Annabishekam is performed in all Shiva Temples of Tamilnadu on Full Moon Day in the month of Aipasi ( Oct-Nov). "Annaanaam Pathaye Namah:" - This is how Lord Shiva is described in Sri Rudram,the central part of The Vedas. It is to give back with gratitude whatever He has given to the mankind. Cooked Rice is applied on the Lingam as abhshekam on this auspicious day. It is to be noted that Annabhishekam is performed everyday at Chidambaram to Sri Chandramouleeswara, the Lingam kept near Sri Nataraja. Agricultural products like Brinjal,Ladies finger,pumpkin,cucumber,banana etc are offered and used to decorate the murthi during Annabhishekam day. It is prayed to invoke blessings of the Lord for a hunger-free society and rich output of agricultural products.
Preparations for Annabhishekam begin around 11 a.m on this day and the time taken to apply cooked rice and vegetables depends on the size of the murthi. For instance, it takes nearly 4-5 hours to complete the abhishekam at The Big Temples at Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapuram where the murthis are very tall. People wait for the dharshan right from 3.30 p.m to have a glimpse of Brahadeeswara at both the places. The doors open around 5 p.m in the evening and devotees throng in large numbers. Due to the huge size, the murthi is seen from a good distance itself. It is a Divine experience with no parallel.
Since the Annabhishekam is conducted only in the evening, the morning session can be utilised to see places in and around Thanjavur. We proceeded straight to a place called Vennaathankarai, on the way to Thiruvaiyaru. It is situated on the banks of the river,Vennaar,hence the name. Here we come across three Vishnu temples, sung by Aalwars. Of the three, the one namely Narasingaperumal shrine is bigger than the other two and well maintained. The same priest takes care of all the three temples. Possibly his main source of income is from the devotees who come from other places.
Thanjapureeswarar temple is facing west and located close to Narasingaperumal temple. The main deity is worshipped by Kubera who sought asylum after loosing all his wealth. There is a separate sannadhi wherein Kubera and Lakshmi are seen worshipping The Siva Linga. Aanandhavalli,the Goddess , faces south.
Our next stop was at Kandiyur en route to Thiruvaiyaru. Bhairava removed the fifth head of Brahma here. This place is one among the eight places called ashta veerattaanams where Lord Shiva had exhibited His Valour. The main deity at this Chola Temple is known as Brahma-sira-kandeeswarar. It is considered on par with Sri Kalahasthi and also known as Dhakshina Kailasam.On the right of Sanctum is a sannadhi meant for Brahma and Saraswathi. The idol of Brahma is quite big and people offer pujas here in good numbers. The Nandi at the entrance is eye-catching. The vimanam at the sanctum is also beautiful to watch. A Vishnu temple,sung by Alwar is situated nearby.
We took a diversion here towards west on Thirukkaattupalli road and reached Thiruppoonthuruththi. The murthi (Pushpavaneswarar) is sung in Thevaram Hymns by Saiva saints. Appar stayed here for a long time and sung several Padhigams in praise of the deity.When Sambandar arrived here in his palanquin, Appar carried his palanquin on his shoulders. It is said that Shiva Himself wanted to see the beauty of the Child Prodigy coming to the temple in palanquin and ordered the three Nandhis infront of Him to move a little. Hence we find the three Nandis not falling straight to the Sanctum as found in all other Siva temples. The Vimanam on top of the Sanctum is as beautiful as the one seen at Kandiyur. Special mention has to be made for the superbly carved Ardhanariswara & Veenaadhara Dhakshinamurthi in Deva koshtas.
Within the limited time available, a brief visit was made to Thanjavur palace,Art Gallery,Saraswathi Mahal Library and Bangaru Kamakshi Temple.
It was 4 p. m when we reached the Big Temple to witness the Great Annual Event. We understood that it would take another one hour to have dharshan, we went round the temple to admire the sculptures and the engineering marvel- the Vimanam. The admiration grows everytime whenever we visit the Temple. We notice something which had been missed during the previous visits. According to me, it may require three full days to derive satisfaction of seeing the Temple to a large extent. While looking at the sculptures of Uma Maheswara,Durga,Kala Samhara murthi on the walls and of course ,the Great Brahadeeswara , the least we can do is to gratefully remember the King, Raja Raja Chola.