Tirunelveli is famous for
enshrining five Shiva temples, which are very famous among the Shaivites.
Sri Sankaranayinarswami temple is one among them and the other four
temples are at Darukapuram, Tenmalai, Karivaradanallur and Devasthanam,
representing God in the aspects of Water, Air, Fire and Ether
Sankaranayinar Koil is situated at a distance of 34 miles from Tirunelveli, midway between Tenkasi and Srivilliputtur of Ramnad district. The image at Sankaranayinar Koil is 'Mrittika' (earth) Linga (also spelt as Lingam).
The name of the temple is disputed. Some say that at first it was only Sankara's Koil and later Narayana was introduced.
The Legends Associated With The Temple
According to a popular legend Gomati Amman, the consort of Lord Shiva, wanted to see Hari and Hara as one and the same Murti. She went to "Pungavanakshetram" and meditated for 9 days in the month of Adi to have the Darshan of Hari and Hara in one form. On the full-moon day Lord Shiva gave her Darshan as Sankaranayinar. In commemoration of this date the "Adi Tapas" (Penance of Mother in the month of 'Adi') festival is performed every year near Pungavanakshetram.
Another legend has it that Sankha and Padma (the two serpent kings worshipping Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu respectively) raised a controversy as to the superiority of Hara and Hari upon which they were shown the eternal truth of the unity of both.
Another legend connected with this temple is that Ugra Pandian, the Pandya ruling chief of the locality during his visit to Madurai was informed by a Harijan that a cobra was clinging to a Shivalingam (also spelt as Shiva Linga) beside an anthill in the jungle near-by. The king went to this place and witnessed the sight and afterwards constructed a temple around the Linga (also spelt as Lingam), and this is the beginning of the present shrine of Shankaranayinar (also spelt as Shankaranayina).
The Image Of The Deity
The image of the deity, Shankaranayinar is half Shankara (Lord Shiva) and half Narayana, where the right portion of the image is smeared with sandal paste and has the emblem of Shiva, with cobra around his head, deer, moon, etc and the left side is Lord Vishnu having Shankha and Chakra. Both are carved in one figure, depicting the oneness of 'Hari' and 'Hara'.
Medicinal Value Of The Place
It is believed that the earth obtained from the anthill has wonderful powers of healing any skin disease or abscess. Devotees also offer silver or copper cobras in a box kept in front of the shrine (Lingam), with the hope of getting rid of cobras and scorpions in their houses.
A circular hole, 8 inches in diameter, with a design of Chakram or Chakra can be seen in front of Goddess Gomati where people suffering from hysteria or the influence of ghosts, perform penance for 48 days to get rid of them.
The water from the sacred tank called "Naga Sunai" has got wonderful healing power in cases of leprosy, piles and other diseases. The afflicted patients bathe in the tank before they worship Gomati Amman.
About The Temple
The Gopuram, of the temple is a massive structure commanding a glorious view from miles away, which is believed to be the second highest Gopuram in South India.
The temple has a sacred tank called "Naga Sunai", which is believed to have been dug by the serpent kings known as Shankha and Padma, to ensure supply of water for the daily Abhishekam of Shankaranayinarswami.
There is a Sphatika Linga (also spelt as Lingam) in the temple like those at Rameshwaram and Chidambaram. All Abhishekam are offered to the Sphatika Linga. Couples who have not been blessed with a son take a vow and worship the temple with the hope of being blessed with a son soon so that their line may continue.
The Ten Day Long Celebration
The Adi Tapas festival is held during the month of July for 10 days. It is considered to be the biggest event in the temple. Thousands of pilgrims from the neighbouring localities gather for it.
Rail: Shankaranayinar Koil is situated at a
distance of 34 miles from Tirunelveli,
midway between Tenkasi and Srivilliputtur of Ramnad District. The town has
a railway station connecting it with the rest of the state.
Road: The temple is well connected by road with the neighbouring towns and cities like Tirunelveli, Tenkasi, etc.
Accommodation is available at the moderate class and small budgeted hotels, lodges and choultries in Tirunelveli.