Papanasanathar Temple, Papanasam – The Temple
A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all its shrines, pierced by a seven-tiered gateway tower. The image of Papanasanathar in the form of Lingam is housed in the sanctum. The shrine of Ulagammai is housed in a west facing shrine. The shrine also houses the images of Vinayaka, Subramanya, Dakshinamurthy, Durga, and Navagrahas on the walls. Of the nine Kailash Kshetras – Nava Kailash – Papanasam is the first attributed to Sun God. Hence, the place is known as Surya Kshetra and Surya Kailash. Sthala Vriksham is Kala tree.
The beautiful temple of Papanasar is huge. It is located in a very scenic spot surrounded by trees, Tamirabarani River on the opposite direction and with the Western Ghats hills behind. It has gigantic seven-tier tower (Raja Gopuram). A vast pillared front side mandapa before entering into the tower with a beautiful entrance arch having stucco images and another mandapa facing towards the tower enhance the elegance of the site. Nandi Mandapa is artistically beautiful. Bali peetha and the flag staff are huge. All of them are located in a hall full of huge pillars. Ganesha and Subramanya idols are located at the entrance. Navagraha shrine is located adjacent to the flag staff.
The main deity of the temple is Papanasar, a small sized Shiva Linga, located in the east facing sanctum sanctorum. The body of Lord Papanasar is wholly and naturally made of Rudraksha who is also known as Rudraksha Nathar. The old name of Papanasar is Vairaja Lingam. The Shivalinga here is known as Mukkila Lingam and Lord Shiva graces his devotees as Rudraksha in the sanctum sanctorum and also under the Mukkila tree in the corridor-prakara.
The entrance of ardha mandapa has the bas relief images of Ganesha and Subramanya-Valli-Devasena. In the maha mandapa, a sub shrine of the metal idols of Nataraja and Sivakami is found. There is a separate pillared mandapa outside the maha mandapa. The entire shrine is built as per the maada kovil architectural style. Nandi is found facing towards Lord Shiva in this mandapa.
The deities that are found in the inner prakara surrounding the shrine of Papanasar:
· Adhikara Nandi
· Aditya Linga
· 63 Nayanmars
· Sapta Matas
· Kanni Vinayaka
· Dhakshinamoorthi as the niche image
· Madhya Linga and Nandi
· Shiva Linga – Parvati – Nandi – Ganesha
· Pazhamarai Nathar (Shiva Linga)
· Soma Linga
One of the highlights of the temple is the numerous bas relief images that are found in the exterior wall of the main shrine. Some of the images that are found here:
· Shiva with eight arms
· Shiva with bow and arrow
· Amman with four arms
· Various saints in groups of two
· Shiva dancing with his one leg facing upwards
· Krishna with four arms – holding flute, conch and disc – surrounded by cows and snake
· Eka Pada Murti
· Vishnu standing and sitting postures
· Various saints in different postures
· Durga with four arms
· Amman with four arms
· Rama – Sita – Lakshman
The west facing shrine adjacent to the flagstaff has a hall with yali pillars, where Nataraja is housed. Nataraja is routed in Ananda Thandava posture and also called as Punugu Sabapathy. It is located adjacent to Rajagopuram.
Kalyana Sundarar Shrine:
There is a rare and important shrine located in the prakara - Kalyana Sundarar shrine. Here, Shiva along with his consort Parvati is sitting on top of Rishabha. The sage Agastya along with his wife Lopamudra and also Gundodhara with his consort are found. All are stone images; usually Kalyana Sundarar is found in the form of metal idol.
The Goddess of the temple Ulagammai is found in the standing posture; her shrine is more or less equal to that of Papanasar shrine in size. It has its own ardha mandapa, maha mandapa and the pillared exterior mandapa. A separate Nandi is located facing the Goddess. Her shrine is located adjacent to Papanasar shrine and it also faces the eastern direction.
There is a pounding stone (Ural in Tamil) in front of the shrine of Mother Ulagammai. Women use to pound turmeric and make the turmeric water for abishek to the Mother. They consume a little of this abishek water hoping they will be married soon and blessed with a child. Married women believe that this abishek water consumption would also increase the longevity of their Mangal Sutras.
Similar to the other ancient temples in Thirunelveli region, this temple also has big sculptures in the pillars such as Yazhis, the mythological animal in different postures, Arjuna, Karna, a soldier, a king with folded hands, etc. There are beautiful and intrinsic sculptures of many Rishis, Kali, Urthuva Thandava, Bitchadanar, Nirtha Ganapathy, Thiripura Samharam, Perumal, Ekapathamoorthy, Brahmma, Subramanyar and Devi in between Sangamalai.
The temple tank in the temple is called Papanasa Theertham, while two other tanks namely Agasthya Theertham, Tamirabarani River, Veda Theertham, Bhairava Theertham and Kalyani Theertham are also associated with the temple.