Legends have it that, when devas and asuras churned the ocean parkadal to get ambrosia or amrita, they ignored worshiping Lord Ganesha. Lord Ganesha took a pot of Amirtham and kept at Thirukadiyur. Apparently it could not be removed and manifested as a Siva Lingam in this temple. Therefore bhaktas believe that the Sivalingam in this temple is made of Amirtha Kudam . Since the pot of Amirtham was hidden here by Lord Ganesha, He goes by the name ‘Kailavarna Pillayar’ here. Thirukadayur temple is also linked to the sage Markandeya and Abihrami Pattar.
MARKANDEYA: It is also believed it is at this temple that the Sage Markandeya prayed Lord Shiva and was blessed with immortality. He served the Lord by bringing the water from Ganges through an underground passage to the temple. He had a life span of 16 years and on the destined day, Lord Yama Dharmarajah appeared with his noose, kala paasa. Markandeya sought refuge in the Lord and embraced the Shiva Lingam. Lord Siva warned Yama not to touch Markandeya as he was under His protection. Yama’s noose caught both Markandeya and also the Siva Lingam. Yama did not listen and threw the noose that bound Markandeya and the Lingam together.
Yama’s act of rashness angered Lord Siva. The Lord warned him with a raised finger and kicked Yama by his left leg. Use of the left leg indicated punishment as the use of the right would have quelled Yama forever. This event is pictorially depicted in the temple and the mark of the kala paasa is visible on the Lingam. With Yama being rendered inactive, there were no deaths on earth. As nature should have its way, the Kala-samhara-moorthi, the other name by which Amritaghateswarar is known - Lord Shiva brought Death to life. Later at the instance of the devas and gods, Yama was brought back to life (Refer to a separate posting on Markandeya)
KALA SAMHARA MURTI: Since, death was conquered here, a function called Sashtiaptha poorthi or completion of 60 years for husband and Sadhabishegam, completion of 80 years of age is celebrated here with a darshan of the Kala samhara moorthi. These prayers are towards prosperity in future.
ABHIRAMA BHATTAR: His birth name was Subramnya Iyer. One day Raja Serfoji, the Mahratta Raja of Tanjavur visited the temple. The Archakas told him about Abhirama Bhattar. He was then taken to be a madman while in fact Bhattar had idiosyncratic ways of revering Mother Abhirami. Indeed he saw Mother in every women that came to the temple to pray and offered them flowers! During the visit Serfoji casually asked Abhirama Bhattar the Thithi.
At that moment Bhattar was immersed in the Mother and answered that it was Pournami or full moon.Actually it was Amavasya, New moon. The King was unhappy over the misnomer and Bhattar realized his mistake soon and felt extremely sorry.
He decided to end his life since the people around him called him mad and even uttered wrong statement to the King and lit a huge fire and erected a platform over it supported by ropes with 100 partitions. He did his tapas and prayed Goddess Abhirami to prove that he is right. He started singing one hundred stanzas in praise of Abhirami. One rope was cut for one stanza. This was in the style of Anthadi in which the first word of a stanza was the last word of previous stanza. It is believed that when he completed the 79th stanza, the Goddess appeared before him, gave 'katchi' and reassured him that she will do the needful.
Mother Abhirami took her Thadanga, her diamond nose-ring and threw it in the sky where it stood. The Thadanga sparkled like a full moon. The Goddess also ordered Abhirama Bhattar to complete his the Anthadi and it was complete with a hundred stanzas. It was then that King Raja Serfoji realized Abhirama Bhattar’s greatness and honoured him. Repenting the punishment, the king bestowed the title of "Abirami Pattar" or "priest of Goddess Abhirami" and supposedly awarded his successors the privilege of using the title "Bharathi". Abhirami Anthadi is considered to be one of the gems of Tamil spiritual literature.
Happiness is your feet,
Wisdom is your feet,
Fully filled nectar is your feet,
Your feet is of the form of endless horizon,
Your feet is the ultimate aim of the four Vedas,
Oh, mother Abhirami,
The Lord who dances in ash,
Keeps his head on your feet and feels it apt.
PURPORT OF THE ANTHADI: The purport of the Anthadi is applicable to all Mother Goddesses as it is applicable to Abhirami. She resides in all pure hearts as temples the kuil bird rest only on fruit-laden trees, not on thorny ones. As such one is to have pure thoughts. Lying, scheming people, pretence and wearing masks are the result of impure thoughts. Abhirami Bhattar poses a series of questions about the possible places of residence for the Goddess? Does She reside in temples only, he wonders. Or does She only reside in the Vedas, as the Pranava Mantra? Or does She reside in the Upanishads? Or does She reside in the Moon? Is She to be seen in the lotus flowers? Or is She in his heart? While the Goddess does reside in the Vedas and in temples, and indeed, in everything in this world, She is happiest to be in the hearts of devotees, the foremost of whom is Bhattar. Such bhaktas have no fear, even death and face life’s tribulations as witness, for Abhirami protects all her children alike. She forgives and has mercy when we are in ignorance.
To those who seek, Mother Abhirami would sit with Love as Lord Shiva; She would console us and shower nectar on us.
Hara Hara Mahadeva
(draft Gods, Goddesses, Minor Deities and Sages)
Yogi Ananda Saraswathi