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Sri Gneelivaneswarar Temple at Thiruppaigneeli

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One among the 276 Devara Paadal Petra Shiva Sthalams, this temple is also the 61st Shiva Sthalam on the northern banks of the Cauvery river in Chola Nadu (Vadakarai). In this temple, Lord Shiva is a Swayambumurthy (self-manifested). It is one of the 44 Paadal Petra Sthalams where the three saints or Moovar – saint Thirunavukkarasar, Saint Sundaramurthy, and Saint Thirugnanasambandhar, rendered their Pathigams. Thiruppaigneeli is often called South Kailash. A unique aspect of this temple is that it has a shrine for Lord Yama, the God of death. People who wish to perform poojas to remove impediments to marriage and get child boons, visit this temple. The temple faces east, and its main tower or Rajagopuram is not complete. The last Maha Kumbabishekam here was held on 2.2. 2017, and before that on 6.2.2003.

Temple History

Sri Gneelivaneswarar Temple

The temple is found on the northern bank of the Kollidam river, and it occupies 12 acres of land. The main tower was supposedly built by King Konerinmai Kondaan, but construction stopped after the first tier. Its stone inscriptions go back to the periods of the Chola kings, Rajendran, Rajadhirajan, Rajarajan, and Konerinmai Kondaan.

Yama’s shrine is like a cave or Gunabaram, and the Pallava king, Mahendra Varma, is said to have built it in 640 AD. The place gets its name from the Sthala Vruksham, the ‘Gneeli’ plant. Gneeli is a kind of plantain, and ‘pain’ denotes ‘lush green’. Other names for this place are Kadalivanam, Arambaivanam, Muthumalai, Vimalaaranyam, Swethagiri, and Viyakrapuri.

Legends of the temple

Many divine beings have supposedly worshipped Lord Shiva in this temple. They include Goddess Parvati, Kamadhenu, Mahavishnu, Ram, the Saptarishis, Indra, Adiseshan, Vayu, Agni, etc. Sage Vashista, Arjuna, Sudhama Munivar, King Kaliyugarama Pandiyan, King Musukunda Chola, Sivamithiran, Padumakarpan, Viyakirasuran, Ankamithiran, and Sutharman are also believed to have worshipped the Lord here.

The Lord here has many names, around 43, in fact. Some of them are Neelakandar, Gneelivananathar, Kadalivasanthar, Aaranyavidankar, and Sakrathiyagar.

Yama’s Rebirth

The Sthala Purana says that Shiva restored Yama to life after he was killed to save Markandeya in Thirukadaiyur. Mahavishnu, Brahma, Bhoomidevi, and the Devas arrived at this temple and requested Shiva to restore Yama to life in order to maintain the cycle of life and death. On Thai Poosam day, Shiva brought Yama back to life. So he is called Adhikaravallavar here (adhikaram means ‘power’ in Tamil). Shiva, Parvati, and Murugan, as Somaskanda, can be seen inside Lord Adhikaravallavar’s shrine. Under Shiva’s feet, Yama can be seen in a child’s form. On either side of Shiva’s idol, near the ceiling, Surya (sun) and Chandra (moon) are seen fanning the lord with a chamaram or fan. The shrine is called Yama Dharmaraja temple.

The cosmic dance of Lord Shiva

On Thai Poosam day, Lord Shiva performed his cosmic dance in Chidambaram. On hearing this, Sage Vashista went to Mt. Kailash and requested him to perform the dance. Shiva told him to go to Gneelivanamakiya Thiruppaigneeli. When he did so, he had the good fortune to witness Shiva’s cosmic dance. The temple is also called “Melai Chidambaram’. Rathina sabha is the place where the dance was performed. Legend has it that Sri Rama visited the temple to worship Lord Shiva before proceeding to Lanka, to rescue Sita. This was as per Sage Vashista’s advice.

Origins of Sthala Vruksham

Goddess Parvati is said to have come here and worshipped Lord Shiva. When the seven virgins or Sapta Kanyakas came here to get Parvati’s darshan before their wedding, she blessed them and said that they would find good grooms. She also told them that they could remain in that place as plantain trees so that they could get her darshan always. So they assumed the form of plantain trees and stayed there. These trees became the Sthala Vruksham.

South Kailash or Then Kailasam

Mythology has it that Adiseshan, the serpent on whom Vishnu reclines, and Vayu had frequent fights concerning supremacy. On one occasion, Adiseshan encircled Mt. Kailash. Vayu tried to create a tornado to break his hold. The tornado made eight parts of Kailash fall on different places on earth. These places were Thirukalahasti, Thiruvannamalai, Thiruchiramalai, Thiruenkoimalai, Neerthagiri, Rajathagiri, and Swethagiri. The last mentioned is also the name of Thiruppaigneeli. As it is said to have originated from Mt. Kailash, it is known as Then Kailasam or South Kailash.

Saint Thirunavukkarasar’s encounter with Shiva

Once, Saint Appar or Thirunavukkarasar was going to worship Lord Gneelivana Nathar in Thiruppaigneeli. He was feeling tired and hungry when he saw a priest who offered him some ‘kattamudhu’ that he had with him. He told him to slake his thirst with water from a nearby tank. Then he took the saint to the temple, but when they reached it, the priest vanished. Appar received darshan from Lord Shiva and Parvati, both sitting on Nandi, his mount. This incident is why the Lord here is called Chottrudaya Easwarar or the Lord who offered rice (choru is rice in Tamil). Every year, on Avittam star day, in Chithirai month (April-May), this event is celebrated in the temple. The tank at the place where Shiva offered food to Appar can still be seen near the temple premises.

King Kaliyugarama Pandiyan gets cured

It is said that King Kaliyugarama Pandiyan of Madurai came here seeking relief from illness by praying to the Lord here. After praying for eight days, he took a dip in the temple’s holy waters. There were eight of them. After doing this, his illness was cured.

Temple Deities

Apart from the shrines of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, there are also shrines and idols for Vasantha Vinayakar, Chotrudaya Easwarar, Adhikaravallavar, Vinayakar, Natarajar, Murugan, Somaskandar, Ardhanareeswarar, Dakshinamurthy, Brahma, Durgai, Mahavishnu, Kasi Viswanathar, Mahalakshmi, Sudama Munivar, and Saptha Mathakkal in the corridors.

One can also see the idols of guardian deities like Chinnandavar and Periyandavar in the corridors.

The temple has no Navagraham.

Special features

The belief is that Suryan (Sun) reveres Lord Shiva here by directing his rays on the lingam in Purattasi (September-October) and Panguni (March-April) months.

Two shrines for Goddess Parvati can be seen in this temple.

A separate Navagraham is not seen here as Lord Yama is considered to be their lord. The Navagrahas in this temple are represented by the nine steps from “Ravana gate” to Lord Shiva’s shrine and also the nine holes in front of Nandi, the bull.

The Nandhi near the Kodimaram or flag post is believed to be Swayambu (self-manifested).

The Sthala Vruksham (Gneeli) here does not grow in any other place.

The Vimanam above the sanctum sanctorum is known as “Badra Vimanam”.

A few of the stones in this temple sport stripes like a tiger’s. Stones of this kind are found only in this village.

Idols of Shiva and Mahavishnu (Senthamarai Kannan) can be seen inside Lord Vinayakar’s shrine. Lord Dakshinamurthy can be seen with Nandi under his feet. These are unique to this temple.

Sudama Munivar did penance here for many years and gained salvation. His tomb or “Jeeva Samadhi” can be seen in the outer corridor.

Significance of the temple

On their 60th and 80th birthdays, devotees perform poojas in Lord Yama’s shrine. They believe that it can grant them a long and prosperous life.

According to the Sthala Puranam, the sacred trees here represent the Devakanyarkal (virgins). Those who are facing hurdles in marriage perform poojas here by tying a “mangal sutra” on the trees. Those seeking progeny blessings offer poojas to the Sthala Vruksham here.

Since Lord Yama was reinstated to his former position in this place, many believe that worshipping Lord Shiva here would help restore their lost fortunes.

Important festivals

Many festivals are celebrated in this temple. They include:

  • There are special poojas for Lord Yama on Poosam star day in the Thai month (Jan-Feb).
  • Shivaratri is celebrated in the month of Masi (Feb-Mar).
  • The 10-day Chithirai Brahmotsavam is held in the month of Chithirai (April-May).
  • Guru Pooja for Thirunavukkarasar (Appar).
  • Vinayakar Chaturthi in the month of Aavani (Aug-Sept).
  • Navaratri in the month of Purattasi (Sept-Oct).
  • Pradosham is observed on a regular basis.
Temple Address

Gneelivaneswarar Temple,
Mannachanallur Taluk,
Tamil Nadu- 621005.
Tele: +91- 431 - 2902654, 2560011, 2560813, 9790107474.

Temple timings

06.30 am - 01.00 pm; 04.00 pm to 08.00 pm

S No Day/Temple Pooja Timing Timings
1 Monday 06.30 am - 01.00 pm; 04.00 pm to 08.00 pm
2 Tuesday 06.30 am - 01.00 pm; 04.00 pm to 08.00 pm
3 Wednesday 06.30 am - 01.00 pm; 04.00 pm to 08.00 pm
4 Thursday 06.30 am - 01.00 pm; 04.00 pm to 08.00 pm
5 Friday 06.30 am - 01.00 pm; 04.00 pm to 08.00 pm
6 Saturday 06.30 am - 01.00 pm; 04.00 pm to 08.00 pm
7 Sunday 06.30 am - 01.00 pm; 04.00 pm to 08.00 pm
8 Temple Closing Timings 01.00 pm to 4:00 pm

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