Azhahar Malai is a small hill situated about 12 miles north of
Madurai. There are two shrines, one at the base of the hill and
the other at the top , about 2 miles up the hill. The temple at
the base is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the deity installed is
worshipped as Kallazhahar. This temple is called Azhahar koil.
The temple on the hill is known as Pazhamuthir Cholai and is
dedicated to Lord Subramanya. Thus this place attracts both
Vaishnavite and Saivite devotees.
The temple is easily accessible from Madurai which itself is a
renowned temple town, the home of the famous Meenakshi -
The origin of the temple is not very clear but the
'sthalapuranam' mentions a few legends associated with
this temple. Yama, the deity who presides over death once visited
this place and enchanted by its beauty stayed here for
meditation. Lord Vishnu appeared before him in response to his
meditation. He requested that the Lord remained in this place so
that people could worship him. In granting his wishes Vishnu
stayed there with his two consorts, Sri Devy and Boo Devy.
There is also a legend associated with the river Silambar that
runs on the western side of the temple. A king by the name of
Bali by his severe penance became very powerful and brought all
the three worlds under his domain. The Devas who had thus lost
all their possessions and exalted position approached Mahavishnu
and requested that he should restore them to their rightful
place. Mahavishnu then took the form of a dwarf by the name of
Vamanan and went to King Bali and sought three paces of land for
himself. King Bali seeing this dwarf acceded to his request. Then
Mahavishnu assumed a gigantic form (Brammanda soroopam). He
measured the three worlds by two paces and asked King Bali where
he could measure his third pace. King Bali, unable to find any
other place, showed his head whereupon Mahavishnu put his foot on
his head and pushed him into the netherworld. Lord Brahma seeing
this large foot washed it with water from his
'Kamandalam' (pot). The water that trickled from the
Silambu (Anklet) worn by Mahavishnu formed into a river thus
taking the name 'Silambar'(Silambu+Aaru). The sanctity of
this place is further enhanced by the fact that all twelve
Vaishnavite saints (Azhwars) had visited this temple and had sung
in praise of the presiding deity.
The processional deity here is called Soundararajar or Azhahar
and the installed deity as Paramaswamy. A special feature of this
deity is that the spinning wheel (chakram) of Mahavishnu is
depicted as in the process of being released (Prayoga state). The
processional deity is made of a very special and costly type of
gold called aparanji. In a corner of the corridor of the temple
is a shrine to Lord Ganapathy. He is depicted as having his trunk
turned towards his right, which is not a common theme. Hence this
Vinayagar is called Valampuri Vinayagar.
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