Built on a sandstone cliff and by the Bay of Bengal, the Tiruchendur Murugan temple is the only of the 6 holy places of worship for Lord Murugan that is not located on top of a mountain or in forests. This is one of those temples that has a number of unique attributes. It is a temple that was untouched by the 2004 tsunami that struck terror in coastal Tamil Nadu. And that too when it is just 50 metres from the sea and when damage occurred at other locations. I have a personal history with this temple as it is one of those temples that my family believes in. Right from my first birthday to my recent visit, I have set foot in one of India’s largest temple complexes many times. And each time, I am blown away by its beautiful architecture, surreal location and its seaside atmosphere.
This temple is Tamil Nadu’s richest temple and is one of the most visited temples of India, but when you step foot inside this temple, you neither feel its riches or people. Instead, you gape in wonder at its beautiful gopuram, its sea side ambience, the underground sanctum sanctorum and its intricate Dravidian architecture. This temple and more or less the entire town, swells with people during the festival days of Thaipoosam, Soorasamharam, Aavani festival, Maasi festival, Panguni Uthiram, Vaikasi Visagam and Karthigai Viratham. Since it is considered auspicious to get a glimpse of the lord on these days, devotees visit this temple from all over the world. But, as I don’t do well with crowds, I opt for non-festival days wherein I can explore the temple and its surroundings at leisure.
If you opt for a non-festival day to visit this temple, you can admire the stories portrayed on the temple walls, you can feed the temple elephant, you can swim in the waters off the temple beach, you can snack on some local delicacies while you walk this long stretch of beach and of course get a good darshanam of the Lord Murugan decked in either Vibhuti, Sandanam and others without being jostled about. You will also notice that this temple doesn’t have a Eastern gateway, which is actually the norm in other Hindu temples. You will wonder at the engineering marvel of building such a tall and large temple on sea sand. You will find out that this temple was not built by any king, but by 3 saints. In short, you will have a fantastic time in the temple and one that will appeal to your spiritual, artistic, historic, culinary and scenic senses.
As the temple boasts of a great sea shore location, most people come with their families on a day trip and the temple beach becomes their picnic location. During the early mornings and late evenings when the weather is conducive for walking about outside, people stroll on the beach, enjoying the waves and the local snacks sold on the beach. In between, they visit the temple for abhishekham, Aarti and other rituals. During mid day, people sit in the shade of temple corridors and enjoy their home cooked picnic lunch as gentle sea breeze blows into the temple. People who travel by their own mode of transport and who wish to explore more, visit the salt pans of Tuticorin, the temple and business city of Tirunelveli or go for a swim in the Thamarbarani river that flows nearby.
Whatever your plan may be, you will definitely feel and enjoy the sea shore magic of the serene Thiruchendur Murugan temple. With the Karthikai month fast approaching, you might want to visit this temple then to see it in more glitter and charm.