Worship of Lord Brahma, Part 43

BY: SUN STAFF - 12.2 2018


Lord Brahma, Brahmapurisvara Temple

A serial exploration of places of Lord Brahma's worship.


Lord Brahma at Pullamangai

Pullamangai is located on the outskirts of Pasupathi Koil, Papanasam Taluk in the Thanjavore District of Tamilnadu. It is home to an early Chola temple of extraordinary grandeur, which is visited by throngs of pilgrims and tourists annually. Known as Sri Brahmapurisvara Temple, Thiruvalanthurai Mahadevar Temple, or Tiruppullamangai Temple, it was built during the early years of Chola king Parantaka Choladeva-I, and is the 16th temple in the group of Tevara Sthalams.

Pullamangai is a simple village on the southern bank of River Cauvery. Surrounded by paddy fields and coconut trees, the village is an easy drive from Thanjavore and Kumbakonam. In these simple environs, it is quite amazing to find an architectural monument as stunning and refined as the temple at Pullamangai.

Sri Brahmapurisvara Temple at Pullamangai

Brahmapuriswara is the presiding deity of Pullamangai. Although the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Chola sculptures on the interior and exterior of the temple include a number of beautiful images of Lord Brahma, who is parivaara devata here. Because the sculptural images of Lord Brahma are so exceptional, this temple is often cited as a Brahma temple.

Lord Shiva here is also known as Aalanturai Naathar or Vatatheertha Nathar, and Ambal, his consort is Alliyankothai. The name Aalanturai is related to Shiva's drinking the poison from the churning of the milk ocean. Parvati, or Alliyankothai, is said to have taken the form of a Chakravaha bird, coming here to worship Shiva.

Siva Aalanturau Naathar 
(Three-faces cause some to confuse this Sad-shiva with Brahmadeva)

There are a great many sculptures of other divine personalities, including a beautiful Durga Ma and a rare collection of Shiva's ganas, who are depicted in a fascinating range of expressions and poses. The temple Vriksham (holy tree) is Aalamaram, and the theertham is Shiva Theertham.

Temple History

Earliest references to this temple are found in Panniru Thirumurai the famous collection of Saivite devotional hymns in Tamil, compiled during the middle ages. In the hymns on various temples of Lord Shiva sung by Sambandar, a child prodigy who lived during early part of Seventh century AD, Thiruvalanthurai Mahadeva Temple is one of the temples sung by Sambandar as being in the Chola Mandalam area (present day Thanjavore, Kumbakonam and Thiruvarur districts). Clearly, the temple was in existence with active worship being conducted during the early 7th century AD. Later, during early 10th century, Pullamangai became a well known settlement of Brahmins.

At least one other temple by the name Thiruvalanthurai existed in South India during Sambandar's lifetime. This was in Pazhuvoor, now known as Keezhap Pazhuvoor in the Ariyalur District. This temple was also sun by Sambandar.

The temple rose to prominence during late 7th, early 8th century. When originally constructed, it was likely made of brick and timber, comprising the sanctum sanctorum and probably artha and mukha mandapas. Mentioning Pulamangai in eleven hymns, Sambandar glorifies the natural springs that were plentiful in the area, as well as the many owls that were singing from the trees. This may suggest that the River Cauvery was running closer to the temple at that time.

Main vimana

Temple Architecture

Sri Brahmapurisvara Temple follows the typical plan of Chola temples from this age, having a sanctum sanctorum, artha mandapa, mukha mandapa and shrines for the parivaara devatas (secondary deities).

The temple was constructed under the joint reign of Aditya-I and Parantaka-I, a time of intense temple building across Tamil Nadu. Aditya converted several ancient Shiva temples into more permanent granite structures on both banks of Cauvery River, while Parantaka provided a golden roof for the ancient Shiva temple at Chidambaram. But of all their works, the Brahmapurisvara Temple at Pullamangai is undoubtedly the finest example of what is now known as the Parantaka School of architecture.

Sanctum sanctorum with Dvarapala attendants

The temple plan includes a square sanctum sanctorum, in which the presiding deity resides. There is a single entrance to this cell, towards the east. Openings in the other directions are symbolically implied by niches or shrines on the outer walls of the sanctum, called koshtams. Each of these holds either a subsidiary deity, or another aspect of the presiding deity. Lord Brahma usually resides on the north kostham, with Visnu or Lingobhava on the west. Dakshinamurti is on the south.


We note that the Lingobhava murti here at Pullamangai is very similar to the Amravaneswarar lingabhava in the Ambiravananathar Temple at Tirumandurai, featured recently.

Shiva Lingobhava murti with Brahma (left) and Visnu (right)
West wall vimana

A few of the other exceptional sculptures and murtis found in the Pullamangai temple include Lingodhbhava, Dancing Siva and eight-armed Durga. Among the many interesting ornamental aspects are figures of men riding a yali, or leogryph.

Durga Ma 
(Same murti, dressed and without cloth)

The ardha mandapa here has a flat roof, surmounted by a small shrine decorated with sculptures on each side. On the southern wall of the temple is a splendid Ganesh shrine, equipped with parasol and seated on a lotus. Various makaras adorn the walls and foundations.

Among the hundreds of sculptural subjects found here at Sri Brahmapurisvara, the Ganas are among the most memorable. They are unarguably among the finest collection found anywhere in India. Departing from the oft-depicted mood of troublesomeness they are known for, these ganas express a wide range of happy sentiments and pastimes. Some seem lost in a spirit of devotion to Shiva, dancing and playing musical instruments in an ecstatic mood.

Active worship still goes on at this temple, with four pujas offered each day to Shiva, Brahma, Visnu, and Dakshinamurti. Durga Ma is also worshipped by her devotees here. The Saptastanam festival is celebrated in the Tamil month of Pankuni, along with Kartikai Deepam, Arudra Darisanam, and Navaratri.