Location: Tirukkarugavur, near Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights:One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most important temples of Lord Shiva); Womb is protected by the Goddess
Nearest Railway Station:Tanjore
How to reach:Well connected by road from Tanjore
Hotel: No good hotels nearby; better to stay in Tanjore
Restaurants: Very few options; it is better to go to Tanjore
Tirukkarugavur is a village near Tanjore town in South India. The village has a prominent temple called as Garbarakshambikai temple. It is considered as the 18th among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in the Chola region north of Cauvery river.
Sambandhar and Appar have revered the temple in their verses in Devaram.
God - Garbapureeswarar aka Mullaivananathar aka Madavivaneswarar
Goddess - Garbarakshambikai aka Karu Kaththa Nayaki
Teerth (Holy water) - Brahma Teerth, Ksheera Kund
Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Jasmine
It is believed that the childless couple are blessed with child and fetus of the pregnant women are protected in this site.
It is one of five Aranya Sthalams located at south of Cauvery river. (Karugavur - Mullai vanam; Avalivanallur - Padiri vanam; Aradaipperumpazhi - Vanni vanam; Irumpoolai - Poolai vanam; Kollampudhur - Vilva vanam).
It is believed that Brahma, Gautama Rishi and Chandra worshiped Lord Shiva in this temple.
Gautama and Gargeya were doing penance in this site which was a jasmine forest (Mullai Vanam in Tamil) in those days. A couple by name Nidhruva and Vedikai were rendering service to these sages in their ashram. The childless couple were advised by the sages to worship Garbarakshambikai. Their prayers were answered by the Goddess. Vedikai got conceived.
During Vedikai's later stage of pregnancy and while Nidhruva was not at home, Urdhuvapada rishi came to her abode and asked for alms. She felt weak and did not acknowledge the presence of the sage. The sage got angered due to this and cursed her. Due to the curse, her fetus got disintegrated. She prayed to Goddess Garbarakshambikai to protect her fetus. The Goddess appeared and preserved the fetus in a sacred pot until it developed into a male child. The parents named him as Naidhuruvan.
Vedikai requested the Goddess to stay at this site. Thus the Goddess stayed in this village and started protecting the fetus of the pregnant women. Hence, she was named as 'Garbarakshambikai' meaning 'the Goddess who protects fetus'. The place was also called as Tirukkarugavur which means the place which protects the fetus.
Later when Vedikai did not have mother's milk to feed her child, the Goddess sent the divine cow Kamadhenu. The cow scratched the ground in front of the temple with her hoof and milk oozed out from the ground thus forming a 'Milk Tank' called as 'Ksheera Kund'.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. However, as devotees give more importance to the Goddess of the temple than Shiva, people started calling this temple as Garbarakshambikai temple instead of Mullaivananathar temple.
The east facing temple has a five-tiered tower (Raja Gopuram). The sacred tank 'Ksheera Kund' is located opposite to the tower. There is another entrance at the southern side and one more tower is also found.
The sancum sanctorum has Lord Shiva called as Mullaivananathar in the form of Shiva Linga. He is Swayambhu (self manifested) idol and is believed to be made up of ant hole mud. Hence, abhishek is not performed to this deity. As there was a jasmine creeper around the deity in those days when it was a jasmine forest, there is a scar seen even today on the deity.
Inside the east facing sanctum sanctorum the idols of Swayambhu Ganesha and another Ganesha are also located. In addition, the utsava (processional) idols are also found withing the sanctum sanctorum.
The Nataraja-Sivakami shrine is located in the maha mandapa.
Nandi which is facing Lord Shiva is also a swayambhu idol. There is another Nandi idol near the bali peetha and flag staff.
The southern side of the temple has a garden. The northern side has Vasanta mandapa.
In the prakara of the gigantic temple, there are many sub-shrines and idols which include Nirudi Ganapati, Subramanya-Valli-Devasena, Somaskanda, Navagraha, 63 Nayanmars and Nalvar. Navagraha is unique with all the eight planets facing towards Surya who is in the middle.
The shrine of the Goddess Garbarakshambikai is located adjacent to the main shrine and it also faces the east direction. It is equally big in size and more number of devotees can be seen in this shrine.
Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Ardhanareeswarar, Brahma and Durga are found as the Koshta (niche) idols on the walls around the sanctum sanctorum. There is a small sub-shrine of Chandikeshwara also found in the prakara.
A mandapa in the form of a chariot with a Shiva Linga on it is found in this temple. It was worshiped by Nidhruva (refer the legend section above).
The temple is believed to be built by the Cholas and it has inscriptions of Rajaraja Chola, Rajendra Chola, Kulotunga Chola and Madurai Konda Kopparakesarivarman.
Brahma Teerth is another sacred tank located outside the temple complex.
The sacred tree is located between the sanctum sanctorum and the shrine of Chandikeshwara.
It is believed that the Goddess of the site, Garbarakshambikai, blesses the childless couple with child and she also protects the fetus of women. Thousands of childless couples and pregnant women throng to this temple mainly for these reasons.