churning of the ocean, Siva asked Vishnu to take on the Kurma Avataram. The tortoise is called Kachabam in Sanskrit, which gives Siva His name here. The temple also has a Mahabharatam connection, which is one of four stories of how the place gets is name. But what is the fascinating story of how this temple, as it stands today, came into existence?… Read More Kachabeswarar, Eachangudi, 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

Tiruvetteeswarar, Triplicane, Chennai


Possibly a Tevaram Vaippu Sthalam, the Lingam here is believed to have been worshipped by Arjuna (from the Mahabharatam) when the gash on the Lingam reminded him of his fight with Siva as a hunter; this is also how Siva here gets His name. Lakshmi worshipped Siva here, to fulfil Her wish of marrying Vishnu. But how are the Nawab of Arcot in particular, and the local Islamic community in general, connected with this temple?… Read More Tiruvetteeswarar, Triplicane, Chennai

Parthasarathy Perumal, Triplicane, Chennai


With various puranams associated with it, this Divya Desam temple in Chennai is dedicated to Vishnu as Parthasarathy – Arjuna’s charioteer in the Mahabharatam, and also features Vishnu in four other forms. The iconography of the moolavar and utsavar murtis are highly nuanced, embedding instances from the life of Krishna as told in the epic. But what interesting reasons are is behind this temple’s chariot/car running twice during the temple’s annual festival, and differing neivedyams offered to Parthasarathy Perumal and Yoga Narasimhar?… Read More Parthasarathy Perumal, Triplicane, Chennai

Tirumarainathar, Tiruvathavur, Madurai


This is where Vishnu worshipped after visiting Madurai for the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar wedding, and Siva explained the meaning of the Vedas to Him. The temple is also connected to another son of the soil, and one of the most influential of the Saivite bhakti saints – Manikkavasagar – who was born here and received Siva’s deeksha as well. This beautiful Tevaram Vaippu Sthalam has stunning Pandya architecture, but how is it connected with a Tamil retelling of the Mahabharatam?… Read More Tirumarainathar, Tiruvathavur, 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

Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal, Madurai, Madurai


Tucked away in a bylane near the Madurai Meenaksi Amman and Koodal Azhagar temples, is this fascinating temple run by Saurashtrans, dedicated to both Venkatesa Perumal and Navaneeta Krishnan. In addition to beautiful sculptures and architecture, the temple also has shrines for notable saints and others associated with it, as well as artefacts connected with Thyagaraja Swami of the Carnatic music trinity. But what is so unique about the Maatru Tirukkola Sevai that takes place during the temple’s annual festival in the Tamil month of Aadi? … Read More Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal, Madurai, Madurai

Veda Narayana Perumal, Kodikulam, Madurai


Brahma’s carelessness led to the demons Madhu & Kaitabha stealing the Vedas from him, which led to all creation coming to a sudden halt. Vishnu had to fight the demons to get back the Vedas. As penitence, Brahma performed penance here in human form, and so is depicted with only one head, instead of his usual four. But how is this temple connected to Srirangam, the Mughal invasion of the south, and the Vaishnavite saint-philosopher Pillai Lokacharyar?… Read More Veda Narayana Perumal, Kodikulam, Madurai

Sundara Varadaraja Perumal, Uthiramerur, Kanchipuram


This Pancha Varada Kshetram, which finds mention in the Mahabharatam, is one of the temples the Pandavas visited during their period of exile, and they regained the wisdom they had lost when gambling with the Kauravas. The long list of dynasties who ruled the region, have each left their mark on the temple construction. But what is the connection between this temple and the celestial architect Takshaka, in the depiction of Vishnu on three levels at this temple? … Read More Sundara Varadaraja Perumal, Uthiramerur, Kanchipuram

Parthasarathy Perumal, Tirunangur (Parthanpalli), Nagapattinam


Parthanpalli is one of the 11 in the list of Nangur Divya Desam temples. Vishnu here is said to have come from Kurukshetra, and the temple has some really unusual idols – 4-armed Vishnu as Parthasarathy, with a dagger; Dasaratha witnessing Vishnu come out of the sacrificial fire, and even Kolavilli Ramar in the sanctum. But Partha means Arjuna. So what does this place have to do with him? … Read More Parthasarathy Perumal, Tirunangur (Parthanpalli), Nagapattinam

Kudamadu Koothan, Tirunangur, Nagapattinam


Also called Arimeya Vinnagaram, this Divya Desam is also one of the 11 Nangur Ekadasa Divya Desam temples, all of which are connected with the 11 Rudra Peethams representing the fierce aspect of Lord Siva. Vishnu here is said to have come from Dwaraka, to quell Rudra’s anger. But what favouritism did Sage Uthangar accuse Krishna of in the Mahabharatam war?… Read More Kudamadu Koothan, Tirunangur, Nagapattinam

Pasupateeswarar, Tiruvetkalam, Cuddalore


Located inside the Annamalai University campus at Chidambaram, this Paadal Petra Sthalam’s puranam is connected to the Mahabharatam. After Arjuna was defeated by a hunter (Siva in disguise), this is where he received the Lord’s blessings and also the Pasupatastram. The depiction of Parvati – with Her hair unbound – is stunning! But how are the some of the places nearby connected with the Mahabharatam story? … Read More Pasupateeswarar, Tiruvetkalam, Cuddalore

Sundareswarar, Tiruvettakudi, Karaikal


This temple is connected to the Mahabharatam episode where Arjuna fought a hunter over an argument as to who killed the wild boar. Later, it transpired that the hunter was Siva in disguise. This incident is said to have taken place at this location, and the Tamil word “Vettai” refers to hunting. Murugan depicted with a bow instead of a vel (spear) at this temple, as he accompanied the hunter that was Siva! But why does the annual temple procession involve Siva taking a ritual bath in the sea nearby, dressed as a hunter? … Read More Sundareswarar, Tiruvettakudi, Karaikal

Sarguna Nathar, Idumbavanam, Tiruvarur


Originally called Vilvaranyam, this is where Brahma worshipped Siva in order to regain lost gunas and powers. This story also explains the etymology of Lord Siva here. The temple is also connected with the Ramayanam, and Rama is said to have worshipped here before proceeding to Lanka. But what is the unusual iconography inside the sanctum, which is also connected with Sage Agastyar?… Read More Sarguna Nathar, Idumbavanam, Tiruvarur

சற்குண நாதர், இடும்பவனம், திருவாரூர்


Originally called Vilvaranyam, this is where Brahma worshipped Siva in order to regain lost gunas and powers. This story also explains the etymology of Lord Siva here. The temple is also connected with the Ramayanam, and Rama is said to have worshipped here before proceeding to Lanka. But what is the unusual iconography inside the sanctum, which is also connected with Sage Agastyar?… Read More சற்குண நாதர், இடும்பவனம், திருவாரூர்

நீலகண்டேஸ்வரர், இலுப்பைப்பட்டு , நாகப்பட்டினம்


When Siva consumed the deadly halahala poison which emerged from the churning of the ocean, Parvati stopped the poison from doing further harm by holding Siva’s neck, which turned the Lord’s neck blue. For this reason, the temple is a prarthana sthalam for women worshipping for longevity of their husbands. This also gives both Siva and Parvati their names here. But why are there 4 more Siva Lingams here, and what is the Mahabharatam connection with the 2 Vinayakars, at this temple? … Read More நீலகண்டேஸ்வரர், இலுப்பைப்பட்டு , நாகப்பட்டினம்

Neelakanteswarar, Iluppaipattu, Nagapattinam


When Siva consumed the deadly halahala poison which emerged from the churning of the ocean, Parvati stopped the poison from doing further harm by holding Siva’s neck, which turned the Lord’s neck blue. For this reason, the temple is a prarthana sthalam for women worshipping for longevity of their husbands. This also gives both Siva and Parvati their names here. But why are there 4 more Siva Lingams here, and what is the Mahabharatam connection with the 2 Vinayakars, at this temple? … Read More Neelakanteswarar, Iluppaipattu, Nagapattinam

Sundararaja Perumal, Anbil, Tiruchirappalli


Brahma’s ego about his powers of creation resulted in his being born on earth, and he prayed here to be relieved of this curse. Siva, as Bhikshatanar, is believed to have worshipped at this temple, on the way from Uttamar Koil to Kandiyur. The temple also has a Mahabharatam connection, and the Pandavas are said to have worshipped at this place. But what unique iconographic representation in the sanctum leads to this being a prarthana sthalam for women seeking to get married? … Read More Sundararaja Perumal, Anbil, Tiruchirappalli

Kalyana Sundareswarar, Nallur, Thanjavur


One of the 70 maadakoil temples built by Kochchenga Chola, this temple has a Mahabharatam connection, whereby Kunti worshipped here and bathed in the temple tank as it had the power of the seven seas. The Siva Lingam here is believed to change colour five times every day, and even sweats on the day of the Mahamaham festival in nearby Kumbakonam! But what tradition – virtually unique for Siva temples, though the norm at Vishnu temples – is practiced here, and why? … Read More Kalyana Sundareswarar, Nallur, Thanjavur

Brihan Madhavan, Kodaganallur, Tirunelveli


This Perumal temple on the banks of the Tambraparani is likely from the early Pandya period, though the inscriptions here are from the later Pandyas in the 12th and 13th century CE. The temple is most famous for the special pujas conducted for Garuda, who is depicted carrying the pot of nectar (amrtam) here. But what is the reason for the name of the place, and also why the temple is a sarpa dosha nivritti sthalam?… Read More Brihan Madhavan, Kodaganallur, Tirunelveli

Tiru Vazh Marban, Tirupatisaram, Kanyakumari


Vishnu appeared here at the request of the sages who were staying and meditating at Suchindram. The pleasant countenance of Vishnu who appeared then, is perhaps linked to Prahlada’s request to see the Lord in a pleasing form, as a change from the ferocity displayed during the Narasimhavataram. This Divya Desam is also the birthplace of Nammazhvar. But how is this temple connected to both the Ramayanam and Mahabharatam? … Read More Tiru Vazh Marban, Tirupatisaram, Kanyakumari