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

Sundararaja Perumal, Sundaraperumal Koil, Thanjavur


The handsome Vishnu – Sundararajar – gives the temple and, in turn the place, their names. This temple is regarded as the Abhimana Perumal for three other temples. The sthala puranam here is about a test of will and penance that Indra, the chief of the devas, had to undergo, and how Vishnu helped him so that Indra could get rid of an illness. But who is the guardian deity of this temple and what is unusual about him?… Read More Sundararaja Perumal, Sundaraperumal Koil, Thanjavur

Vaiyam Katha Perumal, Tirukudalur, Thanjavur


This Divya Desam located between Kumbakonam and Tiruvaiyaru is known for many interesting stories that serve as its sthala puranam. The temple is virtually the starting point for Vishnu’s Varaha avataram, which ends in Srimushnam. There are also at least 3 stories as to how the place gets is name. But how did Vishnu protect his devotee – king Ambarisha – from the mercurial sage Durvasa, and how does that connect with this temple?… Read More Vaiyam Katha Perumal, Tirukudalur, Thanjavur

Magizhavaneswarar, Tirukokaranam, Pudukkottai


Located on the fringes of Pudukkottai town, Tirukokaranam is a Tevaram Vaippu Sthalam that finds mention in one of Appar’s pathigams. The temple actually houses two sets of deities, but is most popular by the name Brahadambal koil. The sthala puranam here is connected to that of the nearby Tiruvengaivasal Vyaghrapureeswarar temple, and involves Kamadhenu’s penance on earth. But why is Brahadambal Amman considered a talking goddess?… Read More Magizhavaneswarar, Tirukokaranam, Pudukkottai

Gokarneswarar, Tirukokaranam, Pudukkottai


Located on the fringes of Pudukkottai town, Tirukokaranam is a Tevaram Vaippu Sthalam that finds mention in one of Appar’s pathigams. The temple actually houses two sets of deities, but is most popular by the name Brahadambal koil. The sthala puranam here is connected to that of the nearby Tiruvengaivasal Vyaghrapureeswarar temple, and involves Kamadhenu’s penance on earth. But why is Brahadambal Amman considered a talking goddess?… Read More Gokarneswarar, Tirukokaranam, Pudukkottai

Valarolinathar, Vairavanpatti, Sivaganga


The third largest of the 9 Nagarathar temples, this temple filled with exemplary architecture is perhaps the origin of the primacy of Bhairavar worship in the region. Siva deputed Bhairavar to overcome an asura, after which Bhairavar merged back into Siva as a growing light of knowledge, giving Siva the name Tirumeignana Pureeswarar. But how is this temple connected to ridding Brahma of his ego, as well as the Ramayanam?… Read More Valarolinathar, Vairavanpatti, Sivaganga

Swayam Pratheeswarar, Sivapuripatti, Sivaganga


Filled with over 60 inscriptions spanning more than 7 centuries, this temple lies on what was once the land route connecting the eastern seaport of Thondi with its western counterpart at Muziris. Originally built in the time of Kulothunga Chola I, this temple features a combination of Chola and Pandya architecture, and some unusual aspects of temple building and iconography. But this place is also important in the history of Tamilakam. How so?… Read More Swayam Pratheeswarar, Sivapuripatti, Sivaganga

Kutram Poruthavar, S. Aduthurai, Perambalur


This beautiful temple with its imposing raja gopuram stands out in this otherwise flat land on the banks of the Vellar river. One sthala puranam here is connected to the Daksha Yagam, and how the sapta-rishis got back their status. But the other (and main) sthala puranam of this temple is also the reason for some of the etymology of the name of this place. What is so interesting about this, which has a Ramayanam connection?… Read More Kutram Poruthavar, S. Aduthurai, Perambalur

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

Govindaraja Perumal, Veppathur, Thanjavur


Located in the northern part of Veppathur, this temple is today just a gopuram, with the deities being housed in a separate one-room building. The sthala puranam here is connected to two tales from the Ramayanam. But despite its Pallava origins, what makes this nearly 2000-year old (or older) temple fascinating across layers of history and the rule of several dynasties?… Read More Govindaraja Perumal, Veppathur, Thanjavur

Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal, Veppathur, Thanjavur


Considered to be over 2000 years old, this temple is located in the heart of Veppathur – once called Ghatika Sthanam and Chaturvedi Mangalam. The all-wish-fulfilling Perumal is attended to by Anjaneyar depicted as a child. Krishna gave mantropadesam to Agastyar here. But how is this temple connected to the Ramayanam, that too in a rather unusual way?… Read More Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal, Veppathur, Thanjavur

Aatheeswarar, Veppathur, Thanjavur


This roadside shrine today was originally a much larger temple, and is said to be as old as 1000 years or more. Despite its small size, it features Siva in two forms – as a Lingam and as Dakshinamurti. The temple is also a prarthana sthalam for those seeking to have children, and is said to be powerful enough to completely turn around one’s horoscope in this regard, when they participate in a particular festival. What is this? … Read More Aatheeswarar, Veppathur, Thanjavur

Dharmapureeswarar, Pazhayarai, Thanjavur


Often confused with the Someswarar temple (also located in Pazhaiyarai), this temple is popularly referred to as the Pazhaiyarai Vada Thali, Muzhaiyur temple and Vallalar Koil. Pazhaiyarai was once the centre-point of the Chola empire, and one of its capitals, as also the birthplace of two of the 63 Saiva Nayanmars. One can see several important and exquisite Chola temples in the immediate vicinity. Amman is named for Vimali – one of Kamadhenu’s 4 daughters – who worshipped here. But how did Appar find this temple, and how was it brought out of oblivion? … Read More Dharmapureeswarar, Pazhayarai, Thanjavur

Gangadheeswarar, Purasaiwakkam, Chennai


This rare Tevaram Vaippu Sthalam finds mention in one of Sundarar’s pathigams, and has beautiful stucco images of various puranams and also stories from the Tiruvilaiyadal. It is last of the 1008 temples installed by king Bhageeratha, and is one of the five Pancha Bootha Sthalams around Chennai. The forest of palasa trees here at one time, gives the place its present-day name as well! But why is the Ganga river also called the Bhageerathi, and what is its connection with this temple?… Read More Gangadheeswarar, Purasaiwakkam, Chennai

Adipureeswarar, Tiruvottriyur, Chennai


More popular as the Thyagarajar temple, this temple for Siva as Adi Pureeswarar has several puranams associated with it. Siva came to Brahma’s aid to keep the pralayam waters away, during the creation of the earth. Vattaparai Amman’s shrine here is connected to Kannagi from the Silappathikaram. The temple is also famously associated with Sundarar’s marriage to Sangili Nachiyar. But what are the various dualities at this temple, and the multiple connections it has with the Thyagarajar temple at Tiruvarur?… Read More Adipureeswarar, Tiruvottriyur, 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

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

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

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

Vaidyanathar, Tirumazhapadi, Ariyalur


At this Paadal Petra Sthalam, Sundaramurti Nayanar didn’t realise there was a temple here, and so he walked past without stopping to worship. At that point, Siva commented that perhaps the Nayanar had forgotten Him! Overcome by the events, Sundarar composed his famous “Ponnar Meniyane” pathigam. Mazhapadi – where four Vedas visited and are depicted in stone – is also the birthplace of Nandi, but did you know that he has a story similar to that of Markandeya’s? … Read More Vaidyanathar, Tirumazhapadi, Ariyalur

Nageswarar, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur


Located in the heart of Kumbakonam, this Paadal Petra Sthalam is referred to as Kudanthai Keezhkottam, with fort-like outer walls. One sthala puranam of this temple is about Adiseshan worshipping at this temple on Maha Sivaratri day. The horse-drawn chariot representation of the Nataraja Mandapam – called the Perabalam – is one of several splendid architectural elements of this temple. But how is this temple connected to the Mahamaham festival that Kumbakonam is famous for, and why is Siva at this temple also called Vilvaranyeswarar? … Read More Nageswarar, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur

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

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

Purushottama Perumal, Uttamar Koil, Tiruchirappalli


In addition to being a Divya Desam – commonly referred to as Uttamar Koil – this temple is also a “Mummurti Kshetram”, having shrines for Vishnu, Siva and Brahma as well as their consorts. Vishnu, wanting to test Brahma, hid inside a Kadamba tree, and revealed Himself only after a worried Brahma searched everywhere and then surrendered to the Lord! This Chola temple is also a Guru kshetram, as all 7 Gurus are enshrined here. Who are these seven, what are the Ramayanam connections here, the link to Bhikshatanar, and who is an Uttamar? … Read More Purushottama Perumal, Uttamar Koil, Tiruchirappalli

Saranatha Perumal, Tirucherai, Thanjavur


This Divya Desam temple and Vaishnava Navagraha Sthalam (for Sani’s son Mandi) near Kumbakonam, is connected with the Story of how Kumbakonam came into existence. The temple is also known as the pancha sara kshetram, as it covers 5 essences (or Sarams) at one go. The Kaveri river was upset at not being regarded as the holiest of rivers, and so performed penance upon Vishnu, who granted her three wishes. What unique iconographic representation is there at this temple, as a result of this event?… Read More Saranatha Perumal, Tirucherai, Thanjavur

Prananatheswarar, Tirumangalakudi, Thanjavur


An auspicious temple (or “mangala” sthalam) in many aspects, this temple’s puranam is connected to the resurrection of Kulothunga Chola’s minister, after he had been decapitated. A Paadal Petra Sthalam, this temple also has a story of Brahma cursing the Navagrahams for obliging Sage Galva, and how Siva helped the 9 celestial deities. But despite their close involvement in the sthala puranam, why is there no Navagraham shrine at this temple? … Read More Prananatheswarar, Tirumangalakudi, Thanjavur

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

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

Kalyana Pasupateeswarar, Karur, Karur


One of the 7 Paadal Petra Sthalams in Kongu Nadu, this temple today is the result of the influence of several kings, from the early Cholas to the Vijayanagara dynasty. The two Ammans here represent Ichcha Sakti and Kriya Sakti. When Brahma’s ego grew beyond bounds (for having been entrusted with the job of creation), he was de-recognised, and Kamadhenu was handed the responsibility instead. What happened after that, and how is that connected with the puranam of this temple? … Read More Kalyana Pasupateeswarar, Karur, Karur