(Last Updated on : 16-08-2010)
Apart from inside the town of Kumbakonam, there are lots of temples around the town. The important ones are the Oppiliyappan Koil, Thirunageswaram Temple, Thiruvidaimarudur temple and others.
This Vishnu shrine is hardly a km from Thirunageswaram. Many perform their vows here, which they made to perform at Thirumalai. Here, the idol is same as the one at Thirumalai. One specialty here is that salt is not added in the daily food offered to this deity in deference to His spouse's ignorance of cooking. There is an image of Vedanta Desika in this temple. Inside the temple complex, there is also a tank. One never gets the feeling inside the temple that Prasadam has been prepared without salt but on coming out one can find out the difference.
This temple represents another masterpiece of the Chola art. In the 10th century A.D, Aditya Chola built this temple. It is called Bhaskara (Sun) Kshetram. The places contain Vinayaka, Ardhanariswara and a maiden, all splendour in stone.
This temple is situated 10 kms north of Kumbakonam with an impressive gopuram. The presiding deity here is a huge Mahalingam. It is believed from time immemorial that if those afflicted with evil spirits circumambulate the Aswamedha Prakaram, gets cured. The sculpture of Brahmahatthi, a Brahmin murdered by a king waiting to take revenge can be seen on the eastern tower. It is said that the king entered the temple to escape from the sin of killing a Brahmin. He was asked to go out through another gate as he was a Siva Baktha.
One can find a northern style of architecture of the shrine of Mookambika here. The library near this temple has Saiva Siddhanta and Agama palm-leaf manuscripts. There is a Theertham called Singha Thirtham inside the temple. The eastern and western gateways of the temple are the Pattinathar stone image and Bhadragiriyar stone image. Thai Poosam festival held January-February is very famous here.
This temple is situated 8 km from Kumbakonam. Kulottunga III built this Chola temple in the 13th century A.D. It is a colossal stone edifice raised as a memorial of the victory of his North Indian campaign. The entire temple including the gopuram has stone relief, of the legends of Siva. The unique feature here is the Sarabha Murthi bronze idol. It is a fusion of human, bird and beast supposed to have been incarnated by Lord Siva. He took this avatar to release the Devas from the non-stop fury of Narasimha, the avatar of a human lion of Vishnu after he killed the demon Hiranya. Two beautiful sculptures of Sridevi and Bhudevi, the consorts of Vishnu can be seen near the sanctum here.
Suriyanar Koil or Sun Temple
This temple is 22 kms far from Kumbakonam. It was built by Kulottungan I. There is a fifty feet gopuram, which stands here and passes through it the image of a horse and the chariot of Surya. This is one of the Navagraha sthalams. The devotees come here daily to propitiate Sun God, the chief of the planets according to Indian Astrology. Here, Ratha Sapthami (January- February) is celebrated as a festival day. On this day, the Sun changes course.
This is situated farther off to Surianar Koil on the northeast. Here, the famous Ashta Bhuja Durga temple is situated. Krishnan Raman, Chief Minister to the Chola Emperor Rajaraja I was born here. The idol represents an impressive specimen of Chola art and Goddess Durga is seen killing the demon from her lion mount.
This place is situated about 13 kms to the north of Kumbakonam. It was a fierce battlefield in the 9th century, which decided the bright future of the Cholas.
Chola king Aditya built a temple in sweet remembrance of the turn of tide in his favour and named it Aditeswaram. Here, the presiding deity is known as Sakshinatheswarar and the companion of the deity bears the beautiful name Kuraivila Azhagi (means beauty unsurpassed). Rajaraja I built the sanctum for the Devi. Beautiful sculptures of Parivara Devatas can be seen on the sanctum wall. Here, Lord Ganesa is given honey ablutions on the Vinayaka Chathurthi day and all the honey passed on him is absorbed by him.
Swamimalai is situated 6 kms west of Kumbakonam on the banks of the river Cauvery. Lord Muruga has made this place as one of his six abodes. The term 'malai' means hill but this place had no hill so an artificial hill is built and the deity is enshrined on the top. One needs to walk through 60 steps to reach the shrine above. Each step represents a year of the Tamil Year-series which has a cycle of 60 years. An elephant stands in front of the idol of the deity instead of the usual peacock, the mount of Lord Muruga. Here, the deity is known as Swaminatha as he explained the meaning of Pranava Mantra to His father Lord Siva. This is the only shrine where Lord Muruga is seen with his spouse Devayani.
This temple is situated 4 kms on the southwest of Kumbakonam. This famous temple is dedicated to Iravatheeswara renowned for its sculptural wonder. Rajaraja II built this temple. Rajarajeswaram was the original name, which was later corrupted as Darasuram. Here, the shrine is a square panchadhala vimanam, and the mandapam is raised with its basement walls carved with beautiful sculptures. The 63 Saivaite saints and the episodes in their lives are depicted in the reliefs. Mahishasura, the buffalo demon is shown in full human form in the north wall of the temple, which cannot be seen anywhere else.
The second floor cell contains Umamaheswara with king Rajendra II. The barriers of steps reaching the mandapam too are fashioned with elaborate sculptures. The pillars of the northeast mandapam contain sculptures in Natya poses and the ceiling with dancers. The Balipeetam facing the temple is an elaborate structure with a flight of 9 steps. Each of these steps produces a musical note when struck. The Dwarapalakas of the temple were brought from the western Chalukya capital Kalyanapuri as trophy of victory.
This is the old Chola capital, situated about 7 kms from Kumbakonam. Rajarajan II built a temple here for Somanadiswarar. Earlier, there was a palace where the Chola kings resided. It was known by the name 'Cholan Maligai' but no trace of it can be found now. One can see here the life-size image of Durga, the beautifully carved chariot-like mandapam drawn by galloping horses, Ardhanariswara (half Parvathi, half Siva form), and Narasimha.
It is said that saint Appar, one of the 63 Nayanmars of the Siva cult observed a hunger strike here to establish it as a Siva temple. There was a Kailasanathar sculpture on the eastern side of Pazhayarai. Here, the sculpture of Ravana can be seen lifting Mount Kailas, the dwelling of Siva. But he got trapped under its weight when Lord Siva presses it down with the thumb of his right foot. This is a remarkable sculpture here.
This temple is 8 kms away from Kumbakonam. Dhenupuriswarar is the presiding deity here. There are five gopurams on the right side of this temple. One can see a life-like statue of the great scholar and Minister Govinda Dikshithar of the Thanjavur Naick kings in this temple. Here, the important idol is the Kattaivasal Durga at the entrance of the northern gopuram. Vishnu Durgai is very famous here and pilgrims visit here every day.