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Tiruvirkolam (also Cooum) is an ancient temple town on the banks of the Koovam River in Tamil Nadu, India. It is located about 70 km from Chennai. The water, though sparkling clear over here, becomes polluted on the way and reaches the Bay of Bengal.

Sri Tripuranthaka Swami temple


Three demons, Tharaka, Kamalakshan and Vidyunmali armed with the boons from Lord Brahmma, began to torture devas. They surrendered to Lord Shiva for protection. Lord took a bow and began His march against the demons. As a rule, any undertaking by anybody including Gods should be taken only after worshipping Lord Vinayaka which Lord Shiva missed in His hasty aim to destroy the demons. Devas who know the rule also intentionally failed to worship Lord Vinayaka as they thought that Lord Shiva Himself was backing them. Angry Vinayaka broke the axle of the Rath. Knowing that it was the act of Vinayaka, Lord asked him to set right the axle which Son Vinayaka did. Lord Shiva rose as a swayambu from the place where the Kooram (axle) of the Rath stuck. Hence the place was named Kooram which later changed as Cooum. There is an injury scar on the head of Lord Shiva. Hence, pujas are performed without touching the head of the Lord. Borneol (Pachai Karpuram) is sprayed on Lord’s head and abishek is performed with milk. As the Lord took on the march against Tripuranthaka demons, he also bears the name Tripuranthaka, and Mother Tripuranthaki.

It is said that Lord Shiva is performing penance here. As the sound of frogs would be a hindrance to penance, there are no frogs in the Agni Theertha here, it is said. When the axle of His Rath broke, Lord got down and stood with his bow and arrow. Lord Shiva holding a bow is a rare form, hence also named Tiruvirkolanathar. So the Place is also known as Tiruvirkolam. During the Chithirai Brahmmotsavam festival, Lord appears with the bow. This darshan is considered very important in the temple. At the request of Sages Munjikesar and Karkodar, Lord Shiva played his Oordhva Thandavam – a dance with fast and furious movements – and won Kali in the competition. Kali was too angry to accept Her defeat. Lord Shiva told Kali that He would be playing a pleasing dance – Raksha dance – in Tiruvirkolam when She can have His darshan and shed Her anger. Kali had the pleasing darshan of the Lord on the occasion and became merciful. Kali is gracing the devotees in the name of Tharka Madha in a separate shrine a little away from the temple. Kali assumed the name of Tharka Madha as She contested against Lord Shiva in the dance competition. Tharka in Sanskrit means debate.


The vimana above the sanctum sanctorum is called Gajabrushta Vimana. The demons, Tharaka and Vindyunmali are the Dwarapalakas (securities) of the sanctum sanctorum. The shrine where Lord Nataraja played the Kathal Thandavam (protection dance) is opposite the Rajagopuram – main tower. Mother’s shrine is right of that of Lord facing east in a standing form. Sri Chakra is installed in the shrine. Devotees believe that worshipping Mother would break the obstacles in the way of wedding proposals. The Vimana of the sanctum of Mother is in the form of a tower. Lord Muruga with His six faces and with His consorts Valli and Deivanai is in a separate shrine. Lord Bhairava is without his dog vehicle.