After going round the temple, we reach the Mantapam in front of the sanctum sanctorum. The inscriptions say that Queen Ulagamuzhudhudaiyal constructed this Mantapam in 1286 AD. On the right side of this main Mantapam we can see a Lingam with 16 facets existing from the period of Rajasimha Pallavan and on its left we see the idol of Aghora Veerabadhrar (Shiva as guardian of cremation ground). On both sides of the entrance to the sanctum, there are two huge Dwarapalakas (guardians of the gate) each 12 feet tall. Behind these Dwarapalakas there are two lions. The importance of these Dwarapalakas is that they appear to be different each time when watched from front or from the rear side. The sculptural beauty of these idols is really noteworthy.
Outside the 100-pillar mantapam, there is a big Nandi, with its unique posture of raised ears and a smiling face. It is very rare to see a Nandi who is smiling. This Nandi is not on a straight line from the Sanctum and the Rajagopuram, as is the norm in the temple architecture, but is slightly inclined towards the north. Hence it is also in a Vakkara position in line with the other features of the temple. Just near this Nandi there is a small shrine for Lord Ganapathi.
The main deity in Tiruvakkarai is Lord Chandramauleeshwar and his consort Goddess Vadivambigai. As we stand before the presiding deity, we feel as though we are in the holy presence of Lord Shiva in Mount Kailash. The presiding deity is a Lingam with three faces (called Mummuka Lingam) and is believed to be the combined form of Brahma the creator, Vishnu, the protector and Shiva, the destroyer, enshrining the theory of non-dualism.
The Lingam with three faces is not to be seen in any other temple as far as I have seen or heard and hence is a rarity in itself. In Tiruvakkarai the lingam has been installed with its 'Tharpurusha Mukam' (Brahma face) facing east, 'Agora Mukam' (Shiva Face), facing south and 'Vama Deva Mukam' (Vishnu Face) facing north. The colours acceptable in this temple are Yellow, Vermilion, Black and Red and many devotees use only these colours. A large number of Tamil sages, including Thirugnana Sambandam, composed and sang songs in praise of this holy temple
One can also worship Shiva in the form of Lord Nataraja in this temple. Keeping with the non-conformist nature of the temple, the Lord Nataraja here exists in a different form than in places like Chidambaram. In this temple Lord Nataraja is dancing with his right leg in a raised position unlike the usual posture of Lord Nataraja with his left leg in a raised position. Hence, Nataraja is supposed to perform a Vakkara Tandavam (a distorted dance), which is noteworthy and is in tune with general non-conformist nature of the temple.
The practice of building separate shrines for consort of the Lord, the main deity, was followed in Tamilnadu temples only from 8th Century A.D. onwards. Accordingly, a separate shrine for Goddess Vadivambigai has been built in this temple, which is facing south towards the cremation ground. It is believed that when Lord Shiva comes to the cremation ground for dancing, the Goddess will attract him with her 'Vadivudai Kann' (beautiful eyes).
In the adjacent 'Navagraha' shrine, we can see Lord Sani Bhagavan (Saturn) with his vehicle the Crow facing the south. The position of the crow too is a Vakkara position and breaks the norm. Usually in other temples the crow is only facing north.
In the temple courtyard, there is a small shrine facing east containing Sahasra Lingam. The unique feature of this Lingam is that one thousand small Siva Lingams are carved on a single Siva Lingam. This only shows the inestimable skill of the craftsmen in the olden days. This is a rare and important shrine for one to visit and worship. In front of this temple, there is a shrine for Lord Muruga (Subramaniya) with his consorts, Valli and Devasena (Devayani)
C K Gariyali IAS
Source : Chennaionline.com