Somanatheswarar Temple, Somangalam – The Temple
This ancient temple was built by the Chola king, Kulothunga, in 1073 A.D. Presiding Deity is known as Somanatheswarar and Mother is known as Kamakshi Amman. This has the Gajaprashta (look of the back of an elephant) vimanam. It is believed that 108 Shiva temples have been built by the same king. Thirumazhisai, Somangalam, Manimangalam Dharmeshvarar and Mannivakkam (Maniaandi, as it is called) are some of the temples of that group in this region. This has Somanatheswarar as the main deity with the Chandra adorning Shiva.
Inside the main sanctum, there is a unique statue of Lord Muruga in Brahma Sastha form with Gindi in one hand and Aksha Mala in another hand. Once Brahma was put behind bars by Subramania himself and he took charge of the work of creation for 3.75 Naazhi. During that period babies were born beautifully and so Murugar is also called Azhagan. It is said that there was a separate Kandhaswamy temple housing this Subramaniar and when the temple became dilapidated in due course, He was brought into this temple.
Natarajar as ‘Chathura Thandava Moorthy’ is present in the sanctum which is again very unique and rarely seen anywhere. Chathuram (square) is the shape of moon god that coincides with the Chathura Thandavam of Natarajar. There are separate shrines for Ganesha, Surya, Bairavar, Dhakshinamurthy, Vishnu and Goddess Durga. There are inscriptions belonging to 5 different time periods but some of them have been painted over in the process of renovation.
In the outer praharam there are idols of Saptha Mathas, the first in the row being Jeshta Devi, the Ambal of Lord Saturn a rare idol. Sri Jyeshta Devi is said to be the elder sister of Sri Mahalakshmi, who evolved earlier to Sri Mahalakshmi when the mighty ocean was churned. Also present is Maandhi with buffalo head born to Jeshta Devi and Saneeswaran. Vinayagar, Dhakshinamurthy, Mahavishnu, Brahma, Sandikeswarar & Durgai are seen on the outer walls of the sanctum.
The Sthala Viruksham for this temple is Sarakondrai Maram which is found on the northern side of the sanctum. There is a small shrine having small Shiva Lingam below this tree and is called Vruksha Lingam. An image of a tree is carved on stone above this Lingam. A few dilapidated idols are seen near Sthala Viruksham. The Theertham for this temple is said to be Sandeeswarar Theertham, which is believed to be created by Sri Sandikeswarar.
Another Theertham is Soma Theertham, which was created by Moon God is present a little away from the temple. There is a small temple for Vinayaka just outside the main temple. As you enter the gate which is in the south to the left you see the main sanctum of Lord Shiva and a small Sannidhi for Vinayaka. This main Sannidhi has the statues of Brahma and Murugan on the left.
The main Sivalingam is imposing and serene with the garbagruha very cool on a hot day. You can see the Nandi outside this complex facing east away from Siva next to the main Sannidhi. In front of the main gate is the imposing Sannidhi of Kamakshi Devi facing south. Between the Sivan and Kamakshi sannidhis to the North West is another separate Sannidhi for Murugar with his consorts in the outer praharam built later in 1935.
To the Eastern sides facing the Siva shrine are the sannidhis of Chandran and Suryan flanking the gate. You can see the Chandran Sannidhi below with a navagraha Sannidhi on the left. The walls of the Somanatheswarar temple are studded with sculptures and inscriptions. Noteworthy are the carvings of the vahanams or mounts of the respective deities on the pedestals. Chola era images of Dakshinamurti and Durga as Mahishasuramardhini are also seen here.
The earliest epigraph in this Siva temple is dated 1,174 A.D. (of the reign of Rajadhiraja Chola II), registering the gift of cows and providing the ancient name of this deity as Someshwaram Udaiyar. An interesting lithic record, of the time of Kulothunga III, dated 1,192 A.D., refers to breaches in the bunds of a lake in Somangalam for two years in succession. The lake bunds were repaired by one Kaman Kandavanavan, who also bore the expenses towards the annual repair of the tank. Several other inscriptions in the reign of this later Chola monarch are seen here.
This temple is a Parihara Sthalam for those having any Dhosham related to Chandra Bhagavan. Chandra Bhagavan has a separate shrine in the temple, facing west. Here one can see Nandhi unusually facing east instead of facing the Lord in the sanctum. This is one of the very unique features of this temple.