|Proper name:||Pazhayarai Temple|
|Primary Deity:||Somanatha Swamy
|Architecture and culture|
|Architectural styles:||Dravidian architecture|
Pazhaiyarai Someswarar Temple, or Pazhaiyarai Vadathali is a Hindu temple dedicated to Someswarar, a form of Shiva. It is located 6 km away from Kumbakonam on the Kumbakonam- Aavoor road, 2 km away from the Thenupuriswarar Temple at Patteeswaram and 3 km away from Darasuram. The best mode is taking town buses from Kumbakonam or mini buses from Darasuram, the bus stop is Cholan Maligai. The Darasuram railway station is located close to the temple.
The temple is believed to be built during the Chola period and has several inscriptions dating back to the 8-9th century. The presiding deity, Someswarar is revered in the 7th century Tamil Saiva canonical work, the Tevaram, written by Tamil saint poets known as the nayanars and classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam.
The temple has six daily rituals at various times from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and three yearly festivals on its calendar. The annual Brahmotsavam (prime festival) is attended by thousands of devotees from far and near.
As per Hindu legend, Chandra (moon god) is believed to have worshipped Shiva in the place and Shiva appeared for him. As per another legend, Garuda, Vishnu's eagle vehicle, carried nectar to cure his mother and was intercepted by demons. Three drops of nectar fell from his pot and they became the lingam, goddess and a holy spring. Garuda took a holy dip in the spring and won the battle. The spring is called Jadayu Theertham.
The city of Pazhayarai was one of the capital towns of the Chola empire. The temple is a part of the series of temples built by Aditya Chola (871-907 CE) along the banks of river Cauvery to commemorate his victory in the Tirupurambiyam battle. The temple is revered by the verses of the 7-8th-century saint poets Appar, Sambandar and Sundarar in Tevaram and classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam. This temple is in the centre of the once famous Pazhayarai city, surrounded by Pazhayari Vadathali in the north, Araimetrali in the west and Thenthali in the south. This is the birthplace of Mangayarkarasiyar, a saint amongst the 63 nayanmars.
The temple has a gopuram (gateway tower) in dilapidated state. The second precinct has a two-tiered gopuram. The sanctum and the walls around the sanctum are built in granite and the structure houses the shrine of Someswarar in the form of lingam (an iconic form of Shiva). There is a shrine for his consort Someswari and navagrahas. The scene of Ravaneswara holding Kailasanathar (Shiva) in his hands is carved in this temple. There is a sculpture of Narasimha, an avatar of Vishnu, is believed to be made during the Chola period. The first of the two shows the fight between the eight-handed Narasimha and Hiranyakasipu. The other panel depicts the earlier scene where Prahalatha prays and Narasimha emerges from a pillar. The other panel shows Narsimha tearing the insides of the demon thrown in his legs.
Worship and festivals
The temple priests perform the puja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. Like other Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Shaiva community, a Brahmin sub-caste. The temple rituals are performed six times a day; Ushathkalam at 5:30 a.m., Kalasanthi at 8:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 10:00 a.m., Sayarakshai at 5:00 p.m., Irandamkalam at 7:00 p.m. and Ardha Jamam at 8:00 p.m. Each ritual comprises four steps: abhisheka (sacred bath), alangaram (decoration), naivethanam (food offering) and deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for both Someswarar and Amman. The worship is held amidst religious instructions in the Vedas (sacred texts) read by priests and prostration by worshippers in front of the temple mast. There are weekly rituals like somavaram (Monday) and sukravaram (Friday), fortnightly rituals like pradosham and monthly festivals like amavasai (new moon day), kiruthigai, pournami (full moon day) and sathurthi. The major festival of the temple, the Brahmotsavam, is celebrated during the Tamil month of Chittirai (April-May). During the same month, in the Rohini star, special poojas are performed for Mangayarkarasiyar.
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