bogamaartha poon mulaiyaal sametha dharbaaranyeswarar temple, thirunallaru of karaikkal taluk of pondicherry district is one of the most famous temples in tamir nadu especially known as a navagraha temple for shani bhagavan , shani sthalam and also is one of saptha vidanga sthalams. another lesser known but important fact is that it is also one of the shakthi peetams.
thirunallaru is a small town about 6 kms from karaikkal. it is on thiruchy – thanjavur -kumbakonam – karaikkal bus route. nearest train station is karaikkal. nearest airport is thiruchirappalli at 154 kms.
the legend of thyagaraja
it is said , once a childless vishnu worshipped shiva to be blessed with a child but since he didnt worship devi , she cursed him that the child will die a few days after birth. vishnu repented his action and pleaded to goddess. it is said , she brought the child alive and blessed it with long life. from that day , vishnu got a somaskandha moortham and worshipped in his yoga nithra. the form is called thyagaraja. the linga sukshma form is known as vidangam.
vidanga moortham is called naga vidangar. maragatha vidangar is a very special deity protected heavily as it faced many threats in the past.
saptha vidanga sthalams are 7 temples where the somaskandha moortham / thyagaraja which is a combination of shiva , karthikeya and shakthi is worshipped by vishnu held closely to his chest are installed.
we talked about 7 temples where the idol is installed. the history of that is as follows…
muchukundha chakravarthy , a powerful chora king once helped indra on his war with asura named vala and defeated him. when a pleased indra offered anything he wanted , he asked for the thyagaraja moortha which indra got from vishnu earlier.
indra , not willing to give the original , made a similar one and gave it to muchukundha. the chora king found that it wasnt the one that vishnu worshipped and asked for the original. indra kept giving similar ones and finally he couldnt betray anymore , give muchukundha the original.
muchukunda installed the original in thiruvarur and the remaining 6 in thirunallaru , nagappattinam , thirukkaravasal , thirukkuvalai , thiruvaimur and vedaranyam.
in all the 7 temples , the lord resides in a special sannidhi with the name thyagaraja.
the legend of nala maharaja and shaneeswara
perhaps the temple is most widely known as shaneeswaran temple and visited for that reason. there is a reason to it. people are afraid of malefic effects of planet shani who transits and completes a zodiac sign in 2.5 years. millions of people throng thirunallar to worship and alleviate their hardships caused by shani , one of the most powerful planets.
nala , the king of nishadha rajya was a handsome and powerful man. he married dhamayanthi and was leading a happy life. he had great skill with horses and also was renowned for his culinary skills. you can hear people praising great food as nala baagam even these days.
due to planetary effects ,especially that of shani , lost his rajya in a gamble which was his weakness to pushkara raja. it is said , goddess kaali wanted to test nala’s virtues by derailing him from the path of dharma. after losing the rajya , the couple left for forest.
again to continue the test , kali made damayanthi deserted by nala who couldnt see his beautiful wife suffer the hardships with him. it is said , damayanthi eventually made her way to her father.
further to that , undergoing many hardships , he was also bitten by a powerful snake karkodagan and lost his form. it transformed nala into an ugly dwarf known as bhahuka and he worked as a charioteer for rithubarna and spent his life. still , an undeterred nala wouldnt relinquish his virtues which was under constant threat.
and the time came when naradha muni found nala and told him that his sufferings would come to an end only when he worshipped lord shiva to get rid of the effects of shani and suggested he take a pilgrimage.
nala , then started his pilgrimage from the north , crossed all the major rivers including ganga , yamuna , godhavari and worshipped shiva in kalahasthi , thirukkrukundram etc and was going further south.
finally he met with bharadhwaja rishi who suggested that there exists a temple on the shores of the divine cauvery ( actually its cauvery’s tributaries noolaru and arasalaru ) where the mighty lord was surrounded by tall grass called dharba ( dharbai in tamir ) and he would get rid of all malefic influences of shani.
nala prostrated in front of the sage and continued his journey southwards worshipping chidambaram , sirkaari , vaitheeswaran koil , thiruvenkaadu , chaayavanam , maayavaram , thirukkadaiyur , thillaiyaadi and thiruvidaikkari before reaching thirunallaru.
nala dipped in brahma theertham created by bramha and entered the temple. the moment he entered , shani left nala and said he disappeared in a hurry afraid of testing the devotee in front of dharbaranyeswarar.
nala felt as if a sea of burden was taken away from him , wept with joy and worshipped the lord and goddess. a pleased shiva appeared in front of him and told nala to ask for a boon , nala requested that he would make a pond ( theertham ) to be called as nala theertham and anyone who dips and bathes in the theertham and worships the lord would be rid of the ill effects of the planet shani.
shani , knowing this requested the lord , that he would also be enshrined here and bless all devotees who throng the place of their effects caused by his affliction and stayed outside in the outer prakaram.
sung by all 3 saints appar , sundharar and sambandhar who sung thevaram.
in the legend of pandya king ‘nindra seer nedumaran’ where sambandhar fought the jains in madhurai using the power of thevaram hymns , the song that was used was that of thirunallaru.
come , worship this great shiva temple and be blessed.
and remember , it is not just a shani sthalam , but a mighty shiva temple with even greater legends predating the story of nala and shani.