The Significance of Thirunallar Temple:
As you are aware, planet Shani is a stern taskmaster, meeting out to people the fruits of their past karma.
During periods of Saturn transit people cannot escape the karmic debts they have to repay and they face hardships during the ezharae shani (sade-sati) periods, ashtama shani periods, shani dasa and other times of Saturn transit.
People began to fear Shani and he soon found that he was very unpopular. He was disturbed by this fact as he was only performing his duty by meeting out karmic dues to people. He is, in fact, a very just planet.
There is a saying in Tamil “Saniyaipol Koduppavanum illai, saniyaipol keduppavanum illai” which translates to “There is no other planet that can be as generous as Shani and there is no other planet that can cause as much harm as Shani”. What we get from Shani depends on our own deeds in past births.
Shani who was upset about being unpopular decided to pray to Lord Shiva at Thirunallar Temple. Lord Shiva was pleased by his prayers and gave him the title of Eswaran. Since then Lord Shani is called Saneeswaran.
This is the only temple where Lord Saneeswaran lost his power to Lord Shiva. King Nala, a devotee of Lord Shiva, was under the malefic influence of Lord Shani, Lord Shiva decided to save King Nala from Saturn’s influences when he offered pujas and prayers at Thirunallar Temple.
Since then millions of devotees from across the country throng this temple to get relief from the harsh effects of Saneeswaran especially during periods of Saturn transit.
Thirunallar Temple History:
The Thirunallar Temple is originally a Shiva Temple, but the main attraction here is the idol of Lord Saneeswaran.
The Shiva here is known as Dharbaranyeswara and the Devi of this Temple is called Bogamartha Poonmulayal.
Lord Shiva is called Dharbaraneswaran here as the Lingam here was originally made of Darba grass. This grass can still be found in the temple.
This place is known by many different names that include Dharparanyam, Nagavitangapuram and Naleswaram. However, the main name Thirunallar emerged as this was the place where King Nala got deliverance from the malefic effects of Saturn.
‘Thiru’ is the holy suffix for the place. Nala signifies ‘King Nala’ and Aru means ‘Heal’. This was the place where King Nala was healed by Lord Shiva and saved from the harmful effects of Lord Saturn.
King Nala in happier times with his wife Damayanthi
Under the malefic influence of Saturn, King Nala loses his kingdom and abandons his wife
King Nala prays at Thirunallar Temple, appeases Lord Shani and regains both Kingdom and wife
Lord Saneeswara’s Sannidhi and Idol at Thirunallar Temple:
The idol of Lord Saneeswara idol at Thirunallar temple is a very small one. Devotees are often surprised at how small this idol is.
Please don’t let the size of the idol fool you. This small sized idol is packed with infinite power!!
In fact, Lord Saneeswara Bhagawan is the main glory of this temple. The sannidhi is situated in front of Ambal Sannishi and the idol faces east. This is unusual as most Saturn idols face south.
Another unusual fact is that in this temple the Saneeswaran idol has only two hands and the right-hand holds the Abhaya Mudra. In most other temples the idols of Lord Saturn usually have four hands.
The significance of the Abhaya Mudra: In Sanskrit, “Abhaya” means “fearlessness” and thus this mudra is supposed to dispel fear. This mudra symbolizes protection, peace, and the dispelling of fear.
This Mudra is an ancient one, demonstrating that the hand is empty of weapons. It indicates friendship and peace.
From this Mudra we can clearly infer that Lord Saneeswaran is protecting all devotees who offer puja here.
Sannidhi of Dharparanyeswarar:
It is at this place that Lord Shiva in the form of Lord Dharparanyeswarar showered Bramha the creator with blessings. Holy saints like Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar have sung praises of Lord Dharparaneswarar.
The Sannidhi is situated in the first corridor, facing the south. In front of the Ambal Sannidhi there is a mandapam called ‘Sopana Mandapam’.
This Goddess at Thirunallar temple is considered the very life of Saiva cult and is hence known as Parameshwari. This is one of the Shakti Peetams.
Other Sannidhis at Thirunallar Temple:
Vidangar Sannidhi: There are seven Thiyagar temples dedicated to Lord Thiyagarajar and these are known as Vidnaga temples.
Thirunallar temple is one amongst these seven. The other six temples are situated at Thiruvavur, Thiru Nagaikaronam, Thirukavil, Thirukolil, Thiruvoimur and Thirumaraikodu.
In Thirunallar, Thiyagarajar is seen on the southern side of Sri Daprparanyeswarar Sannidhi and He is known as ‘Vidanga Thiyagar’
According to popular legend, it was Adhi Vinayakar who supported the Nishada King Nala with financial assistance when he modified and improved the temple.
The Sannidhi for Vinayakar is situated in the southern corridor of Thirunallar temple.
Sixty-three Nayanmars Sannidhi (sixty-three Shivite Saints):
On the divine corridor towards the beginning of the southern corridor, we can find the idol of the four saints who promoted Tamil literature.
Besides them, the idols of the sixty-three Nayanmars are located. The details of each Saint like his name, birth star etc are indicated behind the idols.
Along with the sixty-three Nayanmars, the idol of King Nala can also be found.
In King Nala’s life, Thirunallar proved to be a turning point. It is only when he came to this place he got salvation from ‘harsh gaze of shani’.
This pleased Nala immensely and he took great efforts to improve the temple in many ways. Because of his efforts towards the temple, his statue was installed along with the sixty-three Nayanmars.
There is a lingam next to Nala’s statue. This indicates that Nala is eternally enjoying Divine Bliss.
Lord Muruga Sannidhi:
Situated in the western corridor Muruga here is seen with his ‘Vel’ accompanied by Valli and Devyani his two consorts.
Goddess Lakshmi Sannidhi:
Situated in the western corridor next to the Murugan Sannidhi, Goddess Lakshmi in Thirunallar assumes the forms of enchanting ‘Sial’ and ‘Sudha’ incarnations.
It is usual for each Shiva temple to have Dakshinamurthy on the southern side, Elangothpavar on the western side and Goddess Durga on the northern side.
Similarly in Thirunallar Elangotpavar can be found in the western corridor. Small idols of Thirumal and Ayan are found on either side of Elangothpavar. Legend says that Thirumal and Ayan had searched for the head and the foot of the Almighty.
Sri Durgai is an integral part of the Goddess Ambikai and is worshipped in every Shiva temple.
In Thirunallar her idol is seen in all its glory on the northern side of the temple next to Pitchatanamurthy. A large number of ‘sumangalies’ (women whose husbands are alive) throng her Sannidhi to offer their prayers most devotedly.
This is one of the significant Sannidhis in the temple.
This idol indicates that the temple is an ancient one and is seen next to the ‘dharpai’ (kusa grass) bushes on the northern side of the temple next to Durga Sannidhi.
In the North East part of this temple, Bairavar is seen along with his ‘vahanam’ a dog.
As per traditions in all Shiva Temples, in Thirunallar too, midnight puja in the temple concludes with the pooja of Bairavar. Here the idol of Bairavar and his vahanam the Dog are quite large and impressive.
Kalathi Appar Sannidhi:
In the north-east extreme of the temple, Kalathi Appar Sannidhi can be seen in a separate mandapam. If we offer our prayers to this deity we can free ourselves from adverse effects of Raghu and Ketu.
Statues of serpents are also installed in this Sannidhi.
On reaching the temple that is ideally situated between Arasalaru and Vanchai Rivers people can witness crowds of devotees from across the country and even different countries of the world.
The road leading to the main gopuram is paved with shops and lodges on either side. The raja gopuram has 7 tiers, the second raja gopuram has 5 tiers and the third gopuram has three tiers, these gopurams are covered with beautiful sculptures.
The entrance of the temple is guarded by two Dwara Balakars who have four hands each. At the end of the east street of the Temple, the statue of Saint Thirugnanasambandar’s is housed in a beautiful mandapam.
There are three holy corridors around the temple. These holy corridors are called Deva Praharams. There are a number of shrines for Gods and Goddess situated on these deva praharams.
There are also a number of mandapams in the temple. The first corridor houses the Sopana Mandapam. The Vidanga Thiagar Mandapam is situated near the sanctum on the southern side.
There are also spacious mandapams known as Ardha Mandapam and Sabha Mandapam. The southern Mandapam is meant for Sabhanathar and Bhairavar. Near the entrance of the tower on the northern side, there are two more mandapams called festival Mandapam and mukti mandapam.
Other Photos of the Temple:
Other attractions at Thirunallar:
Thirunallar has two beautiful holy chariots. They are quite large in size and are famed for their artistic carvings.
They are taken out during special festivals and the Gods and Goddesses are taken out in procession around the temple in these holy chariots.
It is a great delight for the devotees to have ‘darsanam’ of Gods and Goddesses in procession.
You can observe the beautifully decked idol of Lord Saneeswara on procession seated on one of the chariots.
Holy plant at the temple:
The Dharpai bushes are located on the Northern Side of the temple.
The Durba grass is considered scared in Hinduism and used for performing pujas even today.
Steps for Lighting Sesame Lamps:
Even though thousands of lamps are constantly lit by devotees these steps are cleaned and regularly to ensure they are free from oil and dust
Holy Tanks (Theerthams):
Ancient legend mention 13 temple tanks that used to surround the temple. Today we can still find 6 of them. They are:
- Nala teertham,
- Bramha teertham,
- Saraswati teertham,
- Agasthiar teertham
- Hamsa teertham
- Vani theertham
The Nala Theertham is the most significant amongst these and is situated in the North West part of the temple. Legend has it that King Nala bathed in this Holy Tank and got rid of the adverse effects of Lord Shani.
Even today it is the belief that those who take bath in this Theertham can wash off their sins and inflictions.
Near the Nala Theertham there is a Nala Koopam (well), this well was created when Lord Shiva used his trident to bring down waters to Thirunallar from river Ganga for the sake of Nala. People worship this well and it is not used for bathing.
The temple authorities try to maintain the Nala Theertham as cleanly as possible but thousands of devotees throng this temple and this temple tank is not usually very clean.
Staunch devotees take a dip in the tank notwithstanding the dirt.
It is a practice to leave behind some piece of cloth. However well-known Pandit Narendra Babu Sharmaji’s advice to devotees is to NOT leave behind clothes in the temple tank, Nala Theertham. He says that one should carry the old clothes back in a cover and wear new clothes while visiting the temple.
Pandit Sharmaji says that one should carry the old clothes back in a cover and wear new clothes while visiting the temple.
Procedure for worship at Thirunallar Temple:
- Don’t be afraid of Lord Sanaischara unless you have committed any kind of fraud or crimes, as these are the type of offenses that attract the greatest anger of Lord Saturn.
- One should visit Thirunallar Sanaischara Temple only once in a year
- As far as possible one should try and visit Tirunallar with one’s entire family (husband, wife, and children) and stay there for at least one day (preferably overnight). There are lodges at Thirunallar to facilitate your stay.
- If it is not possible to visit the temple personally then pujas can be offered through other persons and prasadam can be obtained from the temple.
- The best day to offer worship is Saturday. Ideally, you should arrive by Friday evening.
- One can expect a lot of crowd on Saturdays. On most Saturdays, the devotees exceed 50,000 in number. Be prepared to wait in long queues.
Steps for offering the puja at the temple:
Step 1: Bathing at Nala Theertham
The first step before entering the temple is to take a bath in the temple tank known as Nala Theertam.
The first step before entering the temple is to take a bath in the temple tank known as Nala Theertam.
Procedure for taking a bath at Nala Theertha – There are different views regarding this and we are presenting both views. We do not know the best method and advice devotees to choose the option they are comfortable with.
Advice A: Pandit Narendra Babu Sharmaji advices devotees to NOT leave behind clothes in the temple tank, Nala Theertham. He says that one should carry the old clothes back in a cover and wear new clothes while visiting the temple.
Advise B: The advice of astrologer Sri. Meganathan is as follows:
1. While taking a bath you must completely immerse yourself into the tank water – that is you should be wet from head to toe.
2. Any clothes and ornaments (including jewellery and divine threads etc.) should be left behind on the banks of the pond.
3. Warning: Remove all jewellery and divine threads before entering the tank for bath. If you do wear anything then it must be left at the Nala theertham. Carrying back items worn during bath will increase malefic effects of Shani and the doshas of others will also attach itself to you.
4. Once you have finished your bath please change to clean or new clothes and make sure head and body are completely dry.
5. Once the bath has been completed don’t look back at the “Nala Theerth”. and do not return there.
Step 2: Proceed to visit the Ganesha Temple nearby to offer prayers.
Buy coconut and camphor before entering the Ganesha Temple. Once you are out of the Ganesha temple, with prayers in your mind break the coconut at the coconut stand.
The Ganesha Temple can be seen in the image above.
Step 3: Proceed towards main Dharbaraneswara Temple
Before entering the Shani temple one should buy the necessary puja items, this should include blue colour oleander flowers ((Alari Poo in Tamil ; Kanigle Hoovu in Kannada))
The other items include flowers, Gingerly oil, small black cloth, betel nuts, and bananas.
Once you are at the entrance depending on your preference you can either opt for free darshan queue or opt for the paid darshan queue.
The lines are usually long but move reasonably fast.
The temple authorities are experienced at handling large crowds and this is quiet evident in the way they manage to keep the crowds under control and moving fast.
Depending on how the queue is managed you may either pass the Saniswara Sannidhi first or you may first pass through the Shivan Sannidhi.
At the temple it is advised that one should first have darshan of Lord Sanaischara and only then should they have the darshan of Lord Shiva.
If the queue reaches Lord Shiva before reaching Lord Shaniswara then please return to the Shiva Sannidhi before leaving the temple.
First, you have the Darsha of Lord Saneeswara followed by Lord Shiva and then of Ambal.
Once out of the Sannidhi you can light lamps with gingelly oil and with black til (sesame) or til rice (sesame seed rice) that is offered as nivedhana. Perform Navagraha Shanti Homas ( a puja to satisfy and calm down the anger of the planets). They offer money in the hundi, cows to the temple. Many also shave their heads and offer the hair.
One can perform Navagraha Shanti Homas (a puja to satisfy and calm down the anger of the planets) by contacting the Temple administration.
You can also offer Abishekam to Lord Saneeswara and Lord Dharbaranyeswara. Milk, rosewater, tender coconuts, oil, curds, sandalwood paste, and vibuthi are offered as part of the Abishegam.
Many devotees offer a saree at Ambal Sannidhi.
You can also offer Annadanam at the temple. There are facilities for devotees to shave their hair and offer it at the temple.
Apart from the big Sannidhis, there are many other smaller Sanidhis in the temple. Many people like to visit the Kubera Ganapati Sannidhi as it is considered lucky. Sumangalis like to visit the Goddess Durga Sannidhi.
The complete list of smaller Sannidhis has listed above in this post.
Step 4: Concluding the visit:
After visiting Sanaischara Temple, it is advised that one should return home directly and not visit any other temple on the route.
One should not bring back any prasadam other than Vibhuti (Sacred Ash) from this place
These guidelines have been suggested by Brahmanda Guruji Shri Narendra Babu Sharmaji (http://www.divinebrahmanda.com/2010/09/procedure-to-visit-thirunallar.html)
Author and astrologer Sri. Meganatha – http://jothidapariharam.blogspot.in/search/label/Shani%20Pariharam
Location of Saniswara Temple, Thirunallar
Some Other Facts
‘Special Day: Saturday is considered to be the day dedicated to Lord’
Gemstone: Blue Sapphire (Neelam)
Ruling Day: Saturday
Flower: Vanni, Kuvalai
Associated No. : 7 (Seven)
Grain: Black Urad Daal
Food: Rice Mixed With Black Urad Daal