This is the largest and the oldest Shiva temple located in the center of the town of Kumbakonam. The presiding deity of this temple is Lord Kumbeswarar and the presiding Goddess is Sri Mangalambigai. There is a shrine dedicated to Adi Vinayaka (Lord Ganesh).
The temple contains some wonderful pieces of sculpture and architecture. Its main Gopuram is 128 feet high and has many intricately carved sculptures on it. On a single block of stone in the Navarathri Mandapam all the 27 stars and 12 Rasis or Rashis (signs) have been carved out. The image of Lord Subrahmanya, enshrined in the part of the temple, is a rare specimen. It has six heads but only six hands holding different kinds of weapons. There is an excellent collection of silver vahanas (palanquins) used to carry the deities at festival times.
Tradition goes to say that during the 'Mahapralaya' (Great Floods) after Dwaparayuga, a 'Kumbam' (Pot) full of amirtham and seeds for creation was set afloat by Lord Shiva. It was proclaimed by Shiva Himself that the place where the pot touched theground and had its rest would be considered as the holiest places in the world.
Since the said Kumbam, as announced by the creator of the world, had its rest in this place, this ancient place is named as "Kumbakonam" after that Kumbam. Immediately after its rest Lord Shiva appeared in the guise of a hunter and broke thesaid Kumbam full of Amirtham with his arrow.
The nectar settled at two places one of which became the famous Mahamaham Tank. Out of the pieces of the broken pot Lord Shiva made out a ShivaLinga and entered into it. This is now enshrined in the temple, and hence the name Adi Kumbeswara, meaning - one who entered the Kumba or vessel long long ago.
It is to be noted that this MahaLinga unlike other Lingas found in other temples, is not made of granite stone and as such Abishekams cannot be performed with watery substances lest it should dissolve the shape of the Linga (also spelt as lingam).
The idol of Kirathamoorti is a special feature in the temple and it is a standing monument to commemorate the incidence that, Lord Shiva Himself has created the present MahaLinga.
The Saivaite Saints, Appar and Sambandhar who flourished prior to the 7th century AD has sung devotional songs (Thevarams) in praise of the presiding deities of the temple.
The temple is kept open from 5:30 in the morning and stays so till 12:00 in the noon. The temple usually remains closed during the noon hours, and reopens in the evening at 4:00 p.m. The temple closes in the night after the last pujas are performed by 8:00 p.m.