Karkotaka seen praying to Lord Soundareswara
Kamarasavalli is a Village in Thirumanur Taluk in Ariyalur District of Tamil Nadu. It is
located on the northern bank of river Kollidam (tributary of river Kaveri), 20 km towards
south from district head quarters Ariyalur and 9 km from Thirumanur.
Two great Puranic personalities are associated with the temple here. One is Rati,
consort of Manmatha and the other, the great snake Karkotaka. The name of the place,
Kamarasavalli is associated with the story of Rati. The name of the presiding deity,
Karkoteswara owes its genesis to the worship of the Lord by the serpent Karkotaka.
Rati: As prodded by Devas, once Manmatha cast his famous flower-arrows of love at Lord
Siva, who was in Yoga, when Parvathi was practising penance separately to attain him.
Siva was angry and reduced Manmatha to ashes from the fire from his third eye in the
forehead. As advised by Vishnu, Rati pleaded in this sthala before Devi Balambika and
Lord Soundareswara to forgive Manmatha and restore him to life and bless them. They
acceded to her prayers. Manmatha was restored to life, but he was Ananga (one without
limbs), visible only to Rati. The cycle of creation thus came to be continued without a
break due to the Lord’s grace. As Lord graced Rati Devi, the place came to be known as
Rathi Vara Puram and Kama Rati Valli, which changed into Kamarasavalli in course of
time. In confirmation of this story, a copper idol of Rati Devi is in the temple in the posture
of begging the Lord for restoration of her mangalya. In commemoration of this event,
the temple celebrates ‘Kaman’ festival every year on Magha Pournami day. During the
festival, devotees plant a ‘cut into two’ castor plant. Symbolizing the boon of Lord for Rati
- Manmatha union, the plant comes to life within 8 days, thus confirming the grace of the
Lord even today. Women seeking Mangalya boon and resolution of marital discords pray
here for fulfilment of their wishes.
One of the eight great serpents in the underground Naga world, Karkotaka, the offspring of
sage Kasyapa and Kadru, is well known for his timely help extended to king Nala, when he
was afflicted by Kali. A famous prayer runs as under:
कार्कोटकस्य नागस्य दमयन्त्याः नलस्य च ।
ऋतुपर्णस्य राजर्षेः कीर्तनं कलिनाशनम् ॥
“Chanting the names of the serpent Karkotaka, Damayanti, Nala and Rajrishi Rituparna will
destroy the ill effects of Kali.”
Once when King Parikshit was hunting in the forest, he became very weary due to severe
hunger and thirst. He saw Rishi Sameeka in contemplation and asked for water. The
Rishi, who was in Samadhi, was unaware of his surroundings. On receiving no response
from the Rishi, Parikshit became furious and picked up a dead serpent and hung it on
the Rishi’s neck. The Rishi’s son, Sringi could not stand this dishonour of his father and
cursed that whoever had perpetrated this hideous crime would die of bite by the serpent
Takshaka on the seventh day. Parikshit, of course, spent these seven days listening to
Srimad Bhagavatam from sage Suka and attained Mukti. But his son Janamejaya, who
was crowned king, was prodded by some ministers to avenge his father’s untimely death
by conducting a serpent sacrifice, in which all serpents would fall in the fire and die. In the
course of the sacrifice, when a large number of serpents had lost their lives in the sacrificial
fire, the serpent Karkotaka was afraid and took refuge under Lord Mahavishnu.
Lord Vishnu directed Karkotaka to this place, Kamarasavalli and advised him to perform
intense penance and pray to Lord Soundareswara for his grace. Karkotaka scrupulously
followed Vishnu’s advice. Soundareswara appeared before him and blessed him with
protection for not only his life but also for the serpent families. The gracious Lord also
assured that no Kala Sarpa dosha would affect those who pray at this temple. This
happened on a day ruled by Kataka Lagna and Kataka Rasi. Hence those belonging to
this Lagna and Rasi are advised to pray in the temple for relief from all difficulties. In view
of the special worship of the Lord by Karkotaka, Lord Soundareswara came later to be
known as Karkoteswara. A noteworthy feature is that according to inscriptions here, no
one had died of snake bite in this place.
At the entrance we can have darshan of the large Vinayaka idol, Nandikeswara on
a high pedestal and Balipeetham. We then move on to the garbhagriha, where Lord
Karkoteswara gives darshan majestically, facing east. Dakshinamurthi, Ardhanareeswara,
Lingodbhava, Brahma and Durga are in the Goshtas. There are beautiful Utsava Vigrahas
in the Ardhamandapa. In the Mahamandapa, we see the sculpture showing Karkotaka
performing Siva Puja with Lord Vinayaka and Nandi. Every pillar in the temple is full of
sculptural beauty. Mother Balambika graces from a separate Sannidhi in standing pose,
facing south. Vinayaka, Subramania with his consorts Valli and Devasena, Mahalakshmi,
Saraswati, Durga, Chandikeswara and Navagrahas grace from their shrines in the
prakara. The temple has a separate Mandapam with Lord Nataraja. There are some
Naga idols, to whom devotees pray for relief from the adverse effects of serpent planets,
Rahu and Ketu. There is also a kitchen.
We have historical information from about 45 stone inscriptions found in the temple
premises. We find that the kshetra has other names such as Tirunallur, Karkoteswaram,
Chaturvedi Mangalam, Rathivara Puram and Kamarathi Valli. According to one inscription,
the temple was built by Sundara Chola also known as Raja Kesari Varma (AD 957-974) in
the year AD 962. Raja Kesari Varma is the grandfather of Raja Raja Chola who built the
Thanjavur Big Temple. One Sriranga Thanda Naicker, the commander of the king Posala
renovated this temple in the year 1260. According to history, besides the Cholas, Pandyas
and Posala kings had also paid due attention for the maintenance of the temple. Sundara
Chola, Uthama Chola, Raja Rajan I, Rajendran I, Kulothungan I, II and III, Vikrama Chola
and Kadavarman directly supervised the administration of this Kamarasavalli temple,
according to epigraphic findings. These inscriptions also speak about the debates
organized among the Vedic scholars, Margazhi Tiruvadhirai festival and the folklore dance
called Chakkai Koothu. Another inscription is about the visit of King Posala in 1240 to hear
and deliver a verdict in a land dispute. Many inscriptions refer to gifts of land for various
services in the temple such as preparation of sandal paste, provision of offerings to the
gods, gifts to Vedic pundits who chant Vedas during festivals etc. The flower Garden –
Nandavanam was then known as Picha Devan Nandavanam. There was also a family
quarter for those maintaining the garden called Tiruthondan complex.
It appears there was also a mutt in the name of Child Saint Tirugnana Sambandar. This
is also famed as the 70th
Above all, the temple has the added reputation that Jagadguru Sri Kanchi Maha Swamigal
Sthala, worshipped and sung by saint Appar (Tirunavukkarasar).
visited the temple in 1950 and performed abhishekam to Lord Karkoteswara with his own
hands. Many other saints have also had darshan at this temple.
Monthly pradoshams; Tamil New year day falling on or about April 14; Aadi Pooram in
July-August; Vinayaka Chaturthi in August-September; Navarathri in September-October;
Aipasi Annabishekam in October-November and Margazhi Tiruvadhirai (Ardra Darsanam)
in December-January are the main festivals celebrated in the temple.
The sthala also has a temple for Sri Varadarajaswamy with consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi.
The Lord, who is in standing pose, blesses the devotees with all auspiciousness, specially
relief from skin diseases.