There are several puranams and stories connected with the Tiruvidaimaruthur Mahalingeswarar temple. Below are the main ones.
Varaguna Pandyan and brahmahathi dosham
There is an interesting story of brahmahathi dosham, connected with this temple. In the 7th century, the Pandya king Varaguna Pandyan was hunting in his forests. In the evening, as he was returning to the city, the horse trampled a brahmin who was sleeping under a tree, killing the man. However, the horse was fast, so the king did not realise what had happened, and got to know of it later when his soldiers who were following him, reported the situation.
The king tried various penances, but was unable to shake off the sin of killing a brahmin (brahmahathi dosham). Desperate, the king worshipped Sundareswarar at Madurai, where he heard a divine voice telling him to give chase to the Chola king who would soon try to invade Madurai.
Events took place as prophesised, and when chasing the Chola king, Varaguna Pandyan was led to Tiruvidaimaruthur. Amazed at seeing this temple, he dismounted, bathed in the temple tank, and entered the temple through the eastern entrance. As soon as he did so, the sin left him. A voice also commanded him to exit through the western entrance, so that the sin does not re-attach to him.
Even today, there is a small shrine / alcove ear the eastern entrance of the temple, featuring a crouching figure with an oversized head – this is the representation of brahmahathi dosham. Many devotees believe that the right procedure is to enter through the eastern gate and exit the temple through the western gate.
Continuing with the story of Varaguna Pandyan, the Chola king sued for peace and offered his daughter in marriage to the Pandya king. Because of her outstanding beauty, Pandyan felt she would be better served by being offered to the Lord instead, and so he took his bride-to-be to the temple, where a Jyoti emerged from the Lingam and the girl merged into it.
The following morning, priests found the girl’s hand and wrist – complete with jewellery – on top of the Lingam (because she was holding on to it), but this too vanished soon after. Varaguna Pandyan later built the Sundareswarar shrine on the northern side of the temple, and also created the second prakaram (called Kodumudi prakaram) decorated with scenes from Kailasam. It is regarded that going around this prakaram once gives the benefit of having circumambulated the Lord 1000 times.
Once, a pious fisherman caught several fish and was riding his cart back to his village. It was night-time when he reached Tiruvidaimaruthur, so he decided to rest on the banks of the temple tank.
Suddenly, the Lord appeared in front of him and asked him to remove the cart’s cover. Upon the fisherman doing so, all the fish came alive, jumped into the river, and then assumed the form of Rudras before ascending heavenwards (since then, this tank is called the Rudra Teertham, and there is a shrine for Atmanathar next to it).
Although the fisherman was pleased to be able to obey the Lord’s orders, he was concerned that without the weight, his bulls would run amok with the cart. So, the Lord asked him to load bricks instead.
The following day, the fisherman reached home and reported the incidents to his mother, who in turn reported the matter to the king. When the king ordered the cart’s cover to be removed, they found bricks of gold instead. Pleased with their honesty, the king let the fisherman and his mother keep all the gold.
Pattinathar and his disciple
Tiruvidaimaruthur is the birthplace of the saint Pattinathar, who had a disciple named Badragiri, who had a begging bowl and a dog that used to follow him all the time.
One day, Siva appeared to Pattinathar outside the temple, in the guise of a mendicant, and asked for food. Pattinathar, having renounced everything, asked the mendicant to go inside and find Badragiri who still had attachments to the world. The mendicant duly approached Badragiri and narrated what Pattinathar had said.
This upset Badragiri, because he was regarded as a “family man” with attachments. Disgusted with himself, Badragiri threw his bowl in anger, and ended up breaking it as well as killing the dog. Then the mendicant revealed his true form, and returned the bowl and also brought the dog back to life.