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Shani

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Shani is one of the nine primary celestial beings in Hindu astrology (that is, Vedic astrology). Shani is embodied in the planet Saturn. Shani is the Lord of Saturday. His Tattva or element is air, and his direction is west. He is Tamas in nature and represents learning the hard way, Career and Longevity.

The origin of word Shani comes from the following: Shanaye Kramati Sa: i.e. the one who moves slowly. Saturn takes about 30 years to revolve around the Sun, thus it moves slowly compared to other planets, thus the Sanskrit name. Shani is actually a demi-god and is a son of Surya (the Hindu Sun God) and surya’s wife Chhaya. It is said that when he opened his eyes as a baby for the very first time, the sun went into an eclipse, which clearly denotes the impact of Shani on astrological charts (horoscope).

He is depicted dark in colour, clothed in black; holding a sword, arrows and two daggers and variously mounted on a black crow or a raven. He presides over ‘Shani-var’ or Saturday.

Tirunallar Saniswaran Temple or Dharbaranyeswarar Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to LordSani(saturn) located in Tirunallar in Karaikal district of Pondicherry, India. The presiding deity is Lord Siva, Dharbaranyeswar and the place Tirunallar was historically called Dharbaranyam. The temple is revered by the hymns of 7th century Tamil saivite poets, Appar, Cuntarar and Campantar and is classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam.

The Temple
The presiding deity is Dharbaranyeswarar(Lord Siva) and is believed to have been made of dharba grass. The worship is also centered around the icon of planet saturn, called Saniswarar, originally treated as the door keeper of the shrine. According to Hindu mythology, saturn resides in each rasi(zodiac) for two and half years. The belief is the malevolent planet is worshipped before entering the inner sanctum of Lord Siva.

Legend
Sambandar, the 7th century nayanar and Tamil saivite poet has revered the deity with four hymns, in one of which he refers to a contest with Jains, and his victory. Appar and Sundarar, the other Nayanars have glorified the temple with their hymns. Arunagirinathar, a 15th century poet and staunch devoteet of Lord Muruga has composed hymns on the deity and this temple is attributed to Murugan worship as well. The Nala Theertham at dawn

Processional Dance
The Thyagarajar Temple at Tiruvarur is famous for the ajapa thanam(dance without chanting), that is executed by the deity itself. According to legend, a Chola king named Mucukunta obtained a boon from Indra(a celestial deity) and wished to receive an image of Thyagaraja Swamy(presiding deity, Shiva in the temple) reposing on the chest of reclining Lord Vishnu. Indra tried to misguide the king and had six other images made, but the king chose the right image at Tiruvarur. The other six images were installed in Thirukkuvalai, Nagapattinam, Tirukarayil, Tirukolili, Thirukkuvalai and Tirumaraikadu. All the seven places are villages situated in the river Cauvery delta. All seven Thyagaraja images are said to dance when taken in procession(it is the bearers of the processional deity who actually dance). The temples with dance styles are regarded as Saptha Vidangam(seven dance moves)

Description: This Shivastalam is a vast temple shrine of great significance, especially in light of Saneeswarar’s sannidhi here, which attracts thousands when the planet Saturn transits between zodiac signs. Tirunallar is located in close proximity to Karaikkal and Nagappattinam, (is under the administration of Pondicherry) and is well connected by road to many other towns in the area. Tirunallar is best accessed, driving from Mayiladuturai or fromNagapattinam.
Tirunallar is one of the 7 Saptavitanka stalams of Tyagaraja connected with the Mucukunda Chola legend and Tiruvarur – housing Nagavitankar (Unmatta Natanam). The seven Vitankastalams are Tiruvarur, Tirukkuvalai, Tirukkaaraivaasal,Tirumaraikkaadu, Tiru Naagai, Tirunallaaru and Tiruvaimur.

The image of Tyagarajar at Tiruvarur is the foremost of the 7 from which Indra is believed to have asked Muchukunda Cholan to pick the original image of Somaskandar worshipped by Mahavishnu. . Muchukunda Cholan is believed to have picked the right one (the image at Tiruvarur) , and Indra is believed to have rewarded him with all of the 7 images, which the latter installed at 7 different places within his territory, and it is these 7 temples which constitute the 7 Vitankastalams.

Tirunallar is also ssociated with Sambandar’s Pachaippatikam which remained ‘green’ even in the midst of his ‘Anal Vaatam’ at Madurai. .King Nala of the puranas is said to have been relieved of his afflictions upon worshipping here.
The Tirunallar temple is a one of a kind temple with a shrine of this grandeur exclusively dedicated toSaturn. The architectural features date back to the Chola period and inscriptions dating back to the twelfth century AD are found in the temple.

Legends: Several mythological stories are associated with this temple. It is said that King Nala was under the influence of Sani, i.e. Saturn for an extended period of time in his life and went through several ordeals and obtained total relief only after worshipping Shiva at this shrine.

Worship services are performed five times a day. Other than these, a whole host of festivities are held throughout the year. On Tamil New Year’s day, (marked by the transition of the Sun from Pisces to Aries according to the Indian astrological system) Tyagaraja is taken in a procession and oblations are performed to the Emerald Lingam.

A grand eighteen day festival is performed in the month of Vaikashi (when the sun resides in the sign of Taurus). The tenth day of this festival, when the moon resides passes through the sign of Scorpio, Saneeswarar (Saturn) is taken in procession. This day is said to mark the day when King Nala was relieved of the influence of Saturn.

The month of Aani (Gemini) witnesses festivities related to Nataraja – Shiva – the Lord of Dance. The month of Aadi (Cancer) marks the time for special services to Sundaramoorthy Nayanar – one of the foremost Saivite poet Saints. The full moon night in the month of Purattasi (Leo) witnesses several special services to the Emerald Lingam. This month also is the time for the nine day festival for the Goddess Pranambika (Navaratri). In the month of Aippasi (Libra) is celebrated a festival for Subramanya.

During the month of Kartikai (Scorpio), Kartikai Deepam is celebrated, marked by a procession of the five principal temple deities and by the symbolic bonfire. The month of Markali (Saggitarius) is when, a ten day festival dedicated to Natarajar is performed, where verses from Tiruvempavai are recited. There are several other festivals including one on Panguni Uthiram.

Perhaps, the best known festival here is the one marking the transition of Saturn between Zodiac signs (Sani Peyarchi). This happens once in two and a half years and is visited by hundreds of thousands of deities. The entire town wears a festive look as the deity Saneeswarar is taken in a procession around town.

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