Vanamamalai Perumal Temple, Nanguneri – Legends
Birthplace of Mother Lakshmi:
As per Hindu legend, Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu is believed to have born at this place as Srivaramangai (meaning lady) and hence the place came to be known as Varangunamangai.
Adisesha penance on Lord Vishnu:
As per another legend, Adhishesha, the serpent performed penance at this place to seek the grace of Vishnu to lay on him. Vishnu was pleased by his devotion and rested on the serpent.
Procession idol of Mother came from Thirumalai:
It is said that the procession idol of Mother was originally in Tirupathi. Devotees in Tirupathi were to offer Varamangadevi to Sri Venkateswara in Tirupathi. Perumal appeared in the dream of Jeer Swamigal and said that Varamangadevi was meant to Lord Vanamamalai in Nanguneri, therefore taken to this place.
The headquarters of Vanamamalai Jeer, one among the Ashtathik Gajas – Eight pontiffs of Vaishnava order – by Saint Manavala Mamunigal is here. The Sadari placed on the devotees as blessing of Lord, has the image of Nammazhwar-Sadagopan.
Reference in Purana:
The detail about the presiding deity finds mention in Brhamananda Purana, Skanda Purana and Narasimha Purana. Sage Narada got the narration about the features of Thodatri and Sargunamangai from Shiva.
Chetru Thamarai Pushkarani:
When Lord Vishnu destroyed the demons, Madhu and Kaidaba, the bad odour from their body spread polluting the whole earth. Mother Earth lost her natural purity. She came to this place for cleansing. Lord appeared before Bhoomadevi (Earth) and said, “Pollution set on you is washed off” according to history of the place-Sthala Purana.
King of Sindhu was cursed by Kusasana Muni, and he was roaming like a dog. Finally it reached this place and had a dip in the Chetru Thamarai Pushkarani. (Pushkarani with lotus flowers and the water is muddy). The dog came to its original form and worshipped here.
People who worshipped Lord Vishnu here:
Legend also has it that Brahma, Indra, Bhrigu muni and Markandeya were blessed with a vision of Vishnu at this shrine.
Direction to the temple:
In centuries gone by, this place was identified as being 1 yojana South of Tamaraibarani, 2 yojanas North of Bay of Bengal and 3 yojanas West of Indian Ocean and Half a yojana East of the Mahendra Hills.
Adisesha undertook penance here and hence this place came to be called ‘Naaganai’ Cheri. As the huge lake around the temple was split into 4 canals, this place was referred to as ‘Nangu’ ‘Eri’.
Swayam Vyaktha Kshetram:
This is one of the eight sacred Swayam Vyaktha Vishnu Sthalams, the others being Srirangam, Srimushnam, Tirupathi, Saligramam, Naimi Saranyam, Pushkaram and Badrinath.
Kaarya Maharaja didn’t have a child. He went to Lord Nambi at Thirukkurungudi who asked him to undertake pooja of the Lord who is present beneath the earth at Nanguneri. The king who dug up the earth here was shocked to find blood oozing out of the Lord’s head. The Lord asked him to perform an Oil Abishekam and to throw the oil into the open well found at this place. Having performed this, he is said to have had children. The temple is believed to have been built by Kaarya Maharaja.
The tradition of Oil Abishekam has come to stay. Hence, the speciality of this Divya Desam is the daily oil pooja for the main deity and depositing the oil in the 25 feet open well inside the temple. The oil has been hailed by Sage Agastya as ‘Sarva Roha Nivarani’ and is said to have medicinal values helping cure both internal and external illness including ulcer and skin diseases. The oil at this temple is just as special as the ‘laddu’ of Tirupathi temple.
Garuda’s presence in front of Lord Vishnu:
The story goes that Kashyapa, who had two wives - Kathru and Vinathai, remained childless. Invoking the blessings of a rishi, the two wives were given the option of choosing between several children and just the two. Kathru had several children including Adisesha, the Serpent King, on whom Lord Vishnu rests himself. Vinathai had two children- Arunan (Charioteer of Surya) and Garuda (Charioteer of Vishnu). With Lord Vishnu resting himself all the time on Adisesha, an upset Garuda undertook penance at Thothadri.
When the Lord appeared before Garuda, he expressed his disappointment at not accorded the same status as Adisesha. It was then that Lord Narayana asked him to come with him to Vaikuntam and accorded him the status of standing in front of him (facing him) ready all the time to take his Lord on a trip. Thus it came to be that when the Lord leaves Adisesha, he gets on to Garuda.
Liberation from re-birth:
The two beautiful damsels Urvasi and Thilothama undertook penance at Thothadri seeking liberation from re-birth and with the single minded devotion of serving the Lord. Narayana, who appeared before them, expressed surprise at these two beautiful ladies undertaking severe penance at Thothadri instead of enjoying their lives. The two replied that they had now realized that serving him was the ultimate achievement for any one. As desired by them, Lord allowed them a place next to him. Hence, they are seen here at this temple next to the Lord in a gesture of fanning him (white Chamaras) and keeping him always cool.
Story behind the name Vaanama Malai:
This Sthalam is also called as “Vaanama Malai” because a Pandiya king married a Cheran daughter and he got the name as “Vanavan”. Since, he built this temple; this Sthalam is called as “Vaanama Malai”.