March 22, 2014

Brahmadesham Temple

Site Name: Brahmadesham Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Brahmadesam village, near Ambasamudram, near Tirunelveli city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A 1000 years old massive temple with a number of sculptural and architectural marvels 
Nearest Railway Station: Ambasamudram
Nearest Airport: Tirunelveli
How to reach: Well connected by road from Ambasamudram; public transportation is not dependable
Hotel: Few options in Ambasamduram and no option in this village; more options in the nearby city Tirunelveli
Restaurants: Only few options in the nearby Ambasamudram town

Ambasamudram is a picturesque town located on the banks of the beautiful Tamrabharani river and on the foothills of the Western Ghats. The nearest city of Ambasamudram is Tirunelveli. It is located in Tamil Nadu state in South India.The town has a lot of scenic spots and temples. Brahmadesham is a small village located at a distance of around 4 kms from Ambasamudram. The village has a majestic temple with innumerable sculptures and stunning tower. Let us explore this temple in detail.

Unfortunately the magnificent temple is in neglected state today. If you are either spiritual or art lover, you will never forget this beautiful temple for your entire life if you visit this just once. This is definitely one of the best temples and architectural marvels in South India, which remains unknown.

  • It is considered as one of Devara Vaippu Sthalam temples.
  • The temple was built by Cholas, Cheras, Pandyas and Nayakkar kings.
  • A unique Kankalanathar idol along with a lot of deities and seers which cannot be found anywhere else
  • Big entrance wooden gates with intricate carvings
  • Hanging bell along with the chain - made up of single stone
  • Big idol of Nandi with intricate carvings - made up of single stone
  • The temple has three towers and seven vimanas
  • Somavara mandapa with so many beautiful sculptures of epic characters
  • It is the first site among Adi Nava Kailayam temples; it is a Surya sthalam
  • Tiruvadirai mandapa with many beautiful sculptures and pillar carvings
  • Nataraja made up of Punugu
  • The birthplace of Sri Sarvangna Atmendra Saraswati Swamigal, the second Acharya of Kanchi Sankara Mutt
  • There are five shrines of Lord Shiva - Kailasanathar, Ilandai Adinathar aka Badari Vaneeswarar, Chokkanathar, Annamalai and Vishwanathar
  • Dakshinamurti with different posture
  • God Kailasanathar 
  • Goddess Periyanayaki aka Brahannayaki
  • Sthala Vruksham (holy tree) - Ilandai
  • Teerth (holy water) - Tamrabharani and Ghatna rivers


Brahma and his grand son Romasa Rishi worshiped Lord Shiva in this site. Due to this, the village is called as Brahmadesham.

During the period of Raja Raja Chola, the village was gifted to Brahmins for chanting four Vedas. Hence, the place is called as Chadurvedi Mangalam or Brahmadeyam.

As per Ghatana Nadi Mahatmiam, the Swayambu Shiva Lingas of Shivasailam, Tiruvaleeswaram and Brahmadesham emerged at the same time.

The temple was originally built probably during the reign of Raja Raja Chola (10th century CE). The temple structure is a combination of various royal dynasties. The main shrine was constructed by the Chola kings; the beautiful mandapas were built by the Pandya kings; the attractive wooden decors on the roof were the works of the Chera kings; the gigantic temple towers at the front side and back side were constructed by the Nayaka king Vishwanatha Nayaka. The huge compound walls were also built by him. Even the Hoysala kiings made some additions to the temple.

Temple Layout:

No travel site or travel guide talks about this temple. It is not the fault of the temple but it is the fault of those sites and guides which do not cover such a magnificent master piece. It is definitely one of the best places in South India. It is not fair that such a majestic temple is getting neglected.

As this village was gifted by the Chola king to Brahmins for chanting all the four vedas, it is also called as Chadurvedi Mangalam. 


The east facing temple has a gigantic seven tiered tower (Rajagopuram). The sight of the tower is stunningly beautiful. A big lotus pond is found outside the temple tower. The majestic wooden doors at the entrance are carved with the beautiful images of various deities. Undoubtedly, the combination of the above three things increase the ambience of the site in the beginning itself.

Front side Mandapa:

The area between the tower and the entrance to the main temple is completely covered on top. Although it looks like a typical Kerala type roof made up of roof, it is actually made of stone. The stone bell along with the chain can be seen in this roof. It is also made up of single stone which itself is a sculptural marvel.

The bali peeth is unusually big in size. The huge Nandi idol is made up of single stone and very impressive carvings are found on its body. The Nandi mandapa (the platform where Nandi is placed) has some beautiful sculptures of divas. The flag staff (dhwajastambha) is thick and tall and it is unusually placed on top of a carved platform.

The entire area is full of wide pillars with sculptures. A unique feature of these pillars is that there are six pillars placed together to form a single pillar; there are two such combination of six pillars found in this mandapa.

The either side of the entrance of the main temple has two big shrines dedicated to Ganesha and Subramanya respectively. Both these shrines are built as per maada kovil architectural style.

Main Shrine:

The main shrine has four sections sanctum, ardha mandapa, maha mandapa and the exterior mandapa.

The east facing sanctum sanctorum has big Shiva Linga named as Kailasanathar. He is the presiding deity of the temple.

The entrance of ardha mandapa has a Ganesha idol. The sculptures of Dwarapalas are big and attractive. 

The Maha mandapa is very long. The sub-shrine of utsava (metal) Nataraja and Sivakami is located in this mandapa. A small Nandi idol facing Lord Kailasanathar is also located here. The hall is full of pillars that rest on lion sculptures.

There is an exterior mandapa which has an interesting wooden entrance with intricate sculptures of four divas. This wooden structure appears to be hardly 200-300 years old.

The entire main temple is built as "maada kovil" with raised platforms.

Goddess Shrine:

The presiding Goddess of the temple is Periya Nayaki aka Brahannayaki. Her sculpture is big in size and extremely beautiful. She is in the standing posture and carries a lotus flower on her right arm. Her shrine looks like a separate temple with separate vimana, prakara, bali peeth, flag staff and Nandi. Her shrine is located to the left side of the main shrine. The Goddess shrine is usually found outside the main shrine, adjacent to the main shrine or in the prakara. However, in this temple the Goddess shrine is located in a faraway place from the main shrine. Instead, it is located adjacent to the shrine of the original deity of the temple.

The front side mandapa of the shrine has pillars with impressive carvings. 

The entrance of the shrine has the idol of Ganesha. The prakara surrounding the shrine has the sub-shrines of Saraswati, Arumugam with Valli and Devasena, Chandikeshwari, Siddhi Vinayaka, Shaneeswara holding lotus in his right arm (unique style) and Nalayiraththamman (a powerful village deity).

The Original Deity:

Although the current presiding deity of the temple is Kailasanathar, it is believed that the original deity of the temple is Ilandai Adinathar. The shrine of Ilandai Adinathar is found adjacent to the shrine of the Goddess. As per the legend, Lord Brahma and his grand son Romasa Rishi worshiped the deity. The sthala vruksha (holy tree) of the site, Ilandai tree is found on the back side of the shrine. The God is probably named after the holy tree. The Shiva Linga is small in size. It is believed to be a Swayambu deity. A small Nandi is found facing the shrine. The shrine has a separate vimana. The dwarapala images at the entrance of the site are very attractive.

Somavara Mandapa:

The wide hall in front of Ilandai Adinathar and the Goddess shrines is called as Somavara Mandapa. It has full of pillars with so many beautiful sculptures and carvings. Some of the important sculptures include Bheema, Purushamrigam, Arjuna, Karna, Vali, Sugreeva, Rati and Manmadan. Some of them have the sculptures of Yazhi, the mythological animal.

Tiruvadirai Mandapa:

Tiruvadarai Mandapa is an important place within this temple compound. This long mandapa has a shrine dedicated to the stone images of Nataraja and Sivakami. The hall is full of beautiful sculptures and intricate carvings in the pillars. The sculptures and carvings depict various Gods, Goddesses, seers, epic characters, mythological animals such as yazhis, elephants, dance, music, battle and even erotic. 

Kankalanathar Shrine:

Near Ilandai Adinathar shrine, an important shrine facing the southern direction is location. It belongs to KankalanatharKankalanathar, like Bhikshatana, is a form of Lord Shiva who seeks alms; however, it is iconographically different from that of Bhikshatana. Although Kankalanathar image is found in many temples, it is very rare to find him along with so many deities and seers. It is really an awesome sight to find so many sculptures and bas-relief stucco images in just one shrine.

Kankalanathar and the six Bhuta ganas alone are stone sculptures in this shrine. Kankalanathar has jata makuta (hair dresses like a crown) and big ear rings. He has four arms. His lower left arm carries a drum (called as Dhakka) and lower right arm beats that drum using a stick (called as Bana). His upper right arm is stretched downwards in Kataka posture. (Generally an antelope or deer leaps near his arm, which is missing here.) His upper left arm has kankala danda, a staff that carries the bone of the arms and legs of the slain person. The staff is resting on his left shoulder. (As per few legends, it is the corpse of Vishvaksena, the chief guardian of Vishnu, which is carried by Kankalanathar.)

The six bhuta ganas are very small in size when compared to Kankalanathar. They surround him in his either sides. Each one of them hold different materials such as Chalarai (a kind of musical instrument), mridangam, conch, chamaram and flute.

The wall behind has so many bas relief stucco images. The images that are found:
  • Surya and Chandra on top
  • Kubera on horse, Brahma on Annam (Hamsa), Vishnu on Garuda and Indira on elephant below them
  • Kinnara, Kimpurusha and Agastya rishi holding veenas and other musical instruments; two divas (wives of rishis) 
  • Ganesha on Mooshika, Kartikeya on peacock, Vayu on deer, Varuna on magara, Ishanan on Rishaba (bull), Agni on Mesha (goat), etc.
There are stucco images of beautiful divas (apsaras) in various different postures such as sitting, standing, viewing mirror, sleeping, etc.

Other Important Shrines:

Behind the holy tree, there is a big shrine dedicated to Chokkanathar. Chokkanathar is found in the form of Shiva Linga. His consort Meenakshi is also found in a separate sub-shrine. This shrine looks like a separate temple with a separate vimana on top and Nandi in-front. The front side mandapa has many pillars with intricate carvings.

In the outer prakara, there is a separate shrine dedicated to Subramanya and his consorts Valli and Devasena. This shrine too has a separate vimana.

The outer prakara also houses the shrine of Vishwanatha and Vishalakshi. It is also a big shrine with a separate vimana.

Another important shrine found in the outer prakara belongs to Annamalaiyar and his consort Unnamulai. This is again a big shrine almost in the size of small temple. However, this main shrine strangely does not have a separate vimana.

There is a separate shrine for Punugu Sabhapati. Here the idols of Natarja and Sivakami along with the rishis are made up of Punugu, a kind of perfume. Also, he is found in Chin Mudra.

The Dakshinamurti idol found in the inner prakara is in unique posture of chin mudra; it is said that he is self preaching.

The idols of twin Ganeshas called as "Irattai Vinayaka" along with Vishnu and Brahma are unique; they are located in the outer prakara.

From a particular point at the backside of the prakara, we could get the sight of all the seven vimanas and three towers together.

Other Deities:

The idol of Bhairava is found near Kankalanatha shrine. 

The inner prakara around the main shrine has the idols or sub-shrines of Nalvar, 63 nayanmars, Jura Deva, Shasta, Sapta Matas, Ganesha, Vishnu Durga, Mahisasuramardhini, Surya, Chandra, Subramanya, Chandikeshwara and Gaja Lakshmi.

There are no koshta deities in the prakara. However, there are some interesting stone carvings depicting elephants, yazhis and other animals in the outside wall of main shrine.

There are few mural paintings which are almost destroyed in the walls of outer prakara.

This place is definitely a heaven for those who love temple art and architecture. Do not miss this temple; when you travel down to south Tamil Nadu, please ensure that it is included in your travel itinerary. 

Happy travelling.


  1. You are really appreciable for the jobyou have done. You are worth rreceiving Blessings of saints and lord.

  2. This is truly a very informative article. People rarely explore the intricate details of temple architecture. I loved your post because you have woven a lovely artical out of facts, history and images. Thank you for sharing this lovely post on the internet.

  3. Excellent essay, full of details. I am impressed that you got a nice photo of Kankalamurthy. It is a masterpiece.