Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Veeratteswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||Ilankilai Nayaki|
|Vriksham:||Vanni||Teertham:||Patala Gangai, Pancha Mukha Teertham|
|Timing:||6 to 12 & 4 to 8||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Vaippu Sthalam||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Vazhuvur||District:||Mayiladuthurai|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Mayiladuthurai (7.1 km)||Kumbakonam (36.2 km)|
|Tiruvarur (37.3 km)||Nagapattinam (48.3 km)|
Vazhuvur is located 9km south of Mayiladuthurai.
Sthala puranam and temple information
This is one of the eight ashta veeratta sthalams (or veerattanam), at each of which Lord Siva performed valorous deeds to vanquish a form of evil. This is the place where Lord Siva vanquished the rogue elephant that had been set upon Him.
The legend of this temple goes back to the story of Siva as Bhikshatanar. The sages of Darukavanam believed solely in penance and Vedic rites, ignoring the primordial cause – the Lord. Their wives were equally egotistic. To remedy this, Lord Siva took on the form of Bhikshatanar – the naked, wandering mendicant – and with Vishnu as Mohini, they both arrived in Darukavanam. The sages’ wives were attracted to the handsome form of Bhikshatanar, which infuriated the sages so much, that they undertook an abhichari yagam. Out of this came various nefarious forces, including a snake, a tiger and a rogue elephant. Lord Siva overcame the snake and wore it around his neck, and the tiger was equally dispatched, its skin serving as the waistcloth of Bhikshatanar/Siva.
When the elephant was released, Lord Siva took on a diminutive form and entered the elephant through its trunk. Once inside, He regained his original form, and came out tearing the elephant’s skin, and then draped it over himself. This gives the Lord the name Krittivasar (Gajasamharamurti is present as the utsavar). After realising their error, the sages came and prayed here. The legend of Bhikshatanar and Darukavanam is beautifully carved on the eastern gopuram, and can be seen on the lowest / first tier of the gopuram.
In Sanskrit, kritti is skin, and vasa means shrouded by or clothed in. However, there is no reference in any literature that the skin is that of an elephant – in fact, most portrayals of the Lord are with tiger skin.
A king named Vikraman was defeated by Sani, and fell into the temple’s massive Teertham, for relief. Seeing this, Sani realised he was in trouble, and sought pardon from Lord Siva. As punishment, he lost one of his legs.
Vazhuvur gets its name from vazhuvu, in Tamil, meaning “to slip away”. It is believed that this town managed to escape the pralayam on many occasions, and hence the name.
This is a very old temple, which is evident by the fact that the temple houses a separate murti of Jyeshta Devi (moodevi), who has worshipped here (the Lingam worshipped by her is also present).
The temple has a very unique Navagraham shrine. Guru faces Sani (they are benevolent to each other), and so this place is referred to as a Grahamitra sthalam. Another interesting aspect here is that the Teertham comes between Nandi and the moolavar. In most temples, it is the Teertham first, followed by Nandi, and then the moolavar. The Teertham is also called the Pancha Mukha Teertham, said to represent the five faces of Lord Siva.
According to some legends, Vazhuvur is the birthplace of Ayyappan, since the story of Lord Siva as Bhikshatanar is where Lord Vishnu as Mohini also appears (Ayyappan is their son). There is a separate shrine for Ayyappan at this temple.
Bathing in the temple’s tank is said to bless childless devotees, with childbirth.
A note on Gajasamharamurti
Gajasamharamurti is one of the 64 recognised Siva murtis, or depictions, of Lord Siva. While unusual, it is not rare to find sculptures and carvings of Gajasamharamurti in various temples – a personal favourite being the one at Moovar Kovil, Kodumbalur.
Typical portrayals of Gajasamharamurti are with one leg – typically the left – raised in a posture called bhujanga trasitam, the other leg on the elephant’s head (indicating subjugation), four hands holding the elephant’s skin like an aura, and often, one hand pointing to Parvati on the left of the Lord. In turn, Parvati is seen either carrying Murugan on her hips, or holding his hand. The symbolism of Siva’s hand pointing at them is to depict that the deed was done for their benefit. Parvati is often seen with a shocked look on her face – so terrifying is the act of tearing the elephant’s skin and coming out.
Other information for your visit
Contact: 04364 253911 / 253198