Hoary abode of divinity

Hoary abode of divinity

From times immemorial, temples in India have been centres of faith and spirituality,  enshrining images of the divinity in stone, wood, metal or clay.

The science of temple  construction, the modes of worship, the rituals to be followed, even the paraphernalia to be used etc have all been clearly laid down in the ancient treatises, the Agamas. From Kanyakumari in the deep south to the Himalayas in the north, the entire country is one  vast network of temples and monastries, being the repositories of hoary traditions and religion, contributing in no small way to the spiritual and cultural integrity of India.

One among such ancient shrines is the temple of Tiruvarur. Located close to Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, Tiruvarur is famous for the shrine of Lord Thyagaraja (Lord Shiva) .Having been in existence for more than a millennium, the Tiruvarur temple finds mention in the Sangam era works of the Tamil Saivaite saints . While the exact origins of this temple is shrouded in the mists of antiquity, it is clear that the Chola kings greatly contributed to its  development and maintenance.

Today, this edifice is a vast complex of over 33 acres, a  standing monument to centuries of tradition, history and mysticism.  The principal deity  is Lord Thyagaraja.

He is revered as  Somaskanda, a form of Lord Shiva, shown in a sitting posture with his wife Parvati to his left and their son Skanda in the middle. The origin of this Somaskanda form of Lord Shiva is intertwined with the legend of the valorous King Muchukunda Chola. The original earthen image of Lord Shiva, which is enshrined in the adjoining sanctum predates this metal image.

Three walled enclosures with circumambulatory paths surround this main sanctum in typical Chola style, with towering spires on the eastern and western flanks.  The vast temple tank Kamalalayam abuts the western entrance.

As one enters from this side, a small deviation to the left leads to the shrine of Goddess Kamalamba.

In the second enclosure, to the right of the entrance to the third enclosure is the shrine of Goddess  Nilotpalamba, regarded as the consort of Lord Thyagaraja.  Richly carved panels and pillars adorn the inner enclosure, the dark cavernous interiors adding to the mystical effect. 

Adding to the sanctity of Tiruvarur, the three great composers of Carnatic Music,  Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastry were all born here. Muthuswami  Dikshitar had special attachment to Tiruvarur and the temple of Thyagaraja and has  immortalized them through his compositions on Lord Thyagaraja.

Dikshitar’s group  songs on Goddesses Kamalamba and Nilotpalamba rank among the masterpieces in any  music of the world. His songs on various forms of Lord Ganapati, including the famous  Vatapi Ganapati and on the Nine Planets were also composed here. The spiritual  vibrations of the Tiruvarur temple immerse the visitor in tranquility and a plenitude of bliss.

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