|Location of the temple||Tirunallaaru|
|Lord Shiva known as||Dharbaranyeswarar|
|Female deity known as||Boghamaarthapoonmulaiyaal, Atthiranayani, Praanaambikai|
|Pathigam||Tirunavukkarasar, Sundarar, Sambandar|
|How to reach||This temple is situated at 5 Kms west of Kaaraikal in Pondicherry. It is also one of the Navagraha Sthalangal and has a separate shrine for Saneeswaran|
Temple: This sivasthalam temple for Darbaranyeswarar at Tirunallaru is more famous for the separate shrine for Saneeswaran inside the temple and who is believed to be a granter of boons. Tirunallaru is well known as one of the Navagraha Sthalams. The shrine for Saneeswaran is seen in between the shrines for the presiding male deity Dharbaranyeswarar and the presiding female deity Boghamaarthapoonmulaiyaal. Devotees gather in large number on Saturdays to pray and worship Saneeswaran.
Legend: According to the legend, it was at Tirunallaru that the legendary king Nala, who was afflicted with numerous problems due to the adverse effects of Saneeswaran, took a holy dip at the temple tank Nala Theertham and got relieved of the evil effects.
Thirunallaru is a very interesting temple in this area. It is famous for a shrine to Shaneeshwaran, probably the most feared of the navagrahas. Tirunallaru is also one among the Saptha Vidanga Sthalams.
Thirunallaru is 40 Kms from Mayiladudurai towards Nagapattinam. It is situated in Karaikal, which is part of the Puducherry state. A special permit is required for vehicles to visit this area, and a permit can only be used once to enter and exit Karaikal. Once we leave Karaikal, it is impossible to re-enter. Hence it is advisable to cover all the places north of Thirunallaru, such as Poompuhar, Chayaavanam, Tiruvengadu, Tiruvalampuram, Tirukkadavur etc. and enter Karaikkaal region through Poraiyaar and visit Tiruvettakkudi, Tiruthelicheri, Tirudharampuram and finally Thirunallaru, so that you can move to Nagapattinam from here. Nagapattinam is barely 20 Kms from here.
The main deity in this temple is Darbharanyeshwarar, for this temple was originally situated in a forest of the sacred Darbha grass. However, there are two other forms of Shiva unique to temples in this area - Thyagarajar and Somaskandar, who are equally important. The goddess here is Pranambigai. The deity drawing the maximum crowd is of course, Shaneeswarar, the most feared of the nine planets, who has a shrine to himself just outside the Shiva and Amman sannidhis.
The importance of Shani at this temple is related to the legend of King Nala. The righteous and handsome king, under the influence of Saturn, lost not only his kingdom, but was separated from his wife and children, lost his health and good looks, and had to wander around like a beggar. Finally, when the 7½ years of Shani's influence was almost over, he came to Thirunallar, where he bathed in the tank and prayed to Shaneeshwara and was finally relieved of the troubles that had dogged him. He eventually was reunited with his wife and children, and won his kingdom back. Even today, it is considered auspicious to cover oneself with sesame oil and have a bath in the Nala Teertham before going to have darshan of Shaneeswarar.
Incidentally, of all the navagrahas, it is only Shani who is given the privilege of using the suffix - Eswarar meaning Lord. This is apparently due to a blessing of Shiva, for not even the lord of all is exempt from the effect of Saturn. It is believed that once, Shiva went into a remote cave to meditate and escape the effect of Shani for 7½ years. He finally returned, thinking that he had succeeded, only to be informed by Shani, that the period was over, and that it was under the influence of Saturn that the lord had to hide in the first place! Shiva was astounded, but pleased at this dedication of Shani, and declared to him to be Shaneeshwara.
The temple is extremely crowded on Saturdays, and apparently the waiting time for darshan can run into hours, so unless you are going there specifically for pujas, it is advisable to avoid Saturdays here. On other days too, there is quite a crowd, but if you pay for the Abhishekam, you get a front row seat and have a wonderful darshan. It is considered auspicious to light oil lamps in the temple. If possible, talk to the priest and collect balls of Til rice from the temple kitchen and feed crows in the Pragaram. This is supposed to please Saturn, for his vehicle is a crow.
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