CHENNAI: The Marundeeshwarar temple in Thiruvanmiyur dedicated to Shiva is one of the bigger and better known temples in Chennai. According to tradition, Sage Agastya came to know of the curative properties of various herbs from Shiva in this temple. Valmeeki, the composer of Ramayana, is believed to have worshipped Shiva in this shrine blessed by him. This place was originally named after him as Thiru-Valmeeki-Oor (sacred place of Valmeeki) which later got changed to Thiruvanmiyur. Even today, there is a shrine for this sage outside the temple on the busy ECR.
This temple is one among the 275 Shiva temples, which are known as padal petra sthalams. These are the important temples for this deity which have been praised in the Thevaram hymns of the Nayanmars, the 63 devotees of Shiva. Two tall gopurams crown the entrances to Marundeeshwarar temple on the east and west. The main entrance is from the west as the principal deity faces this direction. The central sanctum houses the Shiva Lingam worshipped as Marundeeshwarar who, as the name suggests, has great healing powers. In Tamil marundu is medicine and Eshwara is another Sanskrit name for Lord Shiva.
The utsava-murti is Thyagaraja Swami who is enshrined in a separate sanctum, the mandapa of which is exquisitely carved. The shrine for Tripurasundari (Goddess Parvati) was constructed during the Chola era while the mandapa which leads to this shrine belongs to the Vijayanagara era.
This temple has two tanks. One is inside the compound and the larger one is on the east side outside the gopuram. The vestiges of Chola and Vijayanagara architecture are visible in many parts of this temple. There are many inscriptions of the reign of Emperor Rajendra Chola I of the 11th Century AD.
(The writer is a historian who focuses on temple architecture)