Tiruvaiyaru Temple

Tiruvaiyaru literally means the land of five rivers.  The rivers Cauvery, Vennar, Vettar, Kudarmurutti and Coleroon run parallel to each other at short distance from one another.

Tiruvaiyaru is located on the banks of the Cauvery and has been famous from time immemorial for its shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Sri Panchanadeeswarar temple here is one of the biggest temple complexes in the state. covering about 15 acres.  Vast open grounds greet you, that is, if you access the temple through the Aatkondaar shrine on the main road.

It was here, according to the sthala purana, that Sucharithan, an ardent devotee of Shiva, was saved by the Lord from untimely death, in a manner similar to the Markandeya episode. The Siva Lingam here is said to be comparable to the one in Tiruvaiyaru was considered the equivalent of a visit to Kailasam, the abode of Lord Shiva.  It is said that when the great devotee, Sundarar, came to visit the shrine, the Cauvery, which was in spate at the time, parted to give him way. Kings of various dynasties have been associated with this shrine, which has as many as five prakarams.  Inscriptions refer to the contribution made by the Cholas, Pandyas and the Vijayanagar monarchs.

At the entrance is a seven-tiered Rajagopuram, which like the rest of the temple, has not seen a coat of paint for a long time.  The shrine of the divine consort, Sri Dharmasamvardhani, is more popular than Shiva's and appears to be in a better shape as well.  There are two prakarams here, the Dakshina Kailasam and the Uttara Kailasam.  Sri Dharmasanvardhani has been praised in the kritis of the Carnatic music trinity, Sri Muthswamy Dikshitar (1776-1835), Sri Shyama Sastir(1762-1827), and the local resident, Sri Thyagaraja. 

Saint Thyagaraja (1767-1847), the greatest of Carnatic music composers, lived and died in Tiruvaiyaru.  The saint about whose art, it is said, 'no human hand can improve," was great devotee of Sri Rama.  He composed songs on the gods, the Vedas and Upanishads, the epics, and about life in general, while all the time stoutly resisting offers to sing in the court of the then Maratha kings.  The small town of Tiruvaiyaru comes alive during the Aradhana, in January, when a five day-long, grand music festival-touted as the country's greatest-is held to commemorate the Saint's death anniversary.  It reaches a crescendo on Pushya Pancharathna kritis (five great songs) are rendered by thousands of musicians.

Bangalore Nagarathnamma (1878-1952), a devotee of the saint, and a great singer in her own right, was entrusted by the master, in a dream, with the work of building the memorial at his samadhi.  She acquired the land around the samadhi, and the work for the construction of a shrine over the tomb began on 27th October 1921.  An idol of Thyagaraja was installed in front of the tomb and the kumbabhisekham (consecration) took place on 7th January 1925.  Work on the shrine was completed in November 1938.  If today Tiruvaiyaru has become a centre of pilgrimage for the devotees of Thyagaraja and music lovers, much of the credit should go to Bangalore Nagarathnamma, whose samadhi is aptly located opposite the Saint's.

How to get there:

Buses ply at regular interval between Chennai and Thanjavur.  Tiruvaiyaru is 15km from Thanjavur.  There is daily night train to Thanjavur from Chennai, but the day express between Trichy and Chennai can cut the journey time to just five hours.  Alight at Ariyalur and catch the government bus outside the station to Tiruvaiyaru, an hour away.  Tiruchirapalli, 50km from Thanjavur, is the nearest airport.

Accommodation:

There is only few lodges in Tiruvaiyaru.  For the casual visitor, Thanjavur could be better option.

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