Being in Nellai, its a must to visit Nellaiappar Temple and I did.
Just opposite is the Iruttu Kadai! Iruttu Kadai literally means 'Dark Shop', basically a small old shop with wooden structure, an old, small wooden board and a single bulb!!! Iruttu kadai is the most famous shop that makes the ghee oozing, lip smacking, halwa!!! The shop opens at about 5 pm, but the queue here starts forming for 4 pm!!! The whole lot of halwa gets over in less than 2 hrs!!!!!! No, I did not even bother to get into that queue of people that was longer than Hanuman's tail.....
The Lord Shiva here is called Venuvanathar or Nellayappar. Venu means Bamboo and since this place was a Bamboo forest, He got the name so. And its the same reason why Bamboo is the Sthala Vruksham here! Another major legend here, tells how the place got the name Tirunelveli & the Lord here Nellaiyappar. Once a poor man name Veda Sharma, who took alms everyday, cooked it and offered to Lord Shiva. Once rain took the better of him and he didn't know how to keep him paddy dry. When he prayed, Lord made sure just a circle where the paddy was laid, stayed dry without rain. Since Lord fenced (veli) the paddy (nel), the place got the name Tirunelveli & the Lord here, Nellayappar!
Same dancing Garuda...
The temple is believed to be built by Arikesari Parankusa Maravarma Pandiyan aka Nindraseer Nedumaran in 7th C CE. The earliest inscription here is of Veera Pandiyan in 10th C. Also inscriptions of Rajendra Chola 1 & Kulothunga Chola 1. Also there's an inscription of Maravarma Sundara Pandyan that refer to the Lord as Wodayar and his consort as Nachiyar. Its said to have been built by various people of various dynasties, upto Nayaks with Sivanthiappa Nayak in 1654 CE.
As soon as you enter temple, right atop, the ceiling is an exquisite wood work. Its so exquisite that it needs a separate post about it. Will do that soon! However here's a pic of the Woodwork at the Thamira Sabhai (Copper hall) or the 5 dancing abodes of Lord Shiva (the other halls being Gold, Silver, Emerald & Art). Remember the Golden Hall of Chidambaram??
Nellaiyappar and Kanthimathi shrines are 2 separate shrines that are connected with a long corridor. Some mandapams said by themselves that they were built by Vijayanagara / Nayaks. Another post on the lifesize, detailed pillars coming up!
On the Ardha Mandapa of the Kanthimathi shrine is a circular, lotus shaped relief on the floor with some inscription on its petals. Its the depiction of the Ragas of carnatic music!!
In the inner circumabulation passage, on the walls, scattered-ly placed, reliefs of some compositions! And here, the bronzes were by the Pandyas, which have a subtle different in their posture comparing to the Chola bronzes!
And luckily, the Kanthimadhi bronze was on the Golden Chariot and driven in the outer circumambulation passage the day I was there!!!
TO GET THERE:
1 km from Tirunelveli Railway Station.
8 kms from Tirunelveli Bus Stand
Dedicated to Prof. Swaminathan & Co.