It is situated about Eight kilometers(5 miles) west
of Kumbakonam on the banks of a tributary of river Cauvery.
It is well connected to and surrounded by important
places like Mayiladuthurai, Papanasam, Tanjore and Kumbakonam.
Swamimalai, is fourth among the Six Sacred Shrines devoted
to Lord Muruga. Here is the place where Lord Muruga,
the Legend propounded the meaning of “Om”,
the Sacred Pranava Mantra to His Father Lord Shiva,
and thus assumed the title Swaminatha(“Lord of
Muruga expounding the meaning
of 'OM' to Lord Shiva
Once when Brahma, the Lord of all creations was proceeding
to Kailasa, the ever-playful child Lord Muruga asked
him for the meaning of the Pranava OM. When Brahma admitted
his ignorance, the Lord imprisoned him. With Brahma
imprisoned, all creations came to a standstill and Devas
prayed to Lord Siva to get Brahma released.
When Muruga insisted that the imprisonment was a just
punishment for the ignorance of Brahma, Lord Siva asked
him whether he himself knew the meaning of the primordial
Pranava OM. Lord Muruga said that he knew the meaning
of OM and can expound it to the end only if he can accept
him as guru and listen to the exposition as a devoted
disciple. As Lord Siva agreed to the request of Lord
Muruga and heard the exposition of OM as a disciple,
thus this place is known as Swamimalai and the presiding
deity as Swaminathan.
The temple, situated on a hill, has an impressive statue
of Murugan in the sanctum. He has an elephant as his
vehicle instead of the typical peacock.
This small village is also an important centre for Bronze
casting, where artisans still use traditional methods
to create beautiful images for temples.
Guidelines for fashioning Bronze Idols:
The Thanjavur region’s wealth of artistic traditions
includes the creation of exquisite bronze images through
the process known as Cire Perdue or
the “Lost Wax” technique.
A model of the image is first made in wax and then coated
with layers of clay to create a mould, which is heated
to allow the melting wax to flow out through a hole
at the base. A molten alloy of five metals (Pancha
Loha) is poured into the hollow. When it cools
the mould is broken and image is finished and polished.
Finally the image’s eyes are sealed with a mixture
of Honey and Ghee, and then ritually “opened”
by a priest, using a golden needle.
Even today, traditional artisans, known as Sthapathis,
create these images according to a fixed set of rules
and guidelines laid down in the Shilpa Shastra, an ancient
treatise on art. The main centre for bronze
casting in Tamil Nadu is Swamimalai.