Navagraha are the 9 planets. These celestial bodies are believed to exert tremendous influence on our lives and carry out our destinies based on the acts of our previous births. These are Surya (the Sun), Chandra (the Moon), Mangal, Angaraka, or Chevvai (Mars), Budha (Mercury), Guru (Jupiter), Shukra (Venus), Shani (Saturn), and the shadow planets Rahu and Ketu.
Each of these Navagraha represents one or more unique aspects affecting a person’s life, and propitiating them with worship can offer protection, mitigate the evil effects of Karma and grant increased benefits.
A cluster of Navagraha temples, 9 in number, are located in the region around the Temple town of Kumbakonam.
As per a legend, Navagrahas, pleased with Sage Kalava’s devotion, relieved him of all his ailments. But Lord Brahma, upset with this Navagraha act, cursed them with leprosy and sent them to earth. But Shiva took pity, relieved them of their malady, and blessed them so that they could stay in 9 holy abodes around the holy Kumbakonam and bestow their grace on people worshiping them.
Now, let us make a brief visit to these Navagraha temples.
Suryanaar Koil, the Sun Temple
Surya is the king of planets and the source of light and energy to earth. Astrologically, the Sun is Pitru Karaka representing the father, stands for courage, generosity, and nobility, and grants good health, success, and prosperity. Unlike the other Navagraha Temples that are principally Shiva Temples, Suryanaar Koil is dedicated to Suriyanaar, where he stands with lotuses in his hands in the main shrine, flanked by his consorts Ushadevi and Pratyusha Devi. Built by the Cholas in the 11th century with later additions by Vijayanagara Rulers, this Temple has separate shrines for all the other 8 planets around the sanctum. It is about 15 km from Kumbakonam.
Chandiranaar Koil, Thingaloor
Chandra is our closest neighbor in space and wields a tremendous influence on our lives. Being Mano Karaka, he signifies the mind and can impact our thinking and emotions. In this Kailasanathar Shiva Temple, more famous as Chandiranaar Koil, Chandra can be worshiped in a separate shrine. Praying to the Moon God here can cure mental illnesses, relieve eye and skin problems, remove stress and sorrows, restore mother’s good health, and grant long life and fame. It lies about 33 km from Kumbakonam.
Chevvai Temple, Vaitheeswaran Koil
Chevvai, Mars is a red planet. Astrologically held as malefic, this warrior planet is fiery by nature and denotes short temper, aggression, accidents, surgery, earth, metals, weapons, police, and defense services. When afflicted, Chevvai can mainly cause marriage delays or marital problems. In this Temple dedicated to Shiva as Vaidhyanatha, the Divine Healer, we can worship Chevvai in a separate shrine, which can cure many ailments, remove marriage obstacles, solve marital discords and bring harmony, and give courage and victory. This is about 51 km from Kumbakonam.
Budha Temple, Thiruvenkadu
The smallest planet, Mercury, also remains closest to the Sun. Hailed as Buddhi Karaka, signifying intellect, he also denotes education, communication, and various skills. In the ancient and massive Thiruvenkadu Temple dedicated to Shiva as Swetharanyeswara, Budha occupies a pride of place. His worship here can bestow intelligence, scholarship, communication abilities, a sense of humor, and soft skills. It lies about 60 km from Kumbakonam.
Guru Temple, Alangudi
Jupiter is the giant planet next only to the Sun in size. Held as Deva Guru, it is reverentially called Guru, the teacher or mentor. Astrologically, he remains Dhana and Putra Karaka, signifying wealth and children, and represents learning, wisdom, spirituality, moral values, and humility. Guru Bhagavan occupies a prominent niche in the Alangudi Apatsahayesvarar Shiva Temple, about 32 km from Kumbakonam. And his worship can cure many illnesses like diabetes, asthma, kidney, and liver problems, and grant progeny blessing and children’s welfare.
Shukra Temple, Kanchanur
Mythology holds Venus as Asura Guru, the preceptor of the demons. It also remains Kalatra Karaka signifying the spouse and denotes beauty, love, marriage, fine arts, pleasure, and money. Praying to Shukra in this Agniswarar-Shiva Temple can get the planet’s blessings for a congenial spouse and harmonious married life, relief from bronchial ailments, comforts like properties and vehicles and enjoying worldly pleasures. It is 18 km from Kumbakonam.
Shani Temple, Thirunallar
Shani or Shaneeswara is a much-feared planet, generally regarded as malefic. But this Karma Karaka, signifying the job or profession, is only a fair distributor of results according to one’s virtuous and wicked deeds, rewarding the good and punishing evil. In this Dharbaranyeeswara-Shiva Temple, more famous as the Shaneeswara Temple, thousands of devotees pray to Lord Shani to ward off Saturn afflictions and premature death and receive its benevolence for longevity and unlimited favors. Thirunallar is about 52 km from Kumbakonam.
Tirunageswaram Rahu Temple
Rahu, the north lunar node, is regarded as a malefic snake planet and also a shadow planet without a physical existence. Astrologically considered Bhoga Karaka, signifying materialism, he also denotes impediments, unlawful activities, corruption, illusion, punishment, and foreign travels. Tirunageswaram Naganathar Temple near Kumbakonam is more popular for its shrine for Rahu; by worshiping whom, people can be relieved of the fear of poisonous reptiles, diseases, and mental disturbances, and receive progeny blessings, wealth, and fame.
Keezhaperumpallam Ketu Temple
Astrology holds Rahu’s southern contemporary Ketu, as Gnyana Karaka, signifying asceticism and spirituality. While Ketu represents religion, secrecy, litigations, failures, and esoteric sciences, it can also augment the benefits granted by other planets. Worshiping Ketu in the Keezhaperumpallam Naganatha Swamy Temple can give immense wealth, good children, academic excellence, job promotions, and wisdom and lead to Moksha, the salvation.