Swetharanyeswarar Temple, Thiruvenkadu – The Temple
The main deity is Shiva - Swetharanyeswarar ("lord of white forest") and the goddess is Brahma Vidya Ambal. There is a separate Sannidhi for Bhudan (mercury). The temple is quite large and all four important Saivite saints have sung in praise of this lord. This temple is especially known for its unique incarnate of Lord Shiva called "Agora Murthi". He is one of the main gods who is being prayed in this village.
The Swetharanyeswarar Temple is also called Adi Chidambaram and the secret of the formless and infinite divinity, that is called Chidambara Rahasyam, is also found in this kshetram (Holy place). As seen in Chidambaram, Lord Vishnu too has his shrine in this huge temple complex.
Thiruvenkadu Temple is surrounded by five enclosures known as Pancha prakarams. In this kshetram, Lord Shiva is consecrated as Agoramurthy (wild and angry form) and also as Nataraja (Lord of Dance). Lord Yama, God of Dharma and Death, was punished here for taking the life of Swetakethu. Yama prayed to Lord Shiva here and was relieved of his curse. Thus the lord is called Swetharanyeswarar. The main sanctum has a large Sivalingam.
A unique feature about Swetharanyeswarar Temple is that the image of Lord Shiva has five faces: Eesanam, Tatpurusam, Aghoram, Vamadevam and Sadyojatam. They each represent a direction and an aspect of Lord Shiva. Eesanam faces the sky and represents purity; Vamadevam faces north and represents sustenance; Tatpurusha faces east and represents spirituality that has destroyed the ego; Aghoram faces south and represents the destructive and regenerative aspect of Shiva; and Sadyojatam faces west and represents creation.
To the northwest, in the main praharam, are the enclosures for Agora Murthy and a separate shrine for Lord Nataraja (Shiva the God of Dance). Agora Murthy is Shiva with a beast’s head and a bird’s body. He took this form to kill an Asura (demon) called Padmasuran under the Vanni tree here. It is the counterpart of the Narasimha Avataram of Lord Vishnu.
The image of Agora Murthy is 6 – 7 feet tall. The Nataraja here is unique as he has a shrine similar to the one in the famous Chidambaram temple. It is said that Shiva performed seven types of dances in Swetharanyeswarar Temple. The Nataraja icon holds seven instruments and weapons called Vethalam, Khadgam, Udukku, Mani, Kedayam, Kapalam and Trisulam.
Nandi at the entrance has a unique feature here. It bears nine scars on its body and is seated at the entrance of Devi’s shrine. The face is turned towards the Lord’s shrine and the bull’s ears are cocked towards the shrine of Devi, signifying that it is ready to receive orders from the Divine Couple impartially. Devi, in the form of Bhadrakali, has a separate shrine. Next to the Amman shrine you can see Brahma who was the father of the goddess of this temple, Brahma Vidya Nayaki.
The Ashta (eight) Lakshmis are installed in two shrines with four forms in each shrine. The Navagrahas (nine planets) too have their own special place so that devotees can go round them. There are three sthala Vrikshams (temple trees): the Vilvam, Vadaval and Kondrai.
Swetharanyeswarar Temple also has three holy tanks called Agni Theertham, Surya Theertham and Chandra Theertham which are said to have been created out of the three drops which fell from Lord Shiva's eyes when he was dancing. The rivers, Kaveri and Manikarnigai, flow near the holy shrine.
The unique feature of the temple here is that there are three murthis, three Sakthis, three sthala vritchams and three holy tanks. The temple has big Rajagopurams in the east and the west. As you enter through the east entrance, we can see the flag post, Narthana Ganapathi in the flag post base, and Nandhi.
In the west is the corridor with hundreds of beautifully carved pillars and a shrine for Lord Arumuga. In the outer corridor we can see the shrine of Brahma Vidyambikai. Inside the shrine area you can see 'Pillai Idukki Annai' (mother carrying a child) and Sukravar Annai.
Towards south side of the temple we can see separate shrines for Varan Ganapathi and Somaskandar. In the north corridor we can see the Moolavar Agoramurthy and his Utsavar in separate shrines. In the centre is a big shrine for Swedaranyeswarar as Mahalingam. In the left side of the Ambal mandapam there is a separate shrine for Budhan.
This Shiva Temple is praised in Thevaram hymns by the four great saints Tirugnana Sambandar, Tirunavukkarasar, Manikavasagar and Sundaramurthy Nayanar. The stone inscriptions on the walls of the temples depict important historical information on the Chola Dynasty and about several kings of Vijayanagar.