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The Navagragha Temples of Tamil Nadu

The Navagrahas consists of nine planets. Surya (SUN), Chandra (Moon), Chevai (Mars, Budhan (Mercury), Guru (Jupiter), Shukran (Venus), Shani (Saturn), Rahu and Ketu.

In Hindu Mythology, Rahu is a snake swallowing the sun or the moon causing eclipses. Rahu and Ketu are called the north and south lunar nodes and denote the point of intersection of the paths of the Sun and the Moon as they move in their respective path. Believers in astrology and the influence of planets over a person´s life will find Tamil Nadu a great destination. There are the Navagraha temples located in a cluster around Kumbakonam in Tanjore District. Each temple represents a planet in the Navagraha.( Nava means nine and graha means planet).



Surya or the Sun is the most powerful of all celestial bodies, the other being Chandran, the Moon. The Sun is the source of all vital energies of our solar system and is the centre of all cosmic forces. The Sun has been worshipped in India from time immemorial. The Gayathri Mantra, an ode to the Sun is from the Rig Veda. It is one of the most important prayers chanted even today. The Sun is worshipped every morning. There are several references to sun worship in the Vedas, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

The Sun is the symbol of health, success and prosperity. Prayers to the Sun are supposed to cure ailments in the eye, bones and skin. The Sun is also believed to control the well-being of one´s father.

Every year, in January the festival Pongal is celebrated in Tamil Nadu. It is a harvest festival, a thanksgiving for a good crop. This is an important festival even in the urban areas.

Among the Navagraha temples of the Kaveri delta are two temples dedicated to Surya: the Suryanar Koil and the Kandiyur Shiva temple.

Suryanar Koil

This temple is dedicated to the sun. It is situated about 15 km from Kumbakonam in Tanjore District. King Kulothunga Chola, the First, built it in the year 1100 AD. This temple is a small compact temple with high walls and a spacious compound .Suryanarayana, the Sun God, is the presiding deity here. This is a very rare instance where the main deity is the Sun and not Shiva. The Sub God stands with a lotus in either hand. Beside him are his two wives Usha Devi and Chaya Devi. Surya faces west such that devotees face the rising sun while worshipping. The temple is especially crowded during the Harvest season in January when Pongal, the most important festival of the Tamils is celebrated. Soon after Pongal follows the seven-day festival of Ratha Saptami signifying the transit of the Sun from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer the advent of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Another major festival at the temple is Vasantha Navarathri in September, October. The temple is open daily between 6am to 12.30pm, 4pm to 8pm.

Kandiyur Shiva Temple

Kandiyur is about two km from Kumbakonam. The temple is right in the middle of this bustling town and is west facing. At this temple, Surya yields to Shiva as the main deity. This temple is very important as Surya is said to have worshipped Shiva here. The legend goes that he was blessed by Shiva and obtained a boon that all who worshipped Shiva here would also receive Surya´s blessings. This temple is said to be as important as Suryanar Temple and is the equivalent of Sri Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh.

This temple is one of the rare temples where one can see Brahma with his consort,Saraswathi. Brahma looks majestic and Saraswathi looks beautiful. Since he is the creator of the universe and she is the Goddess of fine arts and music, it is believed that all wishes relating to jobs, exams and children are granted here.

This temple is believed to have been built in the seventh century AD or even earlier as poets have sung about the presiding deity in the seventh century. The temple is open daily between 6am-12pm, 4pm-9pm.

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