Wednesday, March 20, 2024

10th Century Valisvara Temple at Thiruvaliswaram: Hidden Chola Gem in the Tirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu

The main entrance to Valiswara Temple, Tiruvaliswaram

This temple is considered to be one of the best examples of Chola architecture. This temple was constructed in the early part of the 10th century by Raja Raja Chola I. Even though, it was built by the Cholas, it stands in the land of the Pandyas. It is a centrally protected monument under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) since 1919. It is home to one of the three Swayambhu lingams along the Gadananathi river. The other two being the Kailasanathar temple at Brahmadesam and the Sivasailanathar Paramakalyani temple at Sivasailam. I am talking about the Valiswara temple located by the banks of the Gadananathi river at Thiruvaleeswaram in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.

The architecture of the Valiswara temple is mainly Chola, but you can see a bit of Chola-Pandya and Pandya at different places in the temple. The main deity is Lord Shiva and he is depicted sitting in a sukhasana pose. The vimana has an idol of Lord Shiva as Ardhanareeswara, whose artistic style resembles those of Pallava temples in Panamalai and Kanchipuram. The Valiswara temple is also home to a unique standing statue of Lord Ganesha. The temple has two sanctums, both facing east. One is dedicated to Lord Shiva as Valisvara and the other is dedicated to goddess Parvati as Goddess Soundarya Nayaki. Both sanctums have Nandi statues, flag staffs and Bali peetha in front of them.

Gorgeous carvings on the temple shikhara and Dakshinamoorthy statue below - Valiswara Temple

The prakara of the Shiva shrine has the idols of Surya, Adhikara Nandi, Sapta Matas, Surya deva and Subramanya. The maha mantapa inside the shrine of Shiva has many circular shaped and Yali pillars. There are two small separate shrines of Ganesha and Shanmugha with his consorts. The vimana has a lot of beautiful sculptures such as Bhoota ganas, Rishaba Vahana, Gaja Samhara Murti, Dakshinamoorthi, Ardha Nareeswara, Natarajar, etc.

The temple campus is full of beautiful plants and trees that attract a lot of birds and butterflies, especially peacocks.

On a section near the Bali peetha, etching recording the triumphs grabbed by a corps of the Chola equipped power called Munru kai Mahasenai. It further says that the haven of Tiruvaliswaram, its treasury and the temple labourers were put under the protection of this unit of the equipped power. It is also believed that this Chola army used to hide all the wealth from their conquests inside this temple campus and this is one of the main reasons for ASI to build a large wall and protect this temple campus from the outside elements as such treasure could be hidden under the temple even today.
Ancient scripts on the walls of Valiswara temple, Thiruvaliswaram     
This offbeat hidden Chola gem of a temple is a must-visit for all temple lovers. Access is a bit difficult, but its rustic and remote location, its rich history and beautiful campus more than make up for this lack of access. I recommend this temple with many thumbs up.

Main entrance door of Valiswara temple at Tiruvaliswaram

Famous festivals of this temple:

Maha Shivaratri and Thiruvathirai are major annual festivals celebrated here. Every month, the two Pradosham days hold particular significance at this temple.

Standing Ganesha statue at Valiswara temple, Tiruvaliswaram

How to reach there:

The nearest railway and bus station is Ambasamudram, located about 5 kilometers away. From Ambasamudram, take the road leading towards Gowthamapuri and Brahmadesam. From Brahmadesam, take the road leading towards Nalayarithu Amman temple and take a right at the temple and this will take you to the Valiswara temple campus.

The nearest airport is Tuticorin, located about 82 kms away.

Large statue of Lord Muruga and his consorts at Valiswara temple

Best season to visit:

The Valisvara temple at Thiruvaliswaram is open all year round. However, it can get quite warm during the summer months between March and June. Even during the other months, it is best to visit the temple in the early hours of the morning so that you can walk barefoot on the granite stone floor of the temple.
Yali holding a pillar on its head - Valiswara temple, Thiruvaliswaram

Temple timings:

The Valisvara temple doesn’t get a lot of regular visitors. Hence, the temple priest usually visits at his convenience. He spends about 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. The timings change depending on his schedule. It is best to call the temple priest a day in advance and find out the temple timings. The temple priest’s name is ‘Sankar Pattar’ and his phone number is +91 97896 42742. If you cannot get through his phone, his home is next to the Kailasanathar temple at Brahmadesam. It is best to check with locals regarding directions to his house. 
Ancient stone sculpture at Valiswara 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 home stays or guest houses in Kallidakurichi village agraharam.    
Shiva lingam at Valiswara Temple, Thiruvaliswaram

Where to eat:

You can find some basic snacks with tea/coffee in the village of Brahmadesam or Mannarkoil. 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.

Nandi statue at Valiswara Temple, Tiruvaliswaram

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) 10th century Kailasanathar temple at Brahmadesam

2) Mannarkoil Rajagopalaswamy temple: magnificent 10th century temple with a ashtanga vimana

3) 1000 year old Papanasanathar temple at Papanasam: Where you can wash all your sins away

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

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

Corridor inside Valiswara Temple, Tiruvaliswaram

6) Kallidaikurichi: The village of the Saaral season

7) Iruttu Kadai Halwa: Icon of Tirunelveli

8) Nellaiappar Temple: A 7th century cosmic dance wonder

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

10) Thamirabharani river delta: A motorcycle route full of rustic gorgeousness

11) Karaiyar dam: Offbeat wildlife and nature holiday destination in India’s deep south

12) The hidden gem called Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

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

Valiswara Temple, Tiruvaliswaram

14) Tiruchendur Murugan Temple: Sea Shore Magic

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

16) Garuda 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: Historical gem of Kerala

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

22) Thenmala forest and Palaruvi Falls: Offbeat nature and wildlife getaway

Beautiful statue at Valiswara temple, Tiruvalisvaram

23) Oothu: The quaint little hill station of Tamil Nadu

24) Kakkachi: The highest point inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

25) Festival of Thiruvathirai from a traditional Tamil Nadu village

26) Scenic Iron Bridge of Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve: Pristine nature overloaded

27) Manimuthar Falls: The herbal waterfall inside a tiger reserve

28) Vintage Pathimoonu Kannara Bridge: Colonial charm of the Indian railways

29) Thenmala Dam: A monsoon pit stop

30) The exotic tropical fruit shops of Puliyarai

Nayanars of Shiva at Valiswara Temple, Thiruvaliswaram

31) Kallidaikurichi Adi Varaha Temple Chariot Festival: Grand Cultural Spectacle in Rural Tamil Nadu

32) Kallidaikurichi Anaicut: Gorgeous picnic spot nestled in the lap of nature

33) Agastyar Falls: A gorgeous waterfall on the Thamirabharani river

34) Manjolai: The offbeat hill station of Tamil Nadu

35) Kudrevetty: The remote and windy hill station of Tamil Nadu

36) Nalumukku: The wettest place of India during the North East Monsoon

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