Lord Shiva made a commitment to Sri Rama and he never backtracked from his commitment. This is the reason Shiva is also called as Satyavageeswarar – meaning someone who will never renege on his promise. The temple of Satyavageeswarar and Gomathi Amman is located in a tiny hamlet called as Kalakad which is located in Tirunelveli district.
Around 11th BC, Veeramarthanda Cheran was the king of the province surrounding Kalakad. Kalakad was the capital. He has built the temple so aesthetically that it continues to be a marvel until today. Temple archival records show that the legendary Prakateeswarar temple was also constructed during the same period.
But the Kalakad temple was not the first temple that the king built. Veeramarthanda Cheran built a temple in a village called Thirupadimarudhur. On specific days, he had the habit of visiting this temple before returning to Kalakad. He used to ride a horse. During one such occasion, the King was unable to cross the river in Kalakad that was heavily flooded. The King was dejected when he realized his inability to visit the temple in Thirupudaimarudhur.
Suddenly the King heard a voice – “Do not worry, Oh King. I am here under this “punnai” tree. You can construct a temple here and pray here itself”. The King was mesmerized on hearing this. Then efforts were made to discover the shiva-lingam. Once the lingam was found, Veeramarthanda Cheran built a magnificent temple that still stands testimony to his devotion to Lord Shiva.
Legend has it that the Lingam that the king found was actually the lingam that Sri Ram had prayed to when he was searching for Seetha in the forest. Lord Shiva promised him that he would certainly find his Seetha. Once Sri ram won over Ravan, he returned to the place and performed abhisekams for Lord Shiva. These details can be obtained in a book called as “ Kalandhai Puranam”.
Structure of the temple
As we enter the temple, we are welcomed by the Rajagopuram. On the left side there is a pond and on the right hand side we have the sanctum sanctorum of Meenakshi – Sokkanadhar. The height of the raja gopuram is 135 ft. Next to the nandi mandapam, we have a small gopuram and the sannidhis of ambal and Krishna. There are separate sanctum sanctorums for Lord Muruga and Nataraja. The temple is open from 6 am to 8.30 am in the morning. The temple is open from 5.30 pm to 8.30 pm in the evenings.
The temple is 631 feet long and 293 ft wide. It is situated from west to east – direction wise.
There are very few temples in Tamil Nadu that have a separate sanctum sanctorum for 63 nayan mars. Kalakad satyavageeswara temple has this unique distinction
The Rajagopuram has 9 steps. At the roof, there are 9 kalasas and yazhis. The gopuram truly stands tall in this tiny hamlet. Inside the gopuram, we have pictures that describe Hindu mythological stories. These paintings still retain their charm and beauty – decades have passed but the beauty of these paintings has remained unchanged. Another unique aspect is that the shadow from this rajagopuram never falls on the ground.
Apart from the Rajagopuram there are 4 more gopurams in the Kalakad Satyavageeswarar temple. The Lord Shiva here is called as “abhisekapriyar” – one who is fond of abhisekams. Gomathi amman is so popular in the Tirunelveli belt that there was a time when every 2nd home in this belt had a daughter named Gomathi. The devotees of Lord Satyavageeswarar who are mostly from the Kalakad village/ hamlet fondly refer to this temple as “ Periya Kovil” (The Big Temple).
The temple has sanctum sanctorums of Ganesha, Navaneedha Krishna, Ayyappan, Durga, Joorathevar, Kasi Viswanathar, Visalakshi amman, Gaja lakshmi thayar, Santhana Natarajar, Anna lakshmi, Suryan- Chandran, Chitra gupta nayanar – Notably saptha kannigais are also housed in this ancient temple.