About Madurai Adheenam

  • By Sivamurugan
  • July 6, 2023
Courtesy ‘Madurai Atheenathai Niruviaruliya Thirunjanasambandha Swamigal’-book by Madurai Adheenam.
  • How Madurai became a Saiva city and brief information about Madurai Adheenam.


In earlier article we shared Who are Adheenams. This article is about the main Madurai Adheenam.


“Adheenams are not monks, We are Emperors of Shaiva dynasty” - said his holiness 292th Gurumaha Sanithanam Sri la Sri Arunagiri Natha Sri Janasambandha Desika Paramaachariya Swamigal during several talk shows / interviews.



It is with divinity within me and my pleasure to write this article, with his blessings, about his holiness the Madurai Adheenam.


Adheenams are Emperors of Shaiva Dynasty – this term is used by Madurai Adheenam in almost every talk show / interview for e.g. interview in a news channel (Thanti TV), casual talk show like Naiyandi dharbar in Vijay TV or a debate show on various channels. Hence these lines got imprinted in my mind like rock cut letters.


Seventh Century

Madurai Adheenam was the first Aadheenam established by one of the Saiva devotees “Thiru-jnana-sambandar” during the 7th century when the Pandya dynasty ruled with a king by the name, Nindra Seer Nedumara Pandiyan.

 Read About each of the 63 Nayanars by Swami Sivananda


Sramana religion

Sramana religion which is ‘another form of Jainism’ was prevalent in the Pandya kingdom with even the king and others becoming its followers. To re-establish ‘Saivam’ the Pandya queen “Maharani Mangayarkarasi” sought the help of Shiva devotees. In this quest she found the holy-kid “Thiru-jnana-sambandar.” She sent him a message to come to the palace and make the dynasty become ‘Saivam’ again. Thus Sambandhar (full name Thiru-jnana-sambandar) reached the town with his followers and camped in a tent near Madurai Meenakshi Temple.

Pressure on Shiva Devotees

As the king was not a Saivite follower he pressurized Savites to leave the city and make way for those following Sramana.


Sambandhar’s divine approach

Similar way the king applied pressure on Sambandhar and his followers to leave the city. With Shiva’s grace and Saiva people’s support “Sambandhar” was able to resist the pressure to leave. Later the king ordered that the tents of “Sambandhar’s” team be set on fire. To this “Sambandhar” started singing a ‘Pathigam’ post which the fire receded. 


However, the king now had uncurable fever and due to high-fever, king got humpback and became “Koon Pandian”. 


The fire did not harm any of the devotees but the shelter caught fire. Shiva devotees stayed there for a week and then a miracle happened. The medical research students and researchers started treating the king for fever with their herbs-tantric medicines, but it was of no use. Eventually Sambandhar was called to treat him.


Miracle happened

When Sambandhar himself reached the king’s palace, the king’s fever stopped spreading. When he entered the palace king was able to open an eye and started talking to the people nearby. However, Sambandhar was stopped by the Sramana people to treat the king. As a he was a child he played child like pranks. 


Anyway he reached the king, had tears in his eyes. Since the Sramana people did not want him to treat the king, as a compromise it was agreed that he would treat right side of the king and Sramana the left side.


Sambandhar started his treatment with holy ash and by singing another pathigam called “Thiruneetru pathigam” (To read in Tamil click on link). Within a day the right side got cured but the left side had not. Hence, the king ordered that the left side be treated by Sambandhar too. Again he sung Pathigam and treated with holy-ash (Vibuthi). The king got cured in a day and resumed day to day activities. His back pain too got cured. The Pandyan king “Nindra Seer Nedumaran” now expressed a desire to become Saiva again. 


Fire Debate

Sramanar wanted to do a debate with Sambandar but in fire way where both need to write their great sayings on a  palm leaf. Whosever leaf was unburnt would be the victor. Hence Sramanar wrote their mantra but Sambandhar wrote “Thirunallarru Pathigam” (To read in Tamil click on this link). His palm leaf was unburnt while the Sramanar’s palm leaf turned into ashes.


Flood Debate

Sramanar wanted another debate with a understanding that if Sambandhar failed he would leave the city. If Sramanar failed they would nail themselves on Kazhu (kazhu is a type of wooden nail, made of big tamarind branch with a sharp edge. A sinner needs to sit on it till they die). During the flood debate both needed to write their highly respectable verses and put it in the flood of river Vaigai. Sramanar wrote their mantra again but Sambandhar wrote his pathigam by praising the devotees of god “Thirukadai kappu” (To read in Tamil click on this link)


Sambandhar’s song came reverse towards the flood and landed at a place which is  even now called Thiru-Edu-Agam. It means the divine palm leaf (Thiru-Edu) place. Even today this Palm leaf is worshiped, at the time of daily pooja, in Madurai Aadheenam. 


Fullfilling their own agreement

On the other hand Sramanar’s palm leaf containing their philosophy named “Athithinathi” dissolved into the ocean. Hence, the eight thousand Sramanars started nailing themselves in kazhu. This entire scene is elaborated in Thiruvizhayadal puranan “Mannan suram theertha padalam”-“Samanarar kazhu verriya padalam”. 


Madurai Aadheenam

Thereafter, Madurai became a Shiva devotee city. Sambandhar stayed, gave blessing to followers and established the Madurai Adheenam besides social upliftment works in and around Madurai. He visited Shiva temples in and around Pandya kingdom and started his journey to spread Shaivam towards south. He made several disciples and laid down procedures to run the Adheenam i.e. followed even today.


Current scenario

Sri La Sri Harihara Sri Gnanasambanda Desika Swamigal took over as the 293rd pontiff of the Madurai Adheenam on 23rd August 2021. This Adheenam is working from the seventh century onwards. (293rd pontiff takes over at the Madurai Adheenam - The Hindu)

About forty years ago this Adheenam was like a small temple. The adheenam was rejuveniated with ideas of the “292nd Gurumahasannidhanam Sri La Sri Arunagirinatha Sri Jnanasambanda Desika Paramacharya” who improved the way of managing assets etc. (ref ‘Madurai Atheenathai niruviaruliya Thirunjanasambandha Swamigal’ book issued by Madurai Aadheenam on 02/11/1994). In my childhood the Aadheenam was accessible to a few. The 292nd Guru changed that forever.


Sengol Tradition

Dr Ketu Ramachandrasekhar wrote, “The coronation ceremony of a king was considered to be a very auspicious moment in the history of the nation. To mark the event, the king was endowed with three royal insignas-the crown (mukuta), the royal sword (khadga) and the sceptre (rajadanda). While the crown signified the King to be the sole leader of the nation, the sword was the deterrent force which kept the opponents at bay and the sceptre denoted the rule of just law where the virtuous citizen was offered protection and the vile punishment. These three symbols were passed over generations to press the greatness of the lineage.


Rajadanda or the Sengol is thus a pan-Indian phenomenon which can be seen in the coins of Samudragupta, and referenced in many literary works and travel accounts. When the kings were traditionally Shaivites, the danda had the symbol of Vrsha (sacred bull).”

During the inauguration of the new Parliament House, the words Sengol and Adheenams became widely known.  


All the Adheenams sung the Kolaru-thirup-pathigam (to read in Tamil click on link). It means that all the nine planets will be good if you keep Shiva and Parvathi in your heart. The same song sung by all Adheenams during offering of sengol.


Read Sengol is symbol of Dharma over Power And Decoding Sengol-Dharma Dand And Significance of Sengol


Adheenams in Administration

Adheenams doing good administration of their owned temple / assets / daily day to day activities, and also visiting social gatherings at wherever they can reach and spreading good thoughts and shaivam. As I said earlier during times of each Adheenam several upliftments were made. Even today the journey continues.


Author is a Madurai based devotee

Adheenams  have sanyasis (renunciants) who are trained in Saiva philosophy and called Tambirans. Tambirans are the teachers and preachers of Saivaism. They learn from the gnana pitha (the seat of wisdom) which is the adheenam. The adheenam also oversees the Theerthams (holy water sources). They are the means of propagating Saivaism to the people. Temples also depend on the adheenam for their religious activities and guidance. 

Dr Ketu also wrote, “The Saiva system was widely prevalent in South India. The Shaiva Mathas whose origins were in the Eastern and Central India such as Golaki (Bhiksha) Matha, Amardaka Matha, Mattamayura etc. greatly influenced the life and culture of the Tamils. Read     Saiva Connections between Tamil Nadu and Bengal/Central India


The term adheenam designates an independent institution that has its own internal structure of authority. According to Madras District Gazetteers - Adheenams are the “central mutts exercising control and supervision over subordinate mutts and other institutions such as temples.” Madras District Gazetteers: Tanjore (Madras: 1906), p. 232. Thus, every aadheenam is a matha but all mathas are not aadheenams. This understanding is essential to understand the religious hierarchy of the Shaiva institutions, esp. in Tamil Nadu.” 


To make article more complete present a precis of writings on subject in The History and Culture of Indian People Volume 3 published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan Pg. 432 onwards.


In South India Savisim was a rival to Buddhism and Jainism. Pallava king Mahendra-varman I (600-630) was a Jain to begin with. When he came under the influence of Saint Appar he became a Saivite. Thereafter, he caused great Saiva temples to be built all over kingdom and Kanchipuram became a centre of faith.


5 Rathas Mahabalipuram made by Pallava King who ruled from 630-668 A.D.


Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram dedicated to Siva and Vishnu built 700-728


Kailasanathar Temple, Kanchipuram made by Pallava kings in 8th century A.D.


The great upsurge in favour of Saivism was due to the devotional poetry that flowed from the Saiva saints who lived then (320-750 a.d.) Many of the Nayanmars flourished during this period.


The purpose of Tirumular’s Tirumandiram was to reconcile the Agamas with the Vedas. The foundations of the systems of Saivism prevalent in South India were laid in Tirumandiram.


Appar, Tiru-jnana-sambandhar (referred to above, he lived for 16 years), Sundaramurti and Manikkavachakar are four great teachers of the Saiva creed.


The Tiruvachakam by Manikkavachakar occupies a place in Tamil sacred literature similar to that of the Upanishads in Sanskrit scriptures.


Appar was a contemporary of Pallava King Mahendra I (600-630 a.d.) Sambandhar was a contemporary of Appar. He was also known as Jnana-sambandha meaning one who is related to God through wisdom. He considers Siva to be highest God, the beginning, the middle, and end of all beings. Attainment of the state of Siva is moksha. Sundaramurti songs reveal the path of the friend. Along with other saints of his age, he ushered in a era of Siva renaissance.


The Saiva Nayanmars and Vaishnava Alwars were simple hearted bhaktas, rather than philosophical pundits. We owe the collection and preservation of the devotional songs of these saints to Nambi-Andar-Nambi and Sri Nathamuni.


To visit Shiv Temples across India

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