Aatcheeswarar Temple (Aksheeswaraswamy Temple), Achirappakkam – Legends
Story behind the name Achirupakkam:
This temple is associated with the legend of Thripura Samharam (related to that at Tiruvatikai Veerattanam). Three cruel demons Tharaka, Kamalaksha and Vidyunmali, proud of the boons built palaces in gold, silver and iron respectively and the resultant powers they gained from Lord Brahamma through their intense penance began to harass the Devas violently. Unable to face their onslaught, The Devas along with Vishnu and Brahma appealed to Lord Shiva for protection and freedom.
Lord Shiva personified sky as the roof, ground as base, Surya & Chandra as Wheels, Four Vedas as horses, Merumalai as the Bow, Vasuki as the string and Thirumal himself as the arrow. Brahma was steering the Chariot. Devas Lord Shiva combined both earth and heaven and marched against the demons. According to rules, every work should start with Vinayaka worship. Lord Shiva is no exception. In his hurry to wage the war against the demons to save Devas, He forgot this protocol.
Devas too, having Lord himself with them ignored Vinayaka. Angry Vinayaka stopped Lord Shiva’s march by breaking the axle of his car. Axle in Tamil means Achu. Realizing the mistake, Lord asked Vinayaka to help in his mission. Son immediately obeyed. This event took place here. Since the Achu (axle) broke at this place, it came to be known as அச்சு + இறு + பாக்கம் = அச்சிறுபாக்கம் (Achu+Iru+pakkam = Achirupakkam).
Lord Achumuri Vinayaka (Vinayaka who broke the axis of the car of Lord Shiva) graces outside the temple facing west. This event is mentioned in the first Thirupugazh of saint Arunagirinathar as Achiru Vinayaka. It is believed that prayer to Achiru Vinayaka would help the devotee to defeat the obstacles coming in the way of his/her endeavors.
Temple with two presiding deities with two sanctums:
Once upon a time when a Pandya King along with his troops was going to wage war and conquer parts north of Pandya kingdom. When passing through a forest area which had wild jasmine creepers he noted a golden colored “Udumbu” (Monitor Lizard) running across the forest. Curious by the golden color he started following the lizard which went inside a hole in the trunk of a “Sarakondrai” tree (Cassia fistula, also known as the golden shower tree). The Pandya king asked his men to cut the tree to locate the golden lizard.
When his men axed the tree, blood started flowing from the axed tree. When his men dug the tree out, they found a “Suyambu” Shiva lingam under the tree that was axed. The Pandya king felt sad that the axing of the tree had hurt the Shiva linga that was beneath the tree. That night Lord Shiva appeared in the dream of the king and wanted him to build a temple at that place where the “Suyambu” lingam was found.
The king, taking the command of the Lord decided to build the temple. He gave the responsibility of building the temple to Saivaite saint Trinetradhari and gave him necessary gold and other material to carry out the job. He then proceeded north to carry on with his pursuit of conquering northern parts of the Pandya kingdom. The saint built the temple with two presiding deities with two sanctum sanctorums. One was in front of the Rajagopuram and the other was in front of the flag post (kodi maram), Nandhi and the “Bali peedam”.
When the king returned back he was surprised to see a temple with two sanctum sanctorums and asked the saint to explain him the reasons for the same. Saint Trinetradhari clarified that “I built one sanctum for the Lord who graced you as Umai Aatcheeswarar – (the word Umai in Tamil means “You”, the king) and one for Emai Aatcheeswarar (“Emai” in Tamil means Me the devotee) which is the main sanctum. The deity of the sanctum sanctorum in front of the Rajagopuram had Umai Aatcheeswarar and the second in front of the kodi maram had Emai Aatcheeswarar. The sanctum sanctorum in front of the Rajagopuram also has the Shiva-Parvathi in “kalyana kolam” (wedding form) behind the Shiva linga. The “Kodi Maram” (flag post) and Nandhi are slightly away from the main Rajagopuram.
Saint Trinetradhari stayed at the temple and did penance towards Lord Shiva, who appeared before him and granted him his wish to get the “darshan” of the Lord alighting from his chariot when he came to the rescue of the burning Thiribuvanam shrine. Even to this day, on the 7th day of the annual Chithirai festival, the Lord gives darshan to the saint Trinetradhari under the Kondrai tree. It’s interesting to note that the flowers in this tree blossom only during the Chithirai festival days.
Axles of Bullock Carts carrying Sand from Ganges broken at this place:
Once a Pandya king wanted to build a temple in his kingdom and asked his workers to bring sand from the banks of Holy Ganges. The bullock carts carrying the sand in bags from River Ganges could not proceed at a particular place. When the workers tried to move the bullock carts by force, the axles broke at the same place.
The Pandya King came to know about this through an “Asareeri” (voice from the clouds) that there is a “Suyambu lingam” underneath and the lord wanted the king to construct a temple at that place. The King rushed to the place where the bullock carts were stuck and built the Shiva temple with the sand from River Ganges and the “Suyambu lingam” as the presiding deity. Even today, the place where bullock carts got stuck is called as “Vandi Kuppam”.
People who worshipped Shiva here:
This place was worshipped by Kannuva muni, Gouthama Muni in Thretha Yuga; Brahma and Vishnu in Dwapara Yuga; and Agasthiar in Kali Yuga.
Creation of Temple Tank & Well:
The temple tank outside in front of the temple is considered to be created by Brahma and is called Brahma Theertham; and the well near the kondrai tree in the outside praharam is considered to be created by Vishnu.