Temples in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere are important in their own right. That said, there are various temples that are also grouped together for any number of reasons. There is always some legend or history associated with these groupings.
To me personally, the order is not important. However, there are people to whom it is, and this page lists out some of the important (and also some lesser-known) temple groups. Each temple group has its own page with more information about the grouping, and also the list of temples forming part of that group.
Paadal Petra Sthalams
Paadal Petra Sthalams are the 275 Siva temples that are revered in the Tevaram verses of the Nayanars, wher at least one of Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar have sung at least one full pathigam dedicated to the specific temple. There are many temples where only one of the three (Moovar) have sung, and a few where all three of them have sung pathigams.
All posts tagged as Paadal Petra Sthalam are here. Or scroll the carousel below for some of these temples:
Also from the Tevaram, these are temples where one of the moovar have sung, or have sung about in passing, but does not reflect as an entire pathigam. There are said to be 249 Vaippu Sthalams, but one cannot be sure of the exact number.
All posts tagged as Vaippu Sthalam are here. Or scroll the carousel below:
These are 108 sites (including 106 earthly temples, plus Tirupparkadal – the ocean of milk; and Paramapadam / Vaikuntam – the abode of Lord Vishnu) at or about which Vaishnava Bhakti poets and saints (known as azhvars) have sung or performed Mangalasaasanam. There are 12 azhvars, but there is no temple where all 12 of them have sung. The Sarngapani temple in Kumbakonam is the one where the most azhvars have sung – eleven.
All posts tagged as Divya Desam are here. Or scroll the carousel below for some of these temples:
Padai-veedu is a place where kings stay with their armies prior to battle. Arupadai Veedu (aaru-padai veedu, or literally, the homes of six armies) refers to the Six Abodes of Murugan, which are temples situated in Tamil Nadu. These six most sacred abodes of Murugan are mentioned in Tamil Sangam literature, Nakkeerar’s Thirumurugatrupadai and Arunagirinathars’ Thiruppugazh. Interestingly, 5 of the 6 padai veedu temples are located on hillocks or hills, and one (at Tiruchendur) is located on the seashore.
All posts tagged as Arupadai Veedu are here. Or scroll the carousel below:
Nava Tirupati refers to a grouping of 9 temples, each one associated with one of the Nava Grahams (nine planets or cosmic bodies), which are all said to have been worshipped by Nammazhvar. All the Nava Tirupati temples are located in Thoothukudi District, between Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi.
All posts tagged as Nava Tirupati are here. Or scroll the carousel below:
Nava Kailasam refers to a grouping of 9 Siva temples, each one associated with one of the Nava Grahams (nine planets or cosmic bodies). All the Nava Kailasam temples are located in either Tirunelveli district or Thoothukudi district, o the banks of the Tamiraparani river, and are associated with the legend of Sages Agastya and Romaharshana.
All posts tagged as Nava Kailasam are here. Or scroll the carousel below:
Navagrahas are the 9 planetary / cosmic deities that are said to influence the lives of humans, being Suriyan (Sun), Chandran or Thingal (Moon), Sevvai (Mars), Budhan (Mercury), Guru (Jupiter), Sukran (Venus), Sani (Saturn), Rahu (lunar head node) and Ketu (lunar tail node). There are nine Siva temples around Kumbakonam (going up to Vaitheeswaran Kovil, and Tirunallar in Karaikal), which are dedicated to these navagrahams – one for each graham or planetary deity. Because Vishnu and Siva are essentially one, and are the rulers of the planets, there are both Siva and Vishnu temples that are Navagraha sthalams.
The most popular circuit of Navagraham temples are the Kumbakonam Navagraham Temples are here. Or scroll the carousel below:
A lesser known group of Navagraha sthalams is the set of 9 Vishnu temples around Kumbakonam that are referred to as Vaishnava Navagraha sthalams.
Sapta Sthanam temples
The concept of sapta sthanam temples is almost unique to the Thanjavur district and its surroundings, and usually associated with Sivan temples. The idea is to visit and worship at a set of 7 temples that are connected in some way. The respective temple groups are also part of the festivals of those temples, and the “official” sapta sthanam yatra is usually on a specific day for that group.
What is common to all of these, is that on the day of the sapta sthanam festival, the palanquin (with the utsava murtis) of the main temple starts its visit, and goes to each temple on the list, where it is joined by each subsequent temple’s utsava murtis on their respective palanquins. This continues till all 7 are visited, and then they all go to back the main temple. After the respective ceremonies and functions are carried out, each of them go back to their home temples. One can also visit these temples on other days as well, and in any order.
Based on the typical flow of events, it appears that such festivals might have started as a way to get the various nearby communities and villages together, and use the occasion to visit family and friends in nearby places. Also, based on the temples that have such programs, it appears to be a custom from the Chola days, because these are places that were once part of the Chola empire.
Perhaps the most famous of the sapta sthanam festival is the Tiruvaiyaru sapta sthanam (see below). Other such groups include: Kumbakonam Sapta Sthanam, Chakkarapalli sapta sthanam, Mayiladuthurai sapta sthanam, Karanthattankudi sapta sthanam, Tirunallur sapta sthanam, Tiruneelakudi sapta sthanam, Kanjanoor sapta sthanam, and the Nagapattinam sapta sthanam. We will cover all of those in due course, on this site.
Tiruvaiyaru Sapta Sthanam
Saptha Sthanam refers to the seven temples in and around Tiruvaiyaru, that constituted the saptha-pathi (seven steps) at the wedding of Nandi (or Nandikeswara, Siva’s foremost gana and attendant) to Swayasambikai. Lord Siva himself officiated the wedding, held at Thirumazhapadi, and then took Nandi and his bride to Siva temples in seven nearby towns, each of which provided one significant input to the wedding itself. Saptha Sthanam temples are different from the Sapta Vitanga Sthalams, which are about the maragatha lingam.
Sapta vitanga sthalam
These are even seven temples associated with the legend of Muchukunda Chakravarti, where the maragatha Lingam has been installed or is worshipped. Sapta Vitanga Sthalangal are different from the Tiruvaiyaru Sapta Sthanam temples.
Pancha Kaa Kshetrams
These are a set of 5 temples which are located in what were forests earlier. While not a very well known or popular group/circuit, these temples are revered by those at these five locations. “Kaa” refers to “kaadu” or forest. The five are: Tiruvanaikkaa, Tirunellikka, Tirukolakka, Tirukurakkaa and Tirukodikkaa. (These place names are often pronounced with a suffix “val” – as in Tiruvanaikkaval– which is considered incorrect.)