Travel Magazine

The Temple at Koovam!

By Priyabaskar

The temple at Koovam!

The Tripurantakeswara Swamy Temple, Thiruvirkoovam


The name Cooum to any Chennai dweller would be synonymous with a nauseating cesspool where all the water borne wastes of the city are carried into the Bay of Bengal. However, Cooum many hundreds, well, even thousand years ago, was a holy river, probably more holy, that the river Ganges itself.
It might come as a surprise to you that the river Cooum is said to have sprung forth from the bow of Lord Shiva himself, and has an entire Puranam to itself. This Koova Puranam is found in the Skanda Purana under the Sanathkumara Samhita within Kalika Kand. This Purana has been translated into Tamil by Thuraimangalam Sri Sivaprakasa Swamigal.
Tripura Samhara: There are several tales related to the Tripura Samhara and temples that are associated with it as well. Tarakaksha, Kamalaksha and Vidyunmali, were three Asuras who through the boon received from Lord Brahma, moved about in their aerial cities made of precious metals and tortured the humans and Devas alike. The Devas appealed to Lord Shiva who set out to strike them down through a single arrow. With the earth as chariot, and the Sun and Moon as wheels, Lord Brahma as the charioteer, Mount Meru as the bow, the serpent Vasuki as the string, and Lord Vishnu as the arrow, the Lord set out for the Samhara.
In his haste to put an end to these demons, he forgot to worship Lord Ganesha. Even though Lord Ganesha is Lord Shiva's son, it is a requirement to worship him before beginning any act. If Gods do not follow the rules, will mere mortals do? In order to establish the protocol, Lord Ganesha looked up at the chariot and broke the bearing. The place where this is said to have happened is called Achu (Bearing)+Iru (break) pakkam - Achirupakkam. You can read the articles related to Tripura Samhara at  Achirupakkam  and Eithanoor on Aalayam Kanden by clicking on the link embedded.
Once the bearing was broken, the chariot lost control and the axle fell at Koovam. Lord Shiva is said to have stood up and gained his balance by placing his bow on the ground. Water sprang from the point where the bow hit the ground, and flowed to anoint the holy feet of Lord Shiva. This water then gushed forth as a river and came to be known as Koovam (which is an adaptation of the word Koovaram which means axle and/or Koobam which means water source.
A temple was made at the place where the Lord stood, very close to the source of the river Koovam, and the Lord came to be called Thiruvirkolanathar (The Lord who stood with the bow) and the place came to be known as Thiruvirkolam. Today it is generally referred to as Koovam.

The temple at Koovam!

The crystal clear temple tank at Thiruvirkoovam


The expanse of Koovam: According to Koovapurana, Koovam was a large city that had seventeen villages annexed to it. They were Manavur, Pagasala, Pazhayanur, Kondagacheri, Kumaracheri, Irulanjeri, Pillayarkuppam, Thozhudhavur, Pudhumavilangai, Pinjivakkam, Mappedu, Sivankudal, Thirupasur, Thandalam, Irukovai, Selai and Pungathur. Other than Irukovai, all other villages are still found around Koovam with the same name and have ancient temples located in them.

The temple at Koovam!

Nandi at Thiruvirkoovam temple

The tale of Dharmaseelan:  In Koovam, there lived a brahmin called Dharmaseelan. He and his wife were staunch devotees of Lord Thripurantaka and took immense pleasure in feeding the Sivacharyas who came to their doorstep. Over time, Dharmaseelan had spent all his earnings, feeding the Sivacharyas and had to resort to selling all that he had in order to continue to do so. At one point, he sold even his wife's mangalsutra when he had nothing else worth selling. Once the money received out of the sale was spent, Dharmaseelan and his wife had absolutely nothing, to even feed themselves.
For eight days, they did not have a morsel of food to eat. They still walked weakly to the temple to worship Lord Thripurantaka and looked out for Sivacharyas. On the nineth day, a Sivacharya walked up to the doorstep of Dharmaseelan, asking for food. Dharmaseelan did not know what to do. He ran through the streets of Koovam, seeking alms and was able to get two measures of rice. He ran back home, asking his wife to make porridge with the rice.
The Sivacharya drank the porridge to his heart's content. After he left, Dharmaseelan and his wife sat down to drink the remaining porridge. At that moment, there was another Sivacharya at the door. Dharmaseelan stood up to receive the mendicant, but due to hunger and fatigue, fell down. His wife cried at his plight. Dharmaseelan soon dragged himself up, and gave the remaining porridge to the visitor. At that moment, Lord Thripuranthaka appeared before them, and told them that every day a pot full of rice will appear in his shrine for use by Dharmaseelan for his noble deeds.

The temple at Koovam!

A telugu inscription near the temple tank


Inscriptions:  A number of rulers have left their inscriptions at the temple. During the rule of the Cholas, Koovam was known as Madurantakanallur and subsequently as Tyagasamudranallur. An inscription of Rajendra II, 1057 AD, speaks about sale of land for developing a feeder canal to the Koovam tank, which had then been called Tribhuvanamadevi Pereri. An inscription of Kulothunga I - 1112 AD speaks about the lifting of fishing and paddy taxes to fund the repair of the Tribhuvanamadevi Pereri. There have been grants provided by Rajaraja II, Vijayaganda Gopala Deva and Konerinmaikondan for conducting festivals at the temple.
About the temple: The temple is one of the Devara Padal Petra Sthalams having been sung by Thirugnanasambandar in the 7th century.
Theenda Thirumeni: Lord Tripurantakeswara is not touched by anyone, even the priests during daily worship. A small stick is used to adorn the Lord with flowers that are brought from the Nandavanams at Pinjivakkam. Only the flowers from the Nandavanams are used for adorning the Lord and flowers brought from outside are not used on him. The Linga is a Swayambu and the exterior becomes white to denote abundant rains and red to warn people of failed rains in a year. Water for abhishekam of the avudaiyaar is brought from a tank two kilometres away from the temple called Abhisheka Kuzhi.
The Lord appears as Thiruvirkolanathar holding a bow during the annual Brahmotsavam in the tamil month of Chithirai.

The temple at Koovam!

Thiruvirkolanathar with Tharakaksha and Vidyunmali as Dwarapalakas

The Lord is said to have performed the Raksha Thandav here to pacify Goddess Kali after the Urthuva Thandav at Thiruvalangadu. There is a seperate shrine for Kali a few metres away from the temple where she is called Tharka Matha.

The temple at Koovam!

The Lord performing the Raksha Thandav.

Achirutha Vinayagar:
The Ganesha who broke the axle of Lord Shiva's chariot is found in a separate shrine in the temple. The temple tank is called Achirutha Keni. Since the water rose and washed the feet of the Lord there are no frogs or fish ever in this temple tank. Worshipping the Achirutha Vinayagar before starting any new venture, is supposed to bring all success.

The temple at Koovam!

Achirutha Vinayagar

Goddess Tripurantha Nayaki:

Goddess Tripurantha Nayaki is found in a separate shrine to the right of the Lord. Her shrine has a vimana which is shaped like a mini gopuram. Her position is said to be that of Kalyana Kolam and she grants prayers of suitable marriage alliances.

The temple at Koovam!

Goddess Tripurantaka Nayaki with the Srichakram installed in front of her

The temple has been renovated and is maintained well. Mr Manivasagam, President of the Naalvar Narpani Manram is eager to receive visitors and goes out of the way to make their pilgrimage fruitful. The oduthuvamurthigal at the temple, an engineer by profession renders the Gnanasambandar Thevaram so soulfully.

The temple at Koovam!

With Mr Manivasagam and the Odhuvamurthigal

How to reach here: 
If proceeding from Chennai, take the right at Empee Distilleries near Sriperumbudur. This road is Arakkonam Road. The road is not very well maintained and hence vehicles can only progress slowly.
Google Map Coordinates : 13.021152, 79.826926

Temple Timings:
6-12 noon, 5-7 pmContact Details:
Sri. Manivasagam - 94432 53325



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