July 22, 2017

Tiruvallam Vilwanatheswara Temple

Tiruvallam or Tiruvalam is a town located near few well known towns such as Ranipettai, Vellore and Katpadi in Tamil Nadu state of India. The ancient town has an important temple dedicated to Lord Shiva called Vilwanatheswarar temple. It is considered as the 10th among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in the Thondai region.

  • Sambandhar has revered the temple in his verses in Devaram.
  • Arunagirinathar has sung on Kartikeya of this temple in his Tiruppugal verses.
  • God Vilwanatheswara or Vallanathar
  • Goddess Dhanur Madhyambal or Vallambikai or Villidai Nayaki or Theekkali Amman
  • Teerth (Holy water) - Gowri Teerth and Neeva River
  • Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Bilva
  • Considered as one of the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams
  • Believed to be the place of Vandiya Devan, the prime character of the most popular historical novel of Ponniyin Selvan written by Kalki (no historical evidence)
  • The temple is vast and is spread across five acres.
  • Three Nandi idols in different sizes, but all are facing away from the sanctum. 
  • Adhikara Nandi faces towards the sanctum instead of Nandi.


The divine Mango

Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam, which was written in Tamil, has an interesting and popular legend. Although the incident mentioned in the legend logically might have happened in Kailash, the holy abode of Lord Shiva, the local legend claims that this episode happened in Tiruvallam.

As per the legend, Narad Rishi met Shiva and Parvati and presented a divine mango fruit. He told that it could not be cut into pieces. Shiva, who had two kids, Ganesh and Kartikeya, was clueless on whom to give the fruit. Hence, he announced a competition between the brothers. As per the rule, the one who could circle around the entire world faster would get the divine fruit.

Kartikeya, thanks to his peacock, swiftly started to roam around the world. The poor Ganesha could not move faster due to his fat body. As per the advice of Naradh, he circumambulated his parents. He was declared as the winner as circling around the first couple of the universe is better than circling around the world. 

Thus, Ganesh got the mango fruit. Hence, he is called as Kani Vangiya Vinayaka in this temple, which means one who got the fruit. As he circumambulated his parents in this site, this site is called as Tiruvalam, which means "circumambulation" in Tamil. 


In the olden days, as there was no teertha nearby. Hence, the priests used to get water for the deity from a place called Kanchanagiri. An Asura, Kanchan by name, did not allow the priests to draw water from this hill. As per Lord Shiva's order, his vaahan Nandi fought with this Asura and killed him. Hence, in this temple, Nandi is always facing in the east direction similar to Lord Shiva, to ensure that there is no danger from the Asura or his people.


It is believed that Vishnu and Sanaka Rishi has installed two Shiv Lingas in this temple complex and worshiped them.  The bowl of Sanaka is also found in this temple.

Nee Vaa

The temple is situated right on the banks of the river "Ponnai". As Lord Shiva called the river to come near his shrine as "Nee vaa" (which means "you come" in Tamil language), the river is also called as Niva river.

Origin of Shiv Linga

It is said that this region was originally a Bilva forest. A cow used to go to a particular snake-hole daily and release its milk on top of it. After some time, a Shiv Linga was discovered when the snake-hole was cleared. 

Theekkali Amman

Similar to many other shrines of the Goddess, it is believed that the Goddess of this temple was in Ugra (ferocious) form in the beginning. She was called as Theekkali Amman in those days. Adhi Shankara pacified her and she ultimately got this shanta (peaceful) form.


During the golden time of the Cholas, Tiruvallam was more like a buffer region between the Cholas and the Chalukyas. It is believed that it was the capital city of the Banas. Most of the inscriptions that are found in the temple belong to the Chola period and it is not easy to tell who built the original temple. Some portions of the temple must have been built by the Cholas in the 10th century or later centuries. However, most of the structures including the sculptures on the pillars that are found all over the temple appear to be later works.

Vandia Devan:

It is believed that this town was part of Bana kingdom. Vandia Devan, who married Kundavai, the sister of the famous Raja Raja Chola I, was believed to be from this town. He became more popular thanks to his portrayal by the author Kalki in his novel "Ponniyin Selvan". He belonged to Vanar clan. 

Different names of the Town:

During the period of Nandivarma Pallava (8th century CE), the site was called as Vanapuram. In the 9th century CE, it was called as Paramesvara Theekkal Vallam. The deity was called as Tiruttheekkali Perumanadigal in the 9th century CE. During the period of the Cholas in the 10th and 11th centuries CE, the deity was called in various names such as Tiruvallam Mahadeva, Tiruvallamudaiya Nayanar or Tiruvallam Udaiyar.


There are more than 20 stone inscriptions found in this temple as well as one inscription in the nearby boulder on the banks of the river . The inscriptions belong to various dynasties such as Vijaya Nandivikramavarman (Ganga King?), Raja Raja Chola I, Rajendra Chola I, Adhi Rajendra Chola, Kulotunga Chola I, Kulotunga Chola III,  Pandya King Vira Pandya and others. 

Sivananda Mouna Swamigal:

Saint Sivananda Mouna Swamigal stayed in this temple for many years. People used to meet him to get cured of their illness. He had consecrated the temple with the funds collected from the public.

Temple Layout:

Temple Entrance:

The temple entrance faces the southern direction. The outer tower has four tiers and has many colorful and interesting stucco images. There is an inner three tiered tower too. The temple covers an area of approximately five acres and the complex is surrounded by high walls.

In front of the outer tower, there is a mandp full of pillars with various sculptures.

Gowri Teerth, the holy temple tank with a mandap in the middle (called as Neerazhi mandapam) is located in the area between the two towers.

The shrine of Raja Rajeswari, Shiv Linga and the Samadhi of Mouna Guru Swamigal with a Linga installed atop are all located outside the outer tower.

A very beautiful sculpture of Valampuri Vinayaka, Atma Lingeswara and Bhairav are found at the entrance of the second tower. 


The presiding deity of the temple is found in the form of a big and majestic Shiv Linga. He is named as Vilwanatheswara. His sanctum faces the east direction. He is a swayambhu (self manifested) Murti on a square peetha.

Chola-period Bronze Idols:

In Ardha Mandap, a sub-shrine is located which is full of beautiful Chola period bronze images such as Bhikshatana, Somaskandar, two pairs of Uma-Chandrashekhar and few later period bronze idols such as Murugan-Valli-Devasena, Ganesh, Pidari Amman, etc.

The stone image of Adi Siva Shankara Narayana Murti (a very long and unique name for Vishnu) is also found in Ardha Mandap.

Another sub-shrine that goes little underground enshrines Shiv Linga. He is called as Patala Linga.

Uniqueness of Nandi:

In Maha Mandap, there is no Nandi found. Instead, the bowl of Sanak Rishi is located in the place of Nandi. (Please refer the legend section to more about Sanak's connection with this temple). 

In Mukha Mandap, there is Nandi which faces in the same direction as the sanctum. Similarly, in the outer area near the flagstaff and bali peetha, a very big white colored stucco idol of Nandi is found. In front of that another Nandi (stone image) is located. They also face their backsides towards the sanctum. Thus, all these three Nandis facing in the opposite from their usual positions talk about the legend related to Nandi killing the Asura. (Refer the legend section above).

Instead of Nandi, Adikara Nandi (Nandi with human body and bull's head) is found facing towards the sanctum.

Koshta Murtis:

The beautiful idols of Ganesh, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu with Prayago Chakra, Brahma and Vishnu Durga are found as the niche images. Chandikeshwara is found in his usual location.


The Dwarapalas at the entrance of the Maha Mandap look gigantic and artisic. The Dwarapala on the true right side of the sanctum has his lower left arm raised above his head and his index finger of upper right arm raised upwards. The Dwarapala on the left side has his index finger directing towards the presiding deity. 

Inner Prakara:

The inner prakara around the sanctum has the idols of Brahmi, Kariya Manicka Perumal, Ganesh and Naga. In addition, the stone idols and bronze idols of all the 63 Nayanmars are arranged in parallel in upper and lowers rows.

Personification of Stars:

As per the Hindu calendar, there are 27 Nakshatras (stars). All these stars in the personified forms appear as the stucco images on the vimana of Nataraj shrine. 

Nataraj and Sivakami, in the form of bronze idols, are found in this shrine, which is located near the Nandi Mandap.

Mouna Swamigal:

Mouna Swamigal built the big stucco idol of Nandi. His stone idol is found on the true right side of this big Nandi. The mandap where the Nandi idols and Swamiji's idol are located is bigger and has many interesting images on the pillars. Navagrahas are also located within this mandap.

Dhanur Madhyambal:

The Goddess Dhanur Madhyambal is found in a separate east facing shrine with the front-side mandap. It is situated in the outer prakara of the temple.

Ganesh, Annapoorni, Shakti and Durga are found as the niche images around her sanctum. Vallabha Ganapati and Palani are found at the entrance of the shrine.

Outer Prakara:

The outer prakara of the temple is vast. There are so many sub-shrines in this area.

  • Veera Bhadra - both relief and stone images are found
  • Nalvar
  • Shaneeswara
  • Kasi Vishwanatha - small Linga
  • Chandra Mouleeswara - a small Linga
  • Arunachaleshwara - a big Shiv Linga
  • Four Shiv Lingas together - Sada Siva, Ananta, Sri Kanda and Ambikeshwara
  • Subramanya-Valli-Devasena
  • Sahasra Linga
  • Bhairav
  • Surya
  • Sundareshwara - Meenakshi 
  • 1300 years old holy tree
Kani Vangiya Vinayak:

In the outer prakara, a big idol of Ganesh is found in a separate sub-shrine. He is named as "Kani Vangiya Vinayakar", which means the one who got mango. It is related to the legend of Ganesh getting the divine fruit from his father. (For more details, refer the "legend" section above.

Adi Vilvanathar:

A small temple like shrine is located in the outer prakara region. It enshrines Shiv Ling, who is called as Adi Vilvanathar. A small Nandi is found facing towards him. Only Brahma and Durga are found as the niche images on the wall of the shrine.

A holy Jackfruit tree is found near this shrine.

108 pillared Mandap:

Noorukaal mandap or the mandap with 108 pillars is the highlight of this temple. Deities in different forms and postures, dancing girls, soldiers, men fighting animals, saints, mythical animals and lot more are found in the form of sculptures on all these pillars.

Happy travelling. 

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