The Swetharanyeswarar Temple is located in Thiruvenkadu, a village situated in the Mayiladuthurai district of Tamil Nadu, India. It is one of the nine Navagraha temples in Tamil Nadu and is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is worshipped as Swetharanyeswarar. The temple is also associated with the planet Mercury, known as Budha in Hindu astrology, and is believed to offer wealth and wisdom to those who worship here. The temple has a unique feature of a five-faced image of Lord Shiva and a separate sanctum for Budha. The temple is also home to three sacred tanks or theerthams, which are said to have been formed from drops that fell during Lord Shiva’s dance.
According to Hindu mythology, the demon Maruthuvasuran misused his powers to torment saints and innocent people, prompting them to seek Shiva’s intervention. In response, Shiva took on the form of Agoramurthi and killed Maruthuvasuran under a tree, which is believed to be the location of the Thiruvengadu temple. The temple is also known by other names, including Swetaranyam, Adi Chidambaram, and Nava Ntirya Stala. It is said that Indra, Airavata, Budha, Surya, and Chandra have also worshipped Swetharanyeswarar here.
As per Hindu legend, Achyutha Kalappalar, a local chieftain, was childless until his guru, Sivacharya, advised him to pray at Venkadu to be blessed with a child. He visited the temple with his wife and was blessed with a son, Meykandadevar, who later went on to write Sivagnana Bodham. The temple also has associations with Budha, who was the child of Chandra and Tara. Tara was originally the wife of Brihaspati but had an illicit relationship with Chandra. After being directed by Shiva and Brahma to return to her husband, she entrusted the child to Chandra. Budha grew up hating his parents and did severe penance, praying to Shiva. Pleased by his devotion, Shiva blessed him to be a Navagraha.
Finally, the temple also has a special association with Goddess Parvathi, who is depicted in the form of Pillai Idikki Amman holding the child Sambandar, whom she called “Amma.” Brahma was blessed with divine power of learning (Vidya) by Parvathi at the temple. These stories and legends make the Swetharanyeswarar temple a place of great significance and devotion for Hindus.
The Swetharanyeswarar Temple boasts a rich history, as evidenced by the stone inscriptions found within its premises. Early Chola kings, Aditya Chola and Rajaraja Chola, are known to have made significant contributions to the temple. It features several shrines, including those dedicated to Durga and Kali. The temple is particularly famous for its beautiful image of Natarajar. Sunday nights are significant for the worship of Aghoramurthy (Veerabhadrar) at this temple. Similar to Chidambaram, there is also a shrine for Lord Vishnu near the shrine for Natarajar. The temple is also called Adi Chidambaram, as it was here that Shiva first danced before dancing in Chidambaram. The temple has about a hundred stone inscriptions from various dynasties, such as Cholas, Pandyas, and Vijayanagara Empire king Krishnadevaraya. It is believed that many kings, including Raja Raja Chola I, Rajendra I, Virarajendra, Kulothunga I, Kulesekara Pandya, and Vikrama Pandya, bestowed endowments on this temple.
The temple is enclosed by granite walls and covers an area of 2 acres, housing various shrines and water bodies. The temple has two entrances, one on the east and the other on the west, which are adorned with seven-tiered gopurams. Inside the temple, there are many shrines, including those dedicated to the presiding deities, Swetharanya, Aghora, and Nataraja, who are believed to govern Budha. The shrine of Budha is located in the third precinct, opposite to one of the temple tanks. The temple also boasts of three water bodies named Surya, Chandra, and Agni.
An 11th-century bronze statue of Ardhanarishvara, measuring 102 cm in standing posture, was discovered in the Nagapattinam district of the village. The statue depicts the right half as Shiva with two arms, one holding an axe, and the left half as Parvati with intricate decorations and extended drapery up to the knee portion. Another masterpiece of Chola art is a 90 cm tall bronze statue of Parvathi, accompanied by her attendant. The image of Chandikeswara in a seated posture with a folded left leg is also present in the temple. Historians believe that the image of Agoramurthi in the temple is a powerful one. The temple has around hundred stone inscriptions from various dynasties from Cholas, Pandyas, and Vijayanagara Empire King Krishnadevaraya. Many notable kings, such as Raja Raja Chola I, Rajendra I, Virarajendra, Kulothunga I, Kulesekara Pandya, and Vikrama Pandya, have bestowed endowments in the temple.
The Vaikasi Visagam festival, celebrated during the Tamil month of Vaikasi, is one of the most important festivals in the Swetharanyeswarar temple. During this festival, the procession deities of the temple, Swetharanyeswarar and Brahmavidyambigai, are taken out in a grand procession around the temple streets. The Aaadi Mulaikattu festival celebrated during the Tamil month of Aadi is another important festival where devotees perform rituals to worship Lord Murugan, the son of Lord Shiva. The Navaratri festival during the Tamil month of Purattasi and the Aipasi Kolattam festival during the Tamil month of Aipasi are also celebrated with great fervor.
Apart from these festivals, other common festivals like Shivaratri, Vinayaga Chaturthi, Vijayadasami, and Karthigai Deepam are also celebrated in the temple. The Chariot festival is another important festival celebrated in the temple every year in the month of February. The festival lasts for 10 days, and on the 5th day, a special occasion is celebrated for Agora Murthi. People from many surrounding villages come here to pray for their better life during this festival.
Temple Timings :
The Swetharanyeswarar Temple is open for darshan from 6 AM to 12.00 PM in the morning and then again from 4 PM to 9 PM in the evening.
How to reach
Thiruvenkadu is well-connected by road and can be easily accessed from nearby cities and towns. Here are some of the ways to reach Thiruvenkadu:
By air: The nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli International Airport, which is about 158 km from Thiruvenkadu. From the airport, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach Thiruvenkadu.
By train: Mayiladuthurai Junction is the nearest railway station to Thiruvenkadu, located about 24 km away. Trains from major cities like Chennai, Coimbatore, and Madurai stop at Mayiladuthurai Junction. From the station, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach Thiruvenkadu.
By road: Thiruvenkadu is well-connected by road and can be easily reached by bus or taxi. Regular buses are available from major cities in Tamil Nadu to Thiruvenkadu. The village is located on the Sirkazhi-Poompuhar Road, which connects it to other nearby towns and cities.