Shanmughanathar Temple, Kunnakudi, Karaikudi – The Temple
The temple is located in Kundrakudi, in the outskirts of Karaikudi in Sivaganga district in Tamilnadu on the road from Tiruppattur to Karaikudi. The hill has a height of 40 m (130 ft.) and occupies an area of 6.5 acres (26,000 m2). The temple has a five tiered Rajagopuram, the gateway tower rising to a height of 16.5 m (54 ft.), which pierces the granite wall surrounding the temple. The sanctum faces East and the image of the presiding deity Murugan is sported with the images of his consort Valli and Deivayanai, each of whom are seen sitting on a peacock.
There are shrines of other deities around the sanctum in the precinct. There are three caves in the western side of the lower hill, with rock-cut images dedicated to Shiva in each of them. The first two caves have intricate rock-cut sculptures and Dvarapalas on either side of the sanctum, while the third one is plain. There are various sculpted images of Vishnu, Durga, Lingodbhava, and Harihara. The image of Dvarapalas in the caves, on either sides of the sanctum, with each leaning in the direction facing the sanctum, are found to be the earliest representation of the images. These are not found in Pallava architecture, which precedes the Pandyas.
The caves are considered one of the major specimens of rock-cut architecture of the Pandyas, counted along with Vettuvan Koil, Thirumalai Puram and Thiruparankundram. As you climb the steps (which are not very tiring) you come across the Sannidhi of Idumban. At the top of the steps you can see the Sannidhi of Vallabha Ganapathy. As you enter the main sanctum you are mesmerized by the beauty of Lord Shanmuga with his six faces and twelve arms sitting in a beautifully carved peacock.
The peacock and the Lord are of monolithic (carved out of a single stone). His consorts Valli and Deivanai have their own peacocks as their Vahanas. In a crowded day it may not be possible to leisurely look at these beautiful sculptures). As you come out of the sanctum, you can see the beautifully carved pillars. The hill is in the shape of a peacock. As Muruga’s peacock vehicle was relieved of its curse here, the hill is called Mayil Malai-peacock hill.
For many, the hill appears in a peacock form. Lord Muruga is also known as Chetty Murugan, Kundrayur Udayan, Mayuragirinathan, Mayil Kalai Kandan, Kundrai Murugan, Thenattrunathar etc. The temple is praised in the Thirupugazh hymns of Saint Arunagirinathar. The Theerthams of the temple are Saravana Poigai, Thenaru and Mayil theertham. The special feature of the temple is that Valli, Deivanai and Lord Muruga grace darshan individually sitting on a peacock.
There are evidences that enlightened souls lived here. There are also some Brahmi epigraphic evidences in the Jain Ashrams-Pazhis. Idumba from Kalinga carried a Kavadi to this temple and got his stomach pain cured. There are also shrines to Vinayakar, Kuzhandai Vadivelar, Meenakshi Sundareswarar, Dakshinamurthy, Natarajar, Chandeswarar & Navagrahams. Images of Veerabahu and Idumban are also in this temple.
The temple is under the control of Kundrakudi Aadhinam and maintained by them efficiently. At the bottom of the hill, there is a small temple for Lord Ganesh who is the brother of Lord Muruga and another temple is also at the bottom of the hill itself for Lord Muruga in the name Lord Palani Murugan. In this Palani Murugan temple the main statue is not fixed on floor and set up in a bar because this statue is brought from Palani by the Kundrakudi Pada yatra group people every year at the time of Thaipoosam festival.
Then on the way to the main temple three more mini temples are there, two temples for again Lord Ganesha and one for Lord Kadamba who is one of the devotees of Lord Muruga. Generally the Nine Planets Lord are set up facing various directions but here all planets are set up facing the Main statue of Lord Muruga.