Sri Naganathaswamy Temple (Rahu Stalam), Tirunageswaram – Worship & Religious Practises
The temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. Like other Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Shaivaite community, a Brahmin sub-caste. The temple rituals are performed six times a day; Ushathkalam at 6:00 a.m., Kalasanthi at 9:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 1:00 p.m., Sayarakshai at 5:00 p.m., Irandamkalam at 7:00 p.m. and Ardha Jamam at 9:00 p.m.
There is a separate calendar for the Rahu Abhishekam (sacred ablution): it is performed twice in a day at 11:30 a.m and 5:30 p.m. and additionally twice at various times in the day. Each ritual comprises four steps: Abhishekam (sacred bath), Alangaram (decoration), neivethanam (food offering) & deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for both Shiva and Mother.
The worship is held amidst music with nagaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument), religious instructions in the Vedas (sacred text) read by priests and prostration by worshippers in front of the temple mast. There are weekly rituals like Somavaram and sukravaram, fortnightly rituals like Pradosham and monthly festivals like Amavasai (new moon day), Kiruthigai, Pournami (full moon day) and sathurthi.
The Brahmotsavam or prime festival is celebrated for ten days in the Tamil month of Karthigai (November–December). There is a procession in silver vehicle, marriage festival of the presiding deity, another procession around the streets of Tirunageswarm in temple chariot, sanctification in temple tank and concludes with Vidayathri (farewell function) when a flower palanquin takes the images of the temple deities around the temple.
The festival is celebrated amidst music with nagaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument) and religious instructions in the Vedas (sacred text) and Tevaram read by priests. Kandashasti festival is celebrated for six during October or November every year when Murugan, the son of Shiva, symbolically kills the demon Surapadma. The scene is enacted in the South Street of the temple during the festival.
As per local legend, Rahu got relieved of his pains praying to Naganathar during a Shivarathri day and the day is celebrated in the temple. Navarathri Festival is celebrated for nine days for Giri Gujambigai and the images of Naganathar and Giri Gujambigai is taken in horse chariot on Vijayadasami, the concluding day of the festival.
Sekkizhar Vaikasi Pooja is celebrated from 1969 on the birth date of Sekkizhar, the author of Periya Puranam, the epic describing the life history of the 63 nayanars. Rahu Peyarchi is a festival celebrated once every 1.5 years on the star when Rahu switches its planetary position from one rasi (galaxy) to the other.