PM Modi’s speech during the Chess Olympiad event has brought the spotlight on a temple in Tamil Nadu’s (TN) Tiruvarur District. The Chaturanga Vallabhanathar Temple is in Thirupoovanur village. Its historical name is Pushpavanam. Bhagwan Shiva, as Chaturanga Vallabhanathar, is the presiding deity.
The temple history says that Raja Vasudevan was childless for a long time. The king and his queen visited many Shiva temples praying for a child. The royal couple Nellaiappar kovil in Tirunelveli. Bhagwan blessed them and granted them their wish. When the royal couple took a dip in the Tamraparni (Thamirabarani), they saw a conch floating toward them. Raja Vasudevan picked up the conch.
As soon as the king took the conch in his hand, it turned into a girl child. She was none other than Devi Parvati. The child was named Rajarajeswari. Over the years, she became an expert in the game of chess. When it was time for her marriage, the king held a swayamwar. “The one who wins against my daughter in chess would win her hand in marriage,” he announced.
Many suitors tried their hands but none of them could defeat the princess. On the advice of a sage, Raja Vasudevan undertook a pilgrimage accompanied by his queen, daughter, Chamundeeswari, and the royal convoy. The entourage arrived at Thirupoovanur where Bhagwan Shiva met them disguised as a Siddhar (sadhu) to play chess with the princess. Mahadev successfully defeated Princess Rajarjeswari.
True to his word, King Vasudevan got her married to the Siddhar. Bhagwan Shiva and Maa Parvati revealed their true identities and blessed them all. Mahadev became known as Chaturanga Vallabhanathar because He bested Maa Parvati in Chess.
The temple has a shrine of Maa Chamundeeswari. It is believed that Devi Chamundeeswari, one of the Saptamatrikas (seven divine mothers), was sent to nurse the child Rajarajeswari. The temple finds mentioned in Nayanar (Tamil Saivite saint) Gnanasambandar’s Thevaram. This is the 103rd Bhagwan Shiva temple on Kaveri’s southern bank, praised in the Thevaram.
The Vimana of the chief deity is estimated to have been constructed around the thirteenth or fourteenth century. 11 inscriptions discovered here have been dated to the 13th-16th centuries and most are in a damaged or fragmentary state. Most of the endowments, these inscriptions belong to the rule of later Pandyan and Vijayanagara kings. The temple documents are proof that chess was played in ancient Bharat.
(Featured Image Source: TN Temples Project)