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Located on a small rocky headland on the shore of the Gulf of Mannar, this impressive temple presides over a sandy beach. The temple is located within 40 km from Tuticorin, 60 km from Tirunelveli and 80 km from Kanyakumari. Dating from the 9th century by the Pallavas, much of it was replaced early in the 20th century because of salt damage. It is also believed that this temple was originally a rock cut structure, cut out of a local hill, and later renovated with granite. There is some references to the deity inside the temple occur in some of the Tamil's oldest scriptures like Purananuru, Silappadikaram, Tirumurugatrupadai, Adi Sankarar Sri Subramanya Bhujangam, Kanda Puranam etc.
One of the specialty of this temple is that this is the only temple of Lord Muruga located on the seashore and other shrines of his, are situated amidst mountains and forests. The legend behind this temple is that, Lord Muruga won the battle with the demon Surapadma and worshipped Lord Siva in this seashore seeking forgiveness.
The temple is approached via long colonnaded walkway, 750 meters from the town's center flanked by shops selling puja items, garlands, fruits, religious music, cloths etc. Non Hindus are permitted to enter the central shine on payment of a small donation Rs.20.
Usually pilgrims bath in the sea before entering the temple. The temple is entered on the west through a nine storied 137ft high and 90 ft width white stone tower (Rajagopuram) called as Mela Gopuram. A famous landmark of the city, this can be visible from the ocean. Constructed 350 years ago by Sri Desikamoorthy Swami of the Thiruvavaduthurai Mutt, this pyramidal tower is covered with full of plaster figures, depicting the life of the saint Manikkavachakar. It has a bell fixed into the topmost storey, was presented by a British official. There are nine Kalasams at the top of the Mela Gopuram. But this west entrance is only opened during the temple's annual festival.
The temple's main entrance is in south called, Shanmukha Vilasa an imposing modern structure. The Shanmukha Vilasa Mandapam is 120 ft long , 86 ft breadth and has an ornately carved 124 pillar hall with four corridors meeting at a 15 m square central hall. It touches the ceiling through its elaborately carved and majestic pillars and supports the entire Shanmukha Vilasam. It was originally built with white stones and later converted into granite stone. Looking from here, one can worship Lord Shanmuga with his consorts in the Mahara Mandapam. From here one can see Arulmigu Arumugha Peruman seating in the Mandapam with golden pillars. Before climbing down the steps, the gents must remove their shirts and banian, a procedure adopted by the Kerala Kings who ruled this place.
Together with the Mela Gopura this gives access to the
outer rectangular enclosure partly occupied by a colonnade on four sides
known as the first temple Prahara Silvli Mandapam. Additional doorways
are provided on the north, but there is no access from the seaside on
One can see a copper plated flag staff in the middle of the eastern side of this prakaram and this is only hoisted during the festivals of Avani and Masi. One can also hear the sound of 'Om'.
And at the southern side of the second prakaram, there is a small Dakshinamoorthy statue, Noottretu Lingas (108 Lingas) and the shrine of Arunagirinathar. Next to it, is the flight of steps leading to Mela Gopuram. Mukkuruni Vinayagar is seating opposite to these steps.
The south-facing Shanmugha Sanctuary accommodates a metal icons of Subramanya with six faces and twelve hands, flanked by his consorts, faces South. One can also have a good view from outside the Shanmuga Vilas Mandap. Inside the temple there are five Lingas, symbolising Panchabutha, sun, moon and Athma. Located near sanctum santorum, it is believed that Lord Murga had sought his father Shiva's blessings here after the destruction of Sooran and created a pond called Skanda Pushkarani with His Vel. Entrance fee of Rs.5/-.
Near to the temple Rock-cut shrines and natural caves with carvings of Subramanya. A sanctuary with an image of Dattatreya is seen 200 m north of the temple. Two square wells, one inside the other, filled with different tasting waters (The water in the smaller well is crystal clear and sweet to taste and the water in the bigger well is sulphurous in smell) are found 200 m south of this temple.
Temple open from 5am to 8 pm daily. Daily Poojas are eight times in a day and special Poojas on Vishakam Nakshatiram day as well as during Chittirai Vishu and Aippasi Vishu. The temple being one of the six abodes of Lord Muruga, draws millions of devotees especially during 'Kanda Shasti Festival' in the month of Aippasi (October-November). The annual 10 days long Vasanta festival is held in the month of Chittirai (April-May). During this occasion 108 different herbs and auspicious preparations are offered to the god, symbolizing the renewal of the earth.