- August 29, 2023
Table of Contents
Arthanareeswarar Temple, Tiruchengode
Lord Shiva known as
Arthanareeswarar, Maathoru Baagar
Female deity known as
Location of the temple
Acclaimed as ‘Kodimada Chenkundrur‘ in the Thevaram verses, Thiruchengodu is one of the foremost places of worship of Lord Shiva. The temple at Thiruchengodu faces west and is atop a hillock. The name Sengodu comes from the fact that “the hill appears red in colour”. Tiruchengode Arthanareeswarar temple is at a height of about 1900 feet above sea level. One can reach the top on foot by climbing 1250 steps or by road transport through the paved roads. There are several mantapams or resting spots for devotees en route to the top.
On reaching the hill top, one is awe-struck by the majestic 5-tier Raja Gopuram in the north. The high walls surrounding the temple run across a length of 260 feet east-west and 170 feet north-south. The tower on the western side has three levels. One can get into the temple from the entrance in the north, walk down a flight of about 20 steps and reach the outer praaharam (the walkway or passage). Puranic speak proposes that Goddess Shakti meditated upon Lord Shiva here and attained the honour of being a part of his body (Ardhanareeshwara). There is also a temple of Sri Kailashanathar at the bottom of the hill.
The main deity is addressed as ‘Ardhanareeswarar’ or ‘Mathorubagan’. Standing as tall as 6-feet, half-man and half-woman, he has an imposing presence, and is believed to have been naturally formed (Swayambhu) untouched by chisel or hammer. His matted locks bundled up to a crown, his head bejeweled with the silvery moon, his neck and chest adorned with strands of the sacred rudraksha and a shimmering ‘thali’ (the nuptial necklace worn by a bride to show she is married), Mathorubagan is armed with a club or Dhandaayudham. He faces westward. Since Mathorubaagan is Shiva and Shakti as ONE, the deity is draped in dhoti on the right and a saree on the left. The left foot adorns an anklet.
Beneath the moolavar’s holy feet is a small spring called the Deva Theertham that never dries. On Vaikasi Vishakam day, Thirukkalyana Vaibhavam, the marriage ceremony of the Lord is conducted. The priests pose as Swami and adorn Ambal with the ‘thali’, the nuptial thread. This practice is followed since there is no separate idol for Amman.
The shrine of Lord Muruga in the northern corridor is of prominence. Praised and prayed to as Sengottu Velavar, Muruga stands facing east, blessing his devotees with a grand darshan. The temple activities include a daily pooja for Sengottu Velavar at ucchikaalam (noon) with abhishekam and special offerings. The Tamizh Saint-poet, Arunagirinathar has sung the greatness of this Muruga in his Thiruppugazh verses. The grand and ornate mantapam in front of the Sengottu Velavar shrine is home to spectacularly carved pillars, embellished with intricately crafted sculptures, showcasing the greatness of art and sculpture of the period and also serving as a testimony to the skills of ancient sculptors.
The Lingam that was worshipped by Amman to become one with the Lord is located inside the main sanctum. This divine lingam is brought and worshipped along with Ardhanareeswarar only during the three main rituals of the day – morning, noon and evening poojas. The goddess herself is considered to be performing the pooja. Special abhishekam is performed at ucchi kaalam. Mythological narratives suggest that the Shiva at Thirucchengodu was worshipped by Maha Vishnu, Adiseshan and many other gods.
If one would take the steps to the top, en route is enshrined Naagar (the snake god), carved on rock. He is believed to have great power and the shrine attracts devotees from all over the country, who are seeking remedy from Naaga dosham.
MahaVishnu as Adi Keshava Perumaal has an exclusive temple here. During the auspicious days of Brahmotsavam, Adikeshava Perumal is venerated with an extravagant 10-day festival, that commences with flag-hoisting and culminates in Kalyana Vaibhavam and the car festival. On the night of Shivaratri, four iterations of pooja at different times of the day (popularly known as nalu-kala pooja) are offered, which is of special significance. On the 11th day of the lunar cycle (ekadashi), Adikeshava Perumal blesses his devotees with Garuda Sevai.
Lord Ardhanareeshwarar is considered to be the Lord of the birth star, Sadhayam. The fortunes of those born under Sadhaya Nakshatram are said to be in his hands and hence, special pooja is offered on these days. Devotees can offer their prayers to the Lord on this day to overcome any misfortune.
The temple with its art, sculpture and architecture stands as one of the finest examples for the greatness of ancient Tamil sculpture. The hallmark of the outer praaharam is the arrangement of 30 monolithic granite pillars with exquisitely sculpted statues of soldiers riding horses and yaalis (mythical creatures that are half-lion and half-elephants, of immense power). The mantapam in front of the Sengottu Velavar sannidhi has several unique and noteworthy sculptures of Veerabhadrar, Manmathan, Rathi, Kali. These are monoliths too.
The stunning workmanship in the rock carvings of a lotus bent over its stalk, parrots, chains and chain links on the roof top of this mantapam leaves one in awe of the conception, talent, planning and execution. The garbha graham or the sanctum of Lord Nageshwara is again bedecked with breath-taking sculptures. The pillars in the mantapam adjoining the sanctum are also carved with warrior statues on horses, yaalis, similar to the ones in the outer corridor. Thirucchengodu Ardhanareeswarar temple is thus a treasure trove of ancient fine art and sculpture which we need to cherish and preserve for eternity.
Morning Worship Time: 06:00 AM – 02:00 PM
Evening Worship Time: 03:30 AM – 06:30 PM
Arthanareeswarar Hill Temple Road, Tiruchengode, Tamil Nadu 637211