Thirunallar the holy place of Lord Sani is located 5 kms from Karaikal under the jurisdiction of Pondicherry Union Territory. 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 rajagopuram has 7 tiers, the second rajagopuram 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 enterance of the tower on the northern side there are two more mandapams called festival mandapam and mukti mandapam.
Sannidhi of Dharparanyeswarar:
The Lingam of Lord Dharparanyeswarar is a Suyambu Lingam. The belief if that the Lingam manifested at Thirunallar temple so that Lord Bramha could offer his worship. 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.
This 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.
Lord Saneeswara Bhagavan Sannidhi:
Lord Saniswara Bhagawan is the main glory of this temple. He is facing east and the sannidhi is situated in front of Ambal Sannidhi. What is unusual about this is the fact that in most temples Lord Saniswara Bhagawan usually faces south, however as an exception in this temple he faces east. Another unusual fact is that while most idols of Saniswara Bhagawan have four hands the idol at the Thirunallar Temple has only two hands. Since Lord Saturn is the main deity of this temple at Thirunallar there are no other sanctums for other planets.
Other Sannidhis at Thirunallar Temple:
Vidangar Sannidhi: There are a total of seven Thiyagar temples dedicated to Lord Thiyagarajar also known as Vidnaga temples. Thirunallar temple is one amongst these seven vidanga temples. 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 in Thitunallar Thiyagar is known as ‘Vidanga Thiyagar’
According to popular legend it was Adhi Vinayakar who supported 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 in 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 in the northen side of the temple next to Durgai 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 serpants are also installed in this Sannidhi.
Other attractions at Thirunallar:
Thirunallar has two beautiful holy chariots. They are quiet 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.
Holy plant at the temple: The holy plant of the temple is ‘Dharpai’ grass (Kusa grass). In ancient times the Almighty emerged out of Dharpai grass and hence got the name Darparaneseshwara. The Dharpai bushes are located in the Northern Side of the temple.
Steps for Lighting Sesame Lamps:
Devotees light lamps with sesame in this temple. The steps where these lamps are lit are made of marble stones and are always kept clean by temple staff. 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):
Amongst the temples many holy tanks of sacred water, Brahma Theertham, Vani Theertham, Anna Theertham, Agathiar Theertham and Nala Theertham are of great significance. 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 Kali. 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.
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