Suryanaar Koyil is located in the
hamlet of Tirumangalakkudi near Kumbhakonam and Mayiladuturai
near Thanjavur in Tamilnadu. This is a one of
a kind temple dedicated to the Sun God and it also houses shrines to each of the other
eight celestial bodies - the Nava Grahams. Very closeby, are the
Shivastalams Tirumangalakkudi and Kanjanur (Sukrastalam).
Shrines for Surya are seen in many
temples in Tamilnadu such as Tirukkodikka,
Alagadriputtur, Ennayiram, (Rajendra Chola), Tirumanikkuzhi
(Kulottunga), Tirupparaitturai, Tiruppattur,
Kovilur etc. ; however a standalone temple
for Surya is more of an exception than a rule.
Suryanaar Koyil was built by the Chola
kings. Inscriptions from the period of Kulottunga Chola I (1075-1120)
refer to this temple as the Kulottunga Chola Martanda Alayam. Kulottunga
Chola is said to have had a good relationship with the Gahadwal dynasty of Kanauj
(1090 - 1194), whose rulers were Sun worshippers, and hence Suryanar
Koyil, is considered to be an expression of their influence in South India.
Inscriptions from the period of Krishna Deva
Raya, speaking of endowments made to this temple are also seen here.
The Suryanar temple faces west. The presiding deity
here is Suryanarayana in a chariot like vimaanam, representing the sun's
chariot. There are also shrines to Kasi Viswanathar, Visalakshi
and Brihaspati (Guru) in the sanctum. Shrines to the other celestial
bodies are located outside of the sanctum.
The sanctum and the ardhamandapam are built of stone,
while the rest of the shrines are brick structures. The Kol Theertha Vinayakar
shrine is considered to be of importance here. An elaborate worship protocol involving
circumambulating the entire temple nine times, is prescribed for devotees visiting the
temple. Protocol requires that one visits the Tirumangalakkudi
Shivastalam before visiting Suryanaar Koyil.
Ratha Saptami in the Tamil month of Thai,
and the first Sundays in the months of Aavani (Leo) and Kartikai
(Scorpio) and Vijaya Dasami are celebrated in this temple.