Name of the Temple
Sri Athmanatha Swami Temple
Period of origin
Before 2000 years
Name of deity
Ambal: Sivalokanayaki Amman
Sthala Theertham: Brahama narayana teertham
Sthala Virksham: Kurundha tree
Saint Manickavasagar, then heading the cabinet of Pandya king, came to this place Tiruperundurai, now Avudayarkoil to buy horses. He heard sounds of Shivagama Mantras there and saw a Guru sitting there. The prime minister fell at the feet of the Lord and begged Him to teach him wisdom. While learning, Manickavasagar plunged into deep meditation. When he opened his eyes, he found his teacher absent in the place and understood that his Guru was none other than Lord Shiva Himself. He spent all the money he carried for buying horses in building a temple for his Guru-Shiva and dedicated himself in the service of Lord.
As the saint failed to carry out the order of the king, he ordered the saint to be arrested and jailed. Lord Shiva converted the foxes in the forests into horses, brought them to the king as instructed by Manickavasagar. After delivering the horses, Lord went away. However, at midnight, the horses became foxes and started howling. Angry king, made Manickavasagar stand on the sands of Vaigai River in Madurai under scorching Sun. To teach a lesson to the Pandya who acted against His devotee, Lord made Vaigai flow in spate. King ordered to strengthen the banks to avoid a breach. Lord also came to Madurai as a coolie for the repair work. The king struck him with a cane for not doing the work properly. The blow only fell on the king and every one in Madurai leaving its scar on them. The King came to know that all that happened was Lord Shiva’s design, fell at the feet of Manickavasagar and begged his pardon. Avudayarkoil was the ground for this Tiruvilayadal Purana story (an epic by Paranjothi Munivar speaking of the great plays enacted by Lord Shiva for His devotees).
In times past, a Pandya king brought 300 priests from Benares to attend the temple services here and to honour them he wanted to present gold brocade shawls to them. While distributing, he found one in excess and he searched for that priest in the crowd. An aged priest came forward and claimed that robe. On the next day, the king was astonished to find that garment, wrapped round the deity. Atmanadha was the priest who claimed that excess robe.
The king had given the priests lands of sustenance. But in later days a Kurumba chief Lundakshan seized those lands by might. The then reigning king wanted some proof to show that the land belonged to the priests. At that distance of time, no papers were available. Lundakshan merrily remarked that the proof that the land was his say in his intimate knowledge of the land, “Even if you dig to the length of a palm tree, you won’t get a drop of water” he said. Just then an aged priest came forward and struck the earth with a crow bar. In the first stroke itself water gushed out. The king restored the land to the priests. It is needless to say that the aged priest was none else but Atmanadha.
In Avadayar Koil, the God is bereft of any form. After passing through several thresholds devotees stand before sanctum and peep in hoping to have a glimpse of the Lingam, as is the case in all other temples. But it is empty! Only a peeta is formed and devotees are asked to pay obeisance to it. The bottom most peeta is the Sakti peeta and it represents the fusion of Shivam and Skati for realization of the Supreme truth. Since no Lingam or idol is consecrated here, the Lord is known by the name of Atmanadha- Lord of the Soul.
There are three deepas (lamps) lit in the sanctum sanctorum behind the presiding deity in white, red and green as the three eyes of Lord Shiva representing Sun (white), Agni (red) and Moon (green). As Lord is formless, these three lamps are lit.
A Shiva form in the temple is known as Kudhirai Swami – Horse God. For Saint Manickavasagar, Lord Shiva brought horses and delivered them to King Arimardhana Pandian. He also rode on a horse along with other horses. Hence he is praised as Kuthirai Swami– Horse Swami wearing horseman dress with a whip in hand. He is in the Panchakshara Mandap. There are foxes too under the horses praised as Ashwa Nathar.
Every entrance in the temple has Deepas (lamps) in specific numbers. The Thiruvasi (a metal frame in upside U shape around Lord Shiva has 27 lamps representing 27 stars, the two nearby the Jeevatma-Paramatma philosophy, 5 representing the five arts, 36 representing many philosophies, 51 letters. 11 mantras and 224 world divisions. Those facing planetary problems offer ghee for lighting the deepas around the Thiruvasi. Boiled rice nivedhana: Lord Shiva as Guru accepted the food offered by His disciples. They brought boiled rice, palak and bitter gourd curry – all simple. Thus boiled rice nivedhana began. It is offered fresh directly from the oven and taken to Lord and placed on the stone called Padaikkal with steam compressed in the rice. The doors are closed and opened a little later. As Lord is Formless, the steam in the rice also without a form disappears. During the third puja at 11.00 a.m. variety of nivedhanas as Thanekuzhal Adhirasam, Vada, puddings, Dosa and porridge are offered. On Pongal day nivedhana is offered on plantain leaf with 16 vegetable preparations, Sweet Pongal and Ven Pongal and sugarcane.
Mother Ambika performed penance here to make amends for disobeying the advice of Lord not to attend the Daksha Yagna. She was formless then. Pujas are offered only to the feet of Ambika as the shrine is always kept closed. To facilitate darshan of the feet, it is arranged through a mirror. Devotees can have only Pada-feet darshan. The abishek theertha and kumkum is offered as Prasad. Devotees use to tie cradles and bangles here seeking child boon. Contrary to traditional absence of pujas in temples during eclipse time, it is otherwise in Avudayarkoil temple conducting the six time puja as usual even during such occurrence. The philosophy is that eclipses cannot stop the pujas for Shiva having no beginning nor an end – no Aadhi- no Andham.
Representing the rule that disciple should not sit before Guru but only stand, Manickavasagar, Chokka Vinayaka, Muruga and Veerabadra are standing before their Guru-Lord Athmanathar.
There is no shrine for Navagrahas in the temple but they are in pillars. While Rahu and Ketu (serpent planets) are in the first pillar, Shukara –Venus, Sani Bhagwan-Saturn, Jupiter-Guru and Sevvai-Mars are in the second pillar. Sun with His consorts Pradyusha and Usha and Mercury (Budha) are in the third. Moon is at the fourth pillar. In the next two pillars nearby are Lord Kalatheeswar and Mother Gangadevi. There are four Vinayakas in the four corners in the second prakara one of them with Mother Annapoorani facing north. People pray here for prosperity. In one corner, Lord Vinayaka appears in dancing posture with two others dancing with Him facing south. Sachidanandam-peak of bliss has three stages. The structure of the temple has these three aspects. Mahamandap represents Sath, Arthmandapa the Chith and the sanctum sanctorum the Anandha. While Shiva temples are generally facing east, Avudayarkoil temple is facing south. As Lord Shiva plays the Guru part teaching Saint Manickavasagar as Lord Dakshinamurthy, the temple is facing south, it is explained. The other Shiva temple facing south is Lord Kadambavana Nathar temple in Karur.
Saint Manickavasagar is occupying the Somaskanda status in the temple – in between the shrines of Lord and Mother. Festivals are celebrated to Him only as the one dedicated to a distinguished devotee – Bhaktha Utsav. It is also believed that that treating Lord and Shiva and Saint Manickavasagar as different ones is an unforgiveable sin. Two Kuruntha trees – sacred trees of the temple – are in the northwest corner of the Thiagaraja Mandap near the outer compound wall. Facilities are provided to circumambulate them. The temple kitchen is at the other corner. A devotee visiting the temple cannot afford miss the rare sculptures of the temple.
1. Dundi Vinayaka idol
2. 2. Stone chain with a snake spinning around
3. Udumbu-a lizard-like creature and the monkey
4. One thousand pillars carved in just two pillars
5. Sculptures Lords and Mothers in 1008 temple
6. Horses of various countries
7. 27 sculptures representing 27 stars
8. Various signs of dance art – Nattiya Kalai Mudras
9. Pillars expressing seven musical sounds
10. The shade of Koodalvai appearing as the neck of a cow.
There are no Nandhi or Bali peeta in the temple as both Lord and Mother are formless. This is the place where Lord Shiva, for His devotee Manickavasagar, converted the foxes in the forest as horses and delivered to Pandya king. Pradosha Pujas are not observed in this temple. Celebrated Tiruvasagam authored by Saint Manickavasagar was born in this sacred temple, celebrated as the 8th Tirumurai of Saivite scriptures. The palm leaves and the writing pin used by Manickavasagar are still safe in the temple. A temple noted for epigraphy fame, stone floorings and beautiful sculptures.
Inside the temple there is an idol of Lord Vinayaka with 11 hands, an idol of Goddess Kali and an idol of Lord Virabhadra with 8 arms holding the sula athwart his body. There is also an idol of Manickavachakar, which is worshipped with all ceremonial rites and rituals. Avadayar Koil is a saivite shrine.
The construction of this temple is that the rays of the setting sun always fall on the sanctum sanctorum although it is inside three Prakarams. Another important feature here is the Panchakshara Mandapam. It is also known as “Kanakasabhai”.
In the first sector Panchakshara mantra is constituted. It is customary for pilgrims to repeat atleast 108 times the mystic syllable. In the next sector are 81 padams, 224 mantras arranged as a four petalled lotus. For those interested in Saivism, this temple offers a splendid opportunity.
The place is 100 km from Tiruchi, 48 from Pudukkottai, 14 km from Arantangi and 102 from Thanjavur.
6.00 a.m. to 12.00 a.m. and from 4.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m
Temple Telephone Number:
Sri Athmanatha Swami Temple