There are a number of Shiva temples, not only in India but across the world.  The Shiva Temples, glorified in Tamil Tevaram hymns, are referred to as Paadal Petra Shiva Sthalangal.

Origin

These Shiva Temples have been in existence for more than 1000-2000 years. We can make this conclusion on the basis that their reference has been made in the Tevaram Hymns.

Tevaram refers to the collection of verses sung on the primary god of the Shivite sect of Hindu religion, Lord Shiva by three Tamil poets (known as Saiva Kuruvars) – Thirugnana Sambanthar (aka Sambanthar), Tirunavukkarasar (aka Appar) and Sundaramoorthy Nayanar (aka Sundarar). The former two lived in the 7th century AD while the latter around the 8th century AD. All songs in Thevaram are believed to be in sets of 10 songs (called pathikam in Tamil).

There are 274 Shiva temples in number and out of which 264 temples are situated in Tamilnadu. The 274 odd shrines that have at least one Pathigam composed in their honor are referred to commonly as Paadal Petra Stalangal, or more generally Shivastalams.

 

Thirunavukarasar No. of Sivasthalams
Pathigams composed in the praise of the Lord Shiva after visiting the sivasthalam and temple personally 125
Pathigams composed in the praise of the Lord Shiva but did not visit the sivasthalam or the temple 98
Pathigams not composed by Thirunavukarasar 51
Sambandar No. of Sivasthalams
Pathigams composed in the praise of the Lord Shiva after visiting the sivasthalam and temple personally 219
Pathigams composed in the praise of the Lord Shiva but did not visit the sivasthalam or the temple 12
Pathigams not composed by Sambandar 43
Sundarar No. of Sivasthalams
Pathigams composed in the praise of the Lord Shiva after visiting the sivasthalam and temple personally 84
Pathigams composed in the praise of the Lord Shiva but did not visit the sivasthalam or the temple 54
Pathigams not composed by Sundarar 136

 

Royal benefaction and historic witnesses

The Royal patronage extended to the preservation of traditions in these shrines for centuries together, even after the period of the origin of the Tevarm hymns.

Many of the Paadal Petra Shiva Sthalangals are massive structures which are witness to the patronage extended by the Pallavas, the Imperial Cholas, the Pandyas, the Marathas and the Nayak rulers of Tamilnadu.

The engravings carved on stone which have been present since times immemorial, bear details of legacies made by the royal patrons, and also speak of the state of life during those periods in history.

It is said that some of the temples even hint on traces of the Anglo- French war that had been a part of the Indian soil.

Significance

These 275 shrines are almost more than 1200 years old and have witnessed a number of historic events. Most of these temples are still vivacious centers of worship, art and culture.

Temples like Chidambaram, Madurai, Rameswaram, Kanchipuram, Tiruvanaikka, Tirukkazhunkunram, Tirunelveli, Kalahasti and Tiruvannamalai have become important as tourist destinations for the general public.

With a sudden growing interest in astrology temples such as Tirunageswaram, Tiruvenkadu and Kanjanur have gained considerable prominence.

The legacy in architectural monuments is of even more notable significance. The profligately decorated sculptural phenomenons (as in the musical pillars at Tirunelveli) and the innumerable stucco images that line the mammoth towers of these extensive set of buildings – images demonstrating legends from the colorful lore of the Indian Puranas, as well as legends specific to beliefs associated with particular temples.

There is further the inheritance left behind in terms of the divinely engraved images of the Parivara Devatas and the bronze images of the festival deities both sets of which are considered to be objects of admiration; the stone carved images that don the inner sancta of these temples are also illustrations of fine art work.

Geographical classification

Out of the 275 Shivastalams, 265 are located in the state of Tamil Nadu (including Pondicherry). These 265 of them are distributed erratically all over the state in no particular order. Traditionally the entire Tamil speaking region is classified into the Chola, Pandya, Kongu and Tondai territories, with Nadu Naadu (the erstwhile North and South Arcot districts) constituting the region between the Tondai and Chola territories.

191 of these temples are located in the Chola naadu (Nagappattinam, Tiruvarur, Thanjavur and Tiruchirappali districts) region. An uneven majority of these 128 is located to the South of Kaveri whereas only 14 Shivastalams are located in Pandya Naadu (Madurai, Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga, Karaikkudi, Tirunelveli. districts) region. A mere of 7 Shivastalams are located in Kongu Naadu (Coimbatore, Karur, Tiruppur, Erode and Salem districts). Tondai Naadu (Chennai and Chingleput districts) claims 32 Shivastalams, including the famed Sree Kalahasti temple in Andhra Pradesh. Sree Sailam is another of the Shivastalams in the state.

The only Shivastalam in Kerala is that in Tiruvanjaikkalam near Kodungallur, while the one in Karnataka is known as Gokarnam. Triconamalee and Tirukketheeswaram are the 2 Shivastalams in Sri Lanka. Sree Sailam is another of the Shivastalams in Andhra Pradesh.

 

Temples Location Summary
Chola Naadu (North of river Kaveri) 63
Chola Naadu (South of river Kaveri) 127
Pandiya Naadu 14
Nadu Naadu 22
Thondai Naadu 31
Kongu Naadu 7

Browse 275 Shiva Sthalams