1000 year old Papanasanathar Temple: Where you can wash all your sins away! - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

1000 year old Papanasanathar Temple: Where you can wash all your sins away!

Neeranjanam coconut and ghee lamps at Papanasam Temple, Tamil Nadu

There is some solid connection of temples with deeply rooted mythological and spiritual significance and their location amidst a pristine environment. Usually such temples attract a lot of pilgrims and visitors. The Papanasanathar temple located by the banks of the Thamarabharani river is one such amazing temple set in a lush green atmosphere.

At the Papanasam Shiva temple, Tamil Nadu

No one knows the exact time of birth of this temple, but it is steeped in many legends. One legend is about Sage Agastyar not being able to watch the divine wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati due to heavy crowd at Kailash. And the location where his prayers were answered by the divine pair is Agastyar Falls and the temple located nearby is Papanasathar temple. The other legend is about Lord Indra incurring Brahmatti dosha, when he slayed the demon Dwastha, the son of God Shukracharya. He was advised by God Brishapati to wash away his sins at Papanasam and the lingam he worshipped by the banks of the river is now the temple. There are some other legends surrounding this temple, but these two are the most believed even in this time and era.

Enjoying a dip in the Thamarabharani river at Papanasam

Imagine this! Lovely countryside of India’s deep South, surrounded by the forests of Kalakad Mundanthurai tiger reserve and the Agastyar mountain range of the Western Ghats, a lovely perennial river called Thamarabharani that begins in this mountain range and that flows by this temple and a stunning array of dams, canals and water bodies located in the vicinity. And the temple towers over all of this and hence is the cynosure of all eyes that visit this region in India’s deep South.

The traditional tea master of Tamil Nadu

Usually, my experience begins with a drive through the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, a shower under the Agastyar waterfall, a warm glass of Sukku kaapi (dry ginger coffee) to warm yourself, a visit to the Papanasanathar temple and then a hot local meal in any of the nearby villages. If you feel like it, you can also bathe in the river by the temple. A lot of people also sprinkle the holy water on their head just before entering the temple. A dip in the Thamarbharani is considered very auspicious especially during the month of Aadi (Aashada) when people pray to their ancestors.

The Papanasam Shiva temple seen from the banks of the Thamarabharani river

Built originally by the Pandya kings, the Papanasanathar temple saw many additions during the rule of the Vijayanagar and Nayak kings. Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple has 3 main design elements that stand out. One is the large 7-tiered gopuram that is common with most South Indian temples. Then, there is the massive granite wall that surrounds the temple enclosing all its shrines and then there are the steep steps that lead all the way from the Thamarbharani river to the main temple entrance while you keep looking at the temple gopuram.

The ancient turmeric pounder at the Papanasam Shiva temple

Inside the temple, the main shrine belongs to Papanasanathar lingam, his consort is worshipped as Ulagammai, there is a shrine for Natarajar in the Ananda Thandava posture and then there are small shrines for Ganesha, Subramanya, Durga, Dakshinamurthy, Navagrahas and many other temple guards and yali sculptures. While all the shrines and gods are unique in their own way, there are 2 things that are bound to catch your attention. One is the pounding stone in front of the Ulaagammai shrine where ladies pound turmeric and apply it on to their hands and face and the other is the sight of the gorgeous Natarajar statue, which is unlike the ones seen in other temples.

The temple gains prominence during the months of Thai (January 15 to February 15), Chitirai (April 15 to May 15), Aadi (August 15 to September 15), during the days of new moon, pradosham, Thiruvadarai and during the festivals of Thai Poosam, Shivaratri,, Brahmotsavam and Agasthiyar Thirukalyanam. The temple can get pretty busy on these days and hence it is recommended to plan properly.

Neeranjanam offering at Papanasam Shiva Temple

This temple is best explored as a day trip from Tirunelveli, Tenkasi or Kollam, the three major cities located in the vicinity. You can offer your prayers at this temple, bathe under a waterfall, enjoy the dams and the forest atmosphere and soak in the charms of the laidback countryside of India's Deep South. However you opt to experience this temple, you are bound to be mesmerized by this 1000 plus year old temple beauty that is set amidst oodles of gorgeousness!

Temple Timings: 6 AM to 1 PM and 4 PM to 8 PM on all days. Open all day on new moon days.

Location: Papanasam, about 55-60 kms from Tirunelveli

Nearest Railroad: Ambasamudram (but it connects only via passenger trains). For long distance trains, Tirunelveli (55-60 kms) would be the best option.

Nearest Airport: Tuticorin (about 80 kms), Thiruvananthapuram (about 120 kms away)

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