The Navagraha Temples refer to a group of nine temples that are found in a particular region of Tamil Nadu. This region was under the Chola rulers at one point of time. The Navagrahas are not the nine planets as is generally misunderstood. On the contrary they are nine celestial bodies comprising of the sun, the moon, the planets – Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and the two shadow planets – Rahu and Ketu. These heavenly bodies have a profound implication on astronomical calculations.
The antiquity of the Navagraha Temples in Tamil Nadu can very well be estimated from the fact that the Suryanaar Koyil Temple which was built in the 11-12th century is the latest addition to the group of Navagraha Temples. The others were built several centuries earlier between 500-1000 A.D. Six of the other eight Navagraha Temples have also been eulogized in the Tevaram hymns that were written during this period.
The Kailasanathar Temple in Tingaloor is associated with Chandra or moon. There is a small shrine dedicated to Chandra in this Navagraha Temple.
The Vaideeswaran Koyil Temple is sacred to the celestial body Mars. The bronze image of Mars or Angaaraka within the shrine of this temple is noteworthy. The temple itself has many gopurams and mandapams. Sculptural inscriptions adorn the interiors of this temple.
Yet another temple belonging to the group of Navagraha Temples is the Tiruvenkadu Temple. It is linked to Mercury or Budhan. The Agneeswarar temple at Kanjanoor represents the planet Venus. Likewise the Aabatsakaayar Temple in Aalankudi represents the planet Jupiter. Shrine dedicated to Saturn is to be found in the Tirunallar Temple. The Naganathar Temples at Tirunageswaram and Keezhperumpallam have shrines dedicated to Rahu and Ketu, two other navagrahas respectively. The former is spread over a large area and comprises of large prakarams, imposing gopurams and many mandapams.
Interesting stories and legends associated with the Navagraha Temples in Tamil Nadu beckon us to visit them. If we visit them we are sure to be impressed by the architectural skills that they exhibit.