Nellaiappar Temple is one of the Pancha Sabha Temples (Copper) of Lord Shiva. This is one of the big temples in Pandiya Naadu measuring 756 in length and 378 feet in breadth. There are 2 temples at Tirunelveli, one for Lord Shiva who is known as Nellaiappar and the other one for Kanthimathi Ammai. Both the temples are located side by side and a corridor joins both the temples. On the southern prakaram of the presiding male deity's temple, the stone statues of Nayak Kings are found who have made immense contributions for the development of this temple. The beautiful statue of Lord Arumugam (Muruga) with His 2 consorts Valli and Deivaanai sitting on His mount Peacock can be seen in the west prakaram. This statue is beautifully carved from single block of big stone. From the eastern prakaram, one has to enter through a series of mandapams to reach the sanctum sanctorum of Nellaiappar.
The temple of female deity Kanthimathi Ammai can be reached from the south prakaram and passing through the connecting corridor. The 1000 pillar mandapam inside the female deity's temple is very famous and it is here the celestial wedding of Kanthimathi Ammai with Nellaiappar takes place every year during the festival in the Tamil month of Aippasi corresponding to October 15th to November 15th.
It is customary to worship Goddess Kaanthimathi first as in Madurai and Kanchi. Goddess Kaanthimathi has a full-fledged separate shrine, with a Changili (chain) Mandapam between the shrines of the Lord and His consort. Two separate temple view streets (Amman Sannadhi Theru and Swami Sannadhi Theru) lead the devotees to the respective shrines. In the sanctum of the Devi shrine, the image of the Goddess is an exquisite sculpture holding flowers in one hand. Locally She is known as Vadivannai.
Lord Nelliappar and Sri Venuvana Nathar are enshrined separately. Sri Nelliappar temple, spread over an area of 850 feet by 756 feet, has five Gopurams and is a treasurehouse of sculptured Mandapams.
There are several sacred Theerthams within the temple precincts. The beautiful Golden Lotus Tank, where Lord Shiva is said to have appeared in the water and Brahma as lotus, attracts the visitors' attention. The 96-pillared Unjal Mandapam, Maha Mandapam and Artha Mandapam are fine specimens of intricate workmanship. There is a Thousand Pillared Hall where the Thirukalyanam (Divine Wedding) festival is celebrated every year during the month of Aippasi (October-November). In the beautiful Vasanta Mandapam, Vasantotsavam is held in the month of Chitrai (April-May). In the Mani Mandapam, there are two major clusters of pillars, each containing 24 smaller cylindrical pillars, which when struck, produce musical notes.
Both Nelliappar and Kaanthimathi shrines have separate flagmasts. Sculptures of Arjuna, Karna and Veerabhadra arrest the visitors' attention.. There are separate shrines for Srimoola Nathar, Lord Vishnu in Ananthasayanam posture and Lord Nataraja and Devi Sivakami, both of which are beautiful copper images. In the south-eastern corner of the outer corridor, a Linga dedicated to Anavarathar is enshrined. The story goes that once the wife of a Nawab was suffering from an incurable disease. As advised, she started offering special worship to Lord Nelliappar. In course of time, she was cured of the disease and was also blessed with a male child. The Nawab couple named him Anavaratha Khan. In later years, a Linga was installed in the temple on the outer corridor. The Nawab family used to offer worship to the Linga from outside.