|Proper name:||Nellaiappar Thirukovil|
|Primary Deity:||Nellaiappar (Shiva)|
|Consort:||Kanthimathi amman (Parvathi)|
|Architecture and culture|
|Architectural styles:||Dravidian architecture|
|Date built:||700 AD|
The temple of Swami Nellaiappar and Sri Kanthimathi Ambal is situated in the heart of the city. The river Tamirabharani referred to by poets as "Porunai" flows round the town. In the distant past the town was a bamboo forest; hence it was known in those days as "venuvanam". One of the famous temples in Tamil Nadu steeped in tradition and history and also known for its musical pillars and other brilliant sculptural splendours, this is one of the largest temples in South India. Siva is said to have been worshipped by Agastya in a bamboo grove and by Rama after having killed Mareecha some nine miles away at Manoor. There is also a shrine to Vishnu near the sanctum, signifying the belief that Nellai Govindan (Vishnu) visited Tirunelveli to officiate the divine marriage of Shiva and Kantimathi. A little to the south of Swami Nellaiappar Gopuram stands the Gopuram of Sri Kanthimathi Ambal temple. It was here, where composer Sri Muthuswami Dikshithar composed the carnatic song 'Sri Kanthimatheem' in Hemavathi ragam.
According to the puranas, both the Gopurams were built by Muluthukanda Rama Pandiyan and the other important parts of the temple were constructed by Nindraseer Nedumaran who reigned in the 7th century A.D. The mani mandapam with its famous musical pillar was built by Nindaraseer Nedumaran in the 7th century A.D. Originally the Nellaiappar and Kanthimathi temples were two independent structures with spaces in between. It was in 1647 A.D. that Thiru Vadamalaiappa Pillaiyan, a great devotee of Siva linked the two temples by building the "Chain mandapam". To the western portion of the chain mandapam is the flower garden that was set up in 1756 A.D. by Thiruvengadakrishna Mudaliar. In the centre of the Flower Garden is a square vasantha mandapm with 100 pillars. The Nandi mandapam is said to have been built by Sivanthiappa Nayak in 1654 A.D. The flag stand near the Nandi was set up in 1155 A.D.
There are a number of stone inscriptions in the temple. The most important of them are those Veerapandiyan who regained about 950 A.D. and those of Rajendran I and Kulothunga chola I. The inscriptions of Maravarma Sundara Pandiyan refer to the Lord as "Woodayar" and "Wodeyanayanar" and the Goddess as "Nachiar". From the inscriptions of Kulasekkara Pandiyan we learn that he defeated the Chera, Chola and Hoysala kings and built the outer walls of the temple with the war booty.
Vast in area, this temple never ceases to surprise visitors for the wealth of detail it has to offer. The musical pillars in the Mani Mandapam which produce sound in various pitches when struck (7th century AD by Nindrasir Nedumaran or Koon Pandyan), the Somavara Mandapam, the 1000 pillared hall, and the Tamra sabha with intricate wood work, and the Vasantha Mandapam are some of the noteworthy points in this temple. Lifelike sculptures adorn several of the Mandapams in the temple, noteworthy ones being in the Sangili Mandapam which links the temples of Nellaiappar and Kantimathi in this vast temple complex.
Thirunelveli also is one of the five places where Lord Shiva is said to have displayed his dance and all these places have stages/ ambalams. While Tirunelveli has the Thaamirai (Copper) Ambalam, the others are the Rathina Ambalam at Thiruvaalangadu (rathinam – ruby / red), the Chitra Ambalam at Courtallam (chitra – painting), the Velli Ambalam at Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple (velli – silver) and the Pon (Gold) Ambalam at Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram.
The Copper Hall of Dance is a brilliant work of art, and is housed within the inner precincts of the temple. On the occasion of Arudra Darisanam (occurring in the Tamil month of Margazhi - Dec 15 - Jan 15), the images of Nataraja and Sivakami are housed here, and elaborate worship protocols are observed during the enactment of the Cosmic Dance of Shiva. A shrine to Sandana Sabhapati (adorned with sandal paste) is located right behind the Thaamira Sabha and to a visitor walking towards the Thaamira Sabha, the combination of these, i.e. the vision of Sandana Sabhapati seen through the Thaamira Sabha presents a brilliant spectacle. There is yet another shrine to Nataraja here, the Periya Sabhapati shrine. Religious services are carried out here on special occasions, and this festival idol is never moved from this shrine.
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Navaratri, Tirukkalyanam in Aippasi, (Oct 15 - Nov 15) and Arudra Darisanam are some of the important festivals here. Arudra Darisanam attracts huge crowds here. The temple chariot is a massive one, second supposedly only to Tiruvarur. The Bhrammotsavam here lasts for an extended period of time during the Tamil month of Aani (June 15 - July 15). Also, a Golden Temple car (First Inaugural run of Nellaiappar Temple Golden Car is November 2, 2009) will run during important festivals like Thirukalyanam, Kaarthigai, Aaruthra Festival etc. During Thaipoosam festival in Thai, Lord Shiva and Parvathy are taken to the banks of Thamirabarani river in Tirunelveli junction called "Thaipoosa mandapam". Special rituals are undertaken there and the Lord return to the temple at night.
Near Tirunelveli, are the nine Vaishnavite temples dedicated to Vishnu (the Alwar Nava Tiruppatis), the Krishnapuram Venkatachalapati temple with its brilliant sculptural work, Tiruchendur with its grand and imposing temple dedicated to Subramanya, and Kutralam a popular tourist resort with its charming waterfalls and abundant natural beauty. The region between Tirunelveli and Kutralam abounds in natural splendour. Mention must be made of Tenkasi, Papanasam and Ambasamudram. Further, Kanyakumari the southernmost tip of India is only a couple of hours away from Tirunelveli.
- Sthala Varalaru book published in 2004 by temple administration
- T. G. S. Balaram Iyer, T. R. Rajagopalan (1987). History & description of Sri Meenakshi Temple. pp.39
- Rajeshwari Ghose. The Tyāgarāja cult in Tamilnāḍu: A Study in Conflict and Accommodation . pp. 69
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nellaiappar Temple.|
- Nellaiappar Temple official site/
- Nellaiappar Temple at Tirunelveli
- Nellaiappar Temple travel guide from Wikivoyage