April 2, 2016

Thirunallar Dharbaranyeswara Temple

Site Name: Dharbaranyeswara Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Thirunallar, near Karaikal, Puduchery state, India
Highlights: A very popular temple in South India; Shani Parihara Sthalam; One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalam temples
Nearest Railway Station: Karaikal
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Karaikal 
Hotel: No good hotels nearby; better to stay in Karaikal
Restaurants: No good restaurants nearby; it is better to go to Karaikal 

Thirunallar (Tirunallaru, as per the correct pronunciation - however, written as Thirunallar or Thirunallaru) is a locality near Karaikal town in Puduchery Union Territory of India. This place has a very prominent temple called Dharbaranyeswarar Temple. It is considered as the 52nd among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in the south of Cauvey river in the Chola region. Let me explore about this temple in this article. 

The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, however people call this temple as Shaneeswaran temple. Shani (Saturn) is one of the nine planets (Navagrahas) and he has special status in this site. For those who believe in astrology, all the nine planets and their movement would make a difference in their lives. Shani among all the nine planets, is being portrayed as the planet to have major impact. Hence, the devotees always visit this temple in millions to worship and please Shaneeswara in this temple, which is special site for him. Hence, people know and call this temple as Shaneeswara temple and not as Shiva temple.


Highlights:

  • Sambandhar, Sundarar and Appar have revered the temple in their verses in Devaram.
  • God Dharbaranyeswara or Tirunallatreesar
  • Goddess Bogamartha Poon Mulaiyal, Praneswari or Pranambigai
  • Teerth (Holy water) - Nala Teerth, Shiva Ganga
  • Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Dharba (Blady grass)
  • 52nd Devara Paadal Petra Sthalam located in the south of Cauvery river in the Chola region
  • Shaneeswara Sthalam - a very special temple for Shani worship
  • One of the Navagraha Sthalams in South India
  • Vishnu, Brahma, Indra, Agastya, Pulastya, Arjun, Nala, Boja, Musukunda, Dikpalas and Vasus are believed to have worshiped Lord Shiva of this temple.
  • It is one of the seven Saptavidanga Sthalams that were built by Musukunda.
  • Chola period inscriptions are found in this temple.
  • Arunagirinathar has sung hymns on Subramanya of this temple in his Tiruppugazh.

Legend:

Nala

The town is called as Nallaru as it is believed that the Emperor Nala prayed to Dharbaranyeswara of this site to get rid of his Shani dosha. The popular legend of this site goes like this.

A lot of celestial beings including Shani wanted to marry the beautiful princess Damayanti. However, she chose Nala in her swayamvara and they got married. Shani got furious and he wanted to ruin Nala's life. He had to wait for twelve years to find a flaw in his life. Nala breached performing morning ablutions one day. Shani caught hold of him in this occasion and thus started the misfortunes of Nala. He lost his kingdom in gambling. He left his wife. He lost his beautiful appearance. He had wander to many places without money and family. 

As per the advice from the sage Bharadwaj, he came to this site and took a dip in Brahma Teerth and worshiped Lord Dharbaranyeswara. He got rid of Shani dosha and became fortunate and powerful again. He regained everything that he had lost. He later dug a tank and it was named after him as Nala Teerth. He renovated the temple.

Musukunda

It is believed that the temple was originally built by Musukunda. It is one of the seven temples built by him where seven different dancing forms of Shiva are found. All these seven temples together called as Saptavidanga Sthalams.

Sambandhar

As per a legend, when Gnana Sambandhar was arguing with the Jains in Madurai, he put the palm leaf containing the hymns written on praise of the Goddess of this temple Bogamartha Poon Mulaiyal. It did not catch fire and everyone agreed that Sambandhar had won over the Jains. As the Goddess gave life to Shaivism, she is also called as Praneswari. (Pran means life).

Other Legends

There are also many not so popular legends associated with this temple. Let me briefly talk about few of them.

Due to a curse, a king along with his wife and children took the form of elephants and were roaming in the forest. As per the advice from Narad, they managed to get a drop of water from the holy tank of the temple fall on their bodies and thus got rid of their sins. 

Two Brahmins got cows from a King during a Yagna. One cow was bigger in size which resulted in conflict among those Brahmins. One of them accidentally killed the cow that belonged to his opponent. Immediately, he lost his Varna and sight. As per the advice from the sage Romasha, he came to this site and took bath in Hamsa Teerth. He got rid of his sin.  


History:


This temple is existing from the 7th century CE. The current structure appears to have been built by the Cholas.

Temple Layout:


The east facing huge temple has a five tiered Raja Gopuram (tower) and another interior Gopuram. The area between the two towers is a big mandap with a lot of pillars with the stucco images depicting various dance postures of Lord Shiva.

The main shrine is very long. The Garbha Griha or sanctum enshrines very big Shiv Linga called as Dharbaranyeswara. Then, there are Ardha Mandap, Maha Mandap and two more external mandaps. At the entrance of Ardha Mandap, there are beautiful big sculptures of Dwara palas. At the entrance of the other two exterior mandaps, the big stucco images of Dwara palas are found.

Near the sanctum, the shrine of Tyagaraja is found. Based on this shrine, this temple is considered as one of Saptavidanga Sthalams. He is called as Unmatha Natana Tyagesar and his consort is Devi Nilotalambal.

A big flag staff, bali peeth and Nandi mandap are found facing towards the sanctum. 

There are two big prakaras around the sanctum.

The walls around the sanctum has the niche images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga. In addition, Bhikshatana is also found as the niche image. Chandikeshwara is found in his usual place.

The sub-shrines of Ganesha, Subramanya-Valli-Devasena, Bhairav and Gaja Lakshmi are situated in the inner prakara.

Some of the idols that are found in the prakara include Sapatavida Shiv Lingas, Shiv and Uma, Ganesha, three Bhairavs, Kali, Nala Narayna Perumal, Sesha, 63 Nayanmars, Sundarar, Surya and Chandra.

The Goddess Pranambigai is found in a separate south facing shrine and it's comparatively small shrine. Next to her shrine, the popular shrine of Shaneeswara is situated. All the devotees who come to this temple visit Shaneeswara for sure and only few of them get inside the actual temple to worship Lord Shiva. Hence, although the temple is not very crowded, the shrine of Shaneeswara is always crowded like anything.

Happy travelling. 



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