One of the nine planetary deities, Śani or Śanaiścara, is more feared than loved since he is the lord of afflictions. Though separate temples dedicated to him are not very common, we have one at Tirunallar, just 5 kms. (3 miles) to the west of the town Karaikal in the Puduchery (or Pondicherry) State.
It is actually a minor temple in the complex of the bigger Śiva temple called Darbhāraṇyeśvara Temple situated on the south bank of Kāverī.
According to the local legends the Śivaliṅga was discovered in a forest covered with the darbha grass (Poa-cyno- suriodes) by Brahmā the creator himself. Feeling happy about it he mentally worshipped it and built a temple round it decorating it with navaratnas (nine gems). The temple has therefore came to be known as Darbhāraṇyeśvara Temple.
Using his daṇḍa (holy stick) he dug a tank, known as Brahmadaṇḍa-tīrtham. Thereafter Indra and other deities also created such holy tanks.
Darbhāraṇyeśvara is the main deity of the temple. The other deities are Prāṇāmbikā, Tyāgarāja, Nīlotpalāmbikā and Vināyaka.
The Śanaiścara temple is just outside, the image being in a niche.
King Naḷa who was under the malefic influence of Śani, worshipped this Śiva and got rid of all of his troubles. Hence he stayed here for some time and dug a tank which now bears his name as Naḷatīrtham. The deity itself got the name Nallar and Nallatra Īśar.
Later he worshipped Śani also and received his blessings. This Śani henceforward became very famous and started attracting a large number of devotees.
The image is black in colour with one hand showing abhayamudrā (assuring protection) which is rather rare. There is a golden crow which is his mount.
Five pūjas are performed everyday to this deity. Saturday is considered as a sacred day to worship him.
The festivals normally celebrated are:
|Ādipūram; Ambu;Brahmotsava and Rathotsava||(April-May for 18 days)|
A very important festival is held for two days whenever the planet Śani leaves one rāśi (zodiacal sign) and enters the next, which will last for 2 1/2 years. This is called Śanipeyārci. During this festival lakhs of devotees gather at this temple.