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Suryanar Temple – The Sun Temple Of South India – Travel Guide

Suryanar Koli in Tamil Nadu

Suryanar Temple is a must visit if you are on a pilgrimage to South India and want to visit temples dedicated to the navagrahas, or the planetary deities. It is located in Thanjavur District of Tamilnadu, very near the temple town of Kumbakonam.

Suryanar Temple, a navagraha sthala, indeed has a lot to do with astrology, and here, pilgrims can worship one or more of the nine planetary deities. This temple has separate shrines for all the nine planetary deities, the presiding deity being the Sun God, hence the name Suriyanar Temple. It is located in the Thanjavur district, very near Kumbakonam. You can visit numerous temples in a single day, all of them steeped in history and legends.

The Suriyanar Temple in Kumbakonam
The beautiful gopuram of the Suriyanar Temple

The History Of Suryanar Temple

The stone inscriptions in the temple state that a king of the Chola Dynasty built this temple structure during the reign of Kulothunga Chola I. He ruled this region between 1080 to 1118 AD. The kings of the Vijayanagara Dynasty later renovated the temple. A king belonging to the Srivijaya Dynasty constructed the granite shrine. The Srivijaya Empire covered modern Indonesia and much of the Malay Archipelago. Currently, the temple is under the administration of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of the TN Government.

Some Interesting Facts About This Temple You Didn’t Know

The priests: Shaivite priests perform the temple functions and rituals. Additionally, the religious aspects are under the administration of the Thiruvaduthurai Adheenam, a Saivite mutt

Location of the Temple:  Suriyanar Temple, located in a small village called Suriyanar Koil, is near the famous pilgrimage centre of Kumbakonam.

Major Festival:The temple celebrates the 10-day Ratha Saptami Festival during the Tamil month of Thai (January-February). This marks the beginning of the Uttarayana Period where the Chariot of Surya (Sun God) turns northwards.

Suryanar Temple Timings: This temple is open all year round. Pilgrims can visit the temple in the mornings between 6:00 am to 11:00 am and in the evenings between 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

Suryana Temple's Shiva idol
The Suriyanar deity, along with two of his wives Saranya (Sanjna), and Chhaya, at the Suryanar Temple

Suryanar Temple Pooja Timings: This temple conducts six special pujas each day, from early morning till late in the night – 5:30 am. 8:00 am, 10:00 am, 6:00 pm, 8:00 pm, and 10:00 pm.

Special Features of this Temple: This is one of the few major temples in India with the Sun God Surya as the presiding deity. It also has separate shrines for all the nine planetary deities or Navagraha.

Temple Architecture: The temple, built in the Dravidian style architecture. It has a rectangular plan and the five-tiered tower (gopuram) tops the main entrance. The corridor leading to the central shrine has walls lined with images of Nataraja, Vishwanatha, Sivakami, Vishalakshi, Vinayaka, and Murugan (Shanmukha).

The Deities At Suryanar Temple

The central shrine, dedicated to Surya, the Sun God has three idols. This shrine has images of Surya, and his consorts Sharanya, and Prathyusha (Chaya Devi). Additionally, the image of Guru (Jupiter) sits opposite to this shrine. Additionally, there are separate shrines for the other seven planetary deities (Soma, Angaraka or Mangala, Budha, Shukra, and Shanishwara), making this a unique temple in Tamilnadu with shrines for the entire Navagraha deities.

Airavatesvara Temple close to Suryanar Temple
Airavatesvara Temple near Suryanar Temple

The Unforgettable Legends Of Suriyanar Kovil

It is believed that a sage, Kalava Muni, was the main cause for the existence of this temple. He was suffering from leprosy. As it is believed that celestial influences cause these problems, he prayed to the Navagrahas to provide relief from his sufferings. They granted his wish. However, the planetary deities could not grant boons. They could only provide negative or positive effects on all creatures as dictated by their Karma. So, Brahma, angered by the violation of this rule and cursed them to suffer from leprosy too. He sent them to this region which was called the Vellerukku Vanam (forest of the White Calotropis flowers).

Therefore, saddened by this turn of events, the Navagrahas went to this forest and meditated deeply on Lord Shiva for a long time. Pleased, Shiva appeared before them, relieved them of the curse, and gave this place to them. He told them to remain there and grant the wishes of all devotees who came to worship them.

Travel Route to Suryanar Temple From Chennai

This temple is not located nearby Chennai, but is slightly further away in the Tanjore District of Tamil Nadu. You can take a train from Chennai Egmore Station to Kumbakonam. Following which you can book a taxi to the village of Suriyanar Koil. You will be covering a distance of 16 km from Kumbakonam. The train journey will take around six hours, then the taxi journey to the village will take around 15 minutes. You can also get a bus from Chennai to Kumbakonam and then take a taxi.  If you like car rides, take a taxi or self-drive from Chennai to this temple. It is a distance of 273 km, you will travel along Chennai-Trichy-Kanyakumari Road. You can also fly from Chennai to Tiruchirapalli (Trichy), then take a train to Aduthurai. Following which you can take a taxi to Suriyanar Koil.

Kumbakonam Railway Station
Kumbakonam Railway Station – The Train Is A Comfortable Way To Reach Suryanar Temple

Must-visit Places

  1. Airavatesvara Temple  – This is a Shiva Temple, and the main deity is called Airavatesvara. This is because of a belief that he was worshipped here by Airavata, the vehicle of Indra.
  2. Sarangapani Temple  – This is a Vishnu temple. Here, Vishnu is in a Reclining Pose, and Mahalakshmi is worshipped here as Komalavalli. It is one of the 108 Divya Desams or divine sites that have been praised in the works of the Alwars, or Vaishnavite saints.
  3. Adi Kumbeswarar Temple –  The Chola Kings constructed this huge Shaivite temple with four gateways over a thousand years ago. This is the temple and deity that is said to have given the region its name  – Kumbakonam.
  4. Mahamaham Tank – This is a holy temple tank located in Kumbakonam. Every 12 years, a huge number of devotees come here to take a dip in this tank dung the Mahamaham festival.

Best Suriyanar Temple Kumbakonam Hotels To Stay At

Suriyanar Koil is itself a small village. Still, you will find many good hotels within a few kilometer radius. Sivamurugan Hotels, Jeyam Residency, and DSR Madhanam Inn are good, affordable options in the surrounding region. If you have a higher budget, Quality Inn Viha, Mantra Koodam, and INDeco Swamimalai have very good reviews.

In addition to this, you can also book a tour of other Navagraha Sthalas nearby. These include Thingalore (Chandra or Moon), Kanjanur (Shukra or Venus), Alangudi (Guru or Jupiter), and Thirunallar (Shanishwara or Saturn). While in Kumbakonam, you should also consider visiting the many ancient temples, both Shaivite and Vaishnavite, in this region.