Trip to Tirunallar

by krishnamoorthyb

Last week i went to offer prayers at the temple of Lord Saneeshwara at Tirunallar. Tirunallar is a small town about 35 kilometers from Mayavaram. Mayavaram, also called Mayiladuturai, is an hour drive from Kumbakonam. Interestingly, Tirunallar falls under the administrative jurisdiction of Pondicherry though Pondicherry is no where near this place! Tirunallar is famous for the temple dedicated to Lord Saneeshwara. According to Hindu culture and Zodiac, every person is under the influence of Lord Saneeswara for a period of seven and half years. This is called the Shani period.  A person has two Shani periods in his lifetime. It is a common belief that this Shani period brings with it lots of obstacles and difficulties in life.  Tirunallar is said to be the only temple where Lord Shani is in a benevolent mode. People visit this temple to propitiate Lord Shani and seek His benevolence and Grace to bear/overcome the obstacles to progress and happiness in their lives.  Legend has it that Nala (of the Nala Damayathi tale) overcame his Shani period by visiting this place.

The town as such is a small, laid back community that is typical of small town in Tamil Nadu. The temple is bordered by three ponds. Of these the pond named after Nala is called the Nala Theertham. It is said that Nala had a holy dip here. Devotees visiting the temple usually have a ceremonial dip in this pond and leave the clothes that they were wearing at the steps of the pond and proceed to the temple in fresh clothes. The temple is located inside an impressive courtyard and is maintained clean by the devasthanam (admin body).   I was surprised to see that the main deity in the temple (at least the deity inside the central and biggest Sanctum Sanctorum) was Lord Shiva. Lord Saneeshwara’s temple was located on the right side of the main entrance to the temple of Lord Shiva. The Santum Sanctorum of Lord Shani was beautiful and there was a clean marble stage opposite the deity for devotees to sit and offer prayers).  We were very fortunate to visit the temple on a day when there were very few devotees. This temple is legendary and on special days and Saturdays thousands of devotees throng here.  We reached the temple at 9.45 and were told that the abishekam will start only at 12.00 noon. We sat down on the marble podium and just watched the proceedings in the temple. It was impossible for me to pray with full concentration for hours on stretch and i resorted to bursts of prayer and settled to care free abandon most of the time. The abishekam started at 12.00 and was a very beautiful ritual. It is very difficult not to be carried away by the blessedness of the moment. We collected the prasadam after the abishekam and made our journey back to Mayavaram.

The geography of the place deserves special mention. The entire stretch from Kumbakonam to Mayavaram is unbelievably fertile. I finally got to see what is meant by ‘rolling feilds’. The journey by road from Mayavaram to Tirnunallar is right in the middle of lush green acres of paddy fields. I could not help but feeling that human habitation and signs of civilization were a rude interruption to the symphony of nature that this place is. Kumabakonam is itself a quaint little place. What stuck me was the ambience of the railway station that is so typical of railway stations all over India. The seek to endear the visitor to the beauty that is India. I was lucky to watch the glory of the sunrise from here. It is also one of those rare oddities where you have a platform on either side of the train!

The Tanjore Kumabakonam belt is famous for lots of temples with deep historical roots and powerful deities. It captures the essence of Shaivism and Vaishnavism that thrived in ancienct India. I was gald that i made this trip…