Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Tirumarainathar||Ambal / Thayar:||Veda Nayaki, Tirumarai Nayaki|
|Timing:||6 to 12 & 4 to 8||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Vaippu Sthalam||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Tiruvathavur||District:||Madurai|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Madurai (29 km)||Sivaganga (33 km)|
|Karaikudi (65 km)||Dindigul (71 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
Though not one of the 63 Nayanmars referred to in the Periya Puranam, Manikkavasagar – the author of Tiruvasagam and Sivapuranam – is often regarded as the human form of Siva born on earth. He is also counted as one of the “Naalvar” (The Four) – who represent the foremost among bhakti saints in Saivism in Tamil Nadu. The story of Manikkavasagar – born in a brahmin family but ended up as a minister under Varaguna Pandyan II – is intense and replete with fascinating stories that demonstrate his faith in Siva. Tiruvathavur is the birthplace of Manikavasagar, who is also often referred to as Tiruvathavuraar, the one from Tiruvathavur. This temple is where some of the events in the life of the saint, occurred, the other being the Avudaiyar Koil Atmanathar temple at Tiruperunthurai.
At one time, the asuras were harassing the devas, and the latter approached Vishnu, who defeated the asuras and chased them. The asuras sought protection under sage Brighu and his wife Kavyamata. Vishnu asked them to hand over the asuras, but the sage refused, and so Vishnu cut off Kavyamata’s head. An infuriated sage Brighu then cursed Vishnu that he would have to take many incarnations on Bhulokam, and also have to be separated from Lakshmi at various times. In order to overcome this curse, Vishnu came to Madurai, and after worshipping Sundareswarar there, came here. At this place, He found a cow which was worshipping a Siva Lingam by pouring its milk over a lotus flower there. He too worshipped the Lingam, by repeating the Siva Panchaksharam. Siva appeared as Veda Pureeswarar, explained to Vishnu that He (Siva) was Himself the Vedas, and demonstrated this by making a sound called the Vedagam, emanate from His anklet. Siva is regarded as the essence of the Vedas, and so is called Vedapureeswarar (or Tirumarainathar, marai in Tamil referring to the Vedas).
According to the sthala puranam, several others such as Agni and Sage Kapilar, have also found relief here from curses or other problems. Chief among these is Sani, who was relieved from rheumatism and arthritis, as a result of excessive vata (which, amongst the Ayurveda doshas, is related to ether – air and space), which had arisen due to a curse by Sage Mandavya.
There are three versions of how the place came to be called Tiruvathavur. One is that Siva and Vishnu engaged in debate (vadam) according to the above-mentioned sthala puranam. The second is that of the cow (aa, in Tamil) which worshipped the Siva Lingam, and whose hoof print is seen on the Lingam inside the temple even today. The third – and least likely – is from the story of Sani’s vata-dosha.
In Tamil retellings of the Mahabharatam, there is a story of Purushamrigam – a half-human, half-animal creature. The creature was created by Vishnu to protect the Pandavas at the time of the Rajasuya Yagna, and it is said that this is where the Pusushamrigam was created. The huge pond / lake behind the temple is called the Purushamriga Teertham, and is the Teertham for this temple, which has a murti of the Purushamrigam placed in the middle.
Once, in Kailasam, Siva made the dog which accompanies Bhairavar, disappear, to make Bhairavar realise the folly of his ego. Bhairavar was then told to worship at Tiruvathavur in order to get his companion back. As a form of thanks, Bhairavar created the temple tank known as the Bhairava Teertham.
The temple is dated to before the 7th century, the time of Manikkavasagar, built by the early Pandyas. Later additions and renovations were made by the Vijayanagara dynasty. There are inscriptions in the temple referring to Siva as Tirumarainathar, and also of endowments and gifts of land to the temple. Other inscriptions in the temple, dated to the 16th and 17th century, are not decipherable.
On the right, immediately upon entering the temple, is a mandapam, where Siva gave a vision of His holy feet to Manikkavasagar, and also made him listen to the same sounds emanating from His anklets as Vishnu had done. This mandapam – called the 100-pillar mandapam – was constructed in the time of Manikkavasagar (possibly by the saint himself, going by some accounts).
Veda Nayaki Amman has a separate east-facing shrine to the south, ie to the right of Siva, making this depiction of their Kalyana Kolam. Amman here is said to have emerged from the sacrificial fire at the Arana Ketha yagam that Brahma conducted, and so She is also called Aranavalli.
The temple is aesthetically very well laid out, and boasts of high quality Pandya period architecture. The Natarajar sabhai also has breath-taking craftsmanship visible in its design and sculptures. The temple has 7 teerthams associated with it, including the Bhairava Teertham and the Purushamriga Teertham which are located behind the temple, as well as the Kapila Teertham, Brahma Teertham, Vayu Teertham, Agni Teertham, and Siva Teertham which are inside the temple complex.
Other Information for your visit
Due to the strong connection with Manikkavasagar, Guru puja is conducted here on the day of Maham nakshatram in the Tamil month of Aani (June-July), which was the day of the saint’s mukti at the age of 32. The house in which the saint was born has also been converted into a temple, and is located very close to this Siva temple. This temple also has a separate shrine for Manikkavasagar, where the saint is depicted holding palm leaves of the Tiruvasagam.
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