September 5, 2010

An ancient temple in the city of waterfalls - Kuttralanathar Temple, Courtallam, South India

Courtallam is a small town located near Tirunelveli city in South India. Courtallam is an ancient city; the reference about this town can be found in the ancient Tamil literature. (Tamil is an ancient language spoken in the Southern part of India; it is arguably one of the oldest languages in the entire world).

Courtallam is a very popular tourist destination in South India due to its nine waterfalls. The most important waterfalls among all the nine waterfalls of Courtallam is called as "Main Falls" aka "Peraruvi". Near the Main Falls, at the foot hills of Courtallm hills which is a part of Western Ghats, the ancient temple of Lord Shiva is located. Lord Shiva is named as Kutralanathar in this temple. The town is named as Kutralam (Courtallam) after this deity.

Courtallam Shenbaga Devi Falls
The temple of Kutralanathar is very ancient. You can find the inscriptions of the kings of Chola and Pandya dynasty in this temple. The temple is built in conch shaped style, which is one of the highlights of this temple. Thiru Kutralanathar temple is one of the 274 Paadal Petra Sthalam temples - one of the 274 most sacred temples dedicated for Lord Shiva. Not only that, this temple is also one of the Shakthi Peeth temples - one of the most important temples of Mother Goddess.

Courtallam is one of the five sacred sites (sabhas) of Lord Nataraj (Shiva in dancing posture). The sabha in Courtallam is called as Chitra Sabha - the hall of paintings. There is a small temple away from the main temple of Kutralanathar, which is dedicated to Lord Nataraj, and called as Chitra Sabha. The temple is full of mural paintings. I will write about this temple in a separate post.

Let me come back to the main temple of Kutralanathar. The Kutralanathar temple located amidst hills and waterfalls is bigger in size and one of the oldest temples of South India. The temple has the main deity in the form of Shiv Linga which is called as Kutralanathar  aka Kurumpalaveesar. The goddess has a separate shrine and named as Kuzhalvaaimozhi Amman - a beautiful Tamil name for Goddess. There is a separate shrine for Adi Parasakthi which is very popular. Due to this shrine only, this temple is considered as one of the Sakthi Peethams.  The temple's glory was sung by Tirugnana Sambandhar. The sthala vruksham of the temple is Kurumpala.

The temple has a small tower followed by a long exterior hall (mandap). On either side of the temple, the idols of Ganesha and Murugan are found. Once you enter into the temple, you can find a small beautifl 4-pillared mandap. Beyond that mandap, few beautiful life size sculptures such as kings and beautiful ladies are found. Nandi idol facing the main shrine, bali peetha and flag staff are also located in this area.

The entrance to the main shrine has the idols of Ganesha and Murugan. The big idol of Shiv Linga, called as Kutralanathar, is found inside the main shrine. The procession idols (utsav idols), idols of Nataraj and Sivakami, Shiv Linga along with Goddess and Anuknai Vinayakar are also found within the main shrine.

The inner corridor (prakara) has the following idols/shrines:
1) Adikara Nandi with his wife
2) Linga and Ambal
3) Big idol of Surya
4) Dakshinamurti shrine
5) 5 small Shiv Linga idols
6) Sapta Mata
7) Brahma
8) Kumbha Muni
9) Suradeva
10) Ayyanar
11) Brahmi
12) Vishnu
13) Narasimha
14) Ganesh
15) Kanni Vinayakar shrine
16) Chandra
17) Vanmeeginathar with his consort
18) Vishnu
19) Jambukeshwarar with his consort
20) Annamalai with his consort
21) Kalathiappar with his consort
22) Tirumoolanath with his consort
23) Ramalinga with his consort
24) Murugan-Valli-Devasena along with Shiv Linga-Parvati in a small shrine
25) Chandikeswarar
26) Shaneeswarar

There is another section dedicated to the Goddess Kulalvai Mozhi Amman. Facing the Goddess is located the Nandi idol. The entrance of the shrine has the idol of Ganesha. The small corridor surrounding this shrine has the Kailasanathar idol and Durga idol.

The outer corridor (prakara) of the temple has a lot of important shrines/idols. The holy tree of the temple is found along with the idol of Kurubalanathar (Shiv Linga form). You can hear the sound of water falling from the main falls near this tree. A small piece of the original tree (1000 years old) is also found here. Some of the other idols/shrines found in the outer corridor include:

1) 63 nayanmars
2) Vishnu shrine (Ganesh in the entrance)
3) Sailappar shrine
4) Vallabha Vinayakar
5) Papanasar and Ulagamman
6) Nellaiyappar and Kanthimathi
7) A rare collection of idols - Mankkolanathar (Shiva) marrying Parvati - Vishnu, Brahma and Agastya nearby - all sandalwood idols
8) Narumbunathar
9) Sankaralinga with his consort
10) Chokkanathar and Meenakshi
11) Ayyanar sitting on a tall horse
12) Ayyanar with his consorts - in different form - similar to Shiv Linga
13) Somalinga
14) Marundeeswarar and Aramvalartha Nayaki
15) Agastya and Ganesh
16) the site where the waterfalls can be seen - the same site where Arjun got back his lost chambudam
17) Vasuki shrine
18) Sivalayamuni shrines
19) Mahalinga shrine
20) Sahastra Linga shrine
21) Viswanath and Visalakshi
22) Ayyanar with Ganesh
23) Ayyanar in Linga like shape
24) A lot of Ganesh idols in the entrance of many of the above shrines
25) A very big and important shrine for Adi Parasakthi

Chitra Sabha Temple, Courtallam
Courtallam city is well associated with the saint Agastya. As per the legend, Lord Shiva got married to Parvati in Himalayas. As the Himalayas was crowded like anything to witness this divine marriage, it resulted in an imbalance and to avoid the imbalance, Lord Shiva sent Agastya to the South - to Courtallam city. Later, it is believed that Agastya got the sight of Shiva-Parvati wedding in Courtallam. It is also believed that Agastya shrunk an image of Lord Vishnu to create the idol of Shiv linga of this temple.

When you go to Courtallam, apart from enjoying your time in the waterfalls, also visit this temple.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:
Site Name: Kuttralanathar Temple
City Name: Courtallam
1) An ancient temple located near the waterfalls
2) One of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams
Location: 55 kms from Tirunelveli; 6 kms from Tenkasi; Located in the Southern part of Tamil Nadu state, India
Nearest Railway Station: Tenkasi
Nearest Airport: Madurai (around 200 kms)
How to reach: Easily reachable by road from Tirunelveli, Tenkasi, or Madurai
Hotel: A lot of luxury hotels and budget hotels are available in Courtallam and Tenkasi
Restaurants: There are a lot of good restaurants in Courtallam and Tenkasi

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