Amritaghateswarar Abirami Temple, Thirukkadaiyur – Legends
Thirukkadaiyur derives its name from the ambrosia pot, called Gatam in Tamil. Vishnu, Indra, and the other Devas needed a clean place to consume the ambrosia that had been created during the Samudra Manthan and, therefore, brought the ambrosia pot here.
Story behind the name Amritagada Eshwarar:
Shortly after the creation of the universe, when the devas and asuras churned the Ocean of Milk to create Amrita, they forgot to worship Ganesha, who is to be worshiped before any great undertaking. Ganesha, hurt and offended at the unintentional slight by the Devas, stole the pot of Amrita and hid it at Thirukkadaiyur. Hence Vinayaga in this Temple is called as Kalla Pillaiyar as he stolen the nectar pot.
While there, Ganesha created a Shiva Lingam, dedicated to his father and mother, and poured some of the Amrita over it. Therefore, it is believed that the Shiva Lingam in this temple has the power to grant longevity to its worshipers. For this reason, the Shiva Lingam at this temple is known as Amrita Ghat Eswarar, which, translated from Sanskrit literally means "Lord that leads to immortality" ('Immortality' (Amrita) 'Step' (Ghat) 'Lord' (Eshwarar)). It is also believed that Abhirami incarnated here by the power of Vishnu.
Long ago, near the temple of Thirukkadaiyur, there lived a sage named Mrikandu and his wife Marudmati. They were both devotees of Lord Shiva and worshiped him day and night for many years, asking to be graced with a child. After many years of penance, Shiva appeared to Mrikandu and Marudmati. He told them that he heard their prayers and would give them a choice: they could either have a gifted son who would live to be only sixteen, or a son of low intelligence who would live a long life.
Mrikandu and Marudmati chose the former, and were blessed with Markandeya, an exemplary son, destined to die at the age of sixteen. As Markandeya grew, so did his devotion to Lord Shiva. As advised by his father, Markandeya worshipped the Shiva Lingam at Thirukkadaiyur, even bringing water from the Ganges to the temple via an underground passage. On the day he was destined to die, Yama, the deity of death, appeared with his noose to tie around the soul of Markandeya and drag it to the hell. Markandeya sought refuge in the Lord and embraced the Siva Lingam.
Lord Shiva appeared and warned Yama not to touch Markandeya, as he was under his protection. Yama refused to listen and threw the noose anyway, binding Markandeya and the Lingam together. Angered by Yama's extraordinary arrogance, Lord Shiva kicked him and held him under his foot, making Yama inactive. Markandeya was blessed by Lord Shiva to remain sixteen years old eternally. It is for this reason that Lord Shiva is also called "Kala-samhara" (Sanskrit: "Destroyer of Time") at this temple.
Meanwhile, with Yama being rendered inactive, there were no deaths on earth, but people were still being born. Burdened by the weight of so many people and unable to sustain their hunger, the earth-goddess, Bhumi Devi, appealed to Lord Shiva for help. Lord Shiva, feeling compassionate for the earth-goddess, released Yama, allowing death to occur again.
However, in order to remind Yama never to try to kill someone while they are worshiping Shiva again, the icon of Lord Shiva in this temple depicts the Lord with his forefinger raised in warning. Since it is believed that Lord Siva subdued Yama in Thirukkadaiyur, the Lord is called Mrutyunjaya (Sanskrit: "Conqueror of Death" or "Victorious over Death").
When Markandeya was performing Abisheka to Lord Amirthakadeswarar with Ganga Water, Ippinjilam flowers too came with the water. Ippinjilam is a flower also called Jaathi Malli (Jasmine that blossoms throughout the year). This flower is used only for the God and should not be used for human purposes. An archana with a single flower is considered equal to 1008 archanas.
At this temple, many years ago, there lived a staunch devotee of the goddess Abhirami named Subramanian. He loved the goddess so much that he saw her everywhere and in everyone, but especially in all women. Any woman that entered the temple he would offer flowers to, worshiping her as the living embodiment of the goddess. One day, King Sarabhoji visited the temple as Subramanian was meditating on the glories of Abhirami. Seeing that Subramanian did not bow before him as he entered the temple, the king became irritated. He asked one of the devotees in the temple who this man was that refused to recognize him.
One of the priests told the king, that Subramanian was mad, worshiping all women as the Divine Mother and showering them with flowers. However, another priest of the temple overheard this and corrected the man, saying that Subramanian was truly a saint and a great devotee of Mother Abhirami. The king, confused by the two conflicting accounts of who this man was, decided to put Subramanian to the test. Therefore, he asked Subramanian whether today was a full moon day or a new moon day.
At that time, Subramanian was still absorbed in meditation on the Divine Mother seeing her shining face in his mind. Subramanian, seeing the Goddess face and mistaking it for the moon, responded to the king saying that it was a full moon day when it was actually a new moon day. The king, deciding that Subramanian must be mad, ordered that he be burnt at dusk if the moon failed to appear. After some time, the king’s army awakened Subramanian and ordered him to come with them to be executed for his madness.
On returning to ordinary consciousness, Subramanian realized that he had mistaken the face of the Divine Mother for the full moon, making him say it was a full moon day when, in actuality, it was a new moon day. Standing at the pyre, with the flames rising all around him, Subramanian realized that only the Divine Mother could save him now. He began singing a song of one-hundred praises to Abhirami (the so-called Abhirami Anthathi or "Song to Abhirami"), begging her to come to his rescue.
While singing the seventy-ninth verse of his song, which states that the Divine Mother is an ocean of blessing without limit whose merciful eyes grant liberation, Mother Abhirami appeared before Subramanian, his executioners, and the unbelieving king. Throwing her earring into the sky, it took the form of the full moon. The king, having realized his mistake and immensely pleased by his devotion, released Subramanian.
From that day forward, Subramanian was called Abhirami Pattar, which translates to "priest of Abhirami", and the king became his disciple. To this day, Abhirami Pattar is still celebrated at Thirukkadaiyur on the new moon day in the Tamil month of Tai (mid-January to mid-February).
Relationship with the Nayanmars:
Among the sixty-three Shaiva poet-saints, collectively known as the Nayanars, Kungili Nayanar and Kari Nayanar both worshiped and attained liberation from the cycle of birth and death here. The Nayanars Appar, Sundarar and Tirugnana Sambandar have also sung of the glories of this shrine.
Vishnu as Mother to Ambika:
Lord Mahavishnu wished to perform Shiva Puja before serving the nectar to Devas. According to rules Shiva Puja should be performed along with Ambica. Lord Mahavishnu took off all his ornaments to represent Mother Ambica. She rose from these ornaments. Completing the Shiva Puja, He served the nectar to Devas. It is believed that the ornament of Lord Vishnu is the home of Mother Mahalakshmi. As Ambica-Abirami was born of the jewels, Vishnu is praised as the Mother of Ambica also, though generally she is widely praised as the younger Sister (Yoga Maya) of Lord Mahavishnu.
Shiva, Teacher of Brahma:
Lord Brahmma went to Kailash to have the Gnana Upadesa (wisdom learning). Lord Shiva gave the seeds of Vilwa tree to Brahmma and asked him to sow them in earth in various places. Where the seed germinates within one hour into a tree shall be venue of teaching, said Lord Shiva. It happened in Thirukkadaiyur. Shiva the teacher of Brahmma is worshipped as Adhi Vilwa Vana Nathar in the temple having his own shrine.