Where God Siva became a mother

Appar and Thirugnanasambandar, the two famous Nayanmars of the 7th century AD have sung the praise of Thayumanavar Swami of ‘Chirapalli’.

Published: 27th October 2021 06:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th October 2021 06:59 AM   |  A+A-

Photo: Chithra Madhavan

Thiruchirapalli and its environs are home to many ancient religious places, of which the Thayumanavar Swami temple in Malaikottai (Rock Fort) is one. God Siva, the presiding deity of this temple, is worshipped as Thayumanavar Swami (and Matrubhuteshwarar in Samskrit). This deity has been praised in the Tamil verses of the Nayanmars and hence this temple is one among the 275 Padal Petra Sthalams. It is the sixth Padal Petra Sthalam in the erstwhile Chola country south of river Kaveri.

Appar and Thirugnanasambandar, the two famous Nayanmars of the 7th century AD have sung the praise of Thayumanavar Swami of ‘Chirapalli’. The name Matrubhuteshwarar is connected with the Sthala Puranam of this temple. It is said that a lady named Ratnavati, who was a devotee of God Siva lived on the north bank of river Kaveri. When she was pregnant, she wanted her mother’s help to deliver the child.

However, with river Kaveri being in spate, her mother was unable to reach her. Ratnavati prayed to Siva and He appeared in the guise of her mother and helped her. Therefore, the names Thayumanava Swami and Matrubhuteshwarar, which both literally mean ‘Siva who became a mother’. Goddess Parvati is worshipped here as Mattuvar Kuzhali.

There is another temple for Siva on Rockfort, though not in worship, enroute to the Ganesha (Ucchi Pillaiyar) temple at the apex. This is a rock-cut cave temple of the time of Mahendravarman I Pallava of the 7th century AD. The deity here is not a Linga, but an exquisite image of Siva’s manifestation as Gangadhara. Samskrit inscriptions on either side of this image are actually a poem composed by Mahendravarman himself. The name of this shrine was ‘Lalitankura Pallavesvara-Griham’ as ‘Lalithankura’ was one of the titles of Mahendravarman I.

Another cave temple of the same century at a slightly lower level belongs to the Pandya dyasty. Here, on the wall are large images of Ganesha, Kartikeya, Brahma, Surya and Durga in a row. Vishnu is enshrined in a separate sanctum and there is another shrine which would have been for Siva, but there is no image or Linga there now. A Jain cavern and inscriptions in the ancient Brahmi script have also been discovered on Rockfort.

Annual festival
The Brahmotsavam of the Thayumanavar Swami temple is in Chittirai

Both the cave temples are under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India

Chithra Madhavan

The writer is a historian who focuses on temple architecture 


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