The Legend at Thiruvadhigai is associated with “Thripurasamhara”, where Lord Shiva had destroyed the three forts of the demons, Tharakaksha, Kamalaksha and Vidyunmali. He did not just conquer the three forts of the Asuras but the three vices of ego, karma and illusion of Devas as well. The ever compassionate Lord revived the three asuras and made Tharakaksha and Vidyunmali as Dwarapalas and Kamalaksha was assigned the role of playing “Panchamukha Vadyam”. Shiva’s smile alone was sufficient to burn the three forts to reduce them into ashes.
The Temple at Thiruvadhigai, spread into seven acres isbelieved to be the place where the “Thripura Samhara” took place. It is located near Panrutti, in Cuddalore district of Tamilnadu. It has three concentric prakaras with a plethora of superb sculptures that depict the various forms of Shiva. The Thripura Samhara Thandavam and other karanas are seen sculptured brilliantly from the very entrance itself. The presiding deity is Veeratteswarar, a large, 16 faced Shivalinga. As the Temple belongs to the Pallava period, we find a stucco figure of Parvathi and Parameshwara in Kalyana(Marriage) posture.
A separate shrine known as Veeratteswarar Sabha, houses the Thripuranthaka murthi. He is shown to be standing with a bow in His hand, accompanied by the Goddess,Thripurasundari. The Lord also holds a deer, an arrow and a goad in the other hands. Another sub-shrine houses the famous Panchamukha Linga with four faces in the four cardinal directions and the fifth (athomukham), facing upwards.
Since Shiva had appeared here in a grand chariot, designed by the Devas, the entire central shrine of this Temple is built like a Chariot. The Vimana and the outer walls are filled with stucco figures, each depicting various scenes from Puranas. It is believed that this structured had inspired King Rajaraja for designing the famous Brahadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur. It is also stated that the very first Chariot built was during the occasion when the Lord went for “Thripura Samharam”.
Gedilam river that runs nearby is hailed in Periapuranam as equal to Ganges. A well inside the Temple known as Soola Theertham is said to cure diseases related to the stomach.
As the Goddess’ shrine is on the right of Veeratteswarar, many marriages are solemnized here. The Ambal is also called Peria Nayaki. There is also a popular belief among the devotees that the Lord removes the three vices of ego, karma and illusion. While applying Vibhuthi on the forehead, one has to bow his/her head which indicates that the ego is submitted in front of God.
Thevaram Trio of Sambandar,Appar and Sundarar have sung Hymns in praise of the Lord. In fact, the very first Thevaram Hymn originated here from Thirunavukkarasar(Appar) when he returned Home from Jain monks to rejoin Saivism. His sister Thilakavathi led him to the Sanctum and asked him to pray the Lord to cure him from the acute stomach pain he suffered at that time. There are two separate shrines inside the precincts of the Temple to honour both Appar and Thilakavathi.
During the annual Vaikasi Visakam festival, the Thripuranthaka murthi, seated in a chariot is taken to Kollidam. The three forts, constructed with dried coconut and palm leaves are set to fire to mark the occasion. The deity returns to the Temple after the grand spectacle.
Before we enter the Main entrance, a 16 pillar Mandapam catches our attention. Stucco figures of Ganapathi,Subramanya are seen on both sides of Shiva and Parvathi in marriage posture. Images of Ganapathi, Dwara Palas and Nandi are seen in the 7 tier Rajagopuram behind the 16 pillar Mandapam.
As and when we enter the outer prakaram, we notice a Vasantha Mandapam on our right, facing south. Figures of Panchamukhs Shiva along with Parvathi on a bull flanked by Pathanjali and Vyagrapatha in worshipping posture are seen on top of this Mandapam. Ganapathi, seated on a mouse and Skandha on a Peacock are also seen on both sides of the Rishabarooda Murthi. A Theerthankara’s idol is also present in this prakaram. The Holy Pond,
Soola Theertham is there opposite the Vasantha Mandapam.Images of Appar with folded arms, Sambandar receiving the Divine Milk from the Goddess and Sundarar arguing with the Lord with the Manuscript in his hand are depicted inside the arch at the entrance of the Tank.
After worshipping near the Nandi and the flagpost, we enter the next prakaram through the 5 tier Rajagopuram that consists of images of Ganapathi, Skandha, Gangadhara, Bhikshadana, Urdhuvathandavamurthi, Kali and Nataraja. Figures at the top of Nataraja sannadhi are eye catching where we find the Lord performing Ananda Thandava witnessed by the Goddess Sivakamasundari, Pathajali and Vyagrapatha. The Nandi Mandapam in front of the Sanctum is a delight to watch. With Ganapathi and Subramanya sannadhis on both sides of the place, we enter the Mahamandapam through an entrance on the side. Veeratteswara, The 16 faced Lingamurthi gives Dharshan from here. We realize the fact that it is the same Murthi worshipped by Appar some 1500 years ago. It is also the same place where Thevaram had originated.
“Sarak konrai” is the Holy Tree of this Temple which is seen in the prakaram. A big Shivalinga is also seen near it. Uthsava Murthi Sannadhi of Thirunavukkarasar faces west. Moolavar of Appar in sitting posture is seen in a separate sannadhi. There is a separate sannadhi for Thilagavathi, sister of Appar is also nearby. She prayed the Lord to give back her brother who got converted to Jainism. Her prayer was answered and Saivism got an outstanding devotee too!
There is a separate flagpost in front of the Goddess,Brahan Nayaki. We start admiring the Chariot shaped Vimanam of Veeratteswara from here. It is filled with sculptures and stucco figures almost everywhere! The Vimanam is majestic and reminds us the one at the Big Temple in Thanjavur. The sthupi on top of the dome is simply marvelous.
On the sides of the walls of the Sanctum, one can see Ganapathi with disciples, Rama,Sitha and Lakshmana, Chandrasekara and Bhikshadana.
The minutely made Thripuranthaka will make the visitors cherish about the same for a very long time. He holds many arms including the Chakra in His hands. Vishnu, who came as a Bull to lift the Chariot is seen at the bottom. Brahma is seen at the driver’s seat. While many Devas looking anxiously at the Lord, Shiva single handedly destroyed the three forts by His smile. Warriors riding over the Lions, a typical Pallava presentation is praiseworthy.
Next we look at the image of Gajasamharamurthi dancing over the head of the elephant, Gajasura. The elephant’s skin is adorned over the Lord who holds many arms but destroyed the elephant with His nails by tearing its body.
Goshta figures are there on the backside of the sanctum which includes Lions, Dwarapalakas, Shiva resting His leg on the head of a Gana.
On the other side, we notice Ravana lifting Kailash, Paravathi and Parameswara on a Bull,row of Bhutha Ganas on top and sets of Lions.
The next figure of Ganga Visarjana Murthi and Saraba murthi are absorbing. Sarabeswara with jwala kesam setting foot over Narasimha is depicted beautifully.
A row of Shiva Lingas is seen on “Thirumaaligai paththi” the noticeable being a Panchamukha Lingam.
Being a treasure house for art-lovers and one among the group of Veerattaanams, Thiruvadhigai deserves more visitors than at present.