Thirunallar the holy place of Lord Sani is located 5 kms from Karaikal under the jurisdiction of Pondicherry Union Territory. On reaching the temple that is ideally situated between Arasalaru and Vanchai rivers people can witness crowds of devotees from across the country and even different countries of the world. The road leading to the main gopuram is paved with shops and lodges on either side. The rajagopuram has 7 tiers, the second rajagopuram has 5 tiers and the third gopuram has three tiers, these gopurams are covered with beautiful sculptures. The entrance of the temple is guarded by two Dwara Balakars who have four hands each. At the end of the east street of the temple the statue of Saint Thirugnanasambandar’s is housed in a beautiful mandapam. There are three holy corridors around the temple. These holy corridors are called Deva Praharams. There are a number of shrines for Gods and Goddess situated on these deva praharams.
There are also a number of mandapams in the temple. The first corridor houses the Sopana Mandapam. The Vidanga Thiagar Mandapam is situated near the sanctum on the southern side. There are also spacious mandapams known as Ardha Mandapam and Sabha Mandapam. The southern Mandapam is meant for Sabhanathar and Bhairavar. Near the enterance of the tower on the northern side there are two more mandapams called festival mandapam and mukti mandapam.
The Pacchai Padigam
It is unique glory of the Tirunallar temple that it possesses the Pacchai Padigam which occupies a pride of place in the history of the Hindu Saivite Tamil hymnal literature. This padigam extols the virtues of the Lord and begins with the opening line Bhogamartha Poon Mulayal a pecan to the consort of Lord Darbharanyeswara. And it is said to have stood and ordeal of fire and the event leading to it is of absorbing interest and is narrated below.
It took place in the 7th century A.D, in Madurai, the capital of the Pandya Kingdom, during the reign of the celebrated Koon Pandya, also called Ninraseernedumaran. It was the time when the Jains had spread their influence and far and wide, In the Pandya Kingdom. The king had become a convert to Jainism and actively promoted its growth in his kingdom. Long all but his queen Mangaiyarkarasi and his minister Kulacchirai Nayanar - both stunch Saivaits - had embraced Jainism, forsaking the old religion.This caused immense agony to the queen and the minister who were anxious to reclaim the king and the kingdom back to the traditional religion.
- Pacchai - the ever gree; Padigam - decadal verse.
- (Devi) with shapaly breasts adorned with jewels so pleasing to the Lord.
- Histrians idendify Koon Pandya (the hunch-backed Pandya) with Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman.
To these two grief stricken individuals came the good tidings of the camping of boy saint Tirugnana Sambandar at Vedaranyam. Having heard of the miracles performed by the Saivait saint young Sambandar in the Thanjavur district, they sent an urgent invitation to him to visit Madurai and extricate the king and his subjects from the clutches of the Jains. It would appear that while the queen's messengers found a ready response in the boy saint it was not easy where his "admirer and companion saint" Appar was concerned. In the words of Sekkizhar and thus spoke Appar, the king of Divine speech. Thouat but a stripling. There is no end to the deceits and treacheries of the Jains. There is one further objection. The planets stand baleful. So you shold not agree to go. Unto which the high-souled Sambandar repiled . "If what I think and praise constantly are the tinkling feer of our Lord, no harm will touch me". So saying the cheif of the Puhali town, Sambandar ever bound unto the rosy fragrant feet of God. Sang the PADIGAM begining with the Lord of Uma with bamboo - like shapely shoulders". The saint then be took himself to Madurai.
The arrival of the Saivate Saint roused the suspicion of the Jains who resorted to the heinous act of setting fire to his holy dwelling. But by his yogic powers, Sambandar had the heat transferred to the king which burut his person inexorably Lo! the king was wriggling like a warm unable to stand the pain, which the scorching heat that had taken hold of his person produced. Then the youthful saint sang the padigam 'Mandiramavadu Neeru' (the saered ash is the mandra etc.,) and sprinkled a few grains of the ash on the right side of the king's body. The Jains in their turn chanting the Aruga Mantra (Jain Mantra) stroked the left side of the King's person with peacock feathers, but it only aggravated the pain! Entreated by the king and his ministers, Sambandar applied a few more grains of the sacred ash on to his left side also. It was a wonder of wonders that the poor pandya monarch who a little while ago was the very picture of suffering, misery and distress was now smiling gaily and appeared wholly freed from the burning malady. Lo! the King was rid of his hump too! And at this moment, it may be said that the triumph of Saivism over Jainism was more than established in the Pandya capital and the unwanted religion just faded out ignominiously.
But the Jains were not as yet wiser by their abject defeat1. They arrogantly threw the challenge that both religionsts should write down their respective Mantras on a palm leaf and consign it to the flames and the one that survived the ordeal of the established its superiority over the other.
The King must have been impressed by the miraculous performance of Gnana Sambandar's treatment just with a pinch of sacred ash and he might also have been possibly distreesed at the collapse of the religion to which he was a votary, namely Jainism. It was at this juncture that the Jains threw the aforesaid challenge as they were convinced that the king was in two minds in the approach to the two respective religions. The Saint also wanted to convince him of the superiority of Saivism over the other. And so, he accepted the challenge and the Jains first threw their Mantra into the fire which became forthwith a prey to the flames! Sambandar them caused his Tirumurai to be brought there and pulled one leaf from the bundle and his leaf contained a verse of the forty - ninth Padigam of Tevaram entitled "Bhogamartha Poon Mulayal" which was sung carlier by the saint in the Darbaranyeswara shrine at Tirunallar. He consigned it to the flames. But his palm bearing leaf was not scorched by the fire. It maintained its evergreen freshness! Unconsumed by the fierce flames of the fire it remained absolutely unscatched and this miracle established. The glory of saivism which to this day is as Green as it was before it was subjected to the fire ordeal! Hence the appellation "Pacchai Padigam" was being applied to it.
Bhogamartha Poon Mulayal is also called by the name of Praneswari as she gave life (Prana) or rebirth to Saivism.