Rajendra Chozheeswarar Temple, Ilayankudi, Sivaganga
Rajendra Chozheeswarar Temple is dedicated to Hindu God Shiva located at Ilayankudi in Sivaganga District of Tamilnadu. Presiding deity is called as Rajendra Chozheeswarar and Mother is called as Gnambikai. Urchavar is Somaskandar. Thala Vriksham is Vilwa. Theertham is Deiva Pushkarani. Historically this place is called as Indira Avathara Nallur. This is the birth and salvation land of Ilayankudi Maranar, one of the 63 worshipful Saivite Nayanmars.
In order to be freed from the curse of a sage, Indira came to earth, installed Shiva Lingas in many places including this place for his worship. In order to test the Annadhana pledge of Ilayankudi Maranar, Lord made him poor but Nayanar continued his undertaking with a strong will. Lord visited his house one night. Though Nayanar had nothing to offer the guest, undeterred, went to the field, brought the paddy grown that day. His wife dried the wet paddy, made rice, cooked it with Palak and offered it to Lord Guest. Pleased with Maranar’s commitment and determination, Lord granted salvation to him and enthroned him as one among the Nayanars. Lord is gracing in this temple as Rajendra Chozheeswarar blessing his devotees.
Saint Ilayankudi Maranar has a shrine in the temple. He was praised by the people as Annadhana Prabhu. His service to Lord Shiva was through this service to society. He is praised as Healer of Hunger. Mara Nayanar and his wife Punithavathi come in procession in the same Chapparam along with Lord and Mother on Guru Puja day. This is an important event in the Temple.
Palak with stems – Thandu Keerai in Tamil, is offered as nivedhana to Lord. Maranar’s home and the land he cultivated are near the temple. His land is praised as “Mulai Vari Amudhu Alitha Nattrangal” meaning, the land that produced rice for nivedhana to Lord. As Nayanar attained salvation through his Annadhanam service, people follow this nivedhana practice as a prayer commitment.
There are separate entrances for the shrines for Lord, Mother Gnanambikai and Lord Muruga. Mother Gnanambikai blessing devotees with wisdom is south of Lord Shiva. Those aspiring excellence in education and academic pursuits pray in Mother’s shrine. Lord Muruga is in Shiva shrine front Mandapam without Mother Valli. As Indira installed the Shivalinga and worshipped here, it is said that his daughter Deivanai alone is with Lord Muruga.
Lord Venkatachalapathi graces from a shrine behind that of Lord Shiva. Lord Dakshinamoorthy in the goshta wall appears with only two disciples. There are shrines for Lords Mahaganpathy, Muruga with his consorts Valli and Deivanai, Navagrahas the nine planets, Sani Bhagwan, Sun and Moon in the prakara.
Ilayankudi Maranar (also spelt as Ilayangudi Maranar) is a Nayanar saint, venerated in the Hindu sect of Shaivism. He is generally counted as the fourth in the list of 63 Nayanars. He is also called Marar, Maran and Mara Nayanar, names he shares with Somasi Mara Nayanar. The two Nayanars are generally differentiated by the prefixes "Ilayankudi" and "Somasi".
The life of Ilayankudi Maranar is described in the Periya Puranam by Sekkizhar (12th century), which is a hagiography of the 63 Nayanars. Ilayankudi Maranar (Marar) was born in Ilaiyangudi (also spelt as Ilayankudi and Ilayangudi), presently in Sivaganga district of the Indian state of Tamilnadu. He derives his name from his birthplace. Marar was a Sudra by caste and worked as a farmer. He accumulated great wealth by agriculture. He was a staunch devotee of the god Shiva, the patron god of Shaivism and served the god and his devotees. He used to welcome devotees of Shiva to his home, ritually wash their feet and feed them a feast.
To test Marar's devotion, Shiva made his wealth wane. He continued to serve the devotees in penury, as he did in plenty. The Nayanar sold his properties to feed the devotees. On a night of torrential downpour, Shiva came disguised as a devotee and came to Marar's impoverished home. Marar welcomed the guest with respect, dried him and gave him a warm seat to sit. The starving couple pondered how they could feed the guest as the house had no food and it was pouring outside. The wife suggested that the paddy rains sown in the field can be gathered and prepared as a meal for the guest.
Marar rushed to the field in the deluge and gathered the flooding seeds from the field. Since there was no firewood, the Nayanar pulled a rafter from the wooden roof to use as fuel. While the wife cleaned and prepared the rice, Marar went to the backyard to bring greens (generally described as spinach) to prepare a curry. Marar went with the food to awaken the resting devotee. The devotee suddenly blazed like a flame. Shiva appeared in his true form with his consort Parvati and blessed the couple. He took Marar and his wife to his abode Kailash.
One of the most prominent Nayanars, Sundarar (8th century) venerates Ilayankudi Maranar (called Maran of Ilaiyankuti) in the Tiruthonda Thogai, a hymn to Nayanar saints. Ilayankudi Maranar is worshipped in the Tamil month of Avani, when the moon enters the Magha nakshatra (lunar mansion). He is depicted like a sage, usually with a beard and with folded hands. He receives collective worship as part of the 63 Nayanars. Their icons and brief accounts of his deeds are found in many Shiva temples in Tamilnadu. Their images are taken out in procession in festivals.
Ilayankudi Maranar is especially associated with Rajendra Chozheeswarar temple – dedicated to Shiva – in his home – town Ilaiyangudi. While the formal temple is derived from inscriptions of the king Rajendra Chola I (reign: 1012–1044 CE), the locals call the temple Jyotishvara, Lord of the flame, alluding to the legend of the Nayanar. A shrine is dedicated to the Nayanar in the temple. On Avani Magha day, icons of Ilayankudi Maranar and his wife Punithavathi as well as the presiding deities Shiva and Parvati is paraded in the village in a temple cart (Chapparam). The Naivedhyam (food offering) of spinach is presented to Shiva of this temple. Devotees also emulate the Nayanar by practising Annadana (charity in form of food). The Nayanar's house and field – situated near the shrine – are venerated as Mulai Vari Amudhu Alitha Nattrangal, the land which created Naivedhya for God.
Temple Opening Time
The temple is open from 6.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m. and from 4.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m.
Maha Shivrathri in February-March; Aipasi Annabishekam and Skanda Sashti in October-November; and Tirukarthikai in November-December are the festivals celebrated in the temple.
People pray here for food security and to cultivate in them the traits of being selfless and helpful to society. Devotees offer rice nivedhana to Lord and Annadhana to visitors.
Sri Rajendra Chozheeswarar Temple,
Ilayankudi-630 702, Sivaganga District
Phone: +91- 4564 - 268 544
Mobile: +91- 98651 58374
Ilayankudi is 10 km from Paramakudi on Karaikudi Road. The temple is close to bus stop. Nearest Railway Station is located at Paramakudi and Nearest Airport is located at Madurai.