THE TEMPLE AT THIRUNALLAR


 

Temples are sambolic of the abode of God and eventhough countless numbers of them are extent in our land they are only so many microcosms of the macrcosm the abode of milk is the cow but the nectar could be extracte only from the under through teats of this sacred animanal similarly God though transcendent is immanent in the temple and is cognizable only there in.

For milleniums the Hindus have been extremely Godloving, and all over the land temples were built by the rulers, or the scions of rulers, and no wonder the poet warns us 'not to dwell in a place where a temple is non-existent'.

In the Thanjavur District studded with scores of temples the exists in Tirunallar near Karaikal, the former French territory, the ancient temple of Darbharanyeswara. This temple was visited by the Saint Tirugnana Sambandar in the 7th century A.D. who sang padigams (decadal verses) in praise of the Lord. Likewise, his contemporary Saint Tirnnavukkarasu and later, Saint Sundarar (9th century A.D.) had visited the temple and sung padigams extolling the Lord. Saint Arunagirinathar (15th century A.D.) had also visited it and sung hymns included in his monumental work Tiruppugazh.

THE PACCHAI PADIGAM

It is unique glory of the Tirunallar temple that it possesses  the Pacchai Padigam which occupies a pride of place in the history of the Hindu Saivite Tamil  hymnal  literature. This padigam extols the virtues of  the Lord and  begins with the opening line Bhogamartha Poon Mulayal a pecan  to the consort  of  Lord Darbharanyeswara.  And it is said to have  stood  and ordeal of  fire and the event leading to it is of absorbing interest and is narrated below.

It took place in the 7th century A.D, in Madurai, the capital of the Pandya  Kingdom, during the reign of the celebrated Koon Pandya, also called Ninraseernedumaran.  It was the time when the Jains had spread their influence and far and wide, In the Pandya Kingdom. The king had become a convert to Jainism and actively promoted its growth in his kingdom. Long all but his queen Mangaiyarkarasi and his minister Kulacchirai Nayanar - both stunch Saivaits - had embraced Jainism, forsaking the old religion.This caused immense agony to the queen and the minister who were anxious to  reclaim  the  king  and the kingdom  back  to  the  traditional religion.
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1. Pacchai - the ever gree; Padigam - decadal verse.
2. (Devi) with shapaly breasts adorned with jewels so pleasing to the Lord.
3. Histrians idendify Koon Pandya (the hunch-backed Pandya) with  Arikesari
    Parankusa Maravarman.
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To  these  two grief stricken individuals came the good tidings  of the camping  of boy saint Tirugnana Sambandar at Vedaranyam.  Having  heard of the miracles  performed  by  the Saivait saint young  Sambandar  in  the Thanjavur  district, they sent an urgent invitation to him to visit Madurai and extricate the king and his subjects from the clutches of the Jains.  It would appear  that  while the queen's messengers found a ready response  in the boy saint it was not easy where his "admirer and companion saint" Appar was concerned.  In the words of Sekkizhar and thus spoke Appar, the king of Divine speech.  Thouat but a stripling.  There is no end to the deceits and treacheries  of  the Jains.  There is one further objection.   The  planets stand baleful. So you shold not agree to go.  Unto which the  high-souled Sambandar  repiled  .   "If  what I think and  praise  constantly  are  the tinkling  feer of our Lord, no harm will touch me".  So saying the cheif of the Puhali  town, Sambandar ever bound unto the rosy fragrant feet of  God. Sang the  PADIGAM begining with the Lord of Uma with bamboo - like  shapely shoulders".  The saint then be took himself to Madurai.

The  arrival of the Saivate Saint roused the suspicion of the Jains who resorted  to the heinous act of setting fire to his holy dwelling.  But by his yogic  powers, Sambandar had the heat transferred to the king  which burut his  person inexorably Lo!  the king was wriggling like a warm unable to stand  the  pain,  which the scorching heat that had taken hold  of  his person produced.   Then the youthful saint sang the padigam  'Mandiramavadu Neeru' (the  saered ash is the mandra etc.,) and sprinkled a few grains  of the ash on  the  right  side of the king's body.  The Jains in  their  turn chanting the Aruga Mantra (Jain Mantra) stroked the left side of the King's person with  peacock feathers, but it only aggravated the pain!   Entreated by the king  and his ministers, Sambandar applied a few more grains of  the sacred ash  on to his left side also.  It was a wonder of wonders that  the poor pandya  monarch  who  a  little  while ago was  the  very  picture  of suffering,  misery  and distress was now smiling gaily and appeared  wholly freed from the burning malady.  Lo!  the King was rid of his hump too!  And at this moment, it may be said that the triumph of Saivism over Jainism was more than  established in the Pandya capital and the unwanted religion just faded out ignominiously.

But  the Jains were not as yet wiser by their abject defeat1.  They arrogantly threw  the  challenge that both religionsts should  write  down their respective  Mantras on a palm leaf and consign it to the flames  and the one that  survived  the ordeal of the established its superiority  over the other.

The  King must have been impressed by the miraculous performance of Gnana Sambandar's  treatment  just with a pinch of sacred ash and he  might also have been possibly distreesed at the collapse of the religion to which he was a  votary,  namely Jainism.  It was at this juncture that the  Jains threw the  aforesaid challenge as they were convinced that the king was  in two minds  in the approach to the two respective religions.  The Saint also wanted to  convince him of the superiority of Saivism over the other.   And so, he accepted  the challenge and the Jains first threw their Mantra  into the fire  which  became  forthwith a prey to the  flames!   Sambandar  them caused his Tirumurai  to  be brought there and pulled one  leaf  from  the bundle and  his  leaf contained a verse of the forty -  ninth  Padigam  of Tevaram entitled  "Bhogamartha Poon Mulayal" which was sung carlier by  the saint in  the Darbaranyeswara shrine at Tirunallar.  He consigned it to the flames.   But  his  palm  bearing leaf was not scorched by  the  fire.   It maintained its evergreen freshness!  Unconsumed by the fierce flames of the fire it remained  absolutely unscatched and this miracle established.   The glory of saivism  which  to this day is as Green as it was before  it  was subjected  to the fire ordeal!  Hence the appellation "Pacchai Padigam" was being applied to it.

Bhogamartha  Poon Mulayal is also called by the name of  Praneswari as she gave life (Prana) or rebirth to Saivism.

PLACE NAME

The name "TIRUNALLARU" is said to represent the association of Nala of the Nishadha  country  who got his deliverance from the evil effects  of Shani (Saturn) by invoking the Lord's mercy here.  (Nala+Aru-Nallaru).  The word "Aru"  also  conveys the meaning "to heel" and the  two  words  taken together  will  mean  Nala's  place of redemption or the  pace  where  Nala secured his  redemption  from the hold of Saturn through the Lord's  Grace. Others are  inclined  to  read  the meaning 'between rivers' in  the  name Nal-Aru,  as this place is situated in the midst of two rivers in the north i.e. Noolaru and Vanchiaru, and one in the south, Arasalaru.

And  this  name as such occurs in the earlier padikam as wel as  in the Inscriptions.  Besides, the name of Nallaru this sacred plaee has also other name such as Adipuri, Darbharanyam, Nagavidangapuram, Naleswaram etc


THE TEMPLE AND THE TANKS

 

 

 

 



Since [the principal deity Darbharanyeswara his consort Praneswari, Shaniswar  and the several other gods and goddesses enshrined here have the power to offer benedictions to the devotees, hundreds of them visit  this temple daily.  There  is the additional attraction of several sacred  tanks which exist here and which are said to, possess healing powers literally as well as metaboically.

A beautiful Rajagopuram in five tiers resing to the sky and adorned with an abundance of  terracotta sculpture as we approach the temple.   As one enters  and perambulates round the eircumambulatory path this shirne of Kalathinathar  and Karpakavinayakar are seen which are readily  worshipped. The images  of  the  four  great  Shive Saint besides those  of  the  63  - Nayanmars  are  represented  at the turn of the southeren Prakara  of  the temple, and  noteworthy  feature  here  is the image of  Nala  house  in a separate  shrine  at the end of the gallery of the 63 - Nayanmars.  On  the westren path  are  seen  three  figures   having  uam  stackable  sage-like appearance.  And it is believed that one of them is, that of the Chola king Raja Raja,  it  is  food  for researchers as this image  is  so  strikingly similar to  the  one  found  at the entrance of the  Nritta  Sabha  in  the Nataraja temple at Chidambaram.  The other notable deities in this line are Swarna Vinayaka and Subramanya.

The  image  of Lord Shaniswara is seen in a graceful standing  pose housed in  niche  on the left side of the Lord's Sannithi.  He is  shedding benevolence  as  he  is wearing the aspect of Anugrahamum and  a  Perennial stream of  Bhaktas  throng  here  to  worship  Him  and  obtain  His  grace throughout the year on important festival days.

According to legends, Shani is the son of the Sun [the Chief of the solar system] by Chhaya, the shadow of Samine his wife.  He was ordered by his father  to  take his pace amongst the planets and  engage  himself  in meeting out  joys  and sorrows to mortals in proportion to the  merits  and demerits earned by them in their past lives.

Shaniswara  is  very  much sought after by  countless  millions  of devotees  on  the  day when the Planet Saturn  [worshipped  as  Shaniswara] transits  front one zoditical sign to another.  This day is great  occasion here and  abhishekas, archhnas, pujas, aradhanas and naivedyas are  offered to the Lord  continuously  the  whoe day for mitigation  of  the  scorching effeets his influence produces on those to pass through Shani Dasa in their lives.

There   are  several  tanks  here   which  are  considered   highly sanctified.   They  are  respectively  Brahma Tirtha,  Vani  Tirtha,  Hamsa Tirtha, Agasthia  Tirtha, Nala Tirtha, etc., The Sthala Vriksha here is the Darbha plant [Kusa grass].

The Lord Darbharanyeswara is offered pujas six times a day and Lord Shaniswara five times a day.

Shaniswara has also other names such as Mandam [dullard Pangu[lame] Kartam [biack man] etc.  Since the takes nearly three decadeo complete one orbit round  the sun he is reckoned as a very slow moving planet.  The name Sanaichara  means  slow moving. And his vehicle is the crow  the  familiar black brid.  The colour of his graments is also black.

According  to  astrology,   Saturn  is   the  Lord  of  the  houses. Makhara[Capricorn] and  Kumbha  [Aquarius].  He is exalted  in  the  house Thula[Libra]  and  is Ayurkaraka or in other words, governs our life  span, Sesame or  the  gingelli is his favourite seed and cooked rice  mixed  with sesame is the favourite naivedana.

The  Siloatatnakara mentions the eagle as his vehicle.  It is  also said that  lamps  fed with gingili oil and lighted before him  reduces  the intensity  of  his  malelife  and saturday being his day in  the  week  the offerings  on  that day of gingili oil fed lamps and gingili-rice bring  to the devotee great virtues besides getting the saturnine influence mitigated if thiy happen to be affilicted by it.

Saturn  as well known as one of the 9 planets and Is the biggest in the solar system next only to Jupiter.  Its diameter is 71,500 miles and is of a lighter  density than the earth.  It orbits the sun taking about  29.5 years to  take one full round, passing through the 12 sign of the zodiac in its stride.  It is 886 million miles away from the Sun.  And it takes 10.15 hours to make in rotation on its own axis.

PURANIC STORIES

In  days  of  yore, when the sages implored to suggest  to  them  a suitable  site on earth to perform the Satra yaga, the latter rolled out  a Chakra [nemi]  made  of  darbha  [Kusa grass] which  stopped  at  a  forest [aranya]  thus  indicating that it was an ideal place for them to do  their penance.   The  became  known as the Naimisharanys. According  to  another version it  was  called Naimisharanya.  Because of the annihilation by  the Lord here of holdes of Asuras in minute [Nlmisha].

In  Naimisharanya, the famous redezvous of sages and birthplace  of the Puranas, God  has taken the form of a Pushkarma, while in forest.   He exists as  water, with a view to providing the sages with shade, tubers and fruits so   that   could   listen  to expositions of   divine   stories uninterruptedly  without  having to break in order to appease their hunger thirst or  to take rest.  It was here that Lava and Kusa, the twin sons  of Sri Rama  sang  the Ramayana and the sagh Parasara's son was conferred  the title of Veda  Vyasa  also Balarama was felicitated by the  sages  on  his annihilating the Asura. Balvanan and Srimad Bhagavata was retold at  the commencement of KaliYuga by Sage Suka.
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 5. Vayu Purana.
 6. Modern Nishmar which is 45 miles north west of Lucknow [Uttar Pradesh].
 7. Varaha Purana.
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Many   puranic  stories  associated  with   the  sacred  tanks   of Darbharanyeswara were told in the sacred forest of Naimisharanya.

[1] THE CURSE: A  king of the Kalinga country who was cursed to take the form of a wild elephant  along  with  his  queen and prince and  Roam  about  in  the wilderness  because of an unpremeditated slight he offered to Sage  Bhagava shed his  animal  existence  along with the members of his family  by  Sage Narada's  intercession  who  had  directed  the  accursed  king  to  go  to Darbharanyeswara  and  manage to get a drop of the water fall on  his  body from the head of a pilgrim who just had a dip in the sacred Brahma Thirtha.

Accordingly,  the King his Consort and son were transformed to  the is former  *elves.   When a drop of his sacred water fell on them from  the head of a  pilgrim  who was mopping his wet hair just after a bath  in  the sacred tank.

[2] NALAS REDEMPTION : Nala  the  handsome  and  brave king of  Nishadha  was  married  to Damayanthi,  the  Princess  of  Vidardha  she choose him  as  her  Lord  in preference  to celestials Jndra.  Varuna, Agni and Yama, Shani who also had an eye on  marrying Damayanthi became enraged at this.  He reviled the gods for allowing  a mortal to wed Damayanthi and vowed, out of sheer spite,  to bring about  their  separation and ruin Nala also.  But he had to wait  for twelve long  years before he could find any flaw in Nala whose adherence to just ce,  probity and righteousness and strict observance of religious were impeccable  generally.  On the commission of a breach in the performance of his morning  ablutions  on  a certain dry Shani took hold of him  at  once. Thence commenced  Nala's  misfortunes.  He played a game of dice  with  the wicked Pushkara.  He had staked his kingdom and lost but continued the game unmindful  of the counsels of the virtuous wife fondly hoping to succeed at one stage  to  another, Ultimately losing everything Nala left his  kingdom and wildernesses.  Later, he forsock his wife also, who stood steadfast his companion  all  through,  on a pitch dark night while she  was  asleep  and wended his  way through the dense forest.  And espying a bigserpant  caught ina forest fire writhing in agony, he resuced it.  The serpant Karkotaka in return bit  Nala its own rescuer, whose body was suddenly transformed  into that of a  dark dwarf.  Karkotaka told him that this transformation in  his physical  appearance  was  a service rendered to him in his  own  interest, which eventual  happenings in his life would prove to be correct, and  also gave him  a snake skin by donning which Nala could assume his original from at will.   He also advised him to go to King Ritupanna of Ayodhya and learn from him  the tricks employed in the play of the game of dice.  Progressing further.   Nala  reached  Ayodhya and his dentity being  unrecognisable  on account of  the  physical change effected by the snake bite, he  appreached King Ritupanna  under the name Bahuka and sought of him employment.  He was given one  which  was  that  of the  king's  charioteer,  Ritupanna  little suspecting  that  Bahuka was no other than Nala.  A king royal who had  not his compeer in the three worlds in the art of horsemanship.

Now  for Damayandhi, she was greatly distressed at Nala's desernion of her and  roamed  about  the forest until she came upon a  caravan  whose members were  very  hospitable  to  her  and agreed  to  take  her  to  the neighbouring  city  the next morning.  But as ill luck would have it,  that night mad elephant attacked the caravan and killed the merchants.  When the foriorn Damayanthi  came  forward  voluntarily to give herself  up  to  the animal preferring  death  the widbeast became submissive and went  its  way doing her  no  harm.  Trusting in God, Damayanthi resumed her  journey  and reached the  city of Chedi whose Queen captivated by the bewitching  beauty of Damayanthi  allowed  her to emain with her as her companion and maid  in the meantime  some  of  the messengers of King Bhima of  Vidardha  who  had arrived in  Chedi  in search of the royal couple recognized  Damayanthi  as their princess  and  she  was back by the Queen to Vidarbha  with  a  royal escort.

Damayanthi  that  a  minute  examination  of  Bahuka  the  short,   swarthy charioteer  of  King Ritupanna suggested that he was a great personage  who had gone  down in life.  Clever Damayanthi forthwith send word through  the messenger to King Riutppanna that a second Swayamwara was to take place for her since  Nala  had  deserted  her.  And King  Ritupanna  whose  love  for Damayanthi  had  never  wanted even after the disappointment at  the  first Swayamwara got ready to attend it the very next morning.

The  sight  of  the  chariot which was  whirling  through  the  sky immediately revealed to Damayanthi the charioteer's mastery over the art of horsemanshop.  But the charioteer locked ugly and disease!  However, in and all out effort  to  identify  Nala.  Damayanthi was prepared to go  to  any length.  She employed several strategies whereby she could identify some of the unique  skills  that  Nala had possessed including  proficincy  in  the culinary arts and her strategies did yield truth.

At  long Nala did get back his old majestic and handsome appearance [by wearing  the  snake - skin].  Unlessing the reunited couple  and  their children   King  Ritupanna  left  Kundinapura.    With  the  help  of   his father-in-law  Nala  marched at the head of an army to  Nishadha,  defeated King Pushkar  in  gambirg  with  the help of knowledge of  the  science  of numbers he  had  acquired from King Ritupanna, and took back possession  of his lost kingdom.

Notwithstanding  the  restoration  of his lost fortune.   Nala  was still dogged by misery and unhappiness owing to the effects of Shani and on the advice of Sage Bharadwaja at Vriddhachalam he came to Tirunallar where, after a bath  in the sacred Brahma Tirtea he regained his mental equipoise, and peace of mind was restored to him thereafter.

He  sojowrned for a few days at the sacred shrine dug a tank  which was named Nala Tirth after him and got the temple renovated.  Whoever has a bath in this tank should be blessed.  He prayed to the lord fermently, "And be free saturaline influence" and the lord granted his prayer.

[3] REDEMPTION FROM THE SIN OF COW KILLING : King  Thooyakanda,  ruler of Vedavarthana situation on the bank  of the river  Godavari,  begot a son after long penances and  fulfulling  many vows and presented riches and cows to the Brahmins who had conducted a Yaga [Putrakmeshti] for the birth of an heir apparent to the King.

Two  Brahmins  who were also recipients of cows found that  one  of them had  a bigger size cow than the other.  Simitten by jealousy and  envy they both  quarelled violently which ended in mutual exchange of blows with sticks.   Unfortunately  a severe blow landed on one of the  animals  which died instantaneously.   Gohatya  or  the  sin  of  killing  a  cow,  though unpremeditated,  overtook  the Brabmin who immediately  became  transformed into a low class human being and was blind too.

The  unfortunate  Brahmin  sought the advice of  Sage  Romasha  who directed  him to repair to Darbharaya and seek redemption for his sin  from the Lord  after taking a bath in the Hamsa Tirtha.  Accordingly the Brahmin went there  and  a drop of water from the head of a woman pilgrim  who  had just bathed  in  then  sacred waters of the tank and was  drying  her  hair landed on  him.   And  Lal immediately he got back his  Original  Form  and sight, the sin of Cow Killing having been absolved.

[4] URUCHI OF AVANTI: Uruchi,  the  King  of  Avanti, once sudplicated  before  the  Sage Bharadwaja who came to his court followed by a few other sages implored the later to  advice him as to which and of the numerous forms of charities was most suderior  to the others.  This sage suggested Annadana or serving food to the starving and added that if this service was performed in Darbharanya Kshetra the  donor would earn plenty of merit.  Following this advice,  the king processed  to  Darbharanya and worshipped the Lord and  offered.   Him sincere prayers.   The Lord appeared before him and asked him to ask for  a boon.  The  king beseeched the Lord to bless him with His everlasting Grace and the means  to offer food to those who sought of him.  On obtaining  the lord's boon  the  King  remained  in this Sacred Place  for  long  devoting Himself to the Service of the poor and Feeding and Hungry.

[5] AGNIVANNAR: Two  sons of a merchant prince bearing the same name of  Agnivannar got into  lustful ways and ran through their fortunes in no time and became penniless.

Having  nothing to feld for themselves and har put to the necessity of keeping  their body and soul together, they turned highway robbers,  and hiding in  jungles  overpowered  stray travellers, killed them  and  seized their possessions.

Once a sage happening to pass by their haunt, was also subjected to the same  inhuman  treatment  by the robbers.  The sage after  giving  them wise, counsel  advised  them  to  lead  a  normal  life  he  took  them  to Darbharanya where these who fallen brothers attained salvation after taking a bath in  the Hamsa Dirtha and worshipping, the lord and offering  prayers to Him for many Days.

A SAPTHA VIDANGA SHRINE

Thirunallar  has  claims to additional impartance as the Second  of the seven  Saptha  Vidanga  Sthalas.   In other words,  this  sacred  place enshrines   a  naturally  formed  Marakatha   [emerald]  linga   known   as Navagavidanga  which is the second out of the seven images gifted the Indra to a Chola King by name.

Muchukunda,   who  installed  them   respectively   at   Tituvarur, Tirunallaru,  Tiruvoimur,  Tirukkarayil,   Tirukkuvalai  [or Tirukkolili], Tirunagaikaronam  [Nagapattinam]  and Tirumaraikkadu [Vedaranyam] Siva  the King of dances, performs the Unmatha dance in this Kshetra.

The  sanctum  on the left side of Tyagaraja has the  Marakathalinga kept in an  iron safe.  Abhishekas and pujas are offered to it five times a day.

It  is  computed that there are 17 Sivalingas in this sacred  place includind  Darbharanyeswara in the main shirne and those that the lords  of the 8 cardinal  points  [Dik Palakas] has established and worshipped  along with a sacred  tank  in  each  of the cardinal points  to  which  they  are respectively accredited.

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8. Saptha - Seven; Vidange - Swayambhu or naturally formed; Sthala - Sarred  place.
9. Naga - latop the mountains Vidanga - naturally formed.
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BALIPITHA

The Balipitha in a temple usually faces the sanctum at a distance directly in front of the Lord.

But the one here is not facing the sanctum directly but is a little away from  the  line  of the usual possition and thereby hangs a  tale.   A milkman was  supplying milk in the temple daily on the orders of the  local king.  But  the  accountant of the temple asked the milkman to deliver  the milk at his  house  and  enter it in the temple accounts.  But  the  honest milkman who  demurred to the instructions of the accountant was  threatened with drastic action by the latter.

The   helpless   milkman  could  only   seck  justiee   from   Lord Darbharanyeswara,  who  irked  by the accountant's  malfeasance  wished  to punishd him and released his lance in his direction.  And as the Balipitha was in line with the coures of the lauce it is said to have moved a little away from its position to clear the way for the passage of the hurtling lance.

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10. Unmaththa [mad man] on of the 108 Bharata Natya of Nataraja.
11. Prince of renouncers.
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SHANIMANTRA

neelanjana    samaabhaasam     raviputram    yamaagrajam         chaayaa martaandassmbhootam tamnamani shaneiswaram

"I  salute Shani, the son of Surya, the elder brother of Yama  born of Shadow  and  the Sun, and resplendent as collyrium [From the Nava  Graha Stotra of Vedavyasa].


SATURN TRANSITS

Sri Dharbaraneswara Swamy Devasthanam, Thirunallar is to be performed Sanipeyarchi festival on  21/12/2011 "Sri Saneeswara Baghavan (SATURN) transits  from KANNIYA RASI(VIRGO) to  THULAM RASI(LIBRA) on 21.12.2011 (WEDNESDAY)  at  07:51 A.M. (Morning)."  


The  following is a reproduction of the artice contribution by  the author to  the  Indian Express Madras, in commemoration of the  transit  of Lord Saturn which took place on Monday the 18th August 1975 at 11,13 p.m.

In  the Solar system Saturn is the biggest planet and is only  next to Jupiter  in magnitude.  It is 886 million miles distant from the Sun and its diameter  is 71,500 miles.  It takes 29.46 years to complete one  orbit around the  sun,  progressing  through the 12 signs of the zodiac  in  this duration.   And it is breath-taking to realize that the earth's diameter is 7918 miles  and is about 1/10 of the size of the giant planet.  Its density is just 1/8 of that of the earth.  And its one unique feature is that three rings of  dense  planets,  It has eight satellites and two more  have  been added to  this number by subsequent researches.  It rotates on its axis  in about 10-15  hours.   It  is  identified with the ancient  italion  god  of agriculture and animal husbandry.

The  science of astrology credits the planet "with producing  cold. sluggish  and  gloomy  temperament  in those  born  under  its  influence". Besides it  is  said  to give bountiful prosperity or the  opposite  of  it compounded  with plenty of misery and sorrow to al those who come under its influence.

Even  though  seepties  may not accept it astrologically it  is  an accepted  fact that all the nine planets influence the humans in their  day to day life  from  birth  to  death,  by conferring  on  them  penury  or prosperity,  intelligence  or  stupidity,  happiness or sorrow  health  or sickness.   longevity or untimely death in proportion to the merits or sins earned by them in their previous births.

The  kings of old had in their courts astrologers to advise them in their day-to-day activities.

Sages   like  Varaha  Mihira  and   Jaimini  appear  to  have  been progenitors  of  the science of astrologn in India.  This science  is  also said to have  been practised in ancient Babyion known as the Chaldea system of astrology.   The  west  today has developed  astrology  perhaps  drawing inspiration  from  the Indian and the Chaldean systems.  And the fact  that astrological  redings  or prediotions are popular features in most  of  the current day  periodicals  is indicative of the measure of its hold  on  the classes and  the  masses.   A branch of this science developed  as  mundane astrology  prediots wars, famines, foods, deluges.  Pestilenes the rise and fall of an  country and its political changes and vicissitudes, and so  on. It may be  recalled in this context that the moon's phasls affect the ocean tides.

And  hence  it is not without significiance that in all  the  Shiva shrines in  South  India there is a Nava Graha [9 planets] corner with  the sun at the centre and the other eight planets crowding around him facing in different  directions.  The devoters do not fail to visit this part of  the shrine for  circumambularion  and worship to earn benefits  and  absolution from sins.

At  Suryanar  Koil [Thanjavur District] there is a separate  temple for the Sun  similar to the one at Konark in Orissa.  And at Tirunallar  [a commune of  Kariakal,  Pondicherry State] in a niche in the main shrine  of Sri Darbharanyeswara  it  housed  the  stone image  of  Saturn  around  the prakara.

Saturn is a malefic planet and he is generally feared must for evil propensities.   This  plant  takes roughly 2.6 years to  transit  from  one zodiacal  sign  to  another  and takes 30 years apportunately  for  him  to complete  his full round taking in his strides all the 12 zodiacal signs in this buration.  And on account of the long time taken by him for completing one round  he is nicknamed Mandan [dullard] Pangu [the name planet] and  so on.

In  his  rounds when he posits in the house in the horoscope  of  a native immediately  dnterior to the one occupied by the moon, the native is said to commence  his 7.5 years period of Shani Dasa [Sade Sathi], in other words 7.5  years  dasa period is reckoned by Saturn's transit  through  the house anterior  to  the oue occupied by the moon in on hornscobe, and  then the house  in  which he is posited and the one next to it there  after,  to eross all  of  which, at the rate of 2,5 years for each, the  total  period taken is 7.5 years.

On  account  of his possessing supreme powers for producing  misery and unhappiness  his transits from one house to another is looked upon with great signifieance.   And  in  the  Shiva tempes al over  South  India  the devotees do poojas, archanas and invoke other forms of pacificatory tituals to mondify his as best as they can.

And the day of transit known as the Shanipeyarchi is very important to the devotees  of Saturn who in their thousands will throng at Tirunallar to workship him, as the deity in this shrine is said to be wearing a benign aspect and  hence  can be looked forward to bless them and redeem  them  of their sins.

About  300 kilometers South of Madras, near Karaikal in Pondicherry State, is  situated  the  famous  and   unique  temple  of  Darbharayeswara enshrining  Saturn  in  the Prakara of the temple in a niche  and  for  the benefit of  the devotees a separate entrance is provided for easy acces  to him.  Saturn is generally found only in the Navagraha cluster or gallery in all South  Indian  Temples  and it is rare and unusual to  find  him  alone separated from the company of the other planets.

The  three  great Tevaram hymnists, Sambandar, Appar [7th  century] and Sundarar  [9th century] have visited the temple of Sri Darbharanyeswara and sung  padigams in praise of the Lord King Nala of Nishadha country  who was afficted severely by Shaniswara to the extend of his losing his kingdom and physical  elegance and suffering separation from his wife and  children besides the  humilill  of  having to serve as a charioteer to the  King  of Ayodhya is  said  to  have redeemed himself from the grips  of  Saturn  the moment he entered the Darbharanyeswara shrine and Saturn did not pursue him inside the  shrine but remained outside.  Nala thereafter offered  workship to Sri Narayana and this derity is today associated with Nala's name and is knwon as Nala Narayana Perumal.

The  name  Tirunallar  comprises  two  syllables  Nal  or  Nala+Aru apparently  pointing  to  the association of Nala with this  sacred  place, whose other names are Darbharanyam, Nagavidangapuram, Naleswaram and so on.

And  according to the Sthalapuranam there were once 13 sacred tanks here of which  only five exist today.  The principal one among them is Nala Tirtha which  is  situated on the northwestern side of the main temple.   A dip in the  sacred  waters  of this tank absolves one of all his  sins  and diseases and he is blessed with abundant virtues.

Since  the  three  Nayanmars had visited it at  sung  padigams  the temple should  have  been famous and popular even anterior to the  time  of Tirugnana  Sambandar  [7th Century].  On the north wall of the  mandapa  in front of  the  Darbharanyeswara  shrine  there   is  a  incomplete.    Tami inscription  ascribed to Rajakesarivarman alias Rajakesarivarman Tirubhuvan Chakravarthi Rajathi Raja II, which is dated to the 11th reginal year [1173 A.D.] of  this  Chola  King.  And in the same wall there is  another  Tamil inscription   [incomplete]  of  the   Chola  King  Tirubhuvan  Chakravarthi Kulothunga  Chola  Deva III the conqueror of Madurai, datable to  the  last quarter of the 12th Century A.D.  in the year 1195.