Kallazhagar Temple, Alagarkoil, Madurai – Legends
Kallazhagar redeeming Manduka Maharishi:
The legend has it that sage Suthapas (Munivar) was bathing in Nupura Ganga at Azhakar Hill and did not pay heed to Durvasa Maharishi, who was passing by. The enraged Durvasa cursed Suthapas that he would turn into a frog until he is redeemed of his curse by Lord Sundararajar, who is also known as Kallazhagar. The Suthapas Maharishi, who is named as ‘Manduka maharishi’ Munivar because of his frog status, performed ‘Thapas’ (prayer) on the banks of river Vaigai, which is otherwise known as Vegavathi, at Thenur.
The Lord Kallazhagar comes from his abode in Azhakar Hill to redeem Manduka Maharishi of his curse, when he is praying. Since days unknown, it is believed that the lord Kallazhagar comes to Thenur via Malaipatti, Alanganallur and Vayalur. In Thenur Mandapam, the lord redeems the sage of his curse and leaves for his abode. "During Thirumalai Nayak regime (1623 to 1659 AD), in 1653 the Manduka Maharishi relieving ritual was shifted to Vandiyur village where the event is performed at Thenur Mandapam, built by Thirumalai Nayak himself,"
Every year in the Tamil month of Chittirai, Azhagar is taken on his Garuda Vahanam on a 20 km procession. He is said to go to the Vaigai in Madurai to provide Moksham to Manduka Maharishi. During this trip, he stops at different places along the way, with the Maduraites welcoming him into the city.
On the way to the Vaigai River, Kallazhagar makes an important stop at Thallaakulam Perumal koil to collect the garland sent by Aandaal of Srivilliputhur. Only after wearing this, does Azhagar get into the Vaigai River. During the Aadi Thiruvadi Pooram festival, marking the birthday of Aandaal, Lord Azhagar sends his attire to Srivilliputhur as a ‘return gesture’ to her.
In course of time, Thirumalai Naayakkar, the then ruler of the Pandya Kingdom decided to combine this festival with the Meenakshi Amman festival to make it the biggest festival of Madurai. The belief is that Kallazhagar makes it to Madurai to witness the wedding of his sister Meenakshi (Amman). This is yet another case of the Unity between Saivites and Vaishnavites.
18 Steps at Azhagar Koil:
Once there was an attempt to take away the idol of Kallazhagar. A priest at this temple put together a team and captured the 18 men who had come there to steal the idol. These 18 men were so lured by the beauty of Azhagar that they prayed to the Lord and requested that they stay here forever. It is believed that each of these 18 men have taken a step each and now reside in the 18 steps of the temple at the main Eastern entrance.
Realizing their mistake, they sought to act as security guards of the Lord and solve any issues relating to the people. Hence, Karupannaswamy almost acts as a court to solve all issues in this area and is said to provide a fair judgment for those who believe in him.
As a mark of this event, there is an image of ‘Karupanna Swamy’ (the representative of these 18 men) at the main entrance. This main Eastern Entrance remains closed through the year except for 9 days in the Tamil month of Aadi and one can get inside the temple through the North East entrance. Every night, during the pooja time, the flowers adorned by the Lord are brought to Karupanna Swamy.
Aandaal Weds Azhagar:
Aandaal and her father Periyazhvar are said to have come here from Srivilliputhur and legend has it that Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam appeared before Aandaal as Azhagar and married her. Aandaal who had promised to provide Azhagar with 100 pots of sweet morsel and butter could not do so as she merged with Lord Ranganatha. Much later, Ramanuja fulfilled her promise by providing the Lord with the morsel and butter. As a thanking gesture, Aandaal is said to have called him ‘Annan’, as a result of which Ramanuja came to be called ‘Kovil Annan’.
Vishwakarma designing the Somachandra Vimana:
Legend has it that the Somasundara Vimanam, also known as the Somaskanda Vimanam or the Somachandra Vimanam was designed by Vishwakarma.
Dharma Deva building this Shrine:
Legend has it that this shrine was built by Dharma Deva, upon whose request Vishnu took this place as his permanent abode.
Story behind Raya Gopuram:
Krishnadeva Raaya, whose intent it was to build huge temple towers at Vaishnavaite temples, also started the construction of a big temple tower at Azhagar Koil. As with several other temple towers, his defeat left this tower too unfinished. The temple tower is called Raya Gopuram or Mottai Gopuram (having remained unfinished).
Silappathikaram reference to Alagarmalai:
In Silappathikaram (one of the five maha Kaapiams of Tamil language), also the glory of this hill had been highlighted, that one brahmana (one who learn the Veda and Upanishad etc.) had told Kovalan (hero of the kaapium), Kannagi (Heroine) and gownthiadigal (jain guru), when approached Madurai for their survival, that they should visit "Thirumalirunkundrum", which is on the way to Madurai, and there they could capable of finding three holy Theerthas namely, Sravanam, Bawahaaruni, and Ista Siddhi, provided if they could fulfill some rituals there, which had been very difficult to follow.
Otherwise, they simply worship the feet of the lord Thirumal (lord Vishnu) and could get the moksha definitely. But the sign of those three theerthas has not been here, only Noopurangangai or Silambaaru is the only theertham seen nowadays. It has been there under the shrine of Goddess "Sri Rakkachi amman".
References of Alagar Malai in Ancient Epics:
Moorthy, Sthalam and Theertham of this temple had been described in Varaaga Puranam, Pramaanda Puranam, Vaamana Puranam, and Anjaneya Puranam clearly. The compilation of all these at in one form named as Virushapaathiri mahathmium found in Hindi language. Among the 108 Dhivya deshams of lord Vishnu, the name 'Sundaraja Perumal' has come in as common in the following three Sthalams, namely Anbil, Thirunaagai (Nagapattinam), and Koodal nagar (Madurai).
Alagar Malai had been highlighted in the Valmiki’s Ramayanam, Veda Vyasar's Mahabaratham and Sugar's Maha Bharatham. Vyasar quoted in his Mahabaratham, that Yudhishtra (Dharma) came here, when they had been experiencing the forest life for 12 years. Again in Sugar's Bhagavatham, Balarama, the incarnation of lord Vishnu, had reached the Virushapaathiri (Alagar malai), and had gone to Sethu (Rameshwaram), when on his pilgrimage.
Other names of Azhagar Malai: