Monday, September 12, 2011


Dear Readers,

I recently visited one of the oldest temple in Chennai. The temple is believed to be atleast 1300 years old. Lord Shiva is the principal deity worshipped as Adipureeswarar and Tyagarajar. The Goddess Tripura Sundari or Vadivudai Amman is popular than the Lord of Thiruvotriyur. Thiruvotriyur is also happened to be the birth place of Kalia Nayanar who is one of the Sixty Three Nayanmar. Hence I thought of sharing the details of both i.e. Thiruvotriyur Temple and also about Kalia Nayanar in this article. The article is being published as part of both the “Temple Visit” and “Sacred Sixty Three” series of articles.

The temple is fraught with many legends and a visit to this temple make you travel centuries back. The temple was visited by many saints right from Adisankara, Thirugnana Sambandar, Thirunavaukkarasar, Sundarar, Arunagirinathar, Pattinathar, Saint Tyagaraja to name a few. The 27 Stars are believed to have worshipped the Lord and assumed the form of Linga by the grace of the Lord in this temple. The Mulavar Adipureeswarar is in the form of a mud mound which cannot be seen as it is covered by a Kavacham. Only on the day of full moon in the Tamil month of Karthigai the Kavacham is removed.

The life history of Kalia Nayanar will tell us the dedication towards serving the Lord. Here Kalia Nayanar took only one service of lighting the lamps in the temple. The Kalia Nayanar episode will help us understand that we should not leave the services which we have taken even in adversity.

Please read on to know more about Tiru-Otrriyur and Kalia Nayanar.

Happy Reading

Warm Regards

AV Devan


Thiruvotriyur is located about 10 KMS from Chennai Central. The town hosts one of the famous temple which is more than 1000 years old. Lord Shiva is the principal deity worshipped as Tyagarajar and Adipureeswarar. The Lord here is also known as Padampakka Nathar, Ezhutariyum Peruman, Otriyur Nathar etc. The Lord in archa form blesses all as Tyagaraja. The Thiruvotriyur temple is the 20th of the 32 Thevara Padal Petra Sthalam in the Thondai Region. The Goddess here is known as Tripura Sundari and Vadivudai Amman. All the 27 stars worshipped the Lord Adipureeswarar hence the Lord converted them into Linga forms. The bad effects are removed in one offer worship to them in this temple, which is another specialty of the temple. The moolavar is Swayambu and the both Shiva Linga and the Avudayar are in Square shape. Square shaped Kavacha or covering is applied on the Lord. Every year on Karthigai Pournami i.e. New Moon Day in the Tamil month of Karthigai the covering is removed and Punuku, Javvadu and Sambrani Thailam is applied.

From the new moon day and the next two days i.e. only for these three days we can see the Moolavar without Kavacham and on all other days the Moolavar is covered with the Kavacha. We can witness the Lord here as also as Tyagaraja who dances in sitting position. The Tyagaraja’s dance here is known as “Sundara Nadanam”. The Lords in Sapta Vitanga Sthalams are all called as “Tyagaraja”. But Tiruvotriyur is not one of the Sapta Vitanga Sthalam. The snake god, ‘Vasuki’ got the siva deeksha from Sage Upamanyu and worshipped Lord Shiva who absorbed Vasuki in his body and hence the Lord here is also known as “Padam Pakka Nathar”. The impression of the snake is visible in the Shiva Linga here. Apart from the earthen Lingam an image of the Tripada Trimurthy is seen in the outer prakara combining the images of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The temple is believed to be atleast 1300 years old making it roughly contemporary with the Pallava Dynasty. The contribution of the Pallava Dynasty to the ancient architecture of Chennai is undeniable, especially in the construction of several temples at Mamallapuram.

The Tyagaraja temple also bears ancient Pallava inscriptions. Inscriptions from the period of Parantaka Chola I and Uttama Chola are found in the pillars of the mandapams. The central shrine was rebuilt later during the days of Rajendra Chola, who errected with black stone, the vimanam of Adipureeswarar.

This temple was visited by many Saints. This temple was visited by Adisankara. The Vattapparai Amman Sanidhi here once was very ferocious and Adisankara reduced the same and made the deity very composed. The temple was sung as Thevaram by poets Thirugnana Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar.

Thiruvotriyur is also the birth place of Kalia Nayanar who is one the 63 Nayanmar. This is the place where one of the Shaivaite Saint Sundarar married Sangiliyar under the Magizha tree in the temple premises. Thiruvotriyur is the place where Saint Pattinathar attained liberation. The samadhi and temple of Pattinathar is located in Thiruvotriyur. This temple was also visited by Saint Arunagirinathar who has sung Thirupugazh. Saint Ramalinga Vallalar used to visit this temple when he was in Chennai and Saint Tyagaraja while on his visit to Chennai visited Thiruvotriyur and composed five songs on Goodess Tirupursa Sundari known as Thiruvotriyur Pancharatnam.

Sthalapurana or the Legend of the Temple

The sthalapurana holds that during Padmagarba there ensued a great deluge that threatened to submerge the whole world. Lord Brahma, the God of creation undertook an austere penance to appease Shiva. He wanted the power to create the world once again. Pleased with his sincerity and effort, Shiva rose from the Yoga Agni in a strange and indecipherable form. Flames of fire crackled and blazed from which emerged a Chittirappalakai a flat square drawing board like shape that formed a Shiva linga. Brahma prayed for the great waters to subside. Shiva ordained that this town be exempted from destruction. The Agni Kunta became the temple and Shiva resides here as agni or fire with his consort Darbanayagi Ammal who embodied Chit Shakti. Tiruvotriyur i.e. the town exempted from the deluge was thus created. The town was thus known earlier as Adipuri and the Lord as Adipureeshwarar.

Another legend holds that the Ayodhya king Mandata levied taxes on all townships including Shivastalams. Surprisingly, when his orders inscribed in Palm manuscripts arrived at Tiruvotriyur an additional line appeared on them, apparently from nowhere. This line decreed that this township be exempted from the orders. The King enquired as to who had interpolated those words. No one seemed to have done it.

The King after examination decided that it was not one of his own men who did it. He rubbed and removed away the words from the palm script that sanctioned exemption and kept it locked. The next day on examining the manuscripts the same words had reappeared. King Mandata felt that Lord Shiva himself had chose ‘Otriyur’ as ‘His Own Land’. The King exempted the township from tax payment. Tiruvotriyur i.e. ‘the town exempted’ from tax payment was thus created. In consonance with this episode, the moolavar in this temple is also called “Ezhuthariyum Peruman” i.e. Lord who knows to write.

Kaliya Nayanar

The Thiruvotriyur was covered by one side by the Sea. The sea roars like the relentless devotee chanting Pranavam. In that sacred town of Thiruvotriyur there was the street by the name of “Chakkarapaadi Street” with full of Oil making professionals. Kalia Nayanar was born in one such family where making and selling oil was their main business. Kalia Nayanar was very rich and also very much devoted to the Lord of Thiruvotriyur who is also called as Adipureeswarar. Kalia Nayanar makes a daily visit to the temple and lit the oil lamps all around i.e. both inside and outside the temple. His devotion was very staunch and firm that not even a single day will get passed without lighting lamps in the temple. Lord Shiva was illuminated in his heart and in turn Kalia Nayanar illuminated the temple. Like the bliss he had in his heart the lamps beamed the light everyday in the temple.

It is said one of the pastime (Thiruvilayadal) of the Lord is to test how firm the devotee in his devotion. In Kalia Nayanar’s life also the Lord decided to test how firm the devotion of Nayanar. As fate would be, the Oil business run by the Kalia Nayanar started suffering loss which forced him to sell his business.

However even now He never stopped the service of lighting the lamps at the temple. Thus all the money he had accumulated got finished over a period and poverty touched him. Unperturbed, he started working as a laborer for others as a daily worker and he yoked (in place of bulls) to the oil press (Chekku Izuthal). Relentless, He however continued to lit the lamps at the temple without fail with whatever money he earned through that. With the number of people who can do that job also grown and the oil business saw a major fall he could not even get the daily wage worker job. Untroubled, he started selling one by one all his properties available in his house only to ensure that he lit the lamp for the Lord at Thiruvotriyur. By now he sold all his properties and only left with his himself and his beloved wife. His extreme devotion pushed him to sell even his wife however there was nobody to buy her.

Kalia Nayanar who never allowed anything to interrupt his illuminating service so far was highly concerned now about the situation of not getting anything to purchase oil to lit the lamps for the Lord. Kalia Nayanar thought for a while and took his wife inside the temple and uttered in front of the Lord “as I am unable to lit the lamp I don’t want to live any further and would like to offer his blood instead of the Oil” saying so he started cutting his throat so that he can offer the blood for lighting the lamps.

And lo! the Blue Throated Lord known as “Asuthoshi” i.e. one who is easily pleased with small prayers and grants boon and who himself is light personified seeing his devotee’s extreme action appeared in front of him, caught his hands and stopped him. The Lord then appeared with his consort on the Holy Bull in the Horizon amidst the chanting of the Vedas and blessed Kalia Nayanar for his devotion. Kalia Nayanar stuck with horripilation with tears rolling from his eyes had the great vision of the Lord whom the Vedas propitiate. Kalia Nayanar after living happily for long later entered the abode of the Lord.

Let us hail the devotion of and worship Kalia Nayanar so that we get atleast a miniscule portion of his bhakti which will make all our life meaningful.


Thiruvotiyur –

Kalia Nayanar – Shaivam.Org

Kalia Nayanar –

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