July 21, 2014

Kalakkad Satyavageeswarar Temple

Site Name: Satyavageeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Kalakkad, near Tirunelveli city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A gigantic temple with 9-tier tower containing hundreds of stucco idols; musical pillars; mega sized beautiful sculptures
Nearest Railway Station: Tirunelveli
Nearest Airport: Tirunelveli
How to reach: Well connected by road from Tirunelveli
Hotel: Go to Tirunelveli
Restaurants: Go to Tirunelveli 

Tirunveliveli is a historical city located on the banks of the beautiful Tamrabharani river in the southern Tamil Nadu state of India. The city and its surroundings have a lot of scenic spots and temples. Kalakkad is a small fertile village located at the foothills of Western Ghats near Tirunelveli. The village has an ancient magnificent temple, Satyavageeswarar temple. Anyone visiting this temple might wonder why this site with its wealth of sculptures, thousands of stucco images, architecture, 135 feet tall tower and musical pillar has never come under the spotlight. This should have become one of the popular tourist sites in the entire nation. It is unfortunate that this site remains little known. Let us explore this little known temple in detail.


  •  God – Satyavageeswarar aka Poyyamozhi
  • Goddess – Gomati aka Aavudai Nayaki
  • Sthala Vruksha (holy tree) - Punnai
  • Teerth (holy water) - Satya Teerth, Pachai Aaru
  • Appar has recited songs in praise of the deity and hence it is a Vaippu Sthalam
  • 12th century temple
  • 135 feet tall magnificent nine tiered tower
  • Around 200 mural paintings inside the walls of tower
  • Hundreds of stucco images on the tower
  • Beautiful mega sized stone sculptures 
  • Musical pillars
  • Sunlight falls on the main deity on 20, 21 and 22 of March and September every year


As per the legend, Sita was kidnapped in the forest of Kalakkad and hence the place is also known as Chorakadavi. Rama and Lakshmana were searching for Sita; they prayed to Lord Shiva who was seated under a Punnai tree in this site. He assured them success. After successfully rescuing Sita, both the brothers returned here and they named Shiva as Satyavageeswarar which means Lord of Truth. 

As per another legend, Devas were defeated by Asuras; they sought Shiva's help; he advised them worship him in this site. Accordingly, they came to this site and prayed to the Lord. He along with Ganas accompanied Devas and won Asuras. Hence, the Devas named the Lord as Satyavageeswarar and the teerth as 'Satya teerth'.

The great saint Appar refer Lord as Puramerichchuvaramudaiviyya Nayanar in his songs. This site is considered as one of Devara Vaippu Sthalams.

King Veeramarthanda Varma renovated this ancient temple in the 12th century CE and the current structure was mainly his work.

Temple Layout:

Magnificent Temple Tower:
The east facing magnificent temple has a gigantic 135 feet nine tiered tower. The tower has around 1500 stucco images of various deities and saints. I am not sure if there is any other temple tower which contains such a large number of images made of lime. In addition to that there are about 200 ancient mural paintings adorn the inner walls of each of the nine tiers. The paintings resemble Vijayanagara and Nayaka schools of art and they belong to the 16th or 17th century CE. They depict scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Tiruvilaiyadal Purana and life events of Saivaite saints. 

Apart from this beautiful tower, there is one more tower. The entrance of the tower has the idol of 'Gopura Vinayaka'. The area between these two towers have many pillars and the ceiling is covered.

The bali peeth, Nandi mandapa and flag staff are located in the mandapa that is found after the inner tower.

Musical Pillar Hall:
The main shrine is built as per the 'maada kovil' architectural style and hence it is located on an elevated platform. The front side mandapa reveals the exquisite workmanship of those days. The mandapa has many Yazhi pillars; the base of the mega sized Yazhis have different small sculptures such as elephant, soldier, girl, monkey, etc. are found. The stone sculpture of Bheema fighting with Purusha Mrugam is an highlight of this hall. There is a big sculpture of Cheraman Perumal with his friend Sundarar. The king Veera Marthanda Varma who built this temple is also found in the form of a beautiful sculpture in this hall. The main highlight of the hall is musical pillars which produce different musical sound (sapta swaras) on tapping them. 
Main Shrine:
The main shrine is divided into moolasthan, Ardha Mandapa, Maha Mandapa and the front side mandapa. The details about the front side mandapa is already given above.

The moderate sized Shiva Linga idol named Satyavageeswarar is located in the moolasthan (sanctum sancotrum). 

The entrance of Maha mandapa has Dwarapalas and Anugnai Vinayakar. It has a sub-shrine where so many metal utsava idols are placed which importantly includes Nataraja-Sivakami. The maha mandapa is also full of artistically beautiful pillars. 

Goddess Shrine:
The Goddess of the temple is Gomati. She is found in a separate east facing shrine located on the left side of the main shrine. She is tall and found with two arms. This shrine has its own pillared front side mandapa, flag staff, Nandi and bali peetha. At the entrance, the small idols of Ganesha and Kartikeya are located.

Inner Prakara:
The inner prakara which surrounds the main shrine has the below sub-shrines and idols.

  • Nalvar
  • Shasta-Poorna-Pushkala
  • Chitraputrar
  • Punnaivana Nathar - Shiva, Amman, Ganesha and Nandi under a Punnai tree
  • Navaneetha Krishna - a big shrine with the beautiful front-side mandapa
  • Valampuri Vinayakar
  • Subramanya-Valli-Devasena
  • Gaja Lakshmi
  • A big Kankalanathar along with three Ganas
  • Tiruchitrambalam shrine - the old mural paintings of Nataraja and Kali are being worshiped here
  • Chandana Sabhapati - Nataraja and Sivakami made of sandalwood
  • Shaneeswara
  • Bhairava
  • Stone sculptures of Nataraja with the Tamil letter 'Om' written in the background and Sivakami
  • Shankaralingam, Gomati, Shankara Narayana and Ganesha
  • Vishwanatha - Vishalakshi 
  • Annapoorani
  • Chandikeshwara
  • Ganesha
  • Veerabhadra
  • Sapta Matas
  • 63 Nayanmars
  • Surya
  • Jwara Deva
  • Chandra
Sculptures and Other Sections:
Similar to the mega sized sculptures in the front side mandapa of the main shrine, there are few beautiful sculptures located near Nandi mandapa. The sculptures of Arjuna, Karna, Bheema and Purusha Mrugam are all very lively.

The pillars that are found across the temple have very interesting carvings and sculptures. Near the second temple tower, there is a mandapa named Chekkizhar mandapa which is full of pillars with beautiful sculptures. The temple tank is located near this mandapa.

Nandi mandapa itself is intricately sculpted and looks extremely attractive.

The outer prakara is an open area with full of trees and plants.

The temple also has a lot of ancient inscriptions.

The temple has a big granary. Unlike other temples in this state where the granaries are made of wood, the granary in this temple is a masonry granary.
Other Names of Deity:
Satyavageeswarar, the main deity of the temple, is referred in different names such as:
  • Punnaivana Nathar
  • Brahma Nayakan
  • Parithi Nayakan
  • Sundara Lingam
  • Kalandai Lingam
  • Bhairava Lingam
  • Veeramarthanda Lingam
  • Tripura Haran
  • Vairava Nathan
  • Samala Maha Lingam
  • Soma Nayakar
  • Kulasai Nayakar

Pancha Aasana Sthalams:

As per some of the old scripts, five important Shiva temples in Tirunelveli region were considered as Pancha Aasana Shtalams. Satyavageeswarar temple in Kalakkad is one of those temples. The other four Pancha Aasana Sthalams are:
  • Ervadi Tiruvazhundeesar Temple
  • Nanguneri Tirunageshwarar Temple
  • Vijayanarayanam Manonmaneesar Temple
  • Chenbagaramanallur Ramalingar Temple

According to me, no one can claim that he/she has visited India without visiting such unique and excellent sites.

Happy travelling.

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