Virudhagiriswarar temple

The Virudhagiriswarar Temple is a Hindu temple in the town of Virudhachalam, Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, India. The presiding deity Virudhagiriswarar is revered in Tevaram, written by Tamil saint poets known as the nayanmars and classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam. The temple gives its name to the town of Virudhachalam. The temple is famed for the legend of Shiva forming as a mountain heeding to the prayers of Brahma.

Virudhagiriswarar Temple
LocationVirudhachalam, Tamil Nadu, India
StateTamil Nadu
Virudhagiriswarar temple is located in Tamil Nadu
Virudhagiriswarar temple
Location in Tamil Nadu
Geographic coordinates11°18′N 79°12′E / 11.30°N 79.20°E / 11.30; 79.20
TypeDravidian architecture
CreatorChola Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi

Virudhagirswarar temple is a part of the series of temples built by Sembiyan Mahadevi, the Chola queen along the banks of river Kaveri. It has several inscriptions dating back to the Chola period. The temple has six daily rituals at various times from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and three yearly festivals on its calendar. The annual Brahmotsavam (prime festival), Masi Magam, is attended by thousands of devotees from far and near. The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.


Virudhagiriswarar temple first precinct

As per Hindu Mythology, when Brahma thought of creating the earth, he created water. Lord Vishnu happened to cut down the evil Madhukaidavas. The cut pieces of the bodies floated on water created by Lord Brahma. On seeing that Brahma prayed to Lord Shiva to create the earth out of the hardened compound from the water and the flesh of the bodies. Lord Shiva appeared as a mountain. Lord Brahma who did not know this created many different mountains. As they did not have space to exist, he was sorrowful. The Pranava God appeared and conveyed Lord Brahma the truth through gestures. Brahma worshipped Lord Shiva who was the form of mountain. Lord Shiva created the earth combining the flesh and the water compounded in a hardened form. He called it medhini. He gave space for the mountains of Brahma. He told Brahma that he was not different from the mountain. The mountains of Brahma came into being after that mountain. Hence the mountain of Shiva was named Pazha malai (old mountain). According to him, that Pazhamalai would be hard pressed on the earth appearing as Shiva Linga above. Those who worshipped it would get all they wished for. Thus, the oldest of all mountains is invisible, but the top layer of it is said to appear in the river-bed of Cuddalore at Vayalur, about four km north of Virudhachalam.[1]



Vriddha means ancient – Achalam means the unshakeable, so the hills around Virudhachalam are the unshakeable hills. Virudhachalam means an ancient hill. In chaste Tamil this is mentioned as Mudhu Kundram in Thevaram hymns. During the days of Saivite Saints Appar, Gnanasambandhar and Sundarar, the place was known as Pazhamalai in Tamil and changed to the Sanskrit version Virudhachalam in the days that followed.



The ancient Chola temple of Virudhagiriswarar was commissioned by Sembiyan Mahadevi, among the most powerful queens of the Chola empire and an ardent worshipper of Lord Siva.[2] The temple is surrounded by high walls and five gopurams. The hundred pillared hall is carved like a chariot. There are images of Vinayaga, Rishi Vpiacit and Romas and for the sister of Kubera.[3] The chains of the temple car were donated by Charles Hyde, the District Collector of the then South Arcot district in 1813. The place was originally called Thirumudukundram, the place of holy mountain.[4] Similar architecture of halls (Mandapas) simulating a chariot drawn by elephant or horses is found in Sarangapani temple at Kumbakonam, Mela Kadambur Amirthakadeswarar Temple, Sikharagiriswara Temple, Kudumiyamalai, Nageswaraswamy Temple, Kumbakonam, and Thyagaraja Temple, Tiruvarur.[5]

Literary mention

Pillared hall in the second precinct

Sage Vibasithu paid the labours with Vanni leaves. He had a dip in the Manimuthar river and undertook the renovation of this temple. He gave the workers the leaves of the Vanni tree which later changed into coins to the value due to the workers based on the quantum and quality of his work, is a story believed by generations of devotees. The Vanni tree is 1700-year-old, say researchers. The construction of the temple, by itself, has an interesting legend. Vibasithu Munivar, it is said, happened to find the earring that belonged to Lord Kubera's daughter. The jewel, dear to her, was dropped on the lap of Vibhasithu, by a bird. Kubera's daughter announced a reward of all her remaining Jewellery in return for her earring. Vibhasithu gave the earring and with the reward he constructed the temple.

It is one of the shrines of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams. Saint Sundarar was on a fund-raising mission to feed the devotees on the Panguni Uthiram festival in Tiruvarur. Sundarar passed through this place without singing the glory of the Lord. He was stopped by the Lord and made him sing. Then, Lord of this temple donated 12,000 gold coins to Sundararar. Beware of robbers on the way, he placed all the coins in the Manimuthar River and collected it in the tank in Tiruvarur. This is a strange precaution. Money placed in a river cannot be collected from a tank that has no link with each other. But this miracle happened. Thus, came the proverb, “losing in the river and searching in the tank”. Sundarar wanted to test the touch of the gold he took from the tank in Tiruvarur. Lord proved the quality of the gold with Lord Vinayaka as a witness who confirmed the touch. Hence, Vinayaka in the inner prakara of the temple is praised as Mattru-touch, Uraitha-confirmed, Vinayaka- Mattru Uraitha Vinayaka.

Religious importance


Number five has a significance in this temple. Murthis are five – Vinayaka, Muruga, Shiva, Shakthi and Chandikeswara. Virudagiriswarar is praised by five names – Virudhagireeshwarar, Pazhamalai Nathar, Vruddhachaleswarar, Mudhu Kundreeswarar and Vruddhagiri. There are five Vinayakas in the temple – Aazhathu Vinayakar, Mattru Uraitha Vinayaka, Muppillayar, Dasabhuja Ganapathy and Vallabha Ganapathi. Five Rishis had the darshan of Virudhagiriswarar – Romesa, Vibasiddhu, Kumaradeva, Nada Sharma and Anavardhini. There five towers in the temple at east, west, south, north and Kandarathithan (a Chola king) gopuram. There are five prakaras – called Thiruchutru in Tamil They are Kailaya, Vanniyadi, 63 Nayanmar Chuttru and Panchavarna Chuttru. There are five Kodimarams - flag post with five Nandhis – Indra Nandhi, Vedha Nandhi, Athma Nandhi, Maalvidai Nandhi and Dharma Nandhi. There are five inner Mandaps – Artha, Idaikazhi, Thapana, Maha and Isai Mandapams. Outer Mandapams are 20 pillar mandapam, Deeparadhana, 100 pillar mandapam, Vipachithu and Chitra mandapam. Five-time puja is followed in the temple - Thiruvanandal, Kalasanthi, Uchi Kala, Sayaraksha and Arthajama at scheduled times from early morning till night. The temple has five cars-Raths for Vinayaka, Muruga, Pazhamalai Nathar, Mother Periyanayagi and Sri Chandikeswara. The place has five names – Tirumudhu Kundram, Vruddha Kasi, Virudhachalam, Nerkuppai and Mudhugiri.[3]

Legend of the temple

It is one of the places giving salvation to the departed. It is even considered holier than Holy Kasi i.e. Varanasi. As believed in Kasi, here too Mother Viruthambigai places the departed souls on her lap and fan them with the pallu of her Sari while Shiva chants the Namasivaya mantra in the ears of the dead ensuring his/her salvation. Hence in olden days people of Virudhachalam never bothered to undertake a pilgrimage to Varanasi when they become old and weak. As a result, this place is also come to known as Virudhakasi. It is also claimed that the benefit measure is a little bit more here than Kasi, hence the saying “Kasiyil Veesam Adhigam in Virudhakasi”. The ashes of the dead when dissolved in Manimuthar River change into a stone and stay underneath, according to Sthalapuranam. Shiva as Nataraja danced in Thillai for a contest. He played here for his own joy.

During his visit to this place, the king of Karnataka suffered due to hunger. Mother Peria Nayaki, as a young woman fed him with milk and named him Kumara Deva.

Viruthambigai means Goddess of elderly age. Devotee Guru Namshivayar stayed in this place for a night on his way to Chidambaram. He was very hungry and called Mother with a verse with a word Kizhavi. Mother Periyanayagi came there as an old woman and replied that Kizhavi-old woman cannot bring food, only young woman can. The devotee sang another verse describing the youthfulness of Ambica. She appeared as a young beautiful woman and fed the devotee and thus came to be known as Balambika – young Mother.

Worship and religious practices


The temple priests perform the puja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. Like other Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Shaiva community, a Brahmin sub-caste. The temple rituals are performed six times a day; Ushathkalam at 5:30 a.m., Kalasanthi at 8:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 10:00 a.m., Sayarakshai at 5:00 p.m., Irandamkalam at 7:00 p.m. and Ardha Jamam at 8:00 p.m. Each ritual comprises four steps: abhisheka (sacred bath), alangaram (decoration), naivethanam (food offering) and deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for both Virudhagiriswarar and Viruthambigai Amman. The worship is held amidst music with nagaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument), religious instructions in the Vedas (sacred texts) read by priests and prostration by worshippers in front of the temple mast. There are weekly rituals like somavaram (Monday) and sukravaram (Friday), fortnightly rituals like pradosham and monthly festivals like amavasai (new moon day), kiruthigai, pournami (full moon day) and sathurthi. Maasi Magam is an important festival. It is believed that Vibasithu Munivar sought the darshan of Lord Siva, through the Nandi. On the sixth day of the Masi Magam festival, Lord Vriddhagiriswarar, along with his Consort Goddess Viruthambigai, appeared before Vibasithu Munivar.[6] The consecration of the temple was performed on 7 February 2022.[7]

Idol Theft

Stolen Ardhanarisvara

A total of 6 stone sculptures, including that of a Ardhanarisvara belonging to the temple were believed to be stolen and smuggled abroad sometime after 1974 (documented photographic evidence from French Institute of Pondicherry).[8][9][10] The Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu Criminal Investigation Department (IW-CID) has traced it to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Australia and successfully repatriated the Ardhanarisvara sculpture in 2014 and the Pratyangira sculpture in 2017.[11][12][13][14]

S.No. Deity Stolen Idol traced to Country Current status More Details
1 Ardhanarisvara Art Gallery of New South Wales Australia Recovered [15][11][12]
2 Pratyangira / Narasimmee National Gallery of Australia Australia Recovered [16][17][13]
3 Pillaiyar Unknown [18]
4 Itchasakthi Unknown [18]
5 Gnanasakthi Unknown [18]
6 Kriyasakthi Unknown [18]


  1. ^ "Viruthagerreswarar Temple". Cuddalore district administration. Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  2. ^ R., Sivaraman (27 May 2017). "1,000-year-old 'Narasimmee' comes back to Tamil Nadu". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  3. ^ a b R., Dr. Vijayalakshmy (2001). An introduction to religion and Philosophy - T var m and Tivviyappirapantam (1st ed.). Chennai: International Institute of Tamil Studies. pp. 282–3.
  4. ^ Kapoor, Subodh (2002). Encyclopaedia of Ancient Indian Geography, Volume 2. Genesis Publishing Pvt Ltd. p. 656. ISBN 9788177552997.
  5. ^ H., Sarkar (1974). The Kampahesvara temple at Thirubuvanam (PDF). Madras: Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu. p. 9.
  6. ^ "Sri Virdhagiriswarar temple". Dinamalar. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  7. ^ "Kumbabhishekam of Virudhagiriswar temple". Hindu (Tamil). 7 February 2022. Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  8. ^ "Lost and Found: Images Show Art Gallery NSW's Sculpture Was Stolen From An Indian Temple". Chasing Aphrodite. 1 July 2013. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  9. ^ R., Sivaraman (8 October 2013). "Police confirm idol in Australian gallery was stolen from T.N. temple". The Hindu. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  10. ^ N., Vinoth Kumar (6 March 2020). "Tracing stolen idols: An 'archival' method". The Federal. Retrieved 4 August 2023. ... The idol of Ardhanarishwarar (half-male Shiva and half-female, Parvathy) was stolen from Virudachalam and exhibited at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It has now been returned to India. The IFP/EFEO had photographed the idol thrice in 1958, 1967 and 1974, which helped to prove that the idol was not stolen before 1971. ...
  11. ^ a b R., Sivaraman (12 September 2014). "Two idols brought back from Australia, now in Chennai". The Hindu. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  12. ^ a b R., Sivaraman (7 September 2014). "Return of Ardhanareeswara sculpture gladdens residents". The Hindu. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  13. ^ a b R., Sivaraman (27 May 2017). "1,000-year-old 'Narasimmee' comes back to Tamil Nadu". The Hindu. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  14. ^ "A citizen sleuth is tracking down India's stolen artifacts—but what happens to the idols once they're home?". The Believer. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  15. ^ "Provenance project: Works from Art of the Past gallery". Art Gallery of New South Wales. Retrieved 4 August 2023. ... This work, Ardhanarishvara, was purchased by the Art Gallery in 2004 from Art of the Past and returned to India in 2014. ...
  16. ^ "Acquisitions from Art of the Past, New York" (PDF). National Gallery of Australia. Retrieved 4 August 2023. ... stolen from Sri Vriddhachalesvara temple, Vriddhachalam, Tamil Nadu, India, between 1974 and 2005 with Subhash Kapoor of art dealership Art of the Past, New York, United States of America, 2005 or before which sold it for USD 247,500 to the National Gallery of Australia, Australian Capital Territory, Australia ...
  17. ^ "Exhibition 'Return of the Three Stone Sculptures from Australia to India' begins in National Museum" (Press release). New Delhi: Press Information Bureau. 24 May 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
  18. ^ a b c d R., Sivaraman (27 May 2017). "How idol thieves deceived devotees". The Hindu. Retrieved 6 August 2023. ... Police are yet to locate the four other Vriddhachalam idols — Pillaiyar, Itchasakthi, Gnanasakthi and Kriyasakthi. ...

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