Sri Choleeswarar temple, a seventh century Chola temple, lies in a state of disrepair.
The great king Raja Raja Chola was travelling to offer prayers at the Chozheeswara temple that he built at the north of the village called Oottathoor. Legend has it that while his men were trying to clear a path covered with sand and bushes of thick Bilwa trees, something blocked their spade at one point. And when they spruced up the place, blood started gushing out. Much to their astonishment, further clearing brought out a lingam (Suddha Rathneswarar) with blood oozing out of the cut mark on the lingam. Hearing the news the king rushed to the spot immediately and performed proper worship.
More excavations of the area brought to light a dilapidated temple for Lord Siva, at Oottathoor, built in the seventh century. The other deities were also seen without any damage and the Chola king renewed this temple. Raja Raja’s son and the kings who ruled after him also were great devotees who supported and renewed the temple.
It is a unique temple in many counts. Though it is named after Goddess Akhilandeswari and Suddha Rathneswarar, it also has separate niches for Panchanadhana Natarajar, His Consort, Sivakama Sundari and a sannidhi for Goddess Akhilandeswari, which is situated separately at the rear end of the complex.
After entering the seven-tier rajagopuram, there is a maha mandapam, which also serves as a marriage hall. Many marriages and homams are performed at this hall under the two sculptured panels on the ceiling near the dwajasthambam as it is believed to bring good luck. On one of the panels, the 27 stars and 12 sun signs (rasis) are depicted. In another panel nearby one would see the images of nine planets (navagrahams). Just before entering the artha mandapam, the beautiful painting (in Sudhai work) showing the pradosham details will draw everybody’s attention. The Brahma theertham is situated just opposite the sanctum sanctorum.
The temple history explains the famous story of this pond that involves the trimurthis. Of them, Brahma, (in a contest with Vishnu), who lies about finding the Head of Siva, finally came to this place to undertake penance to get relieved of Siva’s curse. He creates this spring containing the waters of all the sacred rivers around the world, to escape from the ill effects created because of the sins. Even now, this water is supposed to be having immense medicinal properties, which cure many chronic ailments. It is because of this ever flowing spring that the village is also called Ootratthoor (village with eternal spring) which has become ‘ Oottathoor’ in due course.
One may see the cut marks on the idol of Suddha Ratneswarar even now, as explained in the temple history.
There are separate niches for many deities. Of them, the majestic Nataraja idol, a giant sculpture made out of single stone, is wonderfully carved with a special stone called Pancha Nadha stone.
It is believed that if those suffering from renal problems will be relieved from the illness permanently if they perform special abishekam to the Lord continuously for 45 days with water taken from the Brahma teertham and consume it.
The sun’s rays will fall on the deity on two occasions during the year – on the 12, 13 and 14 day during the Tamil month of Maasi (feb/march) and the other occasion being the Visakam festival where it falls for three minutes.
The temple boasts of innumerable inscriptions dating back to the days of Raja Raja Chola and other rulers. This feature makes this place a much sought after one by archaeologists.
The temple also houses a panel showing the idols of 63 nayanmars, and unlike in many other temples, there is a special sannidhi for Goddess Chandikeswari. Saint Appar, one of the Saivite saints, has sung in praise of this temple in his hymns.
The temple with such rich past lies in a state of disrepair. The ‘vazhipattu mandram,’ a hub created by the locals, have taken up the project of cleaning up the area. Donations are solicited to retrieve the lost glory of this ancient temple.
For details call Ramantha Gurukkal or Nataraja Gurukkal (Ph: 0431-276126/97880 62416/88838 52198.
How to reach: Buses are available from Tiruchi Chathram bus stand to Paadaalur, and a local bus from there will reach the devotees to this shrine.
Direct buses are also available from Tiruchi Chathram bus stand to Oottathoor temple.
Temple timing: 5 a.m. – 12.30 p.m. and 4 - 8.30 p.m.
Oottathoor is situated at 35 km from Tiruchi on the NH45 between Tiruchi and Perambalur. One has to take a bus to Paadalur and from there has to travel in another bus towards the east for about five km to reach the temple. Frequent buses to Paadalur and town buses to Oottathoor are available from Tiruchi Chathram Bus Stand.