Athulya Nadheswara Temple, Arakandanallur, Thirukkoilur, Villupuram
Athulya Nadheswara Temple - This is a 1500-year-old temple where Saint Tirugnanasambandar in the 7th Century and Ramana Maharishi in August 1896 experienced God in the form of Light. This is also one of the 275 Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams.
Arakandanallur is about 2 kms from Thirukkoilur. It was originally called Araianinallur Arai (Rock) Ani (Decorate) Nallur (Good Village). Since huge rocks were found aplenty in this village on the banks of the Thenpennai River, it came to be known as Araianinallur. Today, it is called Arakandanallur.
Arai (Rock) Andai (Nearby) Nallur - Since the village is found near the huge rocks, Arai (Room) Kanda (found) Nallur - The temple houses five rooms apparently created by the Pandavas by cutting a huge rock, in order to hide during their vanavasa.
Aram (Charity) Kanda (done) Nallur - When daughters of King Vel Paari, Angavai and Sangavai got married to Deiveegan and Yenadhi Kannan, the sons of King Thirumudi Kaari, (both kings well known for their generosity and philanthropy), the newlyweds are said to have given away a lot of riches to the needy and poor at this place, because of which the name Aramkandanallur came to exist.
Lord as a Swayambu Linga is seated under a Rudraksha Pandal (roof) facing west. When saint Tirugnanasambandar came to this place, he found the temple locked by people of other faith stopping all pujas and functions. Sambandar sang in praise of Lord, opened the doors and restored the rituals. Both Pradosha Nandhi and Adhikara Nandhi leaned to right and left sides respectively to facilitate easy darshan of the Lord to the saint. Even now both Nandhis are seen looking at opposite directions to each other.
The huge complex with a seven tiered Rajagopuram, separate shrines for Arunachaleswara and the goddess Soundara Kanagambikai, apart from the main shrine beckon you.
On entering the temple complex, two small feet on a stone pedestal can be noticed. According to the legend, it belongs to Tirugnanasambandar, when Tirugnanasambandar, part of the famous quartet of Samaya Kuravars and one of the Nayanmars, a child prodigy and a great devotee of Lord Shiva, visited this temple, during the 7th Century; people from other faiths had blocked the entrance with boulders to prevent him from entering and worshipping here. However, when Tirugnanasambandar, sang verses in praise of the Lord, the boulders moved, giving way for him to enter the temple.
On entering, his disciples showed him Thiruvannamalai from where he stood. Overcome with joy, at the sight of the Lord Arunachaleswara, the young boy stood there and circumambulated, with eyes closed, and hands raised above his head. As he did so, his feet imprints were made on the stone. This has been raised on a pedestal and stands as a testimony to this historic event.
Next is the shrine of Arunachaleswara which is next to the pedestal. There was a rishi called Neelakandar who was on a pilgrimage in search of a cure for a curse he was undergoing. When he reached Arakandanallur and this temple, and saw Thiruvannamalai from here, he prayed to the Lord to give darshan to him as Arunachaleswara at Arakandanallur itself.
The Lord answered his prayers by appearing before him in the form of Arunachaleswara and curing him of his curse. The saint worshipped him there and that is the story behind the shrine of Arunachaleswara in this temple. There is also another version of this incident which says that Tirugnanasambandar could not visit Thiruvannamalai when he visited here, and was able to worship only from here and therefore he installed Arunachaleswara at this temple.
There is a separate shrine for the Goddess Soundara Kanagambai. In Tamil, she is known as Azhagiya Ponnammai. True to her name, she looks beautiful and magnificient will compassionate eyes and a divine smile. The Dwarapalakis on either side, with distinguished features, are a classic example of architecture of those days.
Next is the main shrine, the temple of the Lord Athulya Nadheswara - in Tamil he is called as "Oppillamaninathar. The meaning of Athulya Nadheswara is Unique and Superlative God. Lord Ganesha and Lord Nandeeswara in the Utsava Mandapam can be seen on either side of the entrance that leads to the main shrine.
Lord Athulyanadheshwara decorated in simple attire. There are two Nandis in front of him, turning out on either direction. They are said to have turned away, to allow Tirugnanasambandar to have an unobstructed view of the Lord.
The circumambulatory path around the Sanctum Sanctorum is in the form of a covered, raised platform, popularly called Thirunadaimaaligai in those days. There are several idols of gods and goddesses in this platform - each one of them unique in their own way. Idols of Balamurugan, Gajalakshmi, Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma with Aksharamala and Goddess Jyeshta Devi shall be seen.
Lord Vishnu took the form of Vamana and placed the third step on King Mahabali's head, and crushed him at Thirukkoilur where he is worshipped in the form of Trivikrama or Ulagalanda Perumal. To absolve himself from the sin, he prayed to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva asked him to go to Bhoolokam and worship him. Lord Vishnu went looking for the Swayambu form of Shiva that would absolve him of the sins and found this unique and exquisite swayambu lingam on top of the rocks on the banks of Pennai River and worshipped him. Lord Shiva blessed Lord Vishnu and absolved him from his sins. Happy with this, Lord Vishnu called him Athulyanadheshwara or the "Unique and Superlative Lord".
The unique feature here being that Bhairava is found here without his Vahana which is a rare occurrence. There is also a separate idol of Lord Saneeswara. The navagraha contains a unique idol of Sani Bhagavan with one leg placed on top of his vahana - the crow. Another unique feature here is the Vishnu Durgai found in this temple, is facing South direction which is rare and very special.
Beautiful and exquisite idols of Lingothbhava and Dhakshinamurthy shall be seen on the alcove of the main shrine. The Dhakshinamurthy is especially, absolutely unique and different. Idols of Sapthakannis, and the four saints, Appar, Sundarar, Manickavasagar and Tirugnanasambandar can also be seen. Especially Tirugnanasambandar is a delight to behold with the golden Thalams (Jaalra) that Lord Shiva himself gave him.
In the circumambulation path of the sanctum sanctorum, two idols can be seen on the wall to the extreme left, next to each other along with a citation that describes the significance of the spot.
To understand this better, we have to move back in time to August 30th, 1896. A young lad was on his way to Thiruvannamalai. Having boarded the train at Villupuram, he had money enough to buy a ticket only upto Mambalapattu. He got off the train there and started walking along the track. At one point, he saw a huge rock and a majestic temple standing over it, near the railway track. He walked towards the temple and waited for it to be opened.
Once it did, he went inside and sat to the left of the Sanctum Sanctorum. It was quiet and the little boy closed his eyes out of exhaustion and weariness. Slowly he could feel a light emerging from the Sanctum Sanctorum and growing in size as it came near him. It grew and grew, till it totally enveloped him in its golden warmth. The boy sat there basking in the light, till it disappeared.
The boy was Venkatraman, whom the world celebrated as Ramana Maharishi later on. The spot where he sat and experienced the vision of divine light was the exact location where young Tirugnanasambandar had done so in the 7th Century. There is a granite slab at the foot of Tirugnanasambandar that describes the experiencing of divine light by both him and Bhagavan Ramana at this spot.
There is a picture of Ramana here and information that says that the recent renovation work of the temple has been carried out mainly by the Nippon Ramana Kendra. Near this spot we can see the Stala Vinayakar, supposedly a swayambu murthi and the idols of Kasi Viswanathar with Goddess Visalakshi.
Next is the huge ornate door that leads to the Pandava Cave. Once out of the door, there are steps that lead down the huge rock on which the temple is placed. To the left is a rock cut shrine, which has five entrances that signify five rooms that were supposedly occupied by the Pandavas.
It is believed that the Pandavas were hiding here during their Vanavasa. Bheema had created a pool called Bheema Theertham using his mace, and had built a room on top of a rock over the Bheema Theertham for Draupadi to stay safely. For the five brothers, he had created five rooms by cutting a huge rock.
The path was full of stones, thorns and pieces of broken liquor bottles and it was quite apparent that the rock cut shrine was being used for undesirable activities. Stagnant murky water made entering the cave impossible. It was sad to see a monument associated with history in such bad shape.
There is also a Gangaiamman Temple near this cave maybe of later times.
The temple is praised by Saint Tirugnanasambandar in his Thevaram hymns. This is the 12th Shiva temple in Nadunaadu region praised in Thevaram hymns.
Temple Opening Time
The temple is open from 7.00 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 4.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m.
10 day Vaikasi Brahmotsavam in May-June, Maha Shivrathri in February-March and Tirukarthikai in November-December is the festivals observed in the temple.
Sri Atulya Nadheswarar Temple,
Arakandanallur - 605 752
Mobile: +91-93456 60711/ 99651 44849
The place is 35 km from Villupuram. Buses running to Thirukovilur from here pass through Arakandanallur. The Athulyanadheshwara temple (Coordinates: 11’ 58'25.70"N, 79’13'13.42"E) can be reached very easily.
When you get to the Arakandanallur Police Station, turn right. There is a slight incline, and a signboard pointing to the temple can be seen. Take a right turn again and go up the inclined slope, to reach the temple. Vehicles can ply right upto the temple and there is ample space available.
Near By Railway Station: Thirukovilur & Villupuram.
Near By Airport: Chennai & Pondicherry.