Thiruvarur Thiyagarajar Temple (Tamil Nadu)


The most important temple here is the Thiruvarur Thiyagarajar Temple (Thyagesar Kovil or Thyagaraja Temple) and it is one of the most important temples in Tamil Nadu. 

Thiruvarur Thyagarajar Temple

Thiruvarur Thyagarajar Temple inscriptions

Thiruvarur Thyagarajar Temple Sculptures

Thiruvarur Thyagarajar Temple Sculptures

The Lord Siva here is called Thyagarajar (Thyagesar) and the Ambal here is called Nilothpalambal aka Alliyankodhai. A very endearing sculptural marvel here is in the sanctum sanctorum itself. A woman stands beside Ambal and she’s essentially the friend of Ambal and she carries Lord Muruga aka Lord Subramaniya on her hip. Lord Ambal’s left hand is on Muruga’s head. The whole scene is so endearing and loving. And this scene is depicted both as the Moolavar (Stone Sculpture) and Uthsavar (Bronze Sculpture). Such a depiction, of an entire scene, is seen no where else.

A shrine for the fierce form of Lord Shiva’s consort called Durga is also there in this temple. She is called the Rowdhra Durga aka Erisina Kottravai. There are 8 shrines of different Durga all over this temple. The first shrine is of Mahishasura Mardhini and 3 more Durga in the first shrine and 4 more in the 2nd shrine.
Other shrines here are of Navagraha, Runa Vimochanar, Vishwakarmeshwaram which is essentially the Sivalingam worshipped by heavenly sculptor Viswakarma, Sahashralingam which is essentially the Sivanlingam which has a thousand miniature lingams all over it, Vathapi Ganapathi, Veedhi Vidanga Vinayakar, Vallbhai Ganapathi, Aingalakkasu Vinayakar aka Azhagiya Chola Vinayakar, Maatruraitha Vinayakar, Uchishta Ganapathi, and a Standing Ganapathi.
Another specialty here is the Chandikesar shrine. All the temples have only 1 chandikesar. Here, this temple has 2 shrines of Chandikesar. One is usual and the 2nd one is considered to be Yaman (Messenger of Death) himself. He has a beard and matted locks. There is a very interesting story behind this. Being born in Tiruvarur itself is considered as a direct ticket to go to heaven after death – as they say "Being born in Tiruvarur, Being lived in Mylapore, Being dead in Benaras are direct tickets to go to heaven". So Yama got so offended that he has just no work here in Tiruvarur. So lord Shiva said to him that he may be here as the second Chandikesar. So he is called the YamachandesarThe sculptures & relieves on the pillars are beyond words. They are so intricate and fabulous!!!

Also within this temple is another little temple called the Kamalambal Temple. This is considered one of the 64 Sakthi Peedam. The Goddess here is Kamalambal who is the mixture of the 3 Major Goddesses of Hinduism (Ka-Kalaimagal (Saraswathi); Ma-Malaimagal (Parvathi); La-Alaimagal(Lakshmi).

There is a point in this temple from where all the 7 Gopurams of this temple are seen. Oh yeah, essentially this temple has 7 Gopurams; 4 on the four directions of the outer boundary of the temple; 3 located in other 3 different locations within the temple.
The temple has a couple of halls like Devasiriya mandapam, Rajanarayana mandapam, Rajendra Chola mandapam. The Rajanarayana mandapam has the Simha thoon, the pillars with lion which reminded me of the similar ones in Mahabs.

Thiruvarur Sivan Temple

Thiruvarur Temple History

Thiruvarur Temple Frescoes

Thiruvarur Temple Frescoes

The Devasiriya Mandapam was the reason why I mainly ventured to the temple – the still surviving ancient frescoes here. However much to my disappointment, I couldn’t make it to the mandapam coz it was locked and I needed some special permission for it to be opened. After Mylapore Kapaleeswarar Temple, I think this is the only temple where I almost spent days together appreciating and losing myself in the serenity and aesthetics of the temple architecture and paintings especially.
Here comes my favourite part of the temple – the ancient frescoes in the temple. This temple has ancient paintings from the Chola Reign. But later during the Maratha era, they had painted over the Chola Paintings in 17thC. Actually there are very less number of places where Chola paintings still exist. Chola paintings have been recently found in the Thanjavur Periya Kovil (Tanjore Big Temple).
Here in Tiruvarur, at places the Marata paintings have got peeled off and the Chola paintings are visible below them. Here are some of those Chola Paintings revealed under the peeled off Marata layer.

This temple is supposed to have existed ever since sixth century CE. However the present stone structure came into existence in the Chola era during the 9-10C CE during the reign of King Aditya Chola and was continued to be built under the reign of Queen Chembiyanmadevi. The inscriptions in the temple are the proof for it. Later certain extensions were done by the Vijayanagara Reign by King Krishnadeva Rayar.
At the entrance just below the Rajagopuram is this series of relieves of the Krishna leela which is essentially the pranks played by Lord Krishna in his childhood. So dance poses called Karanas were on the other side.

Panchamuga Vadyam is another specialty of this temple. Pancha+muga means 5 faced and Vadyam is essentially musical instrument. This musical instrument survives till date and is played by just one family. Remember the Kudamuzha played by the Nandi in Bhuloganathar temple??? Well, this is something similar to that, but a bit more complicated. It is believed that Nandi played for Shiva Thandavam (Trance dance of Lord Shiva). Here it is played on every puja, everyday... Hope the instrument and the knowledge to play it survives for the generations to come...
Just opposite to the temple is the Kamalalaya Kulam which is the pond of the temple. In this pond centrally placed is the Naganathaswamy Temple aka Naduvanayanar Temple. 

Thiruvarur Thiyagarajar Temple timings: 5:00AM to 12:00Noon; 4:00PM to 9:00PM

How to reach Tiruvarur Thyagaraja Temple: 
From Tiruvarur Junction Railway station: 2km

Kumbakonam to Tiruvarur Distance: 41km
Thanjavur to Tiruvarur Distance: 61km
Chennai to Tiruvarur Distance: 300km (via Pondicherry, Chidambaram & Mayiladuthurai)


While Thyagaraja swamy temple is the most important temple of Tiruvarur, here’s a list of other temples located very close to Tiruvarur and are definitely top places to visit in Tiruvarur when you’re in the town for Pilgrimage Tourism in South India. While all these temples are located within 5km distance drive from Thiruvarur Thyagesar temple, it is not a wise idea to depend on public transport to reach here. Best is to hire an auto or taxi from Tiruvarur for an entire day and visit all these other temples back to back. Since the last one, Vilamal is located in a different direction, it would be the best to see the rest all in the morning, back to Tiruvarur for lunch during 'Nadai Mooduthal' (afternoon closure) and head to Vilamal in the evening once the temples re-open.

Thiruvarur Naduvana Nathar Temple

Thiruvarur Sivan Temple Kamalambal Kulam

Thiruvarur Kasi Viswanathar Temple

Thiruvarur Kasi Viswanathar Temple

Thiruvarur Kasi Viswanathar Temple

Naduvana nathar temple is the temple located centrally in the Kamalalayam pond, located just opposite to Tiruvarur Thyagaraja temple. First let me tell you about the pond. This pond covers a sprawling area of 25 acres. Huge isn’t it? Yup, and it’s one of the biggest ponds in India. Generally the temples located in the centre are really small, essentially they are just a single shrine. So, they are worshipped from the shore itself.
But that’s not the case here. The temple is real huge. And whoever visits Thiruvarur Kovil, would definitely visit this temple too. And how do we get to the mid-point of that sprawling 25 acres? Swimming. Ok, just kidding. Regular coracle (that circular bamboo boats) service is available to reach this place. (Update Nov 2020: Sadly the beautiful, nature friendly, non-polluting coracles have now been replaced by motor boats!) 
This temple is called the Naduvana nathar temple. This temple is a proper functioning temple with regular poojas and worship. The Lord Shiva here is called Naganathar (Naganathaswamy) and the Ambal here is called Yogambikai.

How to reach Naduvana Nathar Temple (on Google Maps): Naganathaswamy Temple
As mentioned above, there's a motorboat available regularly from the shore (entrance of Thiyaagaraaja Swamy Temple)
Naganathaswamy Temple timings: Same as Tiruvarur Thyagaraja Temple

Enroute to the Kuruvi Rameshwaram from Thyagesar Temple, there is one more temple. Its called Keke Ramkey!!! Yeah, I know that sounds way too funny!!! Actually it’s the shortened names of Gayakarai aka Ramarkarai!!!

How to reach Kekkarai Shiva Temple (On Google Maps): Kekkarai Shiva Temple 
Distance from Tiruvarur Thyagaraja Temple - 2.7km
From Tiruvarur take the Kekkarai Road (Gayakarai Road, but locals understand only if referred to as Kekkarai). Just after the railway tracks is the Kekkarai village. From there in 1 km is a bridge from where the road splits into 2 where this temple is located. The road to the left has to be taken which leads to Kuruvi Rameshwaram (mentioned next). 

From the Thyagesar Temple, we were on our way to go to the Kuruvi Rameshwaram Temple, which is also called Thirupalli Mukkoodal Thirunethranathar Temple. The Lord Shiva here is called the Mukkan Nathar aka Thirunethranathar aka Thrinethra Swami (which literally means 'The God with 3 eyes'). The Goddess here is called Anjanaakshi aka Maimevukanni. This temple is considered as the Triveni Sangamam of South. Now, what’s this Triveni Sangamam? It’s the confluence of the 3 holy rivers – The Ganges, Yamuna and the mystical Sarawathi.

How to reach Thirupalliyin Mukkoodal Temple (on Google Maps): Kuruvi Rameswaram Temple
Distance from Tiruvarur Thyagaraja Temple - 5km (continue past Kakkarai mentioned above)
Tiruvarur Thirunethranathar Temple timings: 6:00AM to 8:00AM & 5:00PM to 7:00PM

Temples near Thiruvarur

Temples near Thiruvarur

Vilamar Pathanjali Manoharar Temple

Vilamar Pathanjali Manoharar Temple

The Kasi Viswanathar Temple is the temple which attracted me a lot. Many locals may not know about this temple. Yeah! That’s the type of place I always hunt and find and fall in love with!!! And this particular find was not mine, but my mom’s!!!
This temple is where Lord Rama placed the ‘pindam’ for his father Dasaratha. Now what’s this ‘Pindam’? It’s the rice balls placed in the new moon day or the death anniversary in his memories!!!This temple was in a very much dilapidated condition and was withering away.
Somehow this face in one of the gopurams of the temple reminded me of classical greek sculptures!!!

How to reach Tiruvarur Kasi Viswanathar Temple: We spotted it somewhere on our way from Kekkarai to Thirupalli Mukkoodal (if you go there & find the exact location, let me know!)
Distance from Tiruvarur Thyagaraja Temple - 3-4km

This is locally called Vilamar Temple. The Lord Shiva here is called Patanjali Manoharar. The Ambal here is Goddess Madhura Bhashini aka Yachinum Men Mozhiyammai and that means ‘The one with the eyes slender than the musical instrument yarp’. The temple is east faced. 
The ceiling of the temple has several panels of frescoes about the history of the temple, essentially in black & blue. These frescoes are not very ancient but not very new as well. I believe these must belong to the Nayak Period.
This temple is denoted in the Saivaite Hymn book – Thevaram. This temple has been worshipped by Saint Patanjali and Saint Vyagrapadhar. Saint Patanjali has a body of a snake and human head and Saint Vyagrabadhar has a tiger’s body and human head.
An important feature in this temple is the ‘Idadhu Paadha Darisanam’, which is essentially the darshan or the viewing of the left foot of Lord Shiva. When the Lord is in the Ardhanaari form (that’s half Shiva and half Ambal form, the left half belongs to Goddess Ambal. So the ‘Idadhu Paadha Darisanam’ essentially means viewing Ambal’s foot. This special viewing is on the day of Thiruvadhirai which is the Nakshatra (star) of Lord Shiva and this is the very day when Lord Shiva and Ambal are in the united Ardhanaari Form. According to the English calendar, this day falls somewhere in the end of December to the first week of Jan of every year. 
This temple is a specialty temple for wedding like Kalyana Venkatramanar Temple, Karur and Kalyana Perumal Temple, Chennai. Also childlessness is believed to be cured here. The temple tank is called Agni Theertham.

How to reach Vilamal Patanjali Manoharar Temple (On Google Maps): Vilamar Temple
Distance from Tiruvarur Thyagaraja Temple - 2.5km (towards Ayikkudi)
Vilamal Patanjali Manoharar Temple Timings: 7:30AM to 12:00Noon and 4:30PM to 7:30PM

Thiruvarur Thyagarajar Temple Pinterest Temples near Thiruvarur Pinterest


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. Hi bushavali

    good narration and pictures

    Informative journey...

    thanks for sharing....

  2. So many interesting places to visit! You really enjoy all the marvels around you, don' you?

    Thinking about all those ancient buildings and the life that once was lived in them always blows me away.

  3. Hi Friend! Fabulous temple...

    Have a Happy and Successful New Year!! Wish you all the best!!
    Horus and Sobek wait for you at Kom Ombo... Enjoy!

  4. Happy New Year!!
    We wish you a joyful life
    full of healthy, happiness and pleasure :)

    Hugs Love Anya

    Kareltje =^.^=

    Betsie =(^.^)=

  5. Happy New Year my friend. May 2011 be filled with friendships and laughter.

  6. Hello,

    Wonderful carvings and paintings.You have given a lovely narration about this temple complex with very interesting photos.It is a great in depth study in religion and history.

    Have a nice day,

  7. @Jose,
    Thanks dear...

    Thanks sweety...

    @Miss Footloose,
    Its amazing to live here actually... So many ancient marvels are just a part and parcel of our lives!!!

    Thanks love... :)

  8. @Anya,
    Thanks honey... :)

    Happy New Year to you too love.. :)

    Thank you so much for the appreciation cheta!!!

  9. Gorgeous landscape, amazing monuments, excellent pictures.

  10. i went ther on June'2010 awesome huge temple/carts. Its my birth place. really thnkx bhushavali :)

  11. @Phivos,
    Thanks sweety!!!

    Great to meet someone who was born there!!! Thanks for dropping by & commenting dear!!!
    Do drop by often!!!


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