|Location||Panruti, Tamil Nadu, India|
Thiruvathigai Veerateeswarar Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. It is situated at Thiruvathigai Village which is about 2 kilometres east from the town of Panruti in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, India. Shiva is worshiped as Veerattaaneswarar, and is represented by the lingam. His consort Parvati is depicted as Thiripurasundari. The presiding deity 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 is considered the place where the Saiva saint poet Appar (Thirunavukkarasar) attained salvation and converted to Saivism.
The temple complex is one of the largest in the state and it houses two gateway towers known as gopurams. The temple has numerous shrines, with those of Veerateeswarar and Mookambigai being the most prominent. The temple complex houses many halls and three precincts; the most notable is the second precinct built during the Vijayanagar period that has many sculptures. The temple has six daily rituals at various times from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and twelve yearly festivals on its calendar. The temple is maintained and administered by Thiruvaduthurai Adheenam, a South Indian monastic institution.
Legend holds that this temple is the place where Shiva destroyed three rakshashas and the three cities created by them. Saranarayana Perumal, another name of Vishnu, is the one who gave the arrow to Shiva for killing the demons. Shiva Purana details the legend of destruction of the demon Tripuran, who was ruling Tripura. The destruction is detailed as a cosmic event, which most attribute to the destruction of stars, meteors and unexplained material bodies. Tripuran attacked all the celestial deities who sought the help of Shiva to protect them. Shiva after a fiery fight, destroyed Tripuran and attained the name Tripurantaka. Shiva ashed down the city Tripura and dipped his three fingers in the ashes, which signifies the three lines of ash which is worn by all shaivites on their forehead. As per another variant, the three sons of Taraka obtained boons from Brahma and built an impregnable fortress on earth. On account of their atrocious activities, mother earth prayed to Shiva for rescue. Shiva burnt down the fort and was about to attack the trio, but they begged for mercy. He made two of them as Dvarapalas and one as his damaroo, which he sports in his right hand. The whole incident is believed to have taken place in Thiruvathigai on the banks of Kedilam. The original name of the place was called Tripura Dahanam, which went on to become Thiruvathigai. During Tripurasamharam, the killing of Tripurantaka, Shiva forgot to worship Ganesha before setting out for the battle. He realized it and came back to worship Ganesha and went ahead to win the demon. The same legend is associated with Aksheeswaraswamy Temple, Acharapakkam and Thiruvirkolam.
The Pallava king Mahendravarman I converted from Jainism to Saivism under the influence of Appar.2000 years ago this temple was built. He is believed to have destroyed a Jain monastery and built a temple called Gunavareswaram close to the temple. Mahendra Pallava is believed to have attained the name Gunavareswara on account of the incident. A king called Kalinkaraya is believed to have endowed lot of treasures and built various structures in the temple as seen from the inscriptions in the temple. King Raja Raja Chola I is believed to have stayed in this temple for a long time to study the architecture before building Brihadeeswarar Temple.
The temple is located in Thiruvathigai, a village 2 km from Panruti in Cuddalore district. The temple covers an area of 7 acres (2.8 ha) with three precincts. The temple has a seven tiered gateway tower which has sculptures depicting 108 poses of Bharatanatyam. There is a sixteen pillared hall called Thiruneetru mandapam, which is believed to have constructed at the behest of Thilagavathiyar, the sister of Appar to commemorate his conversion to Saivism. There is a temple tank named Chakrateertha kulam and a Vasantha mandapam on the northern portion of the tank. On the second precinct, there is a flag staff and a five tiered temple tower. The sanctum is built on an elevated structure. There are shrines around the sanctum in the first precinct that has a shrine of Thilagavathiar, a pillared hall housing the sixty three nayanmar, Saniswarar, Durga, Siddivinayagar, Muruga, a set of Lingam, Nataraja and Surya. The shrine of Umayammai, the consort of the presiding deity, is present. The shrine houses the image of Lingam which is believed to have worshiped by Vishnu. There is a south facing shrine in the hall before the sanctum where the image of Tripurasamharamurthy with sixteen hands is housed. Sanctum houses the image of Veerataneswarar in the form of lingam. There is an image of Ammayapar housed in the sanctum. The shrine over the sanctum has a pyramidal roof with stucco images all through the filial at the top.
Worship and festivals
The temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. Like other Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Shaivaite community, a Brahmin sub-caste. The temple rituals are performed six times a day; Ushathkalam at 6:00 a.m., Kalasanthi at 8:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 12:00 p.m., Sayarakshai at 6:00 p.m., Irandamkalam at 8:00 p.m. and Ardha Jamam at 9:00 p.m. Each ritual comprises four steps: abhisheka (sacred bath), alangaram (decoration), neivethanam (food offering) and deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for both Veerateeswarar and Thiripurasundari. There are weekly rituals like somavaram and sukravaram, fortnightly rituals like pradosham and monthly festivals like amavasai (new moon day), kiruthigai, pournami (full moon day) and sathurthi. The most prominent festival of the temple, Vasantha Utsavam, is celebrated for ten days during the Tamil month of Chittirai. The festival deity of presiding deity and his consort circumambulate the temple and the streets in the village in different vehicles. Vaikasi Brahmotsavam during the Tamil month of Vaikasi (May - June) and the ten day Sadayam star festival associated with the day Appar got salvation are other important festivals of the temple.
As per legend, Shiva is believed to have destroyed eight different demons namely Andakasuran, Gajasuran, Jalandasuran, Thirupuradhi, Kaman, Arjunan, Dakshan and Taaragasuran. Shiva is usually described to have used bow & arrow, trident and spear. There are eight temples built signifying each of his victories in the war, and also as places where he is believed to have performed with fury. The temple is counted as one of the eight with the other seven being Tiruvadigai Veerattaaneswarar Temple at Thiruvadigai, Tirukkovilur Veerateshwarar Temple at Tirukoilur , Amirtagateswarar Temple at Thirukadaiyur, Vazhuvur Verateswarar Temple at Vazhuvoor, Keelaparasalur Veerateswarar Temple at Tirupariyalur, Kandeeswarar Temple at Thirukkandiyur and Tiruvirkudi Veerataneswarar Temple at Thiruvirkudi.
According to the Hindu legend Thirugnana Sambanthar had a vision of cosmic dance of Shiva at this place. Appar's sister Thilakavathiyar settled here during her later years and devoted her lifetime service to Shiva. Afflicted by a painful illness, Thirunavukkarasar, who was originally called Dharmasenar and was then a staunch follower of Jainism, prayed for relief at this temple where his sister Thilagavathiyar served. By the divine grace of Shiva, he was cured. He embraced Saivism from then and started canonizing various temples with his verses.
As per another legend, Sundarar, another saint poet, did not enter the temple as it was already praised by Appar. He was sleeping outside the temple where an old man stepped on his head. Sundarar avoided him and turned his head toward other direction, but the old man still stepped on his head. Sundarar wanted to know who the old man was when Shiva appeared in his true form in front of him. The temple called Siddapureeswarar near Panruti is associated with the legend.
Tirugnana Sambandar, a 7th-century Tamil Saivite poet, venerated Veerateeswarar in 46 verses in Tevaram, compiled as the First Tirumurai. Appar, a contemporary of Sambandar, also venerated Veerateeswarar in seventeen verses in Tevaram, compiled as the Fourth Tirumurai, Fifth Tirumurai and Sixth Tirumurai. Sundarar, a contemporary of Sambandar, also venerated Veerateeswarar in one verse in Tevaram, compiled as the Seventh Tirumurai. As the temple is revered in Tevaram, it is classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam, one of the 275 temples that find mention in the Saiva canon.
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