Sthanumalayan Temple is the popular temple which was built in 17th century. It is located 14 km from Kanyakumari. This temple is dedicated to Linga, known as Sthanumalayan Swami, the triple aspect of God. The word Sthanumalayan refers to Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma as Sthanu represents Shiva, Mal represents Vishnu while Ayan represents Brahma i.e. Siva, Vishnu and Brahma in "One Form".
The entrance tower of this temple can be seen from a distance as it rises 134 feet. The front part of the tower is covered with sculptures and statues from Hindu mythology. The entrance of the temple is about 24 feet high with a beautifully carved door. With many shrines and Mandapam scattered in the inner area, there is only one corridor running along the outer wall of the temple. This temple attracts the devotees of both Vaishnavites and Shaivite in large numbers.
Once you enter the temple, you see a laurel (konnayadi) tree which is about 2000 years old. Within the temple complex, about 30 shrines of various deities are located.
The Natakasalai , the Oonjal Mandapam (Mandapam is a raised platform built in Hindu temples) , the Rishabha Mandapam , the Four Prakarams (concentric boundaries encircling the temple) especially the south, Alankara Mandapam , Kulasekhara Mandapam , Chitra Sabha, the splendidly constructed Vasanta Mandapam and the magnificent Chembakaraman Mandapam are outstanding.
There are four large pillars in the Alankara Mandapam adjacent to the Northern corridor. Each pillar is formed by a group of smaller pillars all carved from a single stone. Two of these large pillars have 33 smaller pillars and the other two 25 each. These are the famous musical pillars. When tapped, each of these smaller pillars produce different musical note. Unfortunately, to prevent vandalism, these pillars are surrounded by iron grills. There are other carvings and sculptures on every pillar and panel throughout the temple, which are a feast to the eye and the imagination.
Beside the four musical pillars, two other pillars face each other. These pillars are the sculptural depictions of Ramavarma, king of Travancore State, and his brother, Marthanda Varma. The two royal devotees were always followed by their cashier and a servant with special jar and towel.
After each offering, the king would have to wash his hands in water from a special jar; a towel was then needed to wipe his hands. The sculptured servant holds a water jar in one hand and a towel in the other - always ready to offer service to the king.
According to the Hindu custom, one should offer remuneration for the performance of religious rites. But kings do not carry money with them, so the cashier follows them.
In the sculpture the cashier is followed by a deer and by Kundodaran - his attendant, holding a bowl on his head - to receive the alms. On the left side of the same pillar, the wife of the Rishi of Darukavana is seen dropping alms into the bowl with a spoon.
Carving of Krishna with flute in hand is seen on the pillar of the Chitra Sabha entrance. On the left side of the pillar is a carving of a tree next to the tank where the Gopi s (female cowherds) of Vrindavan went to bathe, leaving their clothes on the bank. Lord Krishna, as a boy took away the Gopi s garments and hung them on the branches of the tree. This whole scene is carved with detail on single block of stone is considered to be a masterpiece of Dravidian sculpture.
Beyond the Navagraha Mandapam (pillared antechamber) is the Sannidhi of Maya Ganapati containing an image of Maya Ganapati - Ganapati (the elephant-headed god).Here the Ganapathy holds Maya by one hand and he holds a water pot in his trunk. This Vinayaka has ten hands holding different insignias.
There is yet another Vinayaka known as Sakshi Vinayaka (that is, Vinayaka who witnessed the redemption of the curse on Indra). Vallabha Vinayaka is the most peculiar, holding by his left arm his wife Vallabha. There is also a stone with Pali inscription of the Buddhist emperor Asoka. On the other side of the stone a Tamil translation is given.
In the northern side of the temple is a small Sannidhi of Rama along with his consort Sita.
When you come out of the Alankara Mandapam you come face to face with a gigantic statue of Lord Hanuman. This statue is the tallest statue in India which is 22 feet high and depicts Viswaroopam of Lord Hanuman.
It is believed that Sthanumalayan Swamy temple is the only temple, which is dedicated to the Trimoorthy (Trinity) in India. This temple complex has many beautiful structures constructed at various times. It is one of the best examples of the Dravidian style of art and architecture.
Some of the sculptures in the temple like Vigneshwari (the female form of Vinayaka) and the scene of Geethopathesa to Parthasarathy. The Nandi statue, known as "Makkalai" made of mortar and lime is 13 feet tall and is one of the biggest Nandi statues in India.
According to the believers, Indra even to the present day visits the temple daily for performing "Ardhajama Pooja" in the night.