In the remote town of Elavanasurkottai in Villuppuram District of Tamilnadu is one of the long forgotten temple built by Raja Raja Chozha which houses Lord Shiva who is called Ardhanarisvarar here with his consort Brahan Nayagi. The Temple might have been long forgotten, but it is significant and bears the years of wear and tear with a charm on its own.
There used to be a grand and massive fort in this area, thus giving the town the name. This Shiva temple is believed to be on top of once a small hill, but now the place is all flat and plain. To whom or which dynasty the fort belong to is unclear, though speculations are made on this regard. The fort itself is non existence in the area, but the temple still stands high and proud. This temple is also a house of many unique features apart from the obvious Chozha features which includes Yaazhi, a separate and big shrine for Chandikeshvarar, highly ornamented gopurams and the many inscription in almost every inch of the walls.
It is believed by the locals here that, once when Raja Raja Chozha came this way for hunting and found this Linga in the middle of the forest. He was immediately drawn to the shiva that seemed to be “suyambu” or that has been formed naturally, meaning it was not carved out or made by anyone. He immediately felt devoted to the Linga that he decided to build a temple around it.
This temple is built in Dravidian style, with the entrance gopuram is smaller than that of the main gopuram where the inner sanctum is situated. One of the peculiar thing about this temple is that the sanctum of the Lord Ardhanarisvarar is located on the first floor of the temple. Devotees who visit the temple has to go up a flight of stairs to reach the sanctum. The reason behind this is even more interesting: The Linga here is believed to be growing and the base of the Linga is at the ground level and the actual linga is at the first floor of the temple. There are also two praharas for the temple and unlike other temples where the praharas will be in concentric sequence, here it is in two levels: one in the ground floor and one in the first floor.
This temple also has another unique feature: a “suyambu” sculpture of Aadhi Shakthi, who by Hindu belief is the first power to have formed along side Aadhi Shiva who is the supreme and first power. This is a rare sight in any of the Shiva temple.
In this temple, Vishnu and Brahma are worshipped alongside which is almost non-existence in any other temple.
Unlike any other Shiva temple, the Nandi on the entrance and the Nandi in the sanctum faces away from Shiva, i.e., the Nandi is seen sitting having his back to the Lord Shiva, while in all other temple Nandi sits facing the Lord. The reason for this is either haven’t been found or have been lost in the lore. Either way the locals here seem to know little about the reason behind it.
There is also a shrine for an incarnation of Lord Shiva Baadhala Lingeshvarar who is believed to have appeared in front of a Malaiyaman Chief, Deivigan when he prayed the to the Lord before starting for a battle. The town in itself is said to have been donated by Sembianmadevi, grandmother of Raja Raja Chozhan and she donated this town and nearby lands to this temple.
This once majestic temple, even though maintained by the Government has still took the bad side of wear and tear through the centuries it has stood there.