Tirunallar Dharbaranyeswarar Temple

Tirunallar Saniswaran Temple or Dharbaranyeswarar Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the deity Shiva, located in Thirukoodalaiyathoor, a village in Cuddalore district in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.[1] located in Tirunallar in Karaikal district of Pondicherry, India.[2] Shiva is worshipped as Dharbaranyeswarar, and is represented by the lingam. His consort Parvati is depicted as Praneswari Amman. The presiding deity is revered in the 7th century Tamil Saiva canonical work, the Tevaram, written by Tamil saint poets known as the Nayanars and classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam. The temple is counted as one of the nine temples in the Navagraha, the nine planetary deities. It is famous for shani, the planet Saturn.

Tirunallar Dharbaranyeswarar Temple
Thirunallar Dharbaranyeeswarar temple and tank
DeityDharbaranyeswarar(Shiva), Shani,Bogamartha Poonmulaiyaal(Parvathi)
Tirunallar Dharbaranyeswarar Temple is located in Tamil Nadu
Tirunallar Dharbaranyeswarar Temple
Location in Tamil Nadu
Geographic coordinates10°55′32″N 79°47′32″E / 10.92556°N 79.79222°E / 10.92556; 79.79222Coordinates: 10°55′32″N 79°47′32″E / 10.92556°N 79.79222°E / 10.92556; 79.79222
TypeDravidian architecture

The temple complex covers around two acre and entered through a five tiered gopuram, the main gateway. The temple has a number of shrines, with those of Dharbaranyeswarar, his consort Praneswari Amman, Saniswararan and Somaskandar being the most prominent. All the shrines of the temple are enclosed in large concentric rectangular granite walls. The present masonry structure was built during the Chola dynasty in the 9th century, while later expansions are attributed to Vijayanagar rulers. The temple is maintained and administered by the Department of Hindu Religious Institutions by the Government of Puducherry.

The temple has six daily rituals at various times from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and four yearly festivals on its calendar. Mahasivarathri festival celebrated during the month of the Chittirai (March - April) is the most prominent festival of the temple for the presiding deity, while Sanipeyarchi festival that occurs every 2.5 years is the most prominent for Shani.


The Rajagopuram of the temple

As per Hindu legend, the ruler of the region asked a shepherd to provide milk to the temple daily. The shepherd was a staunch devotee of Shiva and he was happily providing the quota of milk to the temple for ablution of the presiding deity. The government's headman who was living close to the temple asked the shepherd to give the milk he is offering to the temple to him and threatened him not to reveal this to the king. At a later point, the king came to know from the temple priest that the temple was not receiving the milk from the shepherd. The king wanted to punish the shepherd and asked him the reason for disobeying his order. Out of fear of the headman, the shepherd remained silent, which angered the king further. He ordered the shepherd to be slaughtered. The shepherd was praying to Shiva to relieve him off the punishment. When he was about to be slaughtered, Shiva stopped it with his trident. Following the legend, the altar (balipeetam) of the temple is slightly away from the axis of the flagstaff and the central shrine.[3]

As per another legend, Nala was ruling this region full of tropical grass locally called Darba after which the place came to be known as Darbaranyam (Aranyam indicates forest while Darba is a grass). Every person is afflicted by the movement of planet Saturn, which is believed to create negative effects on the lives of people. Nala was also afflicted by the planetary movement of Saturn on a day when he skipped standard practices of cleanliness.[4] He is believed to have resided in the temple to get himself off the curses of Shani, the planet Saturn. He prayed to Shiva and wanted him to protect all the devotees afflicted with Shani to be protected when they visit the temple. Following the legend, people afflicted take a holy dip with oil in Nala theertham, the temple tank and wear black dress.[5]


The temple is located in Thirunallar, a village located 5 km (3.1 mi) away from Karaikkal in the Union territory of Puducherry. The temple has a rectangular plan with a five-tiered rajagopuram, the gateway tower and all the shrines are enclosed in granite walls. The presiding deity is Dharbaranyeswarar(Lord Siva)and is believed to have been made of dharba grass. The central shrine is located in an elevated platform axial to the main entrance. The sanctum houses the image of Dharbaranyeswarar in the form of lingam (an iconic form of Shiva. The southern shrine parallel to the shrine of sanctum houses the image of Somaskanda. The niches around the sanctum houses the images of Dakshinamurthy, Durga and Lingodbhava. The shrine of Shani is located in the northern side of the entrance tower. The worship is also centered around the icon of planet saturn, called Shani, originally treated as the door keeper of the shrine. According to Hinduism, Saturn resides in each rasi(zodiac) for two and half years.[6] The tradition is to worship Shani before entering the inner sanctum of Lord Siva.[3] The temple is maintained and administered by the Department of Hindu Religious Institutions by the Government of Puducherry.[7]

Processional DanceEdit

The Thyagarajar Temple at Tiruvarur is famous for the ajapa thanam(dance without chanting), that is executed by the deity itself. According to legend, a Chola king named Mucukunta obtained a boon from Indra(a celestial deity) and wished to receive an image of Thyagaraja Swamy(presiding deity, Shiva in the temple) reposing on the chest of reclining Lord Vishnu. Indra tried to misguide the king and had six other images made, but the king chose the right image at Tiruvarur. The other six images were installed in Thirukkuvalai, Nagapattinam, Tirukarayil, Tirukolili, Thirukkuvalai and Tirumaraikadu.[8] All the seven places are villages situated in the river Cauvery delta. All seven Thyagaraja images are said to dance when taken in procession(it is the bearers of the processional deity who actually dance). The temples with dance styles are regarded as Saptha Vidangam(seven dance moves)[9] and the related temples are as under:[10]

Temple Vidangar Temple Dance pose Meaning
Thyagarajar Temple Vidhividangar Ajabathaanam Dance without chanting, resembling the dance of Sri Thyagaraja resting on Lord Vishnu's chest
Dharbaranyeswarar Temple Nagaradangar Unmathanathaanam Dance of an intoxicated person
Kayarohanaswamy Temple Sundaravidangar Vilathithaanam Dancing like waves of sea
Kannayariamudayar Temple Adhividangar Kukunathaanam Dancing like a cock
Brahmapureeswarar Temple Avanividangar Brunganathaanam Dancing like a bee that hovers over a flower
Vaimoornaathar Temple Nallavidangar Kamalanaanathaanam Dance like lotus that moves in a breeze
Vedaranyeswarar Temple Bhuvanivividangar Hamsapthanathaanam Dancing with the gait of a swan

Religious significanceEdit

Sambandar, the 7th century nayanar and Tamil saivite poet has revered the deity with four hymns, in one of which he refers to a contest with Jains, and his victory. Appar and Sundarar, the other Nayanars have glorified the temple with their hymns. Arunagirinathar, a 15th-century poet and staunch devoteet of Lord Muruga has composed hymns on the deity and this temple is attributed to Murugan worship as well.[11] Tirugnana Sambandar, a 7th-century Tamil Saivite poet, venerated Naganathar in ten verses in Tevaram, compiled as the First Tirumurai. Appar, a contemporary of Sambandar, also venerated Dharbaranyeswarar in 10 verses in Tevaram, compiled as the Fifth Tirumurai. As the temple is revered in Tevaram, it is classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam, one of the 275 temples that find mention in the Saiva canon.[12]

The temple is one of the nine Navagraha temples of Tamil Nadu and is a part of the popular Navagraha pilgrimage in the state - it houses the image of Shani (Saturn).[13][14][15]

Religious practicesEdit

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. The temple rituals are performed six times a day; Ushatkalam at 5:30 a.m., Kalashanti at 8:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 12:00 p.m., Sayarakshai at 6:00 p.m., Irandamkalam at 8:00 p.m. and Arddha Jamam at 9:00 p.m. Each ritual comprises four steps: abhishekam (sacred bath), alankaram (decoration), naivedyam (food offering) and deepa aradhanai (waving of lamps) for both Dharbaranyeswarar and Praneswari Amman. The worship is held amidst music with nagaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument), religious instructions in the Vedas 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), kruttika, purnima (full moon day) and chaturthi.[16][12]


  1. ^ Raj, Selva J.; Harman, William P. Dealing With Deities: The Ritual Vow in South Asia. p. 62.
  2. ^ Gupta, Vijay Kumar. Tourism in India. p. 179.
  3. ^ a b R., Ponnammal. 108 Thennaga Shivasthalangal (in Tamil). Giri Trading Agency Private Limited. pp. 52–61. ISBN 978-81-7950-707-0.
  4. ^ Tilak, Sudha G. (2019). Temple Tales: Secrets and Stories from India's Sacred Places. Hachette UK. p. 36. ISBN 9789388322478.
  5. ^ Shah, Saket (2020). Planet Saturn Secrets: Vedic Astrology. Body, Mind & Spirit. p. 30.
  6. ^ V., Meena (1974). Temples in South India (1st ed.). Kanniyakumari: Harikumar Arts. p. 32.
  7. ^ "Sri Dharbaranyeswara Swami Devasthanam". Department of Hindu Religious Institutions. 2020. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  8. ^ Pillai, J.M. Somanasundaram (1994). The great temple at Tanjore. Tamil University, Thanjavur. p. 9.
  9. ^ "The Journal of the Music Academy, Madras". 33–34. Music Academy (Madras, India). 1962. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ Kersenboom-Story, Saskia C. Nityasumaṅgalī: devadasi tradition in South India. p. 146.
  11. ^ Ghose, Rajeshwari. The Tyāgarāja cult in Tamilnāḍu: a study in conflict and accommodation. p. 62.
  12. ^ a b R., Dr. Vijayalakshmy (2001). An introduction to religion and Philosophy - Tévarám and Tivviyappirapantam (1st ed.). Chennai: International Institute of Tamil Studies. pp. 160–1.
  13. ^ Suriya (2015). Jothirlingam: The Indian Temple Guide. Partridge Publishing. p. 92. ISBN 9781482847864.
  14. ^ K.R., Sundararajan; Mukerji, Bithika (2003). Hindu spirituality: Postclassical and modern. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 425. ISBN 9788120819375.
  15. ^ "Navagraha temples". Thanjavur District Administration. Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
  16. ^ "Sri Dharbaranyeswarar temple". Dinamalar. 2014. Retrieved 24 November 2015.

External linksEdit