Arulmigu Thiyagarajaswamy Temple - Facilities

The Moolavar: The Deity of the Sanctum Santorum

Tradition holds that this Shiva stala was the first temple ever on the face of the earth and was called Adipuri (the primordial town). In the same vein, the moolavar here is called Adipureeswarar. Shiva is present as Agni or fire. He is also present as a swayambu lingam of earth covered with a kavacham removed only on the occasion of the Karthikai Full Moon.

Shiva is also present in a third, complex dimension. The story goes like this. Vasuki, the snake heard about the greatness of Shiva here through Sage Upamanyu. He worshipped Shiva ardently until he attained unison with Him. Vasuki’s hood protects the manifestation of Shiva in this temple and Shiva is called Padampakka Nathar (‘He who is protected by a hood’). He is also called Putridam Kondar (He who resides in a snake pit)

Shiva is thus present in Thiruvottiyur in three dimensions:

  • In the formless form of Agni (fire) or Light with neither beginning nor end, alpha or omega.
  • In the physical form of a swayambu lingam of earth in turn the form of a snake pit facing the east.
  • In a form indescribable as Padampakka Nathar who was ordained as not to be touched by any hand, mortal or immortal.

Shiva is present in an inconceivable form, eluding man’s compelling desire to create an interface with which he can translate His mysterious ways. The Tripada Trimurthy image combines the essence of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma indicating that the latter two engaged in the worship of Shiva.

Shiva is worshipped as the embodiment of the primary elements at what are called as the Panchabhoota Stalams. He is present as wind in Kalahasti, as water in Jambukeswaram, as fire in Thiruvannamalai, as earth in Kanchipuram and as space in Chidambaram.

At Thiruvottiyur, He is present as a being with form (as a swayambu lingam of earth) as a being without form (as agni) and as a being with and without form (as Padampakka Nathar).

Ficus Tree :

The Ficus Tree ("Aththi Maram") is the stalavriksha. An interesting story is told about this tree. Once, in devaloka – the five heavenly tharus (trees), Sandanam, Devatharu, Karpagam, Mandharam and Parijadham were re-considering their life at devaloka. They wore distressed and dejected because of the constant trouble created by the asuras. They wanted to leave heaven to some place with some quite and peace. As they were thinking thus, they heard some sages discuss the glory of Thiruvottiyur. The five tharus came to Thiruvottiyur and sat in meditation intrigued with the intensity of their prayers.

Shiva appeared before them and asked them what they wanted. The five tharus replied – “Please grand our request. We would like to touch your feet eternally and stay there worshipping you for all time.” To this Shiva answered with a smile – “My manifestation at Thiruvottiyur as Padampakka Nathar is a form which is not to be touched by any hand – mortal or immortal. In fact, when Murugan wanted to worship me by touching my feet, I ushered him to Thirumayilai. However, I can give you another alternative. You can stay here as a Magizha maram and I will be glad to stay under your shade”.

On hearing this, their joy knew no bounds. The five tharus became the Magizha maram that one sees today at the Thiyagarajaswamy temple. Even today, they stand singing the praise of Shiva. The tree is seen as a manifestation of Shiva Himself. Tradition holds that those who climb the tree will have committed eternal sin. But if flowers fall on their own accord, devotees may wear them. They will be blessed in this life and the next.

Sundarar :

It was under this tree that Sundarar promised Sangili Nachiar that he would not part from her or the temple of Thiruvottriyur. Sundarar’s story starts at Mount Kailas where he was a devotee of Lord Shiva. Once, when he went to the garden to pluck flowers for puja, he met Shakthi’s aides, Anithigai and Kamalini and fell in love with them. They were interested in him too. Shiva, with his omniscience knew this and blessed the three of them to be born on earth to partake of its pleasures. Sundarar immediately pleaded that Shiva should not allow him to become chained and bound by the ephemeral pleasures of the world. Shiva promised that He would stop him at the right time.

Sundarar was born of a family of temple priests at Tirunallaru. The name his parents gave him was Nambi Arooran. Anithigai was born as Paravai Nachiar at Tiruvarur and Kamalini was born as Sangili Nachiar at Gnayiru. Nambi Arooran grew up to be a handsome boy. Such was his charm that the King of Tirumannaippadi adopted him with his parents’ sanction and brought him up as his foster son.

Plans were made for the wedding pf Paravai with Nambi Arooran. The day before the wedding, an old Brahmin claimed that the wedding should be stopped and that Nambi Arooran was his slave for his lifetime. His grandfather had sold him off to him generations ago. Nambi Arooran became furious. He couldn’t believe that this could happen to him the day before his wedding. He scolded the old man with a vengeance and asked for proof for his senile musings. The old Brahmin showed him a document which bore the signature of his grandfather and which indeed slated that he was the old man’s slave for the rest of his life. In agony and frustration, Nambi Arooran tore up the document that was the only proof.

The old Brahmin was furious and took up the issue of the kings’ court at Thiruvennainallur. There he produced one more document stating that what he had shown earlier was a duplicate version and he still had the original with him safe and secure. On comparing the signature on the document with other signatures of Nambi Arooran’s grandfather, the king gave the verdict that t he Brahmin was right and that Nambi Arooran was the old mans’ slave.

Happy with the verdict, the old Brahmin bade Nambi Arooran to follow him to his house. Arooran followed him with a perplexed mind and heavy heart, only to find that the Brahmin led him to the main shrine of the temple at Thiruvennainallur. He then disappeared as a gleam of light and reappeared with his consort, Shakthi and bade Nambi Arooran to compose a verse. When he hesitated, Shiva reminded him that he had called him a senile and mad person and so should sing of him as such. Nambi Arooran Sundarar sang the verse.

Sundarar then proceeded to visit various punyastalas singing the praise of Shiva until he visited Thiruvottiyur and married Sangili Nachiar. Sundarar promised Sangili Nachiar, under the stalavriksha, the Magizha maram, that he would not part from her or the temple of Thiruvottiyur. On breaking this promise, Sundarar lost his eyesight. He composed several heart rendering verses on his miserable condition, asking forgiveness for his breach of vow. He regained his sight with the grace of Shiva. The scene of Sundarar’s vow under the Magizha Maram is recreated till today as Magizhadi Servai, when Sundarar goes thrice on a pradakshana around the shrines of Sri Thiyagarajaswamy and Vadivudai Amman and vows not to leave Sangili Nachiar or Thiruvottiyur for the rest of his life. Hundreds of devotees come to the temple on Masi Magam to witness this festival.