Thirunallar is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva but it also
has a sanctum inside the outer wall of the temple dedicated to
the planet 'Sani' (Saturn). This is unique among the
temples in South India and only one of its kind. Saturn is
believed to have a powerful effect in the life of a person
depending on its position in the Zodiac at the time of birth.
Saturn is worshipped in order to avoid the malefic effect and to
avoid its wrath.
Thirunallar is situated about 5 km from the Old French town of
Karaikkal and is served by the Southern Railways. It is also well
served by buses from surrounding towns such as Mayawaram,
Karaikkal or Kumbakonam.
The temple is situated in the middle of the village and the
entrance to the temple is on the eastern side. The entrance tower
is made up of five levels. There are two 'praharam' to
the temple. On the first 'praharam' as you circumambulate
clockwise there is the sanctum of Goddess named Sri Bogamartha
Poonmulaiyal. On the east of her sanctum is the shrine for Saturn
in a niche on the outer wall. There are a few
'theertham'in this temple and are called 'Brahma
theertham', 'Vaani theertham', 'Anna
theertham', 'Nala theertham' and 'Ganga
koopam'. This temple is mentioned in Tamil scriptures as
'Tharparanyam' and the presiding deity as
There are many legends associated with this temple describing
how various people both human and divine have redeemed themselves
from the clutches of the malefic effect of Saturn. Once the King
of Kalinga wanted to perform 'Aswametha yaga'. He invited
all the learned men and sages from his kingdom who could help him
to perform this 'yaga'. A large number of sages and
'munis' arrived at his palace. He received and welcomed
them and saw that their needs were fulfilled. One learned sage
was late arriving at the palace and sent a message to the king of
his presence. When the king arrived a little late to receive him
he was so annoyed that he cursed the king and his family to turn
into elephants and roam the forests. Thus the king and his family
roamed the forests searching for redemption.
One day Naradha came across these elephants and by his mystic
powers learned that these elephants were the cursed king and his
family. He told them to go to the village of Tharparanyam and
worship the deity there. The family of the elephant arrived at
this 'sthala' and was worshipping the deity installed
On an auspicious day in the month of 'Maasi' (Feb/Mar)
during 'magam' there was a large crowd of worshippers who
were having a bath in the holy waters of the 'Brahma
theertham'. As they emerged from their bath some of the water
from their hair and body sprinkled on the elephants standing
nearby. At this contact with water from the holy
'theertham' the elephants regained their original form.
Thus restored to their human form the king and his family
returned to their kingdom after making obeisance to the God at
There was a king called Nalan. He was young and handsome.
Dhamayanthi, princess of an adjacent kingdom, was famous for her
beauty. King Nalan wanted to marry Dhamayanthi and he sent a swan
as a go-between to let Dhamayanthi know of his love for her.
Dhamayanthi having heard of Nalan as a king of justice and valour
agreed to marry him. Unaware of this love between these two
Dhamayanthi's father arranged a 'syamwaram' in order
to find a suitable partner for his daughter as was customary in
those days among kings. Everybody who had heard of her legendary
beauty had come to take part in this contest. There were present
Kings celestial as well as earthly. Dhamayanthi rejected all
those present except King Nalan and agreed to take him as her
future husband. The celestial kings such as Indran, Agni, Yama
and Varuna were utterly dejected by their failure to win the hand
of Dhamayanthi. Saturn was disappointed that Dhamayanthy chose an
earthly mortal in spite of the presence of celestial beings at
the function. He vowed that he would not let them live happily
together. Saturn was waiting for an opportunity to catch Nalan
unawares. Saturn could not find an excuse to cast his spell on
King Nala, as he was meticulous in his devotion to God and to his
duties as a king.
One day as he was in a hurry he did not purify himself
properly before he sat down to perform his pooja. Taking this
opportunity Saturn cast his malefic influence on the king. From
that day he started to suffer from various misfortunes that led
him to lose his kingdom and his family. Eventually on the advice
of a sage he arrived at Thirunallar and entered the temple. As
Saturn has no power in the presence of the deity at Thirunallar
he became immune to the influence of Saturn. He then stayed in
this temple for a few more months and extended the temple
building and built the pond that is called 'Nala
theertham'. The Lord of the temple granted him the wish that
those who bathed in this water would be relieved of all malefic
influence of Saturn.
There are six daily 'pooja' to the main deity in
addition to which there are five 'pooja' to Saturn.
Special 'abishekam' are conducted to Saturn on Saturdays
and on special days every month. Special festivals are conducted
when Saturn moves from one sign of the Zodiac to the other. The
main festival is conducted for 18 days during the Tamil month of
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