Some interesting aspects of the Pongal festival, and associated temples


A collection of features and temples associated with the Pongal festival… Read More Some interesting aspects of the Pongal festival, and associated temples

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

Chakrapani, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur


Vishnu manifests in this temple as the Sudarshana Chakram itself. The main sthala puranam here is about Suryan’s ego and pride being overcome by the effulgence of the Chakram. Built originally by the Cholas and significantly expanded by the Nayaks, this temple is famed for its pillars that overflow with exquisite Nayak craftsmanship. But what are some of the aspects of this temple that are virtually identical to Siva and Siva worship, and how does this connect to the Veeratteswarar temple at Tiruvirkudi?… Read More Chakrapani, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur

Oushadhapureeswarar, Mathur, Thanjavur


This is one of the five temples associated with Agastyar, which are to be worshipped on a single day, to be cured of all sorts of illnesses. This classic Chola temple dates back possibly to the 10th century CE, and is said to have its origins in the holy waters of the River Ganga. But what’s special about some of the parivara devatas of this temple, specifically Bhairavar, Chandikeswarar and Suryan?… Read More Oushadhapureeswarar, Mathur, 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

Atmanathar, Avudaiyar Kovil, Pudukkottai


Said to have been built by Manikkavasagar, this temple is very closely connected to the life of the saint. The sthala puranam here is from the life of the saint, who used the king’s treasury to build this temple instead of buying horses as ordered by the king. This temple shares several commonalities with the Chidambaram Natarajar temple, and is famous for its unique and arresting architecture! But why is there no Lingam or murti of Amman in the temple? … Read More Atmanathar, Avudaiyar Kovil, Pudukkottai

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

Veyil Ugantha Vinayakar, Uppur, Ramanathapuram


After being punished at Daksha’s yagam by Veerabhadrar, Suryan lost his effulgence, and worshipped Siva at various places, to no avail. Realising that Vinayakar would be better placed to plead his case to Siva, Suryan came here and worshipped Vinayakar, who helped the former regain his lost powers. The temple also has a strong Ramayanam connection as well. But why does this place have names including Lavanapuram, Suryapuri, Tavasiddhipuri, and Pavavimochana Puram?… Read More Veyil Ugantha Vinayakar, Uppur, Ramanathapuram

Vedapureeswarar, Tirukazhithattai, Thanjavur


Said to have been built by Kodumbalur Velir, the army general of Sundara Chola, during the 10th century, this temple has several inscriptions about him, and various other important members of Chola royalty of the time. Suryan worships Siva here with his rays, twice a year, for 10 days at a time. But what is the etymology of the names of Siva and Parvati at this place?… Read More Vedapureeswarar, Tirukazhithattai, Thanjavur

Agasteeswarar, Tirukodiyalur, Tiruvarur


After the Tirumeyachur temple, this is possibly the most popular temple in the region, as it is regarded as the birthplace of both Sani and Yama. Worshipping here is considered as good as, or better than, worshipping at any other Sani sthalam, including Tirunallaru. But both Sani and Yama are worshipped here as benevolent deities (anugraha murtis). How and why is this so?… Read More Agasteeswarar, Tirukodiyalur, Tiruvarur

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

Naganathar, Peraiyur, Pudukkottai


With many interesting sthala puranams, this Tevaram Vaippu Sthalam is a prarthana sthalam for relief from naga dosham, for obtaining clarity of thought and purging one’s negative energies. In the Tamil month of Panguni (March-April), at the time of Meena Lagnam, sounds of celestial instruments are believed to emanate from the temple tank, as Siva is said to go down to Nagaloka at that time to perform his dance for a devotee-king. How did this come about?… Read More Naganathar, Peraiyur, 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

Sukshma Pureeswarar, Cherugudi, Tiruvarur


This temple and village are connected with Sambandar’s Kolaru Pathigam, inspiring the idea that malevolent forces have no effect on those who have placed their faith in Lord Siva. The sthala puranam here is about Siva and Parvati playing chokkattan, and Siva suddenly disappearing. But why is the Linga Swaroopam of Lord Siva here called a Santosha Lingam, and how is that connected to the sthala puranam a happy marriage? … Read More Sukshma Pureeswarar, Cherugudi, Tiruvarur

Sarngapani, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur


This Divya Desam and Pancha Ranga Kshetram (similar to Koviladi), this is also a Vaishnava Navagraha Sthalam dedicated to Suryan. Lakshmi was born as Sage Brighu’s daughter here, and married Vishnu who came to the venue on a chariot, with his bow called Sarngam. The temple itself is shaped like a chariot, and boasts of some very intricate and magnificent architecture. But why is the vigraham of Lakshmi as Komalavalli Thayar, never taken out of the temple in procession?… Read More Sarngapani, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur

Veeratteswarar, Keelaparasalur, Nagapattinam


This is one of the 8 Ashta-Veerattanam temples – places where Siva is said to have danced a valorous dance celebrating victory over a different evil force at each of the places. At Daksha’s yagam, due to the insults meted out to Her husband Lord Siva, Dakshayini immolated Herself on the sacrificial fire. A furious Siva deputed Veerabhadrar, who sliced off Daksha’s head. This, as well as another related story, are also considered as the reason for the name of the place. But what is the very close connection this temple has with the Chamakam, the mantram that follows the Sri Rudram? … Read More Veeratteswarar, Keelaparasalur, Nagapattinam

Vaaimoornaathar, Tiruvaaimoor, Nagapattinam


One of the 7 sapta-vitangam temples, this temple was established by Muchukunda Chakravarti after his victory over Indra, and is considered to be the site of the original Maragatha Lingam. A Paadal Petra Sthalam with various unusual facets, there are 8 Kala Bhairavars (just like at Kasi), a standing Rishabha in front of Thyagarajar, and in a unique arrangement, all Navagrahams face the same direction. But what is absolutely unique about the iconographic depiction of Dakshinamurti at this temple? … Read More Vaaimoornaathar, Tiruvaaimoor, Nagapattinam

Varadaraja Perumal, Tirunangur, Nagapattinam


One of the 11 Nangur Ekadasa Divya Desam temples, Vishnu at this temple is said to have come here from Kanchipuram, and hence shares the same name as Perumal there. The temple’s sthala puranam is connected to the nearby Tirutetriambalam temple, and the churning of the ocean by the devas and asuras. But what does that have to do with the occurrence of eclipses?… Read More Varadaraja Perumal, Tirunangur, Nagapattinam

Vedarajan, Tirunagari, Nagapattinam


This is one of two temples that are reckoned as one Divya Desam together, and is associated with Uparicharavasu, who took births in each of the yugams to finally arrive here as Neelan (later, Tirumangaiazhvar) in Kali Yugam. But what is the beautiful story of Lakshmi leaving Vishnu, and He locating her at this temple, due to which this place is a prarthana sthalam for those seeking to get married?… Read More Vedarajan, Tirunagari, Nagapattinam

Marundeeswarar, Tiruvanmiyur, Chennai


This is one of 3 Paadal Petra Sthalams on the coastal side of Chennai, one of whose sthala puranams give the nearby locality of Valmiki Nagar, its name. This is where Siva is said to have imparted the science of herbal medicine to Sage Agastyar, and the five Teerthams of the temple are believed to have descended from Siva’s matted locks. The many Lingams in the temple each have their own sthala puranam. The moolavar at this temple used to face east, but why did He turn west (and remain so)? … Read More Marundeeswarar, Tiruvanmiyur, Chennai

Nellivananathar, Tirunellikkaa, Tiruvarur


This Paadal Petra Sthalam is also one of the 5 Pancha-ka kshetrams (temples in forests, and therefore whose names end with -ka or -kavu) in Tamil Nadu. The temple has a quaint connection with the Ramayanam, and also a close connection with the Cholas, as part of its sthala puranams. But possibly the most important aspect of this place is that the forever-angry sage Durvasa was blessed to overcome his anger, here! How did this happen? … Read More Nellivananathar, Tirunellikkaa, Tiruvarur

Kutram Poruttha Naathar, Thalaignaayiru, Nagapattinam


This puranam of this Kulothunga Chola III era temple is closely linked to that of the nearby Kundala Karneswarar temple, and also a Ramayanam connection. As it is at Sirkazhi, there is a separate shrine for Siva as Sattanathar here. Siva here is believed to have forgiven Indra, but what bad deed (kutram / aparatham) did Hanuman commit, for him to be forgiven here by Aparatha-Kshameswarar? … Read More Kutram Poruttha Naathar, Thalaignaayiru, Nagapattinam

சாட்சிநாதர், அவளிவநல்லூர் , திருவாரூர்


Being One of the 5 Pancha-Aranya kshetrams (temples located in forests) in this region, there is a specific order to worship these temples; this temple should ideally be visited in the mid-morning. The sthala puranam here is about a temple priest who could not recognise his wife after her illness when he was at Kasi, and so refused to accept her as his wife, and how Siva stood as witness (hence the Lord’s name here) to the wife’s testimony. But how is this temple connected to Vishnu and the nearby Haridwaramangalam temple? … Read More சாட்சிநாதர், அவளிவநல்லூர் , திருவாரூர்

Satchinathar, Avalivanallur, Tiruvarur


Being One of the 5 Pancha-Aranya kshetrams (temples located in forests) in this region, there is a specific order to worship these temples; this temple should ideally be visited in the mid-morning. The sthala puranam here is about a temple priest who could not recognise his wife after her illness when he was at Kasi, and so refused to accept her as his wife, and how Siva stood as witness (hence the Lord’s name here) to the wife’s testimony. But how is this temple connected to Vishnu and the nearby Haridwaramangalam temple? … Read More Satchinathar, Avalivanallur, Tiruvarur

Pasupatheeswarar, Pandanallur, Thanjavur


Once a forest of kondrai trees (whose flowers are highly suitable for Siva worship), Chola period temple was built before, but significantly renovated, in the time of Raja Raja Chola I. The sthala puranam here is about Parvati’s desire to play and Siva fulfilling that desire by providing Her with four balls, made of the four Vedas! But what came of this, and its implications on various things in the puranams, concluding with Siva’s earthly marriage to Parvati, is the rest of the sthala puranam here. But why is the place called Pandanallur?… Read More Pasupatheeswarar, Pandanallur, Thanjavur

Vaikuntanatha Perumal, Srivaikundam, Tirunelveli


Considered as the first in the series of the Nava Tirupati temples near Tirunelveli, this temple is dedicated to Suryan. The sthala puranam here is of Perumal who took the form of a thief to protect another thief (who shared his takings with the Lord, due to his devotion!). To protect the thief, Vishnu took the form of a thief Himself (giving Him the name Kallapiran), and reasoned with the king as to why there was social inequity! This temple is also connected with Vishnu retrieving the Vedas stolen from Brahma. But why is the name Paal-Pandi commonly given to men in this region? … Read More Vaikuntanatha Perumal, Srivaikundam, Tirunelveli

Darbaranyeswarar, Tirunallar, Karaikal


One of the Kumbakonam Navagraham temples, this Paadal Petra Siva Sthalam is dedicated to Sani, and is therefore also a Sani-dosha parikara sthalam. The temple is also connected to the legend of Muchukunda Chakravarti and is a Sapta Vitanga Sthalam. Tirunallaru is also connected with the story of King Nala, and his separation from and reunion with his wife Damayanti. But how is Sambandar’s pathigam on this temple connected with the saint’s spiritual exploits at Madurai? … Read More Darbaranyeswarar, Tirunallar, Karaikal

Mukteeswarar, Sethalapathy, Tiruvarur


The sthala puranam of this temple is connected to the Ramayanam, and involves Rama – upon His return from Lanka – performing the last rites for Dasaratha, who had passed away during Rama’s exile. But the offerings turned into snakes, until Rama worshipped Siva. Even today, this temple is preferred for pitru pujas. The temple also abuts the Nara Mukha Vinayakar temple that is right outside. But what is fascinating about the depiction of Vishnu at this temple? … Read More Mukteeswarar, Sethalapathy, Tiruvarur