Recently we had a chance to visit a place called Koogaiyur between Ulundurpet/ Veppur and Athur (Salem) where there are 5 Shiva temples within a small village apart from Sri Raja Narayana Vinnagar Perumal Temple and at about 1 km from here, the popular Veera Bayangaram Ayyanar temple. I never heard of 5 Shiva temples in a small remote village like this and naturally I expected some great legendary significance behind it and so made a visit.
The google map of temples in Koogaiyur
The 5 Shiva temples in Koogaiyur are:
1) Sri Periyanayagi sametha Kailayamaana Pon Parappina Eswaramudaya Nayanar / Sri Sornapureeswarar Temple – the most active and popular temple and is being called as ‘Periya koil’ by locals.
2) Sri Kariyampureeswarar Temple – a beautiful granite temple in dilapidated condition now but the main deity, Lord Shiva is sitting calmly in open space within a ruined sanctum.
3) Sri Oppila ammai sametha Sri Panchatchara nathar / Sri Thirumoola Siddha nathar Temple (Thevargal Thambiran temple), family deity temple for Veera Saivas and locally known as Siddhar Temple.
4) Sri Kailasa Chozheeswaramudaiya Nayanar Temple – a small single shrine temple
5) Sri Pon Parappina Chozheeswaramudaiya Nayanar Temple – under renovation now.
1) Sri Periyanayahi sametha Sri Swarnapureeswarar Temple
Significance: This is one of the 5 Pancha bootha sthalams installed by Sage Vasishtar on the banks of the Vasishta / Niva / Vellar river in the Salem-Athur-Veppur route and this temple represents the Sky (space) element. The 5 pancha booth sthalams are:
- Belur Sri Thandodreswarar (Land),
- Ethapur Sri Sambavamoortheswarar (Water),
- Athur Sri Kottai Kayanirmeshwarar (Fire),
- Aragalur Sri Kamanadeshwarar (Air) and
- Koogaiyur Sri Swarnapurieswarar (Sky).
In addition, the 5 shiva temples within Koogaiyur itself are considered as the Pancha bootha sthalams. People who pledge to worship the 5 Pancha bootha sthalams of Lord Shiva come here and worship all the 5 temples to complete their prayer.
The Niva river is glorified in various pathigams by Appar, Sundarar, Sambandhar and Sekkizhar. It is said that the Saptha rishis called up the river to flow, starting from Kalvarayana hill (Velli malai), so that they can worship various Shiva temples on its bank. Sundarar has sung 11 pathigams on the significance of this river in his ‘Thirunelvayal Arathurai’ thevara pathigam. Apart from the above 5 temples, the other temples which are located on the banks of this river that are worshipped by the Saptha rishis are: 6) Aadhithurai (Kaariyanur) 7) Thiruvalanthurai 8) Thirumaanthurai 9) Aduthurai 10) Thiruvathittathurai (Thittakudi) 11) Thiruvarathurai and 12) Thirukaithurai. These temples are called as ‘Thurai temples’ (thurai in tamil means banks of a river) also.
The Swarnapureeswarar temple is a very grand and beautiful temple with a massive compound wall with lots of great architectural features and legendary importance.
This temple is a Thevara Vaipu Sthalam sung by Thirunavukkarasar.
The main deity Swarnapureeswarar is a Swayambu lingam.
When Dakshan conducted a Yagna and insulated Lord Shiva and Parvathi, it was Sage Vasishtar and his Sishyas who authored the Yagna. So Lord Shiva got angry and cursed them to forget the Vedas. On the advise of Sukha Brahmma rishi, they all came to this region, created the Vasishta river and did penance on Lord Shiva in five places as pancha bootha moorthies on the banks of the river. At Koogaiyur, the last of the Pancha bootha sthalams, they got absolved of their sins and got back their lost knowledge & power.
Devaguru Brahaspathi (Vyazha Bhagavan) was once insulted by Indhran. So he got vexed and walked out of the Indhra Sabha. While he was living in aroopam in the forests, he came here, worshiped Lord Shiva and got back all his lost fame and position.
There are 19 inscriptions just in this temple alone and totally 32 inscriptions in all the 5 temples of Koogaiyur. They have been documented in a separate book in tamil “Koogaiyur inscriptions” by Sri Rama Arunachalam.
There is an interesting story on how this temple was built:
During the coronation ceremony of Chola King Klothunga III in Gangai Konda Cholapuram on 6-8 of July 1178, a divine voice was heard to the King and Queen asking “Did you forget your vow to build a temple for me during your coronation ceremony?”. Just at the same time, a tributary chief of the Chola kingdom from Koogaiyur came and the King suddenly remembered his earlier vow/wish to renovate and convert the Koogaiyur Swarnapureeswarar temple into a granite temple. He immediately ordered to start the work and after 6 years of work, the Kumbabhishegam was conducted on 24.01.1184 in the presence of the King Klothunga III. Because the exact date of the temple is inscribed, this is called as “Dated temple / தேதியிட்ட கோயில்”.
After Rajaraja Chola II built the Tharasuram Iravatheeswarar temple, his son Klothunga III built this temple and so the influence of the Tharasuram temple can be seen here in various sculptures and architectural features.
The Amman shrine is very special and rich in architectural excellence. The Kodungai (the ceiling of the front mandapam) is highly popular and there is an old saying “Koogaiyur Kodungai Azhagu / கூகையூர் கொடுங்கை அழகு” proclaiming its beauty.
The Kodungai is very artistically carved with beautiful icons of Shiva’s various divine plays in 72 squares within a 20 x 20 feet big square.
On the koshta walls around the Amman shrine, there are 108 Shiva linga icons in two rows being worshipped by Parvathi Devi, Kannappa Nayanar, monkey, crab etc.,
The icons of King Klothunga III and Queen Thirubhuvana Sundari are also present in the outer walls.
Also, there are musical pillars in the Amman shrine mandapam which emanate all the Saptha swaras from different parts of the pillars.
As we enter the temple, there is a big 46 pillar Vasantha mandapam where different temple urchavams are conducted.
There are many moorthies in the praharam
The video of the temple is here:
There is said to be a cave that goes for a long distance where Thirumoola Siddhanathar was in penance.
Sthala Vruksham: Nelli (Gooseberry)
Contact: Sri Rama Arunachalam (Historian): 0427-2400415 / 93450 65727
Sri Subramanya Gurukkal @ 89402 84119 / 97867 99942
Sri Rama Arunachalam is a Historian who has written an exclusive book on the inscriptions of the temples of Koogaiyur. We informed of our arrival to him in advance who in turn informed the respective Gurukkals.
By the time we reached the temple, it was closed already but the Gurukkal lives very closeby only. So we went to his house and brought him. He was ailing from some illness but was kind enough to show us around, though in a hurry. It is unfortunate that there was no flex board to show all the above greatness of the temple. These will be known to people only with some prior information of the temple. We even don’t know what the other great features we missed out are.
The full photo album of the temple is here
2) Sri Kariyampureeswarar Temple at Koogaiyur
In front of the Swarnapureeswarar temple, there is a Government school and at the backside of the school, this temple – Sri Kariyampureeswarar Temple – is located just at the outside border of the village. This is a small and beautiful granite temple but devastated by a long grown tree on top. Surrounded by green fields all around, it is located in a beautiful environment. Though it is pathetic to see Lord Shiva sitting calmly in open space within a ruined graba graham, on the other hand it also looks like that he wants to sit in ehantham without the disturbance of any human! There are only indications of an Ambal shrine which has totally disappeared. Just wondering how it hasn’t got the attention of Uzhavarapani group yet! Atleast the long grown tree has to be cut immediately.
The full photo album of the temple is here
The video of the temple:
3) Sri Oppila ammai sametha Sri Panchatchara nathar / Sri Thirumoola Siddha nathar Temple (Thevargal Thambiran temple)
Our next temple is beautifully located just on the other end of the village, right on the bank of the Vasishta / Niva / Vellar river but due to negligence, the river bank is full of unwanted weeds. This is also a fairly big granite temple with a huge periphery wall. The temple is facing East with a 3 stage 45 feet high Rajagopuram.
The main deity of the temple is Lord Shiva as Sri Panchatchara nathar with Ambal Sri Oppila Ammai but the temple is locally known more as a Siddhar temple because of the shrine for Sri Thirumoola Siddhanathar (not one of the 18 Siddhars, Thirumoolar) who lived and performed many miracles here. His living period and origin are unknown but it is said that he was an expert in Ashtama Siddhis, travelled in air to visit many sacred theerthams and blessed / taught so many students and people. Here he lived in a cave, established an yoga mutt and practiced Shiva yoga.
It is said that, when the temple construction was going on for the Swarnapureeswarar temple, the son of the chief Vishwakarma died due to snake bite and the Thirumoola Siddhar brought him back to life.
King Malangan and the Queen, realizing the holiness and power of the Siddhar, were rendering service to him. When the King and Queen became old without any child, Thirumoolanadha Siddhar made them young so as to re-live their youth life. The Siddhar taught Veera Saivam to the King and made him as a guru in the name of Madhava Gurubaran to teach ‘Veera Saivam’ to others. Since then, the temple is being maintained by the descendant Veera Saivas of Madhava Gurubaran only and once in a year all the families gather here for a grand festival.
The 9 inscriptions of this temple are dated back to 16th century (1504 – 1551) Vinayanagara regime but it is believed that the temple was initially constructed by the Pandya Kings in 14th century.
In the koshtam, Narthana Ganapathy, Dakshinamoorthy, Lingothbavar, Brahmma and Durga are present.
In the praharam, the ancient Saptha mathars as well as the newly installed Saptha mathars, Valli & Deivanai sametha Murugar, Gajalakshmi, Saraswathi, Annapoorani, Navagrahas, Bairavar Veera badhrar, Surya Chandras are all present.
In the Oppila Ammai shrine, the beautiful Ambal is present with a smiling face and a kind look.
The full photo album is here
4) Sri Kailasa Chozheeswaramudaiya Nayanar Temple at Koogaiyur
This is the 4th temple at Koogaiyur, a small one with just a single shrine for Lord Shiva only without any outer praharam. It is located just about 100 meters before the Sri Panchatcharanathar temple.
5) Sri Choleeswarar Temple
The 5th Shiva temple of Koogaiyur, Sri Soleeswarar Temple is under renovation now and so didn’t visit. By the time we finished the 4 Shiva temples it was already 1 PM and so didn’t have any chance of visiting the Koogaiyur Perumal temple and the Veerabayangaram Ayyanar temple. The Veerabayangaram Ayyanar temple, located at about 1 km from here is highly popular.