Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Aadi Chokkanathar||Ambal / Thayar:||Meenakshi|
|Deity:||Siva||Historical name:||Vada Aalavaai / Uttara Aalavaai|
|Timing:||6 to 11.30 & 4.30 to 9||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Simmakkal||District:||Madurai|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Madurai (2 km)||Sivaganga (10 km)|
|Virudhunagar (52 km)||Dindigul (62 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
Idaikkar Siddhar, a close friend of sage Kapilar, visited Madurai which was then ruled by the Pandya king Kuchela Pandyan, himself a scholar. Idaikkar visited the king and paid tribute to him through verse. But instead of satisfaction, the king felt slighted and jealous, at the fact that Idaikkar came across as more erudite and scholarly. The upset king left immediately and went to Sundareswarar (the main temple at Madurai) and complained to the Lord. The king said, he didn’t know if Idaikkar’s immodesty was an affront to the king or the Lord Himself. After the king left, Siva, together with Parvati, quietly left the temple, and settled at this place, which is located to the north of the main temple. Then, through a celestial voice, the Lord informed Idaikkar that He would teach the king a lesson. When the priests assembled the following morning, they found the moolavar Lingam of Sundareswarar, missing. The bewildered king heard a celestial voice that his (the king’s) insult of Idaikkar was the reason for the deitites’ departure from the temple, and had settled in the Lingam at Vada Aalavaai. The king begged for mercy but was told that this Sokkanathar was even more special since Kubera had worshipped here.
Kubera came to Aalavaai (Madurai) to worship Siva. Being the digpalaka and adipati of the northern direction, he installed a Lingam here, ie to the north of the city, and worshipped it. This is said to have taken place even before Siva, as Sundareswarar, came to Madurai, and so this temple is regarded as older than the Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple, and as the name suggests, Siva here is called Aadi Sokkanathar.
As this is located to the north of the Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple, this place came to be known as Uttara Aalavaai or Vada Aalavaai. (Similarly, there is a temple called the Then Tiru Aalavaai Sokkanathar temple, located to the south of the Sundareswarar temple).
The Navagraham deity Budhan (Mercury) is said to have worshipped here, and so this is a Budhan sthalam, similar to Tiruvenkadu (which is part of the Kumbakonam Navagraham temples group). As a result, this is also a parikara sthalam for relief from the adverse aspects (dosham) of Budhan.
While the sthala puranam refers to an ancient temple, the structural temple we see today is of much more recent origin, possibly a few hundred years old. The temple, located on the side of the road in Simmakkal, is very simply built. It does not have a gopuram, and has two separate sanctums – for Aadi Sokkanathar and Meenakshi Amman – both facing east. There is a separate Navagraham shrine in the northeast corner, and there are koshta deities, set as per agamic rules. Interestingly, there is a small shrine with a murti of Idaikkar siddhar.
Other information for your visit
A little-known fact is that there are five temples in and around Madurai, which represent the pancha-boothams, or five elements. Just like the main pancha bootha sthalams, these temples also represent the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. The five temples are:
Aapudaiyar temple, Sellur (Water)
Immayil Nanmai Tharuavar temple, central Madurai (Earth)
Mukteeswarar temple, Theppakulam (Air)
Then Tiru Aaalavaai, central Madurai (Fire)
Aadi Sokkanathar, Vada Aalavaai (Ether / sky)
The Meenakshi Amman temple is said to be surrounded by two sets of temples, called the Ull-Avaranam (inner-garland) and Veli-Avaranam (outer-garland). The Ull-Avaranam is comprised of the Adi Chokkanathar to the north, Immayilum Nanmai Tharuvaar to the west, Mukteeswarar to the east (also called Airavatanallur since Airavata, the celestial elephant worshipped there) and the Then Tiruvaalavaai temple to the south. The Veli-Avaranam is comprised of is comprised of Tiruparankundram to the south, Tiruvedagam to the west, Tiruappanur / Sellur to the north and Tiruppuvanam to the east.
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