India is a religious country. In this country we, the people worship different Gods; major and minor. We have different kind of people, who speak in different tongues. 22 official languages to be accurate. Quite a lot, yes. Likewise India has a lot of different religions. Among them the Hindus, in the Southern Indian states have a whooping total of 108,00 temples. (Including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Travancore and Cochin Devaswom Board) India is a God fearing country and religious too. Among all these temples, in Karaikal, India which is situated in the Union States of Pondicherry lies Tirunallar Saniswaran Temple or Thirunallar Temple. Karaikal shares its neighborhood with Tamil Nadu.
Tirunallar Saniswaran Temple or Thirunallar Temple is the only temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shani (Planet Saturn) in entire India. Although within the Thirunallar Temple there is another shrine which is dedicated to Lord Darbharanyeswaran, which is another avataar of Lord Shiva. After every two and half year the planet Saturn moves from its place, from one zodiac house to another. During that time millions of pilgrims come and visit this hallowed temple to wash away their sins and misfortunes in the holy lake that surrounds the temple premises.
Local Legends and Folklore
According to local folklore, King Nala was believed to be troubled by the deadly Shani (Planet Saturn, which is also an infamous planet which affects an individual’s luck and health, according to the Hindu natal charts) till the time the King decided to pay his homage in the temple and take a holy dip in the temple lake. The trend is still followed till today where pilgrims take the holy dip to wash off their misfortunes and sins, in order to straighten out their karma.
As the legend goes, during the Pandyan Dynasty in south India during the 7th Century, the king Ninra-seer-nedumaran, converted his religion from being a Saivism to a Jain. Jainism was flourishes like a wildfire in that area. Everyone left right and centre was converting from their old religion to Jainism. All, expect the king’s beloved queen, Mangaiyarkarasi and the king trusted minister Kulacchirai Nayanar, both of whom were steadfast followers of Lord Shiva. This action which was committed by the King, deeply hurt the religious sentiments of the queen and the minister. Coincidentally when this religious upheaval was occurring in the kingdom, there came the news of a young preacher whose name was Thirugnana Sambandar, was preaching the good words of the Lord (Shiva). This young preacher boy was camping at Vedaranyam. After getting this piece of news, the distressed queen and the minister, send word to the preacher without any haste to come to their aide and help them convert back their beloved King and the rest of the subjects from the clutches of Jainism.
Thirugnana Sambandar, receiving this piece of information and the royal invitation made his way to the Pandyan kingdom with vigor in his heart and with only one goal; to save the king and his countrymen from the unbelieving heathens. When the news of his arrival reached the ears of the converted Jains within the kingdom, they started rioting and got agitated. In retaliation they razed and burned down his house. The preacher with his karmic powers then transferred the heat to the King’s body and the king started thrashing with the agony. Then the real battle of faith started. The young saint then started to smear holy ash on one side of the king’s body on the request of the queen. Seeing that the Jains chanted their holy mantra and started caressing the other half of the king’s body with peacock’s feather, which increased his discomfort and pain. At the end it was proved that the medication administered by Thirugnana Sambandar gave relief to the king and he got back to his former health. Seeing and experiencing this miracle the King, again converted back to the old religion, Saivism. And his subjects as well got convinced by this miraculous feat and converted back to Saivism. That is how the old religion prevailed in the Pandyan Empire bringing back the glory to the Thirunallar Temple.
Thirunallar Temple Route
Thirunallar Temple is situated 7 kms from Karaikal. In order to reach the temple one has to come to the Karaikal Station and from there they can go and visit the temple. Karaikal is well connected with several places like Bangalore, Trichy, Thanjavur, Ernakulam, Chennai etc. There are trains for Mumbai too, however that is a weekly train. During the 20th century the French ruled in those parts of Karaikal, hence there is the existence of a MG(Meter Gauge) train track. The nearest airport is situated in Trichy at a distance of 154 kilometers. There are well connected roads to reach the Thirunallar Temple by road through Thanjavur, Kumbakonam.
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