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January - March 2024

Konerirajapuram (Tirunallam) – By Saranya Vishwanath

Konerirajapuram is a small village on the Kumbakonam – Karaikkal road. It is located 24 km to the east of Kumbakonam.

This temple is one of the Thevaarapaadalpetrasthalam, located in ChozhaNaadu, on the southern bank of River Kaveri. Appar and Tirugnanasambandhar each have sung a pathigam on this sthalam. They mention the place as Tirunallam. This kshetra is referred to as Bhadraashwatthavanam in Bhavishyottarapuranam (Kshetrakandam – Poorvabhagam) and Skandapuranam – NagaraKandam. As the name states, the sthalavruksham of this temple is Ashwattha or Arasu.

During the time of Amrutha mathanam the nectar spilled over various places and Bhadraashwatthavanam is one among them. When the earth was hidden under the sea by Hiranyaaksha, Lord Vishnu took the form of wild boar (Varaahaa), killed him and saved Mother Earth (Bhoomidevi) from the clutches of the Asura. When Bhoomidevi requested Lord Vishnu to show a way to avoid disturbance from Asuras, he told her to go to Bhadraashwatthavanam and establish a shivalinga and offer her prayers there. Bhoomidevi arrived in this sthalam. She met the rishsis Gowthama, Agasthyaa and others in front of a big tank called Brahma Tirtham. This big tank is now in front of the temple.

The presiding deity of this temple is Lord Shiva. He is known by the name Umamaheswarar. His consort Devi Parvati is called by the name Angavalanayaki or Dehasundari Amman. There is a famous shrine for Lord Nataraja in this temple. The temple is a massive structure, with attractive large mandapams or halls.

Bhoomidevi with the help of Vishwakarma, built this temple. Devaguru Brihaspathi established the Shivalinga under the massive vimanam called as Athi Vimanam. The eight dikpalakaas also came here to worship the lord. They established eight temples around this kshetra in their respective directions as follows:

  1. Indra established Nagavalyamba sametha Nageswarar temple at the east (Nagambaadi) and also a tirtham called Indra
  2. Agni established Gowri Parvathy sametha Agneeswarar temple at the south east (Anniyur) and a tirtham called Agni
  3. Yama established Sarvangasundari sametha Sarguneswarar temple at the south (Karuveli) and also a tirtham called Yama
  4. Niruthi established Mangalaambika sametha Karkotakeswarar temple at the south west (Vayaloor) and a tirtham called Nairutha
  5. Varuna established Jalamukula Naayaki sametha Vaaruneswarar temple at the west (Sivanaragaram) and a tirtham called Vaaruna
  6. Vayu established Brihannaayaki sametha Champakaranyeswarar temple at the north west (Vaigal) and a tirtham called Vaayu
  7. Kubera established Soundaryanaayaki sametha Kubereswarar temple at the north (Pudur) and a tirtham called Soma
  8. Eeshana established Soundaryanayaki sametha Pasupatheeswarar temple at the north east (Nallavur) and a tirtham called

Umamaheswarar and Dehasundari were worshipped by Bhoomidevi. Lord Shiva here is also called as Bhoomeeswarar or Prithiviswarar. This kshetram is also known by the name Bhoomeeswaram. Bhoomidevi established a tirtham at the North Eastern side of the temple known as Bhoomi tirtham.

There is a linga worshipped by Vishwakarma in this temple and is called as Siddheswarar. Some believe that this is the linga worshipped by the siddhars.

The present structure of this temple was built by Kandaradhittha Chozha and his wife Chembian Madevi. Kandaradhitthan is the grandfather of the famous Rajaraja Chozha. He is well known for his service to Lord Shiva, by building huge temples in his empire.

As we enter the temple, on one side we see Lord Subrahmanya with 6 faces, 12 hands, along with Valli and Devasena to his right and left. Then on the other side there is Lord Vinayaka, flanked by two bhuthaganas (one with a banana bunch on his head and the other with a jack fruit on his head) blessing the devotees.

We then move into the main mandapam with dvajasthambam. If we look up on the ceiling, we are amazed by the beautiful paintings. We can see the five faces of Lord Shiva- thathpurusham, eesaanam, vamadevam, satyojatam and aghoram, moorthis of 4 vedas, and more. After praying there at the dvajasthambam where it is believed that the power of the deity inside the sanctum sanctorum is concentrated, we enter the main temple. A few paintings of the British period – policemen with arms standing at the ritual etc are also found here. But time has played its role by erasing most of the paintings.

We could then see Lord Umamaheswara. The lingam is quite large in size that one could see the Lord from the entrance. We circumambulate the sannidhi and in the prakaram we can see lot of other idols. Idols of Bhairava, Surya, some more Shivalingas like Kasi Viswanathar, Shenbagavananathar and few more are there.

As we move further, we could see the vahanamandapam (place where God’s vehicles like swan, yali and bull are kept). All the vaahanas exhibit the ancient artistry. On the opposite side we could see the idols of Agastya Rishi, Vinayaka and some writings, stating the architects of this temple (Chembian madevi and Kandaradithar).

We complete the round and come outside to see the Navagraha Sannidhi and there is another Shiva Linga that has been worshipped by all the 9 planets.

On the opposite side we see the celebrated, majestic Nataraja. The tallest, highest, most majestic etc., whatever adjective we like best, we may use for Him. As an eight feet tall panchaloha idol, believed to be svayambu murthy, there is a mole on His chest and a hair stuck to it. To his side, stands the graceful SivakAmi. He is the moolavar. He is not taken out on procession.

When a king wanted to make a very big idol of Nataraja, an old couple appeared before the sculptor and drank the molten metal kept for the preparation of the idol, and became the present idol along with his consort Sivakamasundari.

To his side, there is another sannidhi where stands another Nataraja. This is the utsavamoorthi who is taken out for procession.

There is also a sannidhi of Kalyanasundara Moorthi, also called as Maapillai Swami with his consort Devi Kathyayani.

We come out of the Shiva’s sannidhi and go for a bigger round in the outer prakaram. There comes the Devi Sannidhi. It’s like a separate temple. We offer our salutations to the Angavalanayaki or DehaSundari and request for good health for every one of us. One could observe that there is a separate Nandi for Ambal.

After coming out of Ambal Sannidhi in the outer prakaram, there is also a sannidhi of Lord Vaidyanatha. King Pururavas was cursed by Garga Maharishi and was affected by leprosy. He came to this sthalam and prayed to the Lord. He was cured of his illness and established another Linga facing West, without Nandi and named him Vaidyanatha. People with prolonged illness pray to Vaidyanatha here and get relieved of their illness. Pururavas also ordered the athi vimanam to be covered completely with gold.

We go around the temple’ s outer prakaaram, talking about the massive structure and spacious prakaarams of the temple and finally offer our namaskarams to the Lord near the dvajasthambam and come out of the temple.

Other incidents associated with this sthalam:

  • A poor Brahmin Dharma Sharma, got rid of his poverty after getting a small piece of land as a gift from the King in this kshetra.
  • Dharmadhwaja, a Malava King who became a brahmarakshasa due to a curse came here and after drinking a drop of water from the Gnanakoopam (well) in this temple, lost his rakshasa form and regained his original form. He then established the Vaikasi Brahmotsavam for this temple and made a golden chariot by the name
  • Murandaka, a son of Kulavardhana and a disciple of Ratheethara rishi, unknowingly denied food to Kanva maharishi in the absence of his Kanva maharishi cursed Murandaka to become a ghost. Ratheethara rishi brought Murandaka to this temple and upon praying to Umamaheswara, he got relieved of the curse and regained his original form.

குளிரும் மதிசூடிக் கொன்றைச் சடைதாழ
மிளிரும் மரவோடு வெண்ணூல் திகழ்மார்பில்
தளிருந் திகழ்மேனித் தையல் பாகமாய்
நளிரும் வயல்சூழ்ந்த நல்லம் நகரானே.  4

Lord Shiva, on his head that is decorated with garlands made of kondrai flowers wears the moon, emitting cool rays and on his chest he wears a snake, sacred thread and on one half of his body has Goddess Parvathi who is like a slender creeper, lives in Tirunallam which is surrounded by fertile fields. (Tirugnanasambandharthevaaram – thirumurai 1, pathigam 85, song 4)

கொல்லத் தான் நமனார் தமர் வந்தக்கால்

இல்லத்தார் செய்யல் ஆவதென் ஏழைகள்

நல்லத்தான் நமை ஆளுடையான் கழல்

சொல்லத்தான் வல்லிரேல் துயர் தீருமே

If Yama, the lord of death comes to us, what could we the ordinary householders do? If we could sing the glory of the holy feet of the lord of Tirunallam, who rules us, then we shall be relieved out of this sorrow. (Tirunavukkarasarthevaram – thirumurai 5, pathigam 43, song 1)

Other temples in Konerirajapuram:

There is a Perumal temple, situated in the west side of the agraharam. Perumal is called here as Varadharajan. Bhoomi and Neela Devi are his consorts here. In addition to Varadharajaperumal, we have a separate sannidhi for Kodandaramar. Rama stands along with Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman and blesses all his devotees.

There is also another temple near this Perumal temple, for Goddess Durga. Durga stands on the demon Mahishasura’s (buffalo headed demon) head. She has no roof above her. She is called as Akaasha Durga