A famous Hindu temple of Tamilnadu.
In fact, it is a combination of three separate temples; two dedicated to Lord Ganesh and one to Lord Shiva. The whole temple complex is on a 83 meters high rock, which is widely acknowledged as one of the oldest surviving rock (to many, older than mount Kailash itself!) on Earth. The scientific study proved that it is not less than three billion years old!!. The temple is presently under the administrative control of ASI (Archaeological Survey of India)
The temple complex has three separate temples. An imposing shrine of Lord Ganesh, known as Manikka Vinayaga, is at the entrance of the rock temple. Devotees pay their respect to this deity before climbing the rock. On the middle of the rock is the Lord Shiva temple, known as Thayum ana swamy and the well-known shrine of Lord Ganesh comes after that; on top of the rock. One has to climb about 417 steps to reach the top; a panoramic view of Tiruchirapalli city is another attraction.
Lord Shiva is the principal deity (although the temple is widely known as Ganesh Temple). There is an interesting legend behind Lord Shiva becoming Thayum Ana Swami. Once upon a time there was a woman who was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva here. She became pregnant after her marriage. In due course pregnancy pain started. But, at that time, her mother was away incidentally. With unbearable pain, she cried to Lord Shiva for help. Lord Shiva appeared on the scene as her mother; helped her in delivery. There after this Lord became Thayum Ana Swamy in Tamil or Mathrubhuteswar in Sanskrit, which can be translated as ‘The God who could help like a mother.’
The Shiva temple has separate shrines for Goddess Parvati, Mahalakshmi and Annapoorna.
Legend of Ganesh temple is even more interesting. The story has close connection with Sri Rangam Temple, which is nearby.
Lord Sri ram gave an idol of Lord Vishnu to Vibhishan (the demon king of Lanka, who helped Sri Ram on his fight with Ravan of Ramayana) as a thanks giving, on his return to Lanka after attending the Pattabhishekha (Coronation ceremony) of Sri Ram at Ayodhya. However, Lord Sri Ram put a condition that the idol, if touched on earth cannot be taken back. Agreeing that condition, Vibhishan started return Journey to Lanka.
Meanwhile, the devas of heaven became weary. To them, Vibhishan – who is a demon by birth, getting an idol of Lord Vishnu from Lord Sriram was unacceptable and it is dangerous too. So they prayed to Lord Ganesh for help. Lord Ganesh approached Vibhishan and befriended him, in disguise as a cow herd boy.
When they reached the present day Sri Rangam, Vibhishan wanted to have a dip on the holy river Kaveri. Using this as an opportunity, Lord Ganesh offered to carry the idol until Vibhishan’s bathe is over. The Vibhishan agreed, gave the idol to Lord Ganesh. He took much time to return, so Ganesh put that idol on earth. Disappointed, to punish the cow herd boy, he chased him. The boy (Lord Ganesh) took refuge at the present day rock fort temple. After a long chase Vibhishan caught the boy and kicked on his head. The boy then revealed who he actually is. Vibhishan apologized and went back to Lanka.
It is believed that the Ganesh idol still has a mark on its head as a reminder of Vibhishan’s kick. The temple also said to have a spot where Vibhishan’s foot print is visible.
Just like the legends, the history of this temple is also interesting. The temple is a contribution from Pallava rulers (9th century) to the posterity. The two storied Shiva Temple, built on a hill, is a master piece of Pallava architecture. Later, Vijayanagara rulers and Nayaks of Madurai made valuable additions to the temple architecture. During the British period, they used this area as a military fortification, hence the name Rock fort Temple.
The temple, in the heart of Tiruchirapalli city, is also known as Dakshina Kailasam as the hill is believed to be one of the three pieces of Himalayas that flew off the Himalayas during a fierce fight between Aadisesha (the cosmic serpent) and Vayu (the wind-God). The other two pieces fell at Sree Kalahasti (in Andhrapradeh) and Trincomalee (TirukonaMalai in Tamil) in Sri Lanka.
The temple is at the heart of Tiruchirapalli city and a land mark of it.