OVERVIEW OF THE TEMPLE:
Pazhamudircholai is situated 19 kilometres from the temple town of Madurai. The place is full of natural beauty and sylvan surroundings. This hill is also known as Vrishabhadri or Idabagiri. At the foot of the hill is situated Azhakar Kovil, which is one among the 108 divyadesams sanctified by the hymns of Azhwars sung in praise of the Vishnu enshrined in this temple. Atop the hill Lord Muruga stands majestically in the temple as the Lord of the Hills popularly known as Kurinji Nilakkizhavan in Tamil. The temple of Pazhamutircolai can be reached by a motorable road leading to the hill. Pazhamudircholai is mentioned as the sixth of Lord Murugan’s AaruPadai Veedu, the six holiest Murugan shrines described by Cankam poet Nakkirar in his poem Tirumurukarruppatai.
Most scholars, priests and devotees identify Pazhamudircholai with the shrine of pazhamudircholai, twelve miles north of Madurai in the Alagar Hills, above the Alagar kovil Vishnu temple. While this temple is not as large or bustling as the other five recognized shrines, it is just as incredible to visit.
This shrine is located on the northern outskirts of Madurai in a pleasant wooded hill not far from Alagar Visnu Kovil, a fortified temple complex revered as one of the 108 abodes of Vishnu glorified by the hymns of the Alwars. At the top of the hill, is Noopura Ganga, a perennial waterfall with a temple dedicated to Rakkayi Amman. The Nūpura Ganga atop the hill is said to originated from the anklet of Tirumal or Visnu and hence the name of the spring.
It is said that sitting in the madavi mandapa near the spring Ilangovadigal wrote one of the five mahakavyas in Tamil (Cilappatikaram). Even today the place is very fertile with many trees and different flora and fauna, a standing testimony to the vivid description of the place’s natural beauty as found in Tirumurugattruppadai of Nakkeerar.
Though the sthala is of ancient origin, the temple as in existence today was constructed only recently. From days of yore Vel has been worshipped as the moolavar or main deity. The idol of Lord Muruga in a standing posture has a single face and four hands with Valli and Teyvayanai on both sides. The Vel made up of stone is of special significance and is worshipped with a great veneration by devotees.
The sthala vriksha is a rose apple tree. The fruits of this tree ripen during Skanda Sasti festival. The temple that was in existence during Sangam period no longer existed in Arunagirinatha’s time. Arunagirinathar also reveres this shrine in his Tiruppukal. Arunagirinatha sang 16 Tiruppugzh psalms to Pazhamudircholai Muruga. Though one might be in possession of all types of wealth, if he wants to lead a healthy life bereft of any disease he should necessarily visit Pazhamutdrcholai. Arunagirinatha very emphatically says in the most unequivocal terms that Lord Muruga should come before him running to bless each and everyone with health and wealth as has been very clearly described in the Tiruppugazh hymn.
LEGENDS OF THE TEMPLE:
The great Tamil poet and saint Avvaiyar had been tested by Lord Murugan here. In order to play with Avvaiyar who was one of the very famous devotees of Lord Muruga, the Lord played a drama. One day Avvaiyar became tired while traveling because of very hot summer and so came under the shadow of a fruit tree. She was very hungry and thirsty.
At that time, a small boy who was sitting on the tree asked her whether she wanted fruits from the tree. Avvaiyar told that she wanted fruits. At that time the boy asked Avvaiyar whether she wanted roasted fruits or unroasted fruits. Avvaiyar who was a famous Tamil poet, litterateur and having in-depth knowledge in Tamil thought, “Is there any roasted fruit in the world?” and decided that the small boy didn’t have knowledge even about a fruit. But, as she was very tired, she didn’t want to argue with the small boy and asked him to pick unroasted fruits for her.
The boy shook the tree and so fruits fell under the tree. The mud under the tree had stuck on the fruit. Avvaiyar took the fruits and blew on the fruit to remove the mud. The boy interpreted it in the way that as the fruits were roasted and had become warm, Avvaiyar had blown the fruits to cool them. The boy asked Avvaiyar whether the fruits were warm.
Avvaiyar was astonished, how a small village cowboy had played such an intelligent drama! She had thought that the small boy had no knowledge about fruits and how the fruits in the tree may become roasted fruits. But blowing the air on the fruit to remove the mud is like blowing air to reduce the heat as the fruit is roasted. What a beautiful comparison. Such a beautiful comparison would not have risen in her mind even though she had gained rich knowledge in Tamil. She asked the small boy, “Who are you actually?” Then small boy disappeared and in his place, Lord Murugan appeared.
Avvaiyar realized that it was a play of God and she understood that there were more and more things that she had to learn. She bowed to Lord Murugan and requested him to bestow her with bountiful knowledge. The philosophy behind the story is that human mind is covered by the dust of materialism which should be removed to see truth and realize God. This will be possible only if only humans develop wisdom and true knowledge.
Cheaman Perumal, a ruler of Kerala, built the main temple perhaps in the 7th Century AD. The Nayaks built the Navaranga Mandapam which is a fascinating stone structure incorporated by four pillars and endowed with nine bays. The other portions of the temple have been built by the Pandiya kings, besides a number of local heads, religious groups and individual devotees.
The perennial spring ‘Silambaru’ known as Noopura ganga is considered as a holy water point. Devotees take holy bath in this spring. The water of this spring is sweet in nature and has medicinal values in it. Rituals for the departed souls are performed in this spring. here are other springs and theerthams in this hill known as Hanuman theertam and Garuda theertam etc. The pond known, as Moolavavi is unique, as water level rises in the summer and drops in the winter. Agasthiar is considered to have constructed this pond. Information about the holy water points of this temple is seen in Silapathikaram, even the sangam literary work Paripadal contains information about this hill. Fruit eating bats are seen in large number near the temple.
A Sidhar named Pogar has indicated about the holy water point ‘Silambaru’ and the worship of deity Pathinettam Padi Karuppanaswamy of this temple in his book entitled ‘Jenana Sagaram’.
Naaval tree usually yields fruits only during Aadi and Aavani months from July-September. Strangely, the tree in the place yields fruits in the Aipasi month (October-November) a month when Lord Muruga’s Sashti festival occurs.
DAILY POOJA’s & OPENING TIMING
There is a daily ritual of taking the processional deity in a golden chariot around the temple at 7 PM. Daily poojas to the deities are performed six times a day (six kalams). Forenoon: Ushat Kalam, Kalasandhi and Uchikala poojas are performed and the afternoon poojas commencing from Sayaratchai and Rendam kalam are concluded with Arthajama pooja in the night. The temple is open from 6.00 a.m to 6.00 p.m Continuously.
FESTIVALS OF THE TEMPLE:
There is a daily ritual of taking the processional deity in a golden chariot around the temple at 7 PM. The Tamil New Year’s Day that occurs on April 13th or 14th is an important day here. The Vaikasi Visakam (the day of the Visakam star in May-June), Aadi Krithika in July-August when Muruga’s star Krithigai reigns are famous festival days.
The annual abishekam (ablution) festival on Aavani Pooram (the day of the star Pooram in August-September) and Skanda Sashti in October-November are popular festivals. All Mondays in the month of Karthikai (November – December) and Tirukarthikai, the festival of lamps in November-December and Panguni Uthiram (the day of the star Uthiram in March- April) are the festivals celebrated in the temple.