Sankara Narayanan Temple, Sankarankovil – Legends
Adi Tapas Festival:
Serpent King Naga was a staunch Shiva devotee. Paduman, also a serpent, was a staunch Vishnu devotee. Both were frequently debating about the supremacy of their respective Lords. They went to Mother Parvathi for a verdict. Gomati Amman, the consort of Siva wanted to see Hari and Hara as one and the same Murti. So, Amman went on doing penance on the earth at Pungavanakshetram for 9 days in the month of Adi to have the darshan of Hari and Hara in one form. On one full-moon day Lord Siva gave her darshan as Sankaranarayana. In commemoration of this date the Adi Tapas festival is performed every year near Pungavanakshetram.
The snake pit (Ant Hill) is called "Vanmeekam". Hence the deity Sri Sankaralingam is also called "Vanmeekanadar"
Hari & Haran as One:
Like every other temple, Sankarankovil has its own interesting story. Once the devotees of Lord Hari (or Vishnu) and Lord Shiva quarreled with each other to determine whose god is powerful. Then Lord Shiva appeared as Sankaranarayana to mark his devotees to understand that both Hari and Shiva are one and the same. So it is held sacred by Shaivites and those Hindus who believe that Siva and Vishnu are a single deity one in one and accordingly, desire to worship the two gods into one form. Srivaishnavites of Tamilnadu who worship Lord Vishnu only, have not accepted the mingling of Siva and Vishnu thus, and therefore, they reject this deity of this temple. The presence of Shiva and Vishnu motivates devotees to pray for unity, especially when there are differences due to caste and communities in neighborhoods.
Ugra Pandyan – Builder of this Temple:
Once upon a time a "Devan" (Angel) called "Manikkeerivan" was cursed by Goddess Parvathi. Because of which, he had to come to earth and work as gardener in a beautiful garden. One day while he was clearing a snake pit, the snake tail was also cut. He found a Shivalingam next to the snake. He went and informed about this to his king Ukkira Pandiya Thevar. The king considered it to be the god's wish to stay there and constructed the temple and a city around.
Another version of this story says that the Pandya king’s daily routine was to go to Madurai on an elephant to worship Lord Somasundarar and Meenakshi Amman. One day his elephant suddenly stopped at a spot, dug a hole with its trunk, fell down on the path and refused to move. Manikireevan, the king’s guard, rushed to Ugra Pandyan and said that there was a Shivalingam with a cobra coiled around it in the Punnai (Naga champa or Purasakeshara) forest nearby. The king came to the spot and a voice was heard which instructed Ugra Pandyan to construct a temple and worship the lingam with utmost devotion.
This was how that the temple was built say the locals. Then he had a bath in the Nagasunai (holy tank) and worshipped the God. Later on according to history, the king destroyed the forest in the vicinity of the ant – hill, constructed this Temple with Mandapams, Gopuram (Tower) and Compound walls. In the 12th Century king Seevalaramapandian constructed the Rajagopuram (big tower) and front Mandapam. This temple has three important sannidhis with in its premises.
Legend says that Nagasunai, the sacred tank attached to Sankaranarayana Kovil, was dug up by the two serpent kings Sankan and Paduman. Devotees believe that a dip in the holy waters will cure all diseases.
The earth from the ant hill is also said to have great medicinal value especially to cure skin diseases. This sand is offered as Prasad to the sick devotee to take with the water of the tank for a cure.
Relief from Poisonous Creatures:
Devotees beset with problems from poisonous creatures in their houses like lizards, scorpions and snakes offer silver pieces embossed with the images of such creatures for relief.
Pambatti Siddhar Samadhi:
One of the 18 siddhas, the great Pambatti Siddhar worshipped this goddess as Valai Kumari and he regarded this goddess to be the great serpent power which can make miracles in taking aspirant in yogic transformation. Pambatti Siddhar Samadhi is seen behind the temple.