Navagrahasthalam (Raaghusthalam) -Thirunageshwaram

Thirunageswaram, Raaghu Temple
The nine planets or the 'Navagrahas' have a very important place in the Hindu tradition and Indian astrology. They are worshipped at different places for the removal of their malefic impact over people's lives and for the bestowal of benefits. The temples are thronged by thousands to get rid of the ill effects due to the unfavourable positioning of the Navagrahas in the horoscopes. It is however to be noted that it is the Lord who obviously reigns supreme even over the Navagrahas, as each history of the Navagraha temples testify the Lord's Grace in either protecting His devotees from the harmful effects of the planets or protecting the planets themselves from a certain misfortune.
Raaghu, one of the Navagrahas or the nine planets is worshipped at Thirunageshwaram where he himself is said to have worshipped Lord Shiva.

The Legend

Initially the place was a well flourished land of Senbaka trees. Beneath one of them was a Shivalingam and hence the Lord (Siva) came to be known as 'Shenbagarane Eswara' Goddess Parvati is worshipped as 'Girigujambal' (Sanskrit)or 'Kundramulai Ammai' (Tamil). Poudiga Purana states that Lord Siva bespoke of the significance and the glory of Shenbagaraniyam , now called Thirunageswaram to Goddess Parvati.

There are several legends that add to the significance of the temple. Raaghu Bhagavan got rid of his curse inflicted by Sushila Muni by worshipping Lord Shiva here. Hence Lord Shiva is also worshipped as 'Naganatha Swamy' here owing to the deliverance of Raaghu Bhagavan from his curse by His grace. Hence the place came to be known as 'Thirunageshwaram' .

A yogi called Bringi worshipped Shiva excluding Goddess Parvati. The Goddess along with Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati did severe penance and and took position of the right half of the body of the Lord as a boon. Lord Ganesha by the grace of the Lord acquired the status of the head of the ganas here; Nandi the vehicle of Lord Shiva also attained the status as 'Nandeesan' here by worshipping the Lord. Indra worshipped Goddess Girigujambal here by anointing 'punugu', a scented substance and got rid of the bad odour that emanated from his body.

King Chandravarman absolved the curse of assuming a dog form here and Sambumali lost his demonic form by worshipping the Lord here. It is also said that Sages Gowthama , Vashista , Parasarar , and Kings Nala , Pandavas and Bageerathan have offered worship to the Lord here. Apart from this the celestial snake forms Aadisesha , Thakshagan and Karkotagan also worshipped the Lord here and were benefitted by His blessings. Lord Surya (Sun God) is said to have immersed himself in the water tank constructed by Adisesha and acquired the state of bliss. The tank then came to be known as the Surya Theertham.

Raaghu Bhagavan

Raaghu Bhagavan, one of the nine planets is represented by a snake face with a human body. Iin Thirunageshwaram , he appears in his marital form with his consorts, 'Nagavalli' and 'Nagakanni'. Hence Thirunageshwaram is considered as 'Raaghu Sthalam' as Raaghu got rid of his curse as a result of the Grace of Lord Shiva. It is only here that Raaghu can be seen with a human face and not his usual serpent face. There is a separate sanctum for Raaghu and milk abishekam (bathing of the idol with milk) is performed regularly as a worship offered to him during Raagu Kalam (a specific time duration that occurs everyday but at different timmings each day) It is an awe inspiring sight to see the milk poured over the idol turning blue as it flows down and resuming its whiteness when reaching the floor. Raaghu Bhagavan is worshipped for the removal of the malefic effects due to the unfavourable positioning of him in one's horoscope here and to attract all goodness in life.

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Story first published: Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 17:52 [IST]
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