Suryanarcoil (15 km from Kumbakonam):
This is the only temple in South India dedicated exclusively to Surya (Sun God). In the sanctum, Brihaspati is depicted as performing puja to Lord Siva Suryanarayana. The other planets are enshrined separately.
Thingalore (3 km from Thiruvaiyaru):
The planet Chandra worshipped Lord Kailasanatha here. In the months of Purattasi (Sept-Oct) and Panguni (March-April), Moon's rays fall on the Lingam. Saivite saint Appar revived saint Appoothi Adigal's son, who died of snake bite, by singing in praise of the Lord here.
Vaitheeswarancoil (6 km from Sirkali):
The presiding deity, Sri Vaidyanathaswamy, is hailed as the healer of all ills. The Lord came here as a Vaidya and cured Angaraha of leprosy. Among the Navagrahas, Angaraha is worshipped here with great reverence. Hence this shrine is also known as Angaraha Kshetra.
Jatayu, Rig Veda, Muruga and Surya worshipped the Lord here. There is a shrine for Muruga, who obtained the trident here. He is known as Selvamuthu Kumarar.
Neem tree is the Sthala Vriksha here. The Jatayu Kundam in the southern prakaram is considered to be the spot where Sri Rama performed the last rites of Jatayu.
Thiruvengadu (10 km from Vaitheeswarancoil):
The Siva shrine here is dedicated to Sri Swetaranyeswara. The Goddess is Brahma Vidyambika. Legends glorify this place as Swetaranyam, Adi Chidambaram and Nava Nritta Sthala.
The image of Lord Siva has five faces - Easanam, Tatpurusham, Aghoram, Vamadevam and Satyojatam. The Lord assumed the form of Aghoramurti, the furious aspect of God, to vanquish demon Maruthwasura. The Lord also saved a devotee named Swetaketu from the clutches of Yama. For the sake of this devotee, Siva danced all His seven Thandavams - Anand, Sandhya, Samharam, Tripuranda, Urdhva, Bhujanga and Lalitha.
There are separate shrines for Bhadrakali, Ashtalakshmi and Nataraja. Agni, Chandra and Surya Theerthams in the temple are held holy.
Saivite saints Meikandar, Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Pattinathar have sung in praise of the Lord.
Alangudi (6 km from Needamangalam):
The presiding deity here is Sri Aabathsagayeswara or Aranyeswara, a Swayambu Lingam, and the Goddess is Umai Ammai. There is a separate sanctum for the special deity Sri Dakshinamurthi. Being a Guru Kshetra, Thursdays attract a large number of pilgrims and special poojas are performed. There are about 15 Theerthams in the temple.
Kanchanur (3 km from Suryanarcoil):
Lord Vishnu worshipped Agniswara, the presiding deity here, to rid Himself of Shukra Dosha. The divine consort is Karpagambal. Fridays are very auspicious, and devotees offer white flowers to the Lord.
Thirunallar (5 km from Karaikal):
The Siva temple is dedicated to Sri Dharbaranyeswara. King Nala attained emancipation here from the hardships and miseries to which he was subjected by Sani. Enshrined within the temple is Saniswara. The devout believe that they could get rid of their curses and spells of bad luck if they pray in this temple.
Pilgrims take a dip in the Nala Theertham and offer worhship at the temple. The worship here includes lighting holy lamps with til (gingelly) seeds and oil. After prayers, balls of cooked rice are offered to the Crow, the mount of Saniswara.
The festival Sani Peyarchi, which occurs once in two and a half years, attracts thousands of pilgrims. On this day, Saturn moves from one Rasi to another.
Thirunageswaram (5 km from Kumbakonam):
The Siva shrine is dedicated to Sri Naganathaswamy. His consort is Giri Gujambika, who is enshrined with Lakshmi and Saraswathi by Her side. Rahu worshipped the Lord here on Sivaratri day to redeem himself from the curse of a rishi. Sundays are very auspicious and devotees perform milk abhishekam to Rahu, who is enshrined with His consorts. A noteworthy feature is that the milk turns blue. A dip in Soola Theertham is said to cure one of diseases and give prosperity.
Kizhaperumpallam (near Tarangampadi):
Vasuki, the King of Serpents, did penance and worshipped Lord Siva here. Planet Kethu, considered the bestower of Gnana, is worshipped in a separate shrine.
SAPTHA VIDANGA STHALAMS
These are seven temples where Vidanga Murtis (not chisselled by any instrument) are worshipped. The processional deity in these temples is Thyagaraja or Somaskanda Murti. Each Murti has a special name and is known to perform a unique dance during processions. Legend has it that a Chola king by name Muchkunda Chakravarty helped Indra to win a battle. He wanted the Thyagaraja idol as a gift. Indra, not willing to part with the idol, made six more similar images and asked the king to choose one from them. With divine help, the king picked the original image. Indra, pleased with the king, gave him all the seven Thyagaraja idols, which were later installed in Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Thirunallar, Thirukkuvalai, Thiruvoimur, Vedaranyam and Thirukarayil.
Thiruvarur (55 km from Thanjavur):
The principal deity at this shrine is Sri Vanmikanathar, a Swayambu Lingam enshrined in an ant-hill. His consort is Somakulambigai. She is never taken out of the temple precincts. To the right of the sanctum is the shrine of Sri Thyagaraja.
The idol of Thyagaraja (Veedhi Vidangar) and that of His consort Kondi on an artistic Ratna Simhasan are very impressive. The processional deity is known to perform Asaba Natanam. The Spatika Lingam is kept in a golden box inside the shrine. The Nandi is in standing posture.
The images of saint Sundarar, his wife Paravai Nachiyar and Cheraman Peruman are installed here.
Navagrahas are placed in a row in a shrine opposite to the sanctum. The Rudra Durga shrine in the second prakaram attracts a large number of devotees, particularly for the Rahukala Puja.
The Sthala Vinayaka in the innermost prakaram is called Vathapi Ganapathi, brought from Vathapi.
There is an inscription and sculptural representation of the story of King Manu Neethi Chola, who ordered his son crushed under the wheels of a ratha because he killed a calf by driving his carriage negligently over it. Lord Siva is said to have intervened and revived the boy and the calf.
On the western side of the temple is the celebrated tank, Kamalalayam, with the shrine of Sri Naganathaswamy in the middle. Here is a rare musical instrument called Panchamukha Vadyam (with five faces of Siva) and a Siva Lingam made of sapphire, known as Maragatha Lingam.
Thiruvarur is the birthplace of the great musical trinity, Sri Thyagaraja, Sri Shyama Sastri and Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar.
During the festival, Sri Thyagaraja is taken round the streets in a mammoth ratha called Azhi Ther.
Nagapattinam (25 km from Thiruvarur):
The Siva temple is dedicated to Karayoganaswami and Neelayadakshi. The place is one of the Shakti Peetams. Lord Thyagaraja is known here as Sundara Vidangar and He performs Paaraavaara Tharanga Natanam. The intricate workmanship of Panchamukha Vinayaka seated on a lion is noteworthy.
Thirunallar (5 km from Karaikal):
Here is a Siva temple dedicated to Darbharanyeswarar. The processional deity, Somaskandar, is also known as Nagara Vidangar and His dance is Unmatha Natanam. A rare Maragatha Lingam is kept in a box. Lord Vinayaka here is known Swarna Ganapathi. The Sthala Vriksham is Dharba grass. Nal Theertham, Brahma Theertham and Saraswathi Theertham ar considered very sacred. As a Navagraha Sthalam dedicated to Lord Saniswara, Thirunallar is visited by thousands of devotees.
Thirukkuvalai or Thirukkolili (3 km from Ettukudi):
This is the abode of Lord Siva. The Lingam, made of white sand, was installed by Brahma. The Navagrahas worshipped Siva here to absolve themselves of sins. The processional deity of Lord Thyagaraja is known as Avani Vidangar and His dance is Bringa Natanam.
Thiruvoimur (2 km from Ettukudi):
Sri Thyagarajaswami here is known as Neela Vidangar and His dance is Kamala Natanam. Neelothpalambika is the Goddess. There are special shrines for Bhairava, Nataraja and Navagrahas. Rishaba Dakshinamurthi, a rare image, is enshrined in this temple.
Vedaranyam (35 km from Thiruthuraipundi):
The four Vedas - Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana - worshipped Lord Vedaranyeswara (Siva). Hence the place is known as Thirumaraikadu.
The shrine of Thyagesar is adjacent to that of Vedaranyeswara. The Maragatha Lingam enshrined near the Thyagesar shrine is known as Bhuvani Vidangar and His dance is Hamsa Paada Natanam.
The main door of the temple, which remained closed for years, opened when Saints Appar and Sundarar sang in praise of the Lord. Navagrahas are found in a row in this temple. There are three Theerthams - Mani Karnika, Vedha Nadhi and Kodi.
Festivals on Full Moon day in Adi (July-Aug) and Thai (Jan-Feb) attract a lot of pilgrims.
Thirukarayil (5 km from Thirunattayattankudi):
This is the seventh Saptha Vidanga Sthalam, dedicated to Thyagarajaswami or Adi Vidangar. His dance is Kukkuda Natanam. There are beehives in the sanctum of Goddess Abhishekavalli Thayar.
Other shrines around Thiruvarur:
Thiruvirkudi (8 km) Lord Veerateswara; Thirukkannamangai (8 km) Sri Bhaktavatsala; Mannargudi Sri Rajagopalaswamy; Thirumakkottai Sri Gnanapuriswarar; Ettukudi Murugan; Thiruchenkattankudi Vinayaka; Sikkal Singaravelar or Murugan; Karaikal Ammayar, Karaikal; Thirumeychur (near Peralam) Goddess Lalithambika shrine.
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