One of the most ancient temples in Kumbakonam, the small Nageswara Swami – Shiva temple, one of the finest early Chola temples, is noted for the quality of its sculpture, thought to have been completed a few years into the reign of Parantaka I (907 – 940). Adisesha and Surya had worshipped Sri Nageswara here. When Adisesha was groaning under the weight of the world, he came to Kuvinvanam, the present Nageswara temple and did penance. Siva and Parvati appeared before Adisesha and blessed him with enough strength. A well in the temple is called Naga Theertham.
Possibly the oldest in Kumbakonam, the Nageshwara temple dedicated to Lord Nataraja is one of the finest early Chola temples, noted for the quality of its sculpture. This temple is believed to have been completed during the reign of Parantaka I (907-c.940). Though the temple is small but it is known for its marvellous architecture that exceeds many of the other Chola temples.
The Nataraja shrine here is shaped in the form of a chariot, and the shrine dedicated to the Sun God is of great sculptural significance
Nageswaran Temple, is dedicated to Shiva in the guise of Nagaraja, the serpent king. Also known as “Koothandavar Kovil”, it is located near the Kumbakonam old bus stand. Aditya Chola constructed this temple during the 12th century. It stands as a great marvel of Chola architecture, building technology and astronomy. The design and orientation are structured in such a way that it allows sunlight inside the temple only during the Tamil month of Chithirai (April/May), therefore, it bears another name called Surya Kottam or Keel Kottam. The Karuvarai (Sanctum Sanctorum) of Nageswaran temple is similar to that of Sarangapani temple, as it is made in the form of a Chariot. The temple consists of three gopurams in the eastern western & southern directions.
This vast temple known is for its shrine to Rahu, one of the nine celestial bodies in the Navagraha. A legend has it that the mythological serpents Adiseshan, Dakshan and Kaarkotakan worshipped Shiva here. Legend also has it that King Nala worshipped Shiva here as in Thirunallar
Standing in a courtyard, the principal shrine to Shiva is connected to a columned mandapa. Both share a base carved with scenes from the epics and lotus petals. The main niches on the sanctum wall contain sculptures – on the north, Dakshinamurti (“south-facing” Shiva as teacher), on the west Ardhanarishvara (male Shiva and female Shakti in one figure) and Brahma on the south. Joining them are high-relief near-life-size sculptures of unidentified figures, perhaps worshippers, donors or royalty. Within the courtyard, a shrine to Nataraja features rearing horses and wheels, with tiny figures as spokes.
The sun’s rays fall on the lingam in the central shrine through an opening in the eastern tower for 3 days in a year – on the 11th, 12th and 13th days in the month of Chithrai (April / May).