CHENNAI: Somangalam, a small village about 10 km from Kundrathur, has a temple for Shiva in addition to the Vishnu temple dedicated to Soundararaja Perumal. The main sanctum having the Lingam which is worshipped as Somanathiswara faces east. Goddess Parvathi is enshrined in a separate sanctum as Kamakshi Amman.
The entrance to the temple is via an arch which has been constructed in recent times. The icon of Nataraja here is in the rare chathura tandava pose. The central shrine is of Chola vintage with a rounded rear end which is called gajaprishta vimanam indicating the main sanctum resembles the back of an elephant.
This temple is connected with Chandra or the Moon god. According legend, Chandra was once cursed by King Daksha and lost his lustre. He then worshipped Shiva in this temple after bathing in the sacred tank called vinai tirtha kulam and got back his beauty. Another tank near the temple is called Chandikeshwarar Tirtham. The moon is called Soma in Sanskrit, and Shiva worshipped by Soma is called Somanathiswarar. The village too got its name Somangalam. There is a separate shrine for Soma here.
The Somanathiswarar temple is one of the nine temples dedicated to the nine planets (grahas) situated around Porur. A feature of this temple is the Nandi faces outwards and not at Shiva. It is said that a king was once renovating the temple when the army of the enemy attacked the kingdom. The king requested Nandi to face the enemy and thwart their attack and Shiva’s bull turned around and blew away the foes!
The Chola inscriptions belong to the reign of Rajendra Chola II and Kulottunga Chola III of 11th and 12th centuries respectively. An epigraph refers to heavy rains and the breaches of the tank bund in the reign of Kulottunga II and the provisions made for its annual repair.
(The writer is a historian who focuses on temple architecture)