Location:Tirupazhanam, 3 kms from Tiruvaiyaru, near Tanjore town, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights:One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most important temples of Lord Shiva)
Nearest Railway Station:Tanjore
How to reach:Well connected by road from Tanjore, Tiruvaiyaru and Kumbakonam
Hotel: Go to Tanjore or Kumbakonam for good hotels
Restaurants: Go to Tanjore or Kumbakonam for good restaurants
Tirupazhanam is a small village located adjacent to Tiruvaiyaru near Tanjore town in South India. The villagehas an important Shiva temple called as Aapatsahayar Temple. It is considered as the 50th among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams(274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in Chola region north of Cauvery river.
Sambandhar, Sundarar and Appar have revered the temple in their verses in Devaram.
It is considered as the 2nd of Tiruvaiyaru Sapta Sthana temples.
Ashta Dikpalas found as Koshta deities.
God - Aapatsahayar aka Pazhanapiraan aka Parameshwaran aka Amudalingeshwarar
Goddess - Periyanayaki and Tirumananayaki aka Shivasundara Nayaki
Others names of site - Kadali Vanam, Koushikashram, Pazhanappati, Prayanapuri
Teerth (Holy water) - Mangala Teerth
Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Plantain tree
As per the legend, Chandra -the Moon God and Agastya worshiped the Lord in this site. As per another legend, Lord Shiva collected fruits in this site and sent them for Nandi's marriage. Hence, this place is called as 'Tirupazhanam' (Pazham means fruit in Tamil language).
Lord Vishnu installed a Shiva Linga idol in this site and performed pooja. His consort Lakshmi came in search of him to this site. Hence, the place is also called as 'Prayanapuri' and the Lord is called as 'Prayanapureeswarar'. As per another legend, Lakshmi worshiped Lord Shiva in this site; after getting his blessings, she left for his abode. Hence, the site got the name 'Prayanapuri'.
A Brahmin lad, Sucharitra by name, lost his parents and kept visiting various temples. When he stayed in this site for a night, Yama appeared in his dream and informed him that he would die on the very fifth day. The boy was extremely afraid of this dream and started praying to Lord Shiva in this site. He ordered him (as asareeri - just voiceover without appearing in person) to go to Tiruvaiyaru to get rid of this danger. As the Lord saved this boy from danger, he is called as 'Aapatsahayar' ('Aapat' means danger and 'sahaya' means one who helps).
Another interesting legend states that Kaushika Rishi had his ashram in this place. He got his partition of Amrita and had kept that in a pot in his abode. The demons tried to steal the pot. Lord Shiva sent Ayyanar and Kali to kill the demons and save Amrita. The rishi performed abhishek to Shiva Linga idol with the same Amrita.
The temple has two Raja gopurams (towers) one located outside and another interior. Both the towers face the east direction. At the entrance of the inner tower, the big idol of Raja Ganapati along with a Shiva Linga is found.
The sanctum sanctorum has slightly tall and thin Shiva Linga named 'Aapatsahayar'. The entrance of sanctorum has two small idols of Ganesha and Subramanya. At the entrance of ardha mandapa, there is another idol of Ganesha. Also, the south facing shrine of Goddess Tirumananayaki aka Shivasundara Nayaki who is found standing on Shiva Linga peetha is located here.
Nandi and bali peetha are located facing towards the sanctum sanctorum. There is no flag staff found in this temple.
The vimana of sanctorum and the outside wall are very attractive with a lot of artistical-ly beautiful bas- relief sculptures. Ashta Dikpalas are found as koshta idols which is rare. Dakshinamurti, Uma-Maheshwara, Ardhanareeswara, Pasupati, Gajasura Samhara, Ashta Lakshmi, Appoodhi Adigal, Veenadhara Shiva, Maha Vishnu and a lot more bas-relief sculptures are found on the walls and vimana that surround the sanctorum.
The temple has two prakaras (corridors). The first prakara has sub-shrines of Devarikashta Vinayaka - a beautiful Ganesha sculpture with two arms, Gaja Lakshmi and Venugopala. The statues of Sapta Matas, Sapta Lingas, the Shiva Linga installed by Vishnu, Bhairava, Surya, Chandra and Ganesha are also located in the mandapa that is full of pillars.
The second prakara is broad and has huge exterior walls. The sub-shrine of Subramanya and importantly the shrine of the Goddess of the site, Periya Nayaki, a big idol found in the standing posture facing the east direction are located in the second prakara.
The idol of Adikara Nandi - Nandi with two folded hands and legs like human being is also found in this temple.
The holy tank and holy trees are also located within the temple complex.
The Navagraha shrine has all the planets facing towards the Sun (Surya) which is unique in this region.
You don't need to be a devotee to visit this temple; even if you love sculptures and art, please do visit this exceptionally beautiful site. Unfortunately, this temple is in neglected state now.