Location:Mela Masi Veethi (West Main Street), Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights:A little known ancient temple in Tanjore (Thanjavur); Goddess instead of Shiva holds deer and mazhu (pick axe)
Nearest Railway Station:Tanjore
How to reach:Well connected by road and rail
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city
Restaurants: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city
Those who know about Thanjavur (Tanjore) city in South India know mainly about the great Brahadeeswarar Temple built by Raja Raja Chola around 1000 years back. However, there are many rare and interesting sites found across the entire city. Let us explore about a little known temple called Konganeswarar temple in this article. Although due to renovation work, the temple lost its antique feel, the temple has an interesting legend and the sculpture of the Goddess has some unique features. Probably, fate plays an important role not only on people but even on the temples. That's why not every eligible person does not get his/her due recognition. Similarly, this great temple remains unknown for people who do not belong to this surrounding of Thanjavur.
As per the legend,there was a Siddha named Kongana Siddhar was living in this region of Thanjavur. He was performing penance towards Lord Shiva. The Siddha had the power of merging or uniting anything with him. Once, he made Lord Shiva to enter and get united with his matted hair. The typical activities of the universe got affected without Lord Shiva. Hence, Indra took the form of a tiger and tried to release Shiva from the Siddhar. However, the saint stamped the tiger and did not let it move. Sapta rishis got the task of releasing not only Shiva but even Indra from the Siddhar. They reached this site, lighted deep (lamps) in 11 layers and prayed to the Siddha. He ultimately released Shiva and Indra. In fact, Lord Shiva came out in the form of Jyoti (fire/light). The temple has the idol of Siddhar along with Sapta rishis and a provision to light 11 layers of deep.
It is said that Shiva Linga as well as the Goddess of the temple were installed by Kongana Siddhar. There are few people who claim that they were not installed by him; however, Shiva is called as Konganeswarar as he was worshiped by Kongana Siddhar.
There was a childless person belonging to Chettiar community who lived in this region. He found a beautiful female baby on the banks of the Ayyan Kulam (the temple tank which is found in the opposite direction of the temple). He brought the child to the temple and declared that the baby belonged to the God. When the girl reached appropriate age, the Chettiar tried to get his adopted girl married off. However, she refused to get married to any human being and instead she wanted to marry Lord Shiva in this temple. As she did not find a way to achieve her objective, she banged her head heavily on the walls of the temple. Yoga Vinayakar (Ganesha) of this temple appeared to her and advised her to perform penance towards Shiva. She did so and married Lord Shiva.
You can find the idol of Yoga Vinayakar in this temple. Also, it is believed that the girl is found in the form of Annapoorneswari in a separate shrine in this temple. Also, it is widely believed that Durga and Kali were protecting her when she was doing penance. Hence, they are also found in this temple.
The temple is located in the busy West Main Street at the heart of Thanjavur. Although the temple is well known in this area, it remains unknown even to the citizens of Tanjore who reside outside this area.
The temple is ancient for sure. But to renovation work, it lost its antique feature to great extent. It is not known who built this temple or the period of this temple.
The temple has three tiered Raja Gopuram and faces towards the east direction. The temple is slightly big and even a school is being run in the outer prakara for the past 70-80 years.
The temple tank called as Ayyan Kulam is located in the opposite direction is a popular landmark of this area.
The flag staff (kodi maram) is unusually found under the covered ceiling and not in the open space. The bali peetha is found near Nandi idol and is slightly found away from the flag staff.
The moola staan (main shrine) enshrines small Shiva Linga idol called as Konganeswarar. The ardha mandapa is long with 2-3 small divisions. In Maha mandapa, all the utsava (metal idols - procession idols) are placed.
The goddess of the temple Gnanambal is found in a separate south facing shrine outside the main shrine. She has four arms and holds deer and mazhu (pick axe) in her upper arms like Shiva. This is very rare. She is found in the standing posture.
There is another separate shrine for the Goddess Annapoorneswari. On the exterior wall of the shrine, the sculpture of Kali (facing west) is found. Yoga Vinayakar is found nearby in a small shrine. Durga is found in a small east facing shrine separately near the school.
The idols of Kongana Siddhar along with Sapta Rishis and 11 layers of lamps are found in the inner prakara, which depict the legend of the temple.
The exterior wall of main shrine has the niche images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti and Vishnu. Durga and Brahma are not found. As usual, Chandikeshwarar sub-shrine is found.
Some of the other deities found in this temple:
Triyambakeshwara - Tripurasundari
Vishwanatha - Vishalakshi
Sundareswara - Meenakshi
Some of the sub-shrines found in the temple include:
Jwarahareswarar (small Linga) and Kalateeswarar (big Linga) with Nandi (People pray here to get rid of fever).