Monday, May 3, 2010

Suryanaar Koyil Kumbakonam

Suryanaar Koyil is located in the hamlet of Tirumangalakkudi near Kumbhakonam and Mayiladuturai near Thanjavur in Tamilnadu. This is a one of a kind temple dedicated to the Sun God and it also houses shrines to each of the other eight celestial bodies - the Nava Grahams. Very closeby, are the Shivastalams Tirumangalakkudi and Kanjanur (Sukrastalam).

Shrines for Surya are seen in many temples in Tamilnadu such as Tirukkodikka, Alagadriputtur, Ennayiram, (Rajendra Chola), Tirumanikkuzhi (Kulottunga), Tirupparaitturai, Tiruppattur, Kovilur etc. ; however a standalone temple for Surya is more of an exception than a rule.

Suryanaar Koyil was built by the Chola kings. Inscriptions from the period of Kulottunga Chola I (1075-1120) refer to this temple as the Kulottunga Chola Martanda Alayam. Kulottunga Chola is said to have had a good relationship with the Gahadwal dynasty of Kanauj (1090 - 1194), whose rulers were Sun worshippers, and hence Suryanar Koyil, is considered to be an expression of their influence in South India.

Inscriptions from the period of Krishna Deva Raya, speaking of endowments made to this temple are also seen here.

The Suryanar temple faces west. The presiding deity here is Suryanarayana in a chariot like vimaanam, representing the sun's chariot. There are also shrines to Kasi Viswanathar, Visalakshi and Brihaspati (Guru) in the sanctum. Shrines to the other celestial bodies are located outside of the sanctum.

The sanctum and the ardhamandapam are built of stone, while the rest of the shrines are brick structures. The Kol Theertha Vinayakar shrine is considered to be of importance here. An elaborate worship protocol involving circumambulating the entire temple nine times, is prescribed for devotees visiting the temple. Protocol requires that one visits the Tirumangalakkudi Shivastalam before visiting Suryanaar Koyil.

Ratha Saptami in the Tamil month of Thai, and the first Sundays in the months of Aavani (Leo) and Kartikai (Scorpio) and Vijaya Dasami are celebrated in this temple.

Navagraha Temples in Tamilnadu

Navagraha temples are temples devoted to Navagraha - the nine (nava) major celestial bodies (Grahas) of Hindu astronomy. These celestial bodies are named Surya (Sun), Chandra (Moon), Chevvaai/Mangal (Mars), Budhan (Mercury), Guru/Brihaspati (Jupiter), Shukra (Venus), Shani (Saturn), Rahu (North Lunar Node) and Ketu (South Lunar Node). Many temples in South India contain a shrine dedicated to the Navagrahas. However, the term Navagraha temples refers to a cluster of nine separate temples, each an abode of one of the Navagrahams.

There is a cluster of Navagraha Temples dating from the Chola dynasty near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu. Each temple is located in a different village, and is considered an abode of one of the Navagrahas. However, the majority of these temples are dedicated to Shiva. The Surya temple is the only one dedicated to the Graham. In fact, it is dedicated entirely to the worship of the Sun-God and the other navagrahas, the former being the the object of worship as the principal deity and the latter as attendant deities. It was built around the 11th or 12th century C.E. The other temples were built earlier, ranging back to 7th-9th century.

Surya Navagrahastalam -- Tirumangalakkudi or Sooriyanar Kovil[1]
Chandra Navagrahastalam -- Tingaloor[2][3]
Angaarakan Navagrahastalam -- Puttirukku Velur or Vaitheeswaran Kovil [4]
Budha Navagrahastalam -- Thiruvenkaadu[5]
Guru Navagrahastalam -- Aalangudi[6]
Sukra Navagrahastalam -- Kanjanoor[7]
Shani Navagrahastalam -- Tirunallar[8]
Raahu Navagrahastalam -- Tirunageswaram[9]
Ketu Navagrahastalam -- Keezhperumpallam[10]