Panchavarnaswamy Temple, Woraiyur – The Temple
Panchavarnaswamy temple complex has three prakarams (outer courtyard) and a five-tiered Rajagopuram (gateway tower). Moolavar is called as Panchavarneswarar and Mother is called as Kanthimathi Ammai. Theertham is Shiva Theertham and Naga Theertham. Sthala Vriksham is Vilwam Tree. At the entrance, a beautiful and richly decorated Nandi greets the visitor. The temple has a maha Mandapam, ardha mandapam and a sanctum sanctorum. The central shrine faces east and holds the image of Panchavarna Swamy (Shiva) in the form of lingam made of granite.
Lord Shiva of the temple is a Swayambumurthy. Lord showed five colours – golden yellow, white, red, black and smoke ash – to Lord Brahmma, hence praised as Aivanna Perumal in Tamil and Panchavarneswarar in Sanskrit – Lord of five colours. The devotee can observe the change of colours in the Linga during each puja. The Shivalingam held in worship here is very small in size. The sanctum faces east while the Ambal shrine faces south.
Lord Shiva is known as Panchavarneswarar as he is said to have manifested himself in 5 different colours to Utanga Munivar. The shrine for Utanga Munivar is situated directly across the main sanctum. Goddess Kanthimathi Ammai, the consort of Panchavarneswarar adorns Ankusham and Lotus in her two hands and faces north. Close to the shrine, one can see the images of Mahavishnu, the sun god, Lord Saneeswara and Kala Bhairavamurthy.
In the Arthamandapam, at the entrance to the sanctum sanctorum, there are two brilliant six feet tall Dwarapalakas with typical 8th century features. Both the images are brilliantly decorated. The 4 feet tall granite idol of Chandikeswara inside the shrine on the northern side is one of the tallest granite idols. There are shrines to Ambal, Vinayakar, Subramanyar and Mahalakshmi here. The pillared hall has a number of exquisite carvings like the multi faced Ganapathy, Thandava Shiva and Kali.
The granite images of the deities Ganesha (son of Shiva and god of wisdom), Murugan (son of Shiva and god of war), Nandi (the bull and vehicle of Shiva) and Navagraha (nine planetary deities) are located in the hall leading to the sanctum. As in other Shiva temples of Tamilnadu, the first precinct or the walls around the sanctum of Panchavarnaswamy has images of Dakshinamurthy (Shiva as the Teacher), Durga (warrior-goddess) and Chandikeswarar (a saint and devotee of Shiva). The second precinct is surrounded by granite walls.
The temple has many interesting legends. One such is that when the Chola King Veeravathithan's elephant became uncontrollable, a cock suddenly appeared and disciplined the elephant and disappeared. There is a description of this legend in the temple panels. Incidentally the place where the temple is located is also called Kozhiyur (place of cock) and the Lord of the temple is also named after it. Another interesting fact is that a cock suddenly appeared inside the temple one day, a few years ago, and since then it is staying there, without being disturbed by the temple activities.
The temple is replete with sculptural work depicting legends associated with the temple. For instance there are wondrous pieces of sculpture on some of the temple pillars that appear as four women from one angle, and as a horse from another. There are eight historical inscriptions in the temple, which are recorded by Epigraphy India as 181-188 of 1907. One of them dated the fourth year of a ruling Chola king records a gift of the village Atigunakapaganallur to the maintenance of the temple.
The historical introduction of Chola king Rajendra Chola I can be traced in the inscription. Another inscription on the north wall of the presiding deity during the seventh year of Raja Raja Chola I mentions Rajasraya-Chaturvedimangalam in Uraiyur-kurram, a subdivision in Keralankata-valanadu. The temple is mentioned as Udaiyar tiurndaitalai Mahadeva at Tiru-uraiyur. The epigraph 51 of 1890 on a rock called Cholamparai near Uraiyur, mentions a record of Tribhuvanachakravartin Tribhuvanavira-Vikramadeva. This temple was renovated in the year 2002.