Thirukarugavur is the abode of Goddess Garbharakshambika and Lord Mullaivana Nathar. Garbharakshambika means “The Mother Who Protects the Womb”. The name of the place itself brings out the significance of the temple. A remarkable feature of the temple which distinguishes it from the innumerable other shrines of our land is that the Goddess Sri Garbharakshambika not only protects the unborn child, but also blesses people who long for a child, people who have pregnancy related problems and pregnant women who come to the temple praying for an easy delivery.
The other presiding deity is Lord Mullaivana Nathar (Lord of the Jasmine Garden. Worshiping this God will cure all kinds of skin diseases. People who are afflicted with incurable diseases come to this temple.
Among the numerous shrines in Tanjore District the temple at Thirukarugavur is a unique one. The presiding deities of the temple are Lord Mullaivananathar and Goddess Garbharakshambika. Lord Mullaivananathar is Lord Shiva himself and Goddess Garbharakshambika is an incarnation of Goddess Parvati. Goddess Parvati is the embodiment of Shakti (Power). She has the power to give or empower. She is perhaps the most loved and undoubtedly the most giving of her love. In her we have the true celebration of Hindu womanhood.
The Shri Garbharakshambika Sameta Shri Mullaivana Nathar temple is spread over a wide expanse with huge towering Gopurams and a beautiful water tank in front of it. The temple is surrounded by tall coconut palms, the whole atmosphere is very calming and serene and lends the place sanctity.
Once you walk past the temple tank, you reach into the temple complex of Shri Garbharakshambika Sameta Shri Mullaivana Nathar.
There is a main Raja gopuram on the east and the temple has also got an entrance on the south side.
Both the shrines of Lord Mullaivana Nathar and Goddess Garbharakshambika are situated in the outer Prakaram, which is the main Prakaram facing the east direction.
The main sanctum of this temple has the Shiva lingam and Goddess Garbharakshambika is situated to the left of the Shiva temple. It is believed that the Nandi at this temple is in Swayambhu vigraham (Self manifested) and so is the Karpaga Vinayagar inside the temple, and as such commands unique devotion from the worshippers. There is also a shrine for Lord Subramanian.
Devotees pay their respects to the presiding deity, Shri Mullaivana nathar ( Lord Shiva) first, as is the custom that is followed in Shiva temples anywhere in TN and then to Goddess Garbharakshambika.
Beauty of the Goddess:
GGarbarakshambigai Temple 2oddess Garbharakshambika is the supreme personality of Motherhood and the sanctum sanctorum (Garba Graha) of Her temple is filled with the presence of Her beautiful idol , which is about 7 feet tall and decked in beautiful kanjeevaram sarees and exquisite jewellery. She is adorned with fragrant, colourful flowers which are offered in abundance increasing Her beauty. The Goddess has the most radiant smile on Her face depicting positivity and a ray of hope. For the thousands who throng to Her abode She is not just an idol, She is their only remaining hope.
Garbarakshambigai Temple History:
The Gopuram and the huge compound walls tell the story of more than a thousand years. The Sthalapuranas which are in Sanskrit and Tamil are preserved in manuscript forms and show the antiquity of the temple. The Sthalapurana gives a detailed account of the origin of this Kshetram and the various persons who obtained Divine Grace at this place.There are also ancient inscriptions on the walls inside.
Inscriptions from King Raja Raja Chola’s period who ruled between 985 and 1014 AD; as well as those from Parantaka Chola’s period (early 10th century AD) are seen inside the temple. There is evidence that Beema, Garkiyar, Gouthamar and a lot of ancient kings worshipped the God in this temple.
Appar, Sundarar and Sambandar, the three famous Nayan-mars (Saints) have celebrated the glory of the God and this temple in soul-stirring verses (pathigams) of rare beauty and charm.
The three Nayan-mars visited these temples along with their followers in spite of the inconveniences they faced while travelling the nook and corner of Tamilnadu in search of these temples. There are instances when God Shiva himself had directed them and shown the way to some of the temples so that the above Nayan-mars could visit these temples and compose Pathigams. These Pathigaams composed in the classical Tamil language are of immense value to Tamil literature.
Lord Mulaivana Nathar:
Lord Shiva is mainly worshipped in the form of a Shiva linga.
The shiva lingam of the presiding deity, Lord Mullaivana Nathar in the main sanctum of this temple is a Swayambu (self-manifested ) Lingam, it is one out of the 64 in the world.
In the Shiva lingam one can see even today the impression of jasmine creepers which once covered the Shiva lingam. The place must have been a jasmine garden once upon a time. Hence the Shiva at this place is called as Mullaivana Nathar (Lord of the Jasmine Garden).
Mullai (Jasmine flower) also known as Madhvi or Vasanti in Sanskrit, is the favourite flower of this deity.
The Sthala Vriksham in this temple is the Mullai creeper
(Every South Indian temple has its own tree – the sthala vriksham. The names of each temple’s tree are included in the agamas, descriptive texts)
The Lingam of Lord Mullaivana Nathar is made up of ant hill mud. Therefore there is no water abhisekam for this Lord. Instead, the Lingam is merely pasted with a kind of musk called “Punuhu” in Tamil.
It is said that worshipping the main deity Lord Mullaivana Nathar (God Shiva) will cure all kinds of skin diseases.
People who are afflicted with incurable diseases come to this temple, offer “Punuhu Chattam” to the Lord and get themselves relieved of their diseases
Here is the story of Goddess Garbharakshambika (an incarnation of Goddess Parvati) and why she is known as the protector of the womb.
Story of Garbarakshambika:
Once there lived a Rishi called Nidhruva who lived with his beautiful wife Vedhika in an Ashram. He spent his life praying to the Lord and performing holy rites. They were very happy, except that they didn’t have a child, so they prayed fervently to the lord to be blessed with a child.
After many prayers Vedhika became pregnant. Everything was going on well and the couple were eagerly expecting their first born child. One day Nidhruva left to visit Lord Varuna by travelling through the skies. The rishis in those days had many powers. Vedhika was in the third trimester of her pregnancy, When he was gone, Sage Urdhvapada visited the Ashram. Vedhika was alone in the ashram and since she was in an advanced state of pregnancy and very tired after the daily household chores, she was lying down and taking rest. Vedhika didn’t notice the Rishi or hear him, therefore, she failed to respond and unwittingly failed to offer, due hospitality to the guest. Urdhvapada felt terribly insulted and unaware of her pregnancy got incensed at her conduct and cursed her for not paying due respects to him. He cursed that she should suffer from a disease called “Rayatchu”, as a result of which poor Vedhika was struck with a foul disease, which began to eat into the very vitals of not only herself but also the child in her womb.
Vedhika realized the effect of the curse and that the baby in the womb had become disformed because of this curse. The helpless Vedhika fervently prayed for relief to Goddess Parvati who in the plentitude of her mercy appeared before Vedhika, the Goddess offered protection to the embryo by keeping it in a divine pot till it bloomed into a full-fledged child. The foetus that was saved by Goddess Parvathi develops into a beautiful healthy male child called Naidhruvan, who receives blessings from Lord Shiva (Mullaivana Nathar) and Goddess Parvati. The holy cow Kamadhenu gives its milk to the newborn baby thus blessing and nourishing the baby.
When sage Nidhruva returned and heard what had happened, he was overwhelmed by the grace of the Almighty. He prayed to Lord Shiva (Mullaivana Nathar) and Goddess Parvati (Garbharakshambika) that they should shower their blessings to all devotees praying to them. He fell at the feet of Goddess Parvati and prayed that she should take a permanent abode at the place and continue to offer protection to future generations of women also. Thus we find this prayer being fulfilled even to this day.
Since the Goddess Parvathi appeared in the form of a savior to protect Vedhika’s unborn child, she was known as Shri Garbharakshambika (The one who protects the unborn child or the one who protects the womb). To this day, pregnant women visiting this temple at Tanjore and praying to Shri Garbharakshambika have a peaceful delivery and it is believed that the Devi takes care of them and vouches safety to women during pregnancy and childbirth, just as she took care of Vedhika.
Popularity of the temple:
Goddess Garbharakshambika is one of the most popular form of Shakti in Tamilnadu. She is the lovely embodiment of womanhood and in this avatar as Garbharakshambika she has been ever gracious upon all womanhood to be the Goddess responsible to take care of women with uterus related disorders and pregnancy.
The fame of this temple rests largely upon the Goddess Shri Garbharakshambika (an avatar of Goddess Parvati) who offers protection to the human embryo. And it is no wonder that this temple draws worshippers from all sects.
It is believed that childless people who worship here with devotion and faith are blessed with pregnancy and pregnant women with safe deliveries. Unmarried women also pray here for their marriages. Special prayers are conducted by people on behalf of their pregnant relatives or friends.
The uniform experience of the people of these parts bears unfailing testimony to the said characteristic attributed to the Deity. The inhabitants of the village vouch the fact, that within living memory, there has been no case of fatality to the mother or child during confinement. Pregnant women from elsewhere come here and pray to the God and Goddess for a safe child birth. No one in this place has ever had a miscarriage or pregnancy problem. It is at a place like this that one can understand what “Divine Presence” is.
Location of Garbarakshambigai Temple:
This temple is located in the fertile land of Thanjavur also known as the ‘Rice Bowl of India’. The exact location of the temple is in Papanasam taluk of Thanjavur district and it is 20 Kilometers east of Thanjavur town and 20 Kilometers South west of Kumbakonam.
How to reach Garbarakshambigai Temple:
There are trains to Thanjavur from major cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Eranakulam etc. After reaching Thanjavur or Kumbakonam devotees can reach Garbarakshambigai temple either by bus, autos or taxis. In my experience I have found the number of busses plying to the temple to be very few. Auto and taxi are a better option. It costs about Rs. 400 two ways for the auto including waiting time of about 2 hours. Taxi is more expensive at about Rs. 550 two ways and waiting charges could be added to this
Garbarakshambigai Temple Address:
The Executive Officer
Arulmigu Mullai Vananathar Thirukkoil
Thanjavur Dt. 614 302