Thiruchendur Murugan Temple is one of the most esteemed religious places of south India. Located right on the beach of Tuticorin District, it attracts millions of devotees over the year paying respect to the in-house deity of Lord Murugan. He is the Tamil version of Lord Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The temple has a very interesting history rooted in the legend of Lord Murugan’s first battle, which was also the purpose of his birth.
The temple hosts a number of festivals throughout the year when devotees can make offerings to the god, the most important and popular one being Skanda festival during October-November marking the victory in the battle of Thiruchendur. It is one of the few temples in India which has various forms and avatars of both Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva together. Being located within 200 metres of the sea, it is a miracle that the temple premise is never flooded – not even during the Tsunami.
As described in the Skanda Purana, the demon king Surapadma, blessed with Shiva’s boon that none but his son can kill him, unleashed torture over everyone living. Devastated, the gods begged Lord Shiva to save them. This led to the birth of Lord Murugan – born of fire sparks and brought up by the goddess of earth.
At a battle at Thiruchendur at Tuticorin, he defeated Surapadma and killed him, and thereafter worshipped his Lord father Shiva at this very spot. It is one of the six abodes of Lord Murugan in Tamil Nadu and the only one to be located at the seaside. The other five are situated in Thiruthani, Swamimalai, Palani, Pazhamudircholai, Thirupparankunram, but all of them are atop hills.
The mighty temple also does social services like running an orphanage, sponsoring education for the needy and conduction of marriages for the poor at minimal cost. People who belong to any other religion other than Hinduism are also allowed to enter with a donation of INR 20.
History of Thiruchendur Murugan Temple
The earliest records of the temple’s existence are some inscriptions dating way back to 875 AD. There is no real documentation of the Thiruchendur Murugan Temple’s original construction, but it is known that the Pallavas during the same time, and later other dynasties like Pandyas and Cheras renovated it. Much later, during the Dutch attack of 1649 on the Portuguese colonies of Tuticorin, the Governor of the attackers, Joan Maetsuycker ordered to fortify the temple and use it as a garrison. The Dutch soldiers looted the treasures of the holy place while the locals made vain attempts to save it.
After a formal complaint to the Nayak, the mediator, he advised the Dutch to leave; but they took the main deity away with them. The local legend says how the Lord himself showed up in the dreams of Vadamalaiyappa Pillaiyyan, the local governor of Tirunelveli, and directed him to the spot in the sea where he would find the idol floating. However, according to history, it was returned after much negotiations and letter-exchange.
Architecture of Thiruchendur Murugan Temple
Originally believed to be a stone structure cut out of the hills, in later years it was renovated and rebuilt with granite. The locally found red sandstone was used for the foundation of the temple, from which the place gets the name ‘Senthur’ meaning red region.
The Raja Gopuram – the very ornate and main doorway of any South Indian temple which acts as an entrance into the temple premise is situated on the western side. The nine-storeyed, 137 feet long and 90 feet wide elaborate structure called Mela Gopuram rises over everything else into the sky of Thiruchendur. This gate is only used during festivals. The main entrance is the southern gate called Shanmukha Vilasa.
The main sanctum sanctorum of the temple is the home to the deity of Lord Murugan in a standing posture alongside Shivalingas, which is a throwback to the legend of the Lord worshipping his father in this place. Before the main sanctorum, in the first corridor, there are shrines, caves and temples dedicated towards his consorts Vali and Deivanai, local hunter king Dattatreya and many deities of Shiva and Vishnu like Nataraj, Kashi Vishwanath and Shankar Narayan.
Thiruchendur Murugan Temple Timings
The puja timings of the temple are 5:00 AM to 12:00 PM and again 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM. The pujas of each hour have different names and purpose.
Subrapadam – Thirupalli Eluchi- 5:10 AM
Viswaroopam Darshan- 5:30 AM
Dwajasthamba Namaskaram- 5:45 AM
Udaya Marthanda Abishegam- 6:15 AM
Udaya Marthanda Deeparadhanai- 7:00 AM
Kalasandhi Pooja- 8:00 AM – 8:30 AM
Kalasha Pooja- 10:00 AM
Uchikala Abishegam- 10:30 AM
Uchikala Deeparadhanai- 12:00 PM
Sayaratchai Pooja- 5:00 PM
Arthasama Abishegam- 7:15 PM
Arthasama Pooja- 8:15 PM
Ekanda Seva- 8:30 PM
Ragasia Deeparadhanai, Palliarai Pooja- 8:45 PM
Nadai Thirukappiduthal- 9:00 PM
Festivals Celebrated in Thiruchendur Murugan Temple
Masi and Avani festivals: Twice a year, the temple brahmotsavams are held for 12 long days. Masi is held during February-March and Avani is held during August-September. In both the festivals, the Lord’s deity is taken out during the 7th, 8th and 9th day and housed in the Shanmukha Vilasa Mandapam for all the devotees to have a glimpse and pay respects. On the 10th day, the deity is taken out for a procession of temple cars into the city.
In the Avani festival, only two cars are there, whereas in Masi all three of them are out. The Theppam floating takes place on the 11th day of the Masi festival. People come in hundreds and thousands to celebrate these festivals in the temple and have a view of the Lord.
Vasant Festival: In the month of Chittirai (April-May), the ten days long Vasant festival takes place in the temple. The deity of Murugan and his consorts Valli and Deivanai are taken out of their respective sanctums and placed in the Vasanta Mantap for the gathered devotees to view and offer prayers.
Vaikasi Visagam: On the Visakam day, Special Abishegam for Lord Shanmuga is performed and during the night time, the procession of the lord and his consorts takes place. It is usually held in the month of May-June.
Skanda Sasti Festival: Held during October-November for 7 days, this festival marks the defeat of the demon king Surapadma in the hands of Murugan. Devotees gather in lakhs during this main festival of the temple. On the sixth day, Soorasamharam, a folk-dance representation of the battle between the two is enacted for the devotees. On the seventh, the wedding between Murugan and Deivanai is celebrated.