Kumbakonam is considered one of the seven important holy cities of India. It is believed that a both Mahamaham Tank on Mahamaham day will cleanse one of the sins. The Mahamaham festival is celebrated here once in 12 years in the month of Masi (Feb – March), when Jupiter passes through the sign of leo the devotees believe that the nine sacred rivers of India appear in this tank on the Mahamaham day. The four large temples Sri Adi Kumbeshwara Temple, Sri Sarangapani Temple, Sri Ramaswami Temple and Sri Nageshwara Temple, located here are noted for sculptures and carvings.
In the 7th Century it was the Capital of Chola Kings. It is picturesquely located amidst the two rivers, Cauvery & Arasalar.
Sri Aadi Kumbheswarar Temple
Sri Aadi Kumbheswarar is the major one among the Saivite Temples. It is located in the center of Kumbakonam town. This temple has three Praharas and three Gopurams. The East Gopuram consists of 9 stories with a height of 128 feet.
The presiding deity is ‘Aadikumbheswarar’ and His consort is ‘Mangalambhika’. It is also one of the 51 Saktibeeta sthala (Mantrabheta sthala). The Siva Linga is slightly tilted at the top towards left and hence the name Kumbakonam (Kumba-pot Konam-bend) and the deity is Kumbeshwarar.
The Saivaite Saints, Appar and Sambandhar heave sung in praise of the Presiding Deities of the temple.
Sri Sarangapani Temple
This temple is considered one among the three major shrines of Lord Vishnu and this temple is given the third place next to Srirangam and Tirupathi. It was renovated during the period of naicks of 15th century. The Karuvarai and Vimanam are made with twelve sculptured columns shaped like a chariot. This temple consists of the biggest Gopuram height 150 feet and 5 Prakharams and one holy tank called Golden Lotus Tank and also known as Lakshmi Theertham. Goddes Lakshmi performed penance here and Vishnu came down as Aravamudhan and married here.
Sri Nageswara Temple
This temple is located near the old bus stand area and Adithya Cholan of Chola Dynasty constructed the temple during 12th Century. This temple stands as great marvel of Chola’s architecture, building technology and astronomy.
Adi Sesha and Surya had worshiped Sri Nageswara here. When Adi Sesha was groaning under the weight of the world, he came to who win Kuvinvanam, the present of Nageswara Temple and did penance. Siva and Parvathi appeared before Adi Sesha and blessed him with enough strength. The Sun’s rays fall on the lingam in the central shrine through an opening in the eastern tower for three days in a year on the 11th, 12th and 13th days in the month of Chithirai (April – May).
Sri Ramaswami Temple
This temple is near to Sri Adi Kumbeswarar temple. It consists of one Gopuram, one Maha mandapam and Karuvarai. The columns of Maha mandapam are enriched with intricate stone carving wrorks of Rama-katha, Vaman avathar, Meenakshi Wedding, Sukriva Pattabishekam are some of the famous carving works of this temple. Here Lord Rama gives dharsan in his coronation robes. Both Sri Rama and Sita are seated on the same Peeta and Hanuman is depicted as singing in price of the Lord with the help of a Veena.
Sri Mahamaham Temples
The famous Mahamaham Tank of Kumbakonam is located near the Head Post Office. This tank covers an area of 6.2 acres and is in a shape of a pot. The tank is surrounded by 16 small Mandapams and a “Nava Kannika Temple” in the Eastern Side. Govinda Theekshitan, the Chieftain, of Achutha Nayaka of Thanjavur, constructed sixteen Mandapams and stone steps around this tank. Brahmatheerthasar, Mukunthar, Thalesar, Rishakesar, Umaipakesar, Nairuthesar, Brahmeeswar, Gangatheerthesar and Seshtra Paleesar, are the names of deities located in these Mandapams.
Brahmatheerthesar temple is located at the North-western portion of this tank. This temple is also known as “Thula Mandapam” where a big physical balance is provide for making contribution to the temple. It is also believed that this tank consists of 19holy Theerthams around the tank periphery and another theertham at the centre. Vayu, Ganga, Brahma, Yamuna, Kubera, Gothavarai, Esaniam, Narmadha, Indra, araswathi, Akni, Cauvery, Nagam, Niruthim Palaru, Thevan, Varunan, Saratu and Kannia are names of the Theerthams believed to be located inside this tank. Apart from the above said Mandapams, around the tank area, a temple known as Abimukeshar Kovil occupies the eastern portion of the tank kasi Vishwanathar Kovil situated on the northern bank of Mahamaham Tank and the temple and the big Gopuram in the front were constructed during the period of Naick rule.
During this festival it is believed that in mahamaham tank the famous rivers like the Ganga, the Yamuna, etc. , meet together and taking bath in Mahamaham, would wash off all the sins.
Other Temples in the Town
Sri Chakrapani temple, Sri Kasi Viswanatha temple, Sri Someswara temple, Sri Somanatha temple, Sri Gautameswara temple, Sri Vedaranya Perumal Temple and Sri Brahma Temple.
Gangai Konda Cholapuram
This historical temple is 42km from Kumbakonam towards Chennai. The Brihadeeswarar temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram was conceived and constructed by the Chola King Rajendra I after his victory over the kingdoms bordering the river Ganga Siva. This temple looks similar to the Thanjavur Big temple. The sculptures of Chandeswarar and Gnanasaraswathi are very fine workmanship.
A big Nandhi in front of the temple mde of brick and mortar, a lion head well with a flight of steps leading to the water level and the gigantic dwarapalakas are the other special feature of this temple.
This Siva temple was built by Chola King Thirupuvana Chakravarthi as a memorial to his conquest in the North. The front mandapam here is again built in the form of a huge chariot. The Vimanam here is larger than that of Darasuram and is about 120 feet in height. Sculptured panels depicting scenes from the Ramayana adorn this temple.
The shrine, dedicated to Sri Kampathareswarar, resembles the Big temple of Thanjavur. The image of Sarabheswarar is a rare sculpture with a strange combination of bird and man. Lord Siva assumed this form to subdue the fury of Narasimha.
This place is about 2km form Thirupuvanam temple. The River Cauvery passes through this villge. The village is also called Madhyarjunam and the Presiding deity is Mahalingeswarar and goddess is known as Perunamulaiyammai. Legend says that Shiva was worshipped by Saraswathi, Lakshmi, Kaali the Vedas, Vasishtar, Skanda, Vishnu and Agastya.
This sacred Vaishnavite temple exists known as Uppiliappan or Oppiliapan temple. The deity is known by various names as Uppiliappan, Oppiliappan, Srinivasan, Venkatachala Pathy, Tiruvinnagarappan, etc. The Goddess is known as Bhoomi Devi. This is one of the sacred 108 Divyadesam.
The Lord is in the standing pose facing east, Goddess Bhoomi Devi sitting facing north, and markandeya is installed as performing the rites of marriage of his daughter. Poigai Alwar, Pey Alwar, Tirumangai Alwar and Nammalwar have sung in praise of this deity. As Nammalwar Yisualised the God of the temple in five different poses, he began to call the deity accordingly as Ponnappan, Manappan, Muthappan, Ennappan and Tiruvinnagarappan.
This beautiful Vishnu shrine is dedicated to Srinivasa Perumal. Here the Garuda Vahanam is made of stone, which is rare. The divine consort is nachiyar or Vanulavalli Thayar. It is the birth place of Nambi Andar Nambi. Among the important festivals are Thirukalyanam (Holy Marriage) in Aug – Sep, Mukkodi Utsavam in Des – Jan, and Brahmotsavam in Mar 0 Apr.
The main feature of Mukkodi Utsavam is the Garuda Seva on the 4th day when the stone idol of Garuda is taken out in a procession carrying Srinivasa Perumal.
This temple is 4km from Kumbakonam towards Thanjavur. The Airateswara temple built by Rajendra Chola in 12thCentury AD. It is an great example of Chola architecture. Legend says that Airavata, the white elephant of Indra and Yama, the God of Death, had worshiped Lord Siva here. The frontal columns of the temple have unique miniature sculptures. There is a tank called Yama Theertham. Darasuram is described as a sculptor’s dream re-lived in stone. The front mandapam itself is in the form of a huge chariot drawn by horses.
Here Lord Siva was worshipped by Patti, one of the daughters of Kamadhenu. The Lord is known as Dhenupureeswarar and Godess isgnanambikai. Here Lord Siva gave a canopy of pearls to Saivite saint Gnana Sambandhar on a hot summer day and made the Nandhi to move aside to see his devotee enter the shrine.
Goddess Durgai Amman is enshrined on the northern side of the temple and every Friday is special to worship the goddess. Buses are available from Kumbakonam.
Swamimalai is one of the Aru Padai Veedu (Six abodes) of Lord Muruga. The temple is 8 km west of Kumbakonam towards Thiruvaiyaru on the banks of river Cauvery. A flight of 60 steps each representing a Tamil year, leads one to top. It is here that Lord Muruga, the son, expounded the meaning of Om, the Pranava Mantra, to Lord Siva, the father.
There are two temples the pallaivanatha Swami temple constructed by the Chola King and the other is the Ranganathaswami temple or 108 Sivalayam temples is situated on the southern bank of River Kudamurutti. The Godess is Parvathavardhini. Legend has it that Sri Rama had installed the 108 Lingams to expiate the sin of killing the demons Khara and Dhushana. Hence the name of this place.
There are also a Granary (shorehouse of paddy) which measure 86 feet in width and has a height of 36 feet with a capacity of 3,000 kalam which is a measure. The Nayaks between 1600 – 1634 constructed it. The State Archaeological Department declared it as a monument. One can see the 108 Sivalingams only in the temple in Papanasam.
This temple is situated in the riverbed of River Vettaru a branch of the Cauvery, at a distance of 5km from Papanasam.
The Siva Shrine is dedicated to Sri Mullaivananthar. Godess Garbarakshambigai is said to offer protection to human embryo. Women pray here for safe pregnancy and delivery. This sthalam Thirukarugavoor is ancient and has been extensively quoted by the Great Shaivite saints Thirugnana Sambandar and Thirunavukkarasar on the deities Eswara Mullaivananthar and the Goddesses Gharbharakshambigai.
Aduthurai Siva Temple(15km),Thirumangalakkudi Siva Temple (3km from AAduthurai), Thirvaikkavur (7km from Swamimalai), Aavoor Siva Temple (7km), Thirunaraiyur Siva temple (Near nachiyar Kovil), Sivapuram (5km), Marudanallur Siva Temple (6km).
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