Suchindram temple is unique in the whole of India in that it
is dedicated to three different deities represented by one image
in the sanctum and is called Sthanumalayan (Sthanu-Shiva;
Maal-Vishnu and Ayan-Brahma) kovil. The temple is rich in
sculpture and architecture and a visitor to this temple is amply
rewarded with the sight of such exquisite art of hundreds of
Suchindram is about 11 km from Kanyakumari and about 7 km from
Nagarkoil lying between these two towns. Busses ply from
Thirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Trivandram. The nearest railway
station is Nagarkoil on the Trivandrum - Kanyakumari section of
the Southern Railway.
The entrance tower to this temple is visible from a distance
as it rises majestically for 134 feet. The face of the tower is
covered with sculptures and statues from Hindu mythology. There
is a covered area in front of the main entrance and the entrance
itself is about 24 feet high with a beautifully carved door.
There is only one corridor running along the outer wall of the
temple with many shrines and mandapams scattered in the inner
area. This temple attracts both Vaishnavites and Saivites in
large numbers. About 30 shrines to various deities within the
temple complex, the large Lingam in the sanctum, the idol of
Vishnu in the adjacent shrine and a large idol of Hanuman at the
Eastern end of the Northern corridor represent almost all the
deities of the Hindu pantheon.
There are many legends associated with this temple. Anasuya,
the wife of Aarti Maharishi was famous for her chastity and her
devotion to her husband - an embodiment of a Hindu wife. She
could perform miracles by sprinkling the 'paatha
theertham' (water with which she washed her husband's
feet) to bring rain to a parched earth or to transform objects to
When the three Devis, - Goddesses Luxmi, Saraswathy and
Parvathy heard through Sage Naradha the powers of this earthly
woman they wanted to test her chastity. They approached their
husbands Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva to test Anasuya's
devotion to her husband. The three Moorthys transformed into
three old mendicants and went to the hermitage where Anasuya was
living and sought alms from her. When Anasuya was about to serve
them food they told her that they had taken a vow whereby they
could not accept alms from a person wearing clothes. As it was a
sin to refuse alms to mendicants she prayed to her Lord and
sprinkled a little 'paatha theertham' on the three old
beggars. They were all immediately transformed into babies and
throwing off her clothes she offered them food.
The Goddesses learning what had happened pleaded with Anasuya
to grant them 'maankalya biksha' (gift of married life)
and to give them back their husbands. Anasuya showed them the
three babies. The Devis ran to the cradle and picked one baby
each. Anasuya then prayed to her Lord to restore them back to
their original form. Lo and behold! Brahma was in Luxmi's
embrace, Siva in Saraswathy's lap and Parvathy cuddling
Vishnu. They accepted that Anasuya's fame as the chastest
woman on earth was justified. Thus the Thrimoorthy came to be
represented by the Lingam at Suchindram; the bottom represents
Brahma, the middle represents Vishnu and the top Shiva.
There is another lore associated with this temple. Once Indra
was infatuated with Ahalya, the wife of Rishi Gautama. One night
he came to the hermitage where Gautama was living and crowed like
a cock indicating the approach of dawn. Rishi Gautama thinking
that dawn was imminent awoke from his sleep and went to the river
for his ablutions prior to commencing his prayers. Realising that
it was too dark for dawn and too early for morning to break he
returned to his hut. In the meantime Lord Indra took the physical
appearance of Rishi Gautama, approached Ahalya and satisfied his
desire. Rishi Gautama returning from the river was enraged when
he saw his wife in another man´s embrace and cursed the
man's entire body be covered with 'yoni' (the female
organ) and his wife Ahalya to become a statue of stone. Lord
Indra in order to get rid of this curse went to Gnanaranya and
prayed to the Three Moorthys to rid him of this curse. When he
was rid of his curse and transformed into his original form he
built a temple and installed the Lingam to represent the three
Moorthy - Thanu-Maal-Ayan, and the name of the place came to be
known as Suchi-Indran (the place where Indran was purified).
There are two important festivals, one in Markazhi
(December/January) and the other in Chiththirai (April/May).
During the Markazhi festival, on the 9th day the deities are
taken out in procession around the streets on three festival
One should visit this temple, if not for its presiding deity,
at least for the sculptures and art found in this temple. One can
appreciate the splendour and the beauty of the sculptor's art
only by seeing them. No amount of words can justify or reflect
the grandeur, exquisiteness, ethos or the nuances of the
In the 'Alankara mandapam' adjacent to the Northern
corridor there are four large pillars each formed by a group of
smaller pillars all carved from a single stone. Two of these
large pillars have 33 smaller pillars and the other two 25 each.
These are the famous musical pillars. Each of these smaller
pillars produce a different musical note when tapped.
Unfortunately these pillars are surrounded by iron grills to
Step out of the 'Alankara mandapam' and you come face
to face with a gigantic figure of Hanuman. The figure is 18 feet
high and depicts 'visuvaroopam'. There are other carvings
and sculptures on every pillar and panel throughout the temple,
which are a feast to the eye and the imagination.
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