Sathuragiri Hills – Legends
Shiva play with the priest of the Temple:
In ancient times Sathuragiri was known as Udayagiri Nathar. In Udayagiri Nathar a vast tract of land belonged to a wealthy landlord and an ancient Shiva temple was situated in that land. The temple was taken care by an elderly priest. There also was a stream (similar to the present Agaya Ganga Theertham at Sathuragiri) running next to the temple. One day Lord Shiva, disguised as a Sivanadiyar (Devotee of Siva) came to the temple and struck conversation with the priest. After some time, both the priest and Lord Siva started to discuss on the origins of the temple.
The priest replied that the temple is eons old and the land, on which the temple is, belongs to a wealthy landlord and he (the priest) takes care of the temple. Hearing this Sivanadiyar (Lord Siva) laughs and claims that the land belongs to him. The priest, knowing that the land belongs to the landlord, starts questioning the motives of the Sivanadiyar (Lord Siva). To prove that he is the owner of the land, the Sivanadiyar (Lord Siva) grants the priest to take how much ever land he wants for the temple.
Again not believing the Sivanadiyar, the priest asks the Sivanadiyar (Lord Siva) if the land really belongs to you then you must be in a position to clearly specify on how much land I should take. To this the Sivanadiyar replies that the priest can take how much ever he wants. The priest after thinking for a moment tells the Sivanadiyar that a conch shall be blown & all the land covered by the conch sound would automatically become part of the temple.
The Lord agrees to the priests' condition and offers to blow the conch. The priest not believing the Lord (thinking that the Sivanadiyar might blow weakly), offers to blow the conch himself. Then he blows the conch and the sound travels to a mountain on the north and a small hill on the south. After blowing the priest looks at the Sivanadiyar and at that moment the Sivanadiyar vanishes and the Lord appears. Then the Lord blesses the priest and says from now, all the area covered by the conch sound would belong to the temple. This is the origin of the Sathuragiri.
Thaniparai hosted Athiri Maharishi Ashram:
In ancient times, it is said Thaanipaarai played host to the ashram of famous sage, Athiri Maharishi and his wife, Anusuya Devi.
In ancient times there lived a husband and wife. They lived a happy and peaceful married life. They were made for each other except for one major difference. The husband was an ardent devotee of Siva and the wife worshipped Hari (Vishnu/Krishna) devoutly. This difference in their choice of Ishta Deivam (Personal God) led to many quarrels on whose god is more powerful. They approached many learned men but their answers convinced either the husband or wife but not both of them. Realizing no one could come up with a convincing answer, one day they decided to do penance to find answer to this eternal question (in Hindu tradition) themselves.
They came to Sathuragiri after deciding it would be the apt place for performing penance. The husband started meditating on Siva and the wife on Hari. After many years of penance, Lord Siva appeared before the husband and asked what he wants. The husband took Lords blessings. He also called his wife and showed her Lord Siva. He boasted saying that Lord Siva is the mightiest as he answered his prayers faster than Lord Hari. The wife agitatedly looked at Lord Siva and said I wanted to meet only Lord Hari and not you.
Immediately Lord Siva appeared as Lord Hari and told the couple that both Siva and Hari are not two but one and asked the couple to forget their differences. The couple realizing their folly begged for forgiveness. The Lord then appeared as Sankaranarayanan (Siva and Hari) and blessed both husband and wife. Later the Lord took the form of Swayambu Irattai (Twin - Siva and Hari) Lingam. It is said that Irattai Lingam was worshipped by the siddha, Roma Devar.
Sundara Moorthy Swami Lingam:
Sundara Moorthy Swami is a disciple of Sundara Mahalingam. The legend goes that once upon a time, Lord Siva was looking for a priest to perform regular puja (ceremony) at his temple. But he could not find one. So he went searching for a priest in nearby towns and villages. The Lord used to shout “Solvar Undu, Kaetpar Illai” (there is a person to say but none to listen) in every town/village he visited. In one village, a 3 year old child replies “Kaetpar Undu, Solvar Illai” (there is a person to listen but none to say). Siva hearing this knew the child is the right person to perform puja so the Lord brings the child to the hills. This child takes the name of Sundara Moorthy Swamy and grows up to be an ardent devotee of Lord Siva.
It is said Sundara Moorthy Swamy is much more powerful than Sundara Mahalingam. Devotees normally pray to Sundara Moorthy & would request him to let Sundara Mahalingam know about their prayers. Lord Sundara Mahalingam would also doubly ensure that prayers routed through Sundara Moorthy Swamigal gets immediately answered. Since this lingam was worshipped by various Siddhas including Agasthiyar & Sundaranandar, it belongs to Anidai type.
Sundara Mahalingam (Swayambu Lingam):
According to Hindu scriptures, Kailas is the abode of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi (Sakthi) and Sivaganas, the crew/attendants of Lord Shiva. Yazhvalla Devar, a Sivaganam, was deeply devoted to Lord Shiva. One day he lays a lustful eye on one of the Deva Loga Apsaras. Noticing this, Lord Shiva curses both of them to be born as a human being. Realizing their mistake, they surrender at Lord Shiva’s feet begging for forgiveness. The Lord tells them not to worry and promises them to take them back during their lifetime.
Yazhvalla Devar took to human life in the form of Pachaimal and was born into one of the cowherd families, near Sathuragiri. His father was Thillaikon and Thilagamathi, was his mother. Being born in a cowherd family, Pachaimal made his living by selling the milk that he used to milk from the cows. After reaching the marriage age, he got married to Sadaimangai, his aunt's daughter. Husband and wife moved closed to the hills as it was be easier for the cows to find grass. As usual Pachaimal milked the cows. Sadaimangai took the milk to her in-laws house and sold them the milk.
One day Sadaimangai saw an elderly sage while she was on her way to her in-laws house to sell the milk. She took his blessings. The old sage being tired and thirsty asked Sadaimangai if it is possible for her to give him some milk. Sadaimangai not wanting to lose an opportunity to serve a sage readily offered the milk. The sage after drinking asked whether it is possible for her to feed him daily as he had planned to stay there for some period. Sadaimangai, after pondering for a moment, agrees to it. So from the next day, she started feeding the sage and then would go to her in-laws house to sell the remaining milk.
As days went by the in-laws were confused as to the reduced milk quantity. One day they question their son, Pachaimal on the reduced supply. Pachaimal replies that it is not possible as the cows have started to yield more milk and promised them that he would look into the problem. Suspecting his wife, without her knowledge, he follows her the next day and sees his wife offering milk to the old sage. Then on her way to the in-laws house, he encounters her and in a fit of rage he slaps and abuses his wife. The abused wife runs to the sage and tells him the whole abuse episode. The sage said, "You are a good woman. You should not be punished for feeding me." and blesses her to be a Sadathari, one of the Nava Sakthis. Then he moves away from that place.
The husband, finding that his wife has attained divinity repents his action. Dejected with life, he goes to Sathuragiri top and establishes a cow shed and serves milk to the saints and sages. One of the sages to whom he provided milk was Siddha Sundaranandar. As days went by, one day a new sage came to Sathuragiri. He was welcomed by all the sages and Siddhas including Sundaranandar and Sattai Muni. Pachaimal too took his blessings. Next day Pachaimal went to the shed to milk the cows and was shocked to see the new sage drinking milk directly from one of the cows, whose milk was used for performing Abhishekam.
With a fit of anger he threw a stick at the new sage. This causes an injury in the forehead of the new sage. Seeing this Sundaranandar and Sattai Muni wanted to curse Pachaimal. At that time the new sage asks siddhas not to curse Pachaimal and appears as Siva. Realizing his folly Pachaimal begs forgiveness. Lord blesses Pachaimal and tell him about his life purpose and takes him back to Kailas. Even now the Sundara Mahalingam in Sathuragiri bears the hurt mark.
Once in Kailas, Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi (Sakthi) were blessing visitors who had come there to pay their respect. Visitors included Holy Men, Saints, Rishis, Devas, Siddhas etc. Everyone offered their respect by going round (Pradakshinam) the Lord and the Goddess. And Bringi Maharishi was one amongst the holy men who had come to Kailas to pay his respect. He prayed to Lord Siva and paid his respect by going round (pradakshinam) Lord Siva only. He thus ignored Goddess Parvati. This act confused Goddess and she questioned Lord Siva as to why was she slighted by Bringi Maharishi when everyone else treated her equally with the Lord.
Lord Siva explained that those who have renounced the material world and think only about "Moksha" would always pray to him and at the end would join him and those who wish to enjoy material things would worship her and enjoy everything in life. Bringi Maharishi prayed to me as he wanted only Moksha and everyone else wanted to enjoy the material world so they worshipped both of us. On hearing this, Goddess Parvati became furious and turned to Bringi Maharishi and said how come being a Rishi you could forget that we both are not two but one and added that "if no Sakthi there is no Sivam and if no Sivam there is no Sakthi".
Goddess cursed the Maharishi that he would lose all his flesh (flesh is one form of Sakthi (energy)) as she felt he had insulted her knowingly. Maharishi willingly obliged and shed all his flesh. After losing all the flesh (energy) he was not able to stand up and he was struggling to move. Seeing the plight of his devotee Lord Siva gives him a special staff. With the help of the staff, Maharishi starts to walk again. This act of the Lord further infuriated the Goddess. She feels that she was insulted twice, once by the sage and then by the Lord by providing staff to the sage.
After thinking for some time, she realized that such incident would not have occurred had she had been one half of the Lord Siva. She feels that the Ardhanareeswarar form (Male-Half and Female-Half) would ensure that everyone treats both God and Goddess equally. To appease the Lord, so that she achieves her goal, she comes to Sathuragiri hills to do penance (it is said in the month of Purattasi (Sep-Oct)). She chooses a place under a huge Santhana (Sandal) Tree to do her penance. During that period Sathuragiri was going through a severe drought for almost 12 years. But due to the presence of Goddess Parvati the whole place gets back its greenery.
Though the place was full of Munis, Sages, Siddhars and other holy men, they let the drought as it is as they did not want to come in the way of the nature. This sudden transformation made the Munis, Siddhars and others to wonder on who could have done this. On seeing the Goddess, the Munis received her by paying their respects and enquired the reason for penance. Goddess told the whole story and also explained the Vradh/Viradham (Kedhareswara Viradham) that she would undergo. On hearing the story, the holy men arranged everything and Goddess Parvathi made a Prathishtanam of Linga with Sandalwood Paste (Hence it is called Santhana (Sandal's Tamil equivalent) Mahalingam.
Goddess also created Agaya Gangai theertham (stream, still flowing) & used to bath in the theertham before doing Puja to the Lingam. Goddess did severe penance on Lord Siva. Lord Siva satisfied with Goddesses penance appears on his "Rishaba Vahana" and accepts Goddesses demands and offers his left portion of his body. On their return Lord Siva proclaimed that since the Siva Lingam was worshipped by Parvathi Devi, it should be worshipped only by Maharishis only and those who wish for "Kamya Loka" should not do pooja to the lingam. And if they do so, they may stand to hate "Ishta Kamya Loka" and will become "Moksha Desired" person and ultimately join him. Lord Siva blessed everybody and went away. After that, Satta Natha Muni worshipped the "Santhana Lingam" and "Chanangi Muni" followed suit.
Anandavalli Amma was born near Sathuragiri, some 300–400 years ago, into a family of Saliya Maharishi Gothram. She was spiritually inclined right from her young age. Right from her childhood days, she used to hear a lot about Sathuragiri hills. This made a major impact in her and being a spiritually inclined person, she left for the hills to do penance. But being a woman, she was asked to leave the hills, by the rishis and Siddhars as they deemed the hills would be unsafe for a woman. She begged and cried but the sages were unrelenting. So she went back to the foot hills and did severe penance. This made her accumulate lots of siddhis.
One day the Lord fully satisfied with her penance appeared before her and directed her to the hills and to bless devotees from there. Anandavalli Amma's temple mandapam can be found behind Sundara Mahalingam temple. Anandavalli Amma is formless. Only during Navarathri she takes a form. There are two festivals in honour of Amma. The first one falls in the Tamil month of Purattasi and the second one during Navarathri.
Footmark (hoof-marks) of the divine cow Kamadhenu:
Once upon a time, a devotee was on his way to Sathuragiri. In those days only a few people used to go to the hills, as it was thick forest with lots of wild animals. Since being new to the hills he soon got lost in the thickly populated mountains. Seeing this Lord asks Kamadhenu, the divine cow to help his devotee and bring him back to the correct path. Kamadhenu immediately appeared before the devotee and lead him to the correct path. After bringing the devotee to the correct path, Kamadhenu, being a divine cow, had to travel back to its heavenly abode. In the process, of starting to fly, Kamadhenu gave pressure to her legs and the pressure was so immense that her hoofs left an indelible mark that can be seen even today.