Sivasailam Temple: 1000 year old temple surrounded by the lush mountains of the Western Ghats - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Sivasailam Temple: 1000 year old temple surrounded by the lush mountains of the Western Ghats

The colourful assembly hall in front of Paramakalyani's sanctum sanctorum at Sivasailam Temple

This ancient temple, a Vaippu Sthalam, has been mentioned in the Thevaram hymns of Thirunavukkarasar (7th century CE). The Gadananathi river is located to the north and east of this temple. It is surrounded by the Velli Malai, Mulli Malai and Podhigai Malai hills of the Western Ghats. It was originally built by the Pandiya kings and then later additions were made by the Cholas, the Cheras and the later Pandiya kings. I am talking about the 1000 plus year old Sivasailanathar Paramakalyani Amman temple at Sivasailam and that is surrounded by the lush forests and mountains of the Western Ghats.

The Sivasailam temple is all about its legendary stories, pristine location, beautiful sculptures and carvings. The journey begins when you leave the Ambasamudram – Tenkasi highway at Alwarkurichi and head southwest towards the mountains. Paddy fields surround you on three sides and the mountains tower in front of you. The wind starts picking up as you get closer to Sivasailam. As you stand over the Gadananathi river bridge, the colourful gopuram and the temple complex come into view. As you get out of your car in the parking lot, you cannot stop admiring the lush forest views of the Western Ghats in the background and the Gadananathi river in the foreground. If this view is to your right, the view to the left is of the beautifully carved temple doors and its many mandapams.

Sivasailam temple located at the base of the Western Ghats in South Tamil Nadu

It is a west facing temple with both the shrines of Sivasailanathar and Paramakalyani facing west. The main deity is a swayambhu lingam with snake armour and other ornaments. At the back of the lingam, there are lines that appear like hair and this gives the lord another name “Sadaiappar”. This can be seen through a hole while circumambulating the garbha griha and when the priest shows Arathi at the back of the lingam. The Nandi in front of the shrine of Lord Shiva is yet another highlight of this temple. This beautifully carved Nandi (bull) is a East facing beautifully carved monolith that is in a seated position with its tail tucked under it. This statue is uncommon in Tamil temples and highlights the imaginative work of the craftsman. Legend has it the Nandi sculpture was so beautiful and lifelike that it actually came to life. In order to make the Nandi seated, the sculptor had to stroke the back of the Nandi as per the guidance of Lord Shiva. These strokes can be seen on the back of this gorgeous stone Nandi. Goddess Paramakalyani Amman’s shrine is located next to that of Lord Shiva and her unique feature is her emerald green cheeks. The other shrines are dedicated to Ganesha, Muruga, Dakshinamurthy, Natarajar, Surya, Chandran, 63 Nyanmars and others.

The colourful gopuram of the Sivasailam temple

The temple, like many old Hindu temples has a number of mandapams – Nartha, Maa, Artha and Mani. A mani mandapam is situated on the banks of the Gadananathi river. In the mainstays of the mandapam, a lion peak or model is seen. On the inward side of the pandal mandapam, colourful blossoms are delineated. The Sivasailam temple has a five storied main gopuram that carries countless statues of gods and goddesses in the Hindu pantheon. The vimana is fabulously overlaid. The temple has two chariots, one is extensive and the other is little. The expansive chariot is for Sivasailanathar and the smaller one is for his spouse, Paramakalyani Amman.

Beautifully sculpted Nandi made out of a single granite rock at Sivasailam Temple

This temple in India’s deep south offers you many things: an offbeat location, a rural holiday experience, a gorgeous green surrounding, a 1000 plus year old temple and a river nearby to play around. Everything else that I mention about the temple above is an icing on the cake. I highly recommend this temple and village if you happen to be visiting this fabulous part of India.

Entering the Sivasailanathar temple at Sivasailam

Things not to miss at this temple:

1) A dip in the Gadananathi river next to the mani mandapam

2) Asking the priest to show you the tresses at the back of the Shiva lingam (Sivasailanathar)

3) Asking the priest or some locals to tell you stories related to the temple, especially how the lingam was formed, the story behind Sadaiappar and the story behind the life-like Nandi

4) Seeing the beautifully carved Nandi in front of the main sanctum, its tail tucked below it and noticing the strokes/punch at its back that was made to keep it seated permanently

Entering the main sanctum sanctorum at Sivasailam temple

Famous festivals of this temple:

1) Poosam Theppotsavam in the month of Thai (Jan 15 to Feb 15)

2) Rathotsavam in the month of Panguni (March 15 to April 14)
Beautiful Nandi vahanam for the Utsava murthy of Sivasailam temple

How to reach there:

The Sivasailam temple is about 6.5 kilometers from Alwarkurichi, 19 kilometres from Ambasamudram and 26 kilometres from Tenkasi. The nearest bus stop and railway station would be Alwarkurichi, which is well connected with the cities of Tirunelveli, Tenkasi and Madurai. The nearest airport would be Tuticorin, which is about 97 kilometres away. Thiruvananthapuram airport is about 136 kilometres away.

Gorgeous Utsava murthy of Sivasailam Temple

Best season to visit:

One can visit the temple all year round if you plan on visiting in the early hours of the morning. The Saaral season of cool winds, drizzles and lush weather between June and September is a great time to explore this temple. If you are looking for cool weather, opt for the months from October through February.

Entering the colourful Amman sannadhi at Sivasailam temple

Temple timings:

The temple is open from 6 AM to 12 noon and from 5 PM to 8 PM.
The colourful sanctum sanctorum of Paramakalyani at Sivasailam temple

Where to stay:

The nearest place with decent hotels would be Ambasamudram. Hotel Ambai Grand is the best option here.

If you wish for luxury, I would recommend trying the hotels at Tirunelveli – GRT Regency, Janakiram and/or Aryas.

If you wish to stay in slightly cooler weather, you should try the resorts in and around Courtallam.

If you wish to stay in pristine nature, I would recommend that you stay at the forest rest houses in Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve.

If you care for a true rustic experience, I would recommend that you stay at any of the homestays or guest houses in Kallidaikurichi village agraharam.

Big statue of Nandi at Sivasailam Temple, Tamil Nadu

Where to eat:

You can find some basic snacks with tea/coffee in the village of Sivasailam, but if you want something more, you will have to try the hotels at Alwarkurichi. For elaborate food options, I would recommend that you head either to Hotel Ramanas or Hotel Gowri Shankar at Ambasamudram. Both of them serve delicious vegetarian tiffin items and meals at reasonable prices.

Intricate carvings on the Sivasailam temple main door

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Mannarkoil Rajagopalaswamy Temple: Magnificent 10th century temple with a asthanga vimana

2) 1000 year old Papanasathar Temple at Papanasam: Where you can wash all your sins away

3) Sivasailam: One of the wettest places during the North East Monsoon in India

4) Kallidaikurichi: The village of the Saaral season

5) Iruttu Kadai Halwa: Icon of Tirunelveli

6) Nellaiappar Temple: A 7th century Cosmic Dance Wonder

People enjoying a dip at Gadananathi River, Sivasailam, Tenkasi district, Tamil Nadu

7) Pattamadai Pai: GI Tagged beautiful handwoven mats from a tiny Tamil Nadu village

8) Thamirabharani River Delta: A Motorcycle Route full of rustic gorgeousness

9) Karaiyar Dam: Offbeat wildlife and nature holiday destination in India’s deep south

10) The hidden gem called Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

11) Courtallam: The herbal bath holiday destination of Tamil Nadu

12) Tiruchendur Murugan Temple: Sea Shore Magic

13) 10th century Kailasanathar Temple at Brahmadesam

14) 10th century Valiswara Temple at Thiruvaleeswaram

15) Kallidaikurichi to Manimuthar Dam: A top scenic and rustic cycling route

16) Garudai Sevai from the Agraharams of Kallidaikurichi

17) The Festival of Karthigai Deepam from a Traditional Tamil Nadu Village

18) Cycling through the backyards of Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

19) 13th century Kasi Visvanathar temple at Tenkasi

20) Punalur Suspension Bridge: Hidden gem of Kerala

21) Lesser Known Kerala Mountain Railways: Treat for nature lovers

22) Manjolai: The offbeat hill station of Tamil Nadu

23) Manimuthar Falls: A great forest waterfall

24) Thenmala Forest and Palaruvi Falls: Offbeat nature and wildlife getaway

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