History of Arulmigu Thanumalayan Temple, Suchindram
A 15 minute journey from Nagercoil is the ancient and famed Suchindram Temple in Kanniyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. Although well known to local devotees as a Brahma temple, Suchindram (Susindram) is seldom included on the short lists of Brahma temples in India, most likely because the presiding deities here are Trimurti, and the temple is dedicated to Shiva Sthanunatha. As usual, there are a number of different historical and place names for this temple, including Suchindram Thanumalaya Temple, Sri Sthanumalaya Perumal Swamy Temple, and Arulmigu Thanumalayar Temple.
Once arriving in the village of Suchindram, 14 kms. from the town of Kanniyakumari, devotees and visitors walk up a commercial corridor that leads to the temple complex. A large temple tank spreads out to the right, with the towering gopuram ahead. 134 feet in height, the seven-storied construction is an excellent example of classic South Indian temple architecture. The (usually) unpainted stone gopuram is intricately and amazingly carved into thousands of high relief, exquisitely rendered images of deities, transcendental pastime scenes, and various 9th century inscriptions. The play of light on the multi-faceted gopuram makes it a brilliant and beautiful structure.
Both Vaishnavas and Shaivites flock to this temple, which has a rich Puranic history, including an interesting pastime involving Lord Brahma. The Sage Atri lived here with his wife Anasuya, who was considered a very chaste woman. Lord Brahma, Siva, and Vishnu visited her once during the absence of her husband, hoping to test and prove her chastity. They arrived as sannyasis asking alms and begged Anasuya to feed them, but told her that they had taken a vow under which they could not accept alms from a person wearing clothes. It was a sin to refuse alms to mendicants, but the chaste Anasuya was not baffled. She simply offered prayers on the matter, then sprinkled paatha theertham on the three beggars, transforming them into three small babies. She then disrobed and fed them. The Goddesses Saraswati, Laksmi and Parvati then intervened, and the three babies were restored to their normal forms. As the divine personalities departed, the deities remained behind, manifesting in the form of Swayambulingas, which sprouted under an Amaltas tree. This tree, the Sthala Vriksham, has been dated to approximately 2,500 years old. The tree is now decaying and hollow, and it has been preserved by a meticulous metal plating. Within the hollow trunk are the three separate linga, for Lord Brahma, Lord Visnu, and Lord Shiva. A small and beautiful shrine known as Konnayadi has been constructed in front of the Vriksham, which sits nearby the Nandi shrine.
Lord Siva started from this place to wed Kanyakumari Amman, but returned when he heard the cockcrow. Thus, the Goddess Kumari resides here as a virgin, unable to marry Lord Shiva. Lord Indra became purified at the very spot where the temple now stands, thus the name 'Suchindram' comes from the word suchi, or purity. To this day, Indra is said to visit the temple each night to perform Ardhajama puja.Suchindram Temple is approximately 1,300 years old. The temple construction took place over an extended period of at least six hundred years, so parts of the temple date back to the late 8th century, while others are 15th century. The earliest lithic records of Suchindram belong to the 9th Century A.D. Up until the time Kanyakumari became part of Tamil Nadu, the Suchindram Temple was under the administration of the Travancore Kings. Travancore at that time had its main temple at Padmanabhapuram, which was Vaishnavite. The Nanjil Pillais and other community members in Nagarcoil were primarily Shaivaites, probably due to influences from the Chola, Chera and Pandya kingdoms before the advent of Travancore kingdom. One of the unique aspects of Sichindram Temple is the presence of deities from all the religious sects: Vaisnava, Shaivita, and local Tamil cults like Amman and Kandan. Temple worship, however, is controlled by one of the main Namboodiri Braman families, the Thekkumon Madam.
- Total area - 4 Acres.
- Rajagopuram - 135 Feet.
- Height of Giant Nandhi - 12 Feet .
- Width of Southern area - 301 Feet.
- Width of Northern area - 281 Feet .
- Width of Western area - 244 Feet .
- Width of Eastern area - 183 Feet.