Kumbakonam Navagraha Temples | Thanjavur | Darasuram

My wife had been wanting to go to Kumbakonam and visit the temples dedicated to the 9 planets worshipped in the Hindu tradition. I invited my mother to join us. To a non-believer like me, this was going to be an overdose of temples. 

It surprises me that people believe in these concepts so religiously despite knowing very well that 4 among these 9 are not even planets. The Sun is a star, The Moon is a natural satellite of the Earth. Rahu and Kethu are not even a physical object. They are in fact the ascending and descending node of the moon that causes eclipse. Our ancestors were definetly not fools. They were very intelligent people. Lot of their findings have been further developed and helped the later generations to discover the secrets of the universe. However, they were also wrong about many things. Likewise, we might be wrong about many things today and only the future can reveal that. Anyways, I shall allow the believers to worry about justifying their stand and move on. But I had my own reasons to do this trip. 

I wanted to visit Thanjavur and Dharasuram. The ancient temples in the locations are the best examples of Indian architecture and I cannot have enough of them. I also enjoy the food in Tamil Nadu. Moreover, why would I say no to any kind of travel? I love to travel, visit new places, discovery new cultures and meet interesting people.

On Friday the 9th of February 2024, we left Bangalore at around 4:30am. I drove non-stop till Krishnagiri where I stopped for breakfast at Anand Grand Palace. The masala dosa, idlis and Pongal were extremely tasty. After a satisfying breakfast, we continued our journey towards Salem. From Salem, I took a state highway and some shortcuts to reach Thiruvaiyaru. We drove along the Kollidam river (Northern distributary of Kaveri river).  The river was almost dry. This reminded me of the dispute between the state of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the Kaveri river water. 

Planet No.1: Shri Kailasanathar Temple - Chandra Graha (Moon)

Shri Kailasanathar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva but it also houses a shrine for Chandra Graha (Moon). The temple is located near Thiruvaiyaru. Thiruvaiyaru is popular for the Thyagaraja Aaradhana that happens every year. This annual music festival dedicated to the famous poet Thagaraja involves all top classical singers of India. The road to the temple passes through paddy fields. The temple was completely empty and we were lucky to get an easy darshana of the deity. 

We then drove to Kumbakonam. I wanted to check into a lodge first. I drove to the lodge I had stayed in during my visit in 2020. It is surprising that I recognised the place. Much has changed in these 4 years and Kumbakonam appeared much more crowded than before. Most hotels were full because of an auspicious muhurta on Sunday. There were many weddings happening and almost all lodges were booked. While I was searching on the internet, I came across a very good hotel named "Le Garden". It is located at the city centre. Though slightly expensive than the others, it seemed like a decent place to stay. Also, with my mother along, I preferred a comfortable place. I got a good deal of a room with 3 beds for Rs3000 per night. I opted out of the complementary breakfast as we had to leave early next morning. Surprisingly, that saved us almost Rs500 per day. 

It was already 2pm so, we had lunch at Iyangar cafe located at the hotel and then checked into our room. The room was neat and clean. We relaxed for some time and then headed out. It was time to cover another planet!


Planet No.2 - Arulmigu Abathsagayeswarar Temple, Alangudi.  – Guru Graha (Jupiter)

The drive to Alangudi from Kumbakonam was good. It was a drive of 1.5 hours. Again, we crossed paddy fields to reach there. The temple wasn’t crowded. We finished our darshana without any hassle. 


From here, we drove to Thanjavur. The last time, I was there, I had loved spending the evening there. I did not want to miss the sunset. By the time we reached Brihadeeswara Temple, the orange sun was right behind the temple, almost about to set. We sat there for more than an hour and watched the setting sun tint the granite stone with a golden glow. I enjoy sitting here and admiring this beautiful work from the Chola era. I consider this to be one of the most magnificent temples of India. Amma too enjoyed this place a lot. She told me that the heavy wind that was continuously blowing gave her the impression of being at a sea shore. 

We stayed there till almost 7:30pm. On the way back, we stopped to have some Madurai special ice cream – Jigarthanda. We had a quick dinner at Iyangar cafe and headed back to our rooms and called it a day. 

Next morning (10th Feb 2024), we woke up very early and got ready to leave by 5am. I drove directly to Thirunallar first. 

Planet No.3 - Shri Dharbaranyeswaraswamy Temple, Thirunallar– Shani Graha (Saturn)

We reached Thirunallar at around 6am. As it was Saturday, the Shani temple was crowded. The police stopped the vehicles at about a kilometre away from the temple. One of the cops asked us if we were coming from Karnataka after seeing our vehicle number plate. He kind of hinted at allowing us in for a bribe. The cop sent a a young local man to discuss with us. He mentioned that we had to pay Rs200 to the police and Rs100 to him so that I could park the car closer to the temple. I would have never paid this amount had my mother not been with us. When I went to pay the constable, he told me that I should be paying the amount directly to the local. The young man asked me to follow him as he rode ahead on his bike. He took me all the way to the temple entrance and found me a parking lot close by. I paid him the amount and he dropped me back to the entrance. I realised that this is a joint plan between the cops and the locals to earn some money on Saturdays. They deliberately block the road from a distance and only let in the ones who pay a bribe. The temple was surely crowded but not to an extent that one must block roads. 

There was a queue to view the God but it was moving fast. I dared to take my mother along in that crowd and without much trouble, we were able to finish the darshana of the main deity Shiva and the Shaneeswara God. 

After that, I drove towards the next temple. On the way, we had a good breakfast near Karaikal. I had plain dosa, Pongal and iddiyapam. In the restaurants here, it is a practice to serve food on a plantain leaf. Not only is this economical and easy to dispose but it is also much cleaner than a washed reusable plate. 

To reach our next temple, I took a route that passes by the Bay of Bengal. Near Tharangambadi village, I stopped the car and we walked to the beach. There were several cows wandering in the beach. I wondered what food they would get at the beach. The beach wasn’t very clean but it was peaceful as there was no one there.

Planet No.4 - Sri Naganathaswamy Temple – Kethu Graha

Sri Naganthaswamy temple was not crowded and we had a quick darshana of the Kethu God and the Shiva linga in the main shrine. 

Planet No.5 - Thiruvenkadu Suweathaaranyeshwarar Temple – Buddha Graha (Mercury)

Next, I quickly drove to Suwethaaranyeshwarar temple which is a huge complex. We had to walk a long distance to see the main deity and then to the shrine dedicated to Buddha graha. Without wasting much time here, we continued the journey. We had to cover 3 more temples before 1pm, when they all close.  

Planet No.6 - Vaitheeswaran Temple – Mangala Graha (Mars)

Vaitheeswaran temple is again a huge complex and we finished a quick darshana there too. Luckily no temple was extremely crowded. We were able to easily finish our viewing. 

Planet No.7 - Suriyanar Temple – Surya Graha (Sun)

Since Suriyanar temple was supposed to close at 12:30pm, I decided to head there first. We got a quick darshana there too. In this temple, the main deity is Surya - the Sun god. The idol is impressive. Outside the temple, we had tender coconut and a lime juice to beat the heat. 

Planet No.8 - Sri Agneeswarar Temple – Shukra Graha (Venus)

The last temple before lunch was only 10 minutes away from Surya temple. As the temple was completely empty, we got a good view of the Venus God. The idol was made of Bronze and resembled a Utasava Moorthi

After finishing all the darshanas as planned, we decided to head back to town and have our lunch. We tried a new restaurant close to our hotel. The food was okay. I am a fan of Sambhar-rice that they serve in the restaurants here. They are very tasty. 

We went back to our room and relaxed until 4pm. Temples that close around 1pm open again at 4pm. For us, one more planet temple was pending.

Planet No.9 - Thirunageswaram Naganthasamy Temple – Rahu Graha

The last temple dedicated to Rahu graha is located very close to Kumbakonam town. We reached there within 15 minutes. Again, since it is a huge complex, we had to walk a long distance from the parking area. The temple architecture is as always intricate and impressive. 


From here, we headed to Darasuram. I had visited Darasuram back in 2018 and had loved the architecture of the temple. Like, Thanjavur, I knew that my mother would love this place too. We relaxed there for sometime before heading back to town. Airavatesvara Temple architecture is spectacular and merits a detailed viewing just like the magnificent temple of Thanjavur. 

On the way back, I stopped at Mahamaham tank. Last time, I remember, I had sat by the pond at night. Now, the entry to the pond is prohibited. We had dinner at a local restaurant and returned back to our room. 

Next morning (11th Feb), I woke up around 6am and went for a walk around the town. I had my morning tea and retuned back. We got ready and had breakfast at the restaurant next door. 

We checked out of the hotel, had a quick breakfast and headed to the Adi Kubeshwarar temple in town. The temple again was empty. Outside the temple, a mahout brought an elephant. People gathered around him and began offering money to the animal. The elephant would collect the note and store it in its trunk. It would then touch the devotee's head that the latter considered as a blessing. Once a certain amount of cash had been collected, the mahout slowly took the money out of the trunk. This foolish process continued. It is disgusting to see certain things that the humans do. The elephant needs to be free, in the forest. But here it is, chained and controlled by a tiny, but evil creature. 

I took the state highway to reach Srirangam. On the way, we passed through small towns, crossed Kollidam river again and witnessed village life. But as it was a Sunday, Srirangam was heavily crowded and there was a long queue. Last time too I had returned without viewing the main deity. There are tickets for viewing the Gods in most of these temples. If you want to see the deity for free, you have to form a long queue. If you pay Rs50 or Rs100, then you can join the same queue slightly ahead, and if you pay Rs300 then you go even further. I find that to be extremely silly that one has to pay money to view God! What I find even more disturbing is that so many people are seriously following it as though this is the most important aspect of their whole existence.

We returned without a darshana. On the way back, I stopped at Namakkal for a very good full-meal lunch at a Sarvana bhavan restaurant. The Namakkal fort seemed very impressive and I made plans to visit it someday. 

I had one short coffee break before reaching Bangalore at 9pm. It had been a good 3-day trip. Though we had to hurry from one temple to another before it closed, we had no notable discomfort. My mother was very happy and I think that served my purpose of this travel. 


  1. I was an atheist and He was not afraid of me. I became a believer but could not find Him. (Tamil poet Kannadasan)

    1. Hello Rajan, My journey is the opposite of this. However, I am not sure if i can call myself an atheist. I do not deny the existence of a God but I just do not see it as a worthwhile exercise to investigate him/it and be consumed by his thought rather than investing that time of developing oneself.
      If one reads history in great detail, one realizes how the ancient Astika and Nastika scholars and the ancient Greeks were overpowered by the more ritualistic groups. They, with their dogmatism, allied with the kings to advance their reach. I am therefore forced to think that we are just a victim of this political motive laid centuries ago. The true renaissance of Indian culture would be to revisit Indian philosophies and not the ritualistic practices of a religion. I am now convinced that the founding fathers of this nation emphasized on that revival of Indian heritage.

    2. Haven't travelled much in TN except to the popular locations like Madurai etc. You have really tempted me to explore that region also. What forts are to North India, temples I believe are to the South India, reflective of the culture in their times.

    3. True. You should - Atleast Thanjavur. That is a must.


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