I have spent nearly 2 years in Tirunelveli and it would be befitting if I write about the famous Nellaippar kovil which I used to visit regularly. This is situated in the heart of the town. This temple is really as old as Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple, or slightly older than that. This temple is hailed as one of the pancha sabhas of Nataraja other being Chidambaram, Madurai, Kuttralam and Tiruvalankadu. Nellaiyappar is also known as Venuavneswar and this temple is the 14th thevara sthalams in Pandya region of Tamilnadu.
This temple is vast, spread over acres of land and houses two temples of Nellaiyappar (Siva) and Kanthimati (Parvati) his consort. The towers of both these temples are huge and they are really attractive with colorful figures engraved on it. This is situated near the river Tamarabharani.
As we enter the Nellaiyappar’s Kovil a huge Nandi which is the vehicle of Siva welcomes us. This is the first prakaram once you enter the temple. Unlike other Nandis found mainly of black granite this one here is in white.
Then we enter the next prakaram where we see the Dwajasthambam (flag post) and we have to climb a flight of steps and there is a mandapam and we can see the musical pillars which resonates with the seven musical notes when one strikes the pillars with small piece of stone or wood. It is really a wonder how these musical pillars were carved out of a monolithic stone. These kinds of pillars are found in Meenakshi temple in Madurai and Suchidram Siva temple near Kanyakumari.
When we enter the next prakaram again there is a small Nandi and just before we enter to have the darshan of the main deity we can see the huge idol of Vinayaga. On either side of the entrance there are Dwarapalakars guarding the entrance. Nellaiyappar doesn’t look like a proper Siva lingam here as it has a different shape, slightly rectangular. There are guides to explain the history of the temple free of cost. Next to Nellaippar sannidhi is Nellai Govidharajar sannidhi, here one can find Vishnu in a reclining form on his serpent. It is believed that Vishnu visited this place to perform the wedding of Shiva and Kanthimati.
As we come out of the prakaram we can see shrines of Dakshinamurthy, Chandikeshwarar and Durgaiamman and Bairavar.
The Moolavar of Nellaiyappar is found in the basement and one has to get down a few steps to have a darshan of the same. This was the Lingam that was worshipped by the king before the proper temple was constructed. Coming out of this prakaram where the dwaja sthambam is located, when we go clock wise we can find all the 63 Nayanmars (saints) of Siva, Utsavar moorthy then Saptamathrukal,( seven God mothers) and Somaskandar. The Thamara sabha, the Copper Hall of Dance is constructed with exquisite wood work and here the Arudra darsanam festival(December15- January15) Of Lord Nataraja is conducted in the month of Marghazi. The Lord and his consort’s idols are housed here during that time and elaborate rituals are conducted for the cosmic dance festival of Nataraja. There are two Nataraja shrines here one is called Peria sabapathy and other Chandana sabhapathy, as the idol is always adorned with sandal wood paste hence appears white.
Then on the Northern side there are Sanishwara’s and Gajalakshmi’s shrines. As we near the Dwajasthambam we can see the shrine of Kubera Lingam. Once we get out of this prakaram one can proceed to the south side where Kanthimathi Amman temple is situated. These two temples are connected by a beautifully carved corridor Sangali mandapam with life size statues on either side. On the way to Amman sannidhi again we see a shrine of Dakshinamurthy and there are many Siva lingams. Kanthimati Amman’s idol here is considered to be a swayambhu and women flock to this temple and offer prayers to her by singing hymns. There is a separate Dwajasthamba here also and the one thousand pillared mandapam is certainly a good attraction for tourists. The temple tank is also attached to this temple.
Again when we come back to the main temple complex we find many shrines of Vinayaga, Subramaniya, Shankar and Gomathiamman, Vayu lingam etc. Just to go around this magnificent temple it would take about 2 hours. One can spend easily a day in the temple looking at various engravings and life size figures of people of yore.
By Air – Nearest airport is Madurai/ Tuticorin
By train _ well connected with all the metros
By road- Tamil Nadu state transport has good number of buses and well connected with all the major towns in Tamil Nadu.
Temple is just 3 Kms. from the bus stand.
One can hire an auto rickshaw or can use the town bus.