The Mother Divine
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By Sri Nirmal Chandra Ghosh

Mettuppatti is about 10 kilometers south of Nilakkottal in Madura district. It is on the south bank of the sacred Vaigai river. There is a holy shrine of Shiva on the top of a hill called Siddhamalal which is nearly 2 kilometers north of the village.

Alagarkoyil is a very ancient and sacred temple of Lord Vishnu situated picturesquely at the southern extremity of a hill called Alagarmalal or Vrishabhadri. It is about 19 kilometers north-east of Madura city. The name of the village is Tirumalirunsolai. It is a divyadesha.
The name of the deity worshipped in the temple is Alagarswami or Sundararaja which means the beautiful king. The Goddess Lakshmi is called Sundaravalli. They are in standing position. A number of Alwars sang the praise of the deity and the sacred spot. At a distance of about 3 kilometers, on the hill above the temple there is a sacred stream called Nupura Gangai which literally means the Ganga issuing from the nupura (the ornament put on the feet of the Lord). There is a separate shrine in the temple for the great devotee Andal, the only woman Alwar, who was married with Lord Ranganatha.
Alagarswami visits the Meenakshi temple of Madurai during the festival on the fourteenth day of the bright half of chaitra every year held in commemoration of the marriage of Meenakshi with Sundareshwara.
It is said that Yamaraja, the God of death, once took the form of a bull (Vrishabha) and worshipped Lord Vishnu at Triumalirnsolai. When the Lord revealed Himself to Yamaraja, a sacred stream began to flow from His nupura. The stream was therefore named as Nupura Gangai and the hill as the Bull Hill.
Alagarswami was originally installed by Yamarja. The antiquity of the shrine is further corroborated by the fact that it was mentioned by Poigai, Bhuta and Pey Alwars.

Anaimalai is a hill about 3 kilometers in length and about half a kilometer broad. It is nearly 250 feet in height. It runs almost parallel to Madura Melur road from a distance of about 8 kilometer (north-east) from Madura city. Anaimalai literally means the Elephant Hill.
There is an ancient temple of Lord Narasimha, the Man-Lion incarnation of Vishnu, at the foot of the hill, at about the middle of its northern side. The inner shrine of the temple in which the deity is seated, is cut out of the rock. The temple is surrounded by chhtrams and a sacred tank full of lotuses which makes the scenery very beautiful.

It is said that in olden days the jainas of Kanchipuram race tried to convert the followers of Shiva residing in Madura to their faith. They performed a sacrifice in order to terrify them by digging a sacrificial pit about 16 kilometers long. A very big elephant arose from the sacrificial fire and began to move towards the city of Madura shaking the earth with its heavy trampling and causing terror into the hearts for the people of Madura who were followers of Shiva. The jainas were closely following the elephant.

When the pandya ruler, who was a great devotee of Shiva, saw the giant elephant moving towards his capital, he became afraid and began to pray to Lord Shiva earnestly for protection. The Lord responded to his prayer and killed the elephant at this very spot where its petrified body has become Anaimali in the course of time.

It is also said that the Pandava brothers, mentioned in the Mahabharata, dwelt at this place during their exile in the forest after they lost a game of chess with Duryodhana in which they had staked their everything.

Anaiyur is about 6 kilometers east of Usilampatti railway station which is 37 kilometers from Madura along Madura-Bodinayakkanur line. There is an ancient temple of Lord Shiva at Anaiyur, attached to which there is a holy tank. It is said that the divine elephant called Airavata owned by Indra, the king of the Gods, once trampled under his foot a garland given to Indra by the sage Narada. Seeing this, the sage cursed Airavata, due to which Airavata turned jet black. In order to get rid of the effect of the curse, Airavata performed penance and bathed in the above mentioned tank called Golden Lily Pool, The normal colour of his body, which was white, was then restored.

Tiruvadur is a beautiful sacred spot situated about 6 kilometers south of Melur. Melur is about 30 kilometers north-east of Madura city. Tiruvadur is also called Vatapuri.

There is a famous temple of Shiva called Vatapurisha, i.e. the Lord of Vatapuri, at Tiruvadur. The place is also noted for being the birthplace of the great devotee of Shiva named Manikya Vachekar, who was a poet and who was ranked as one of the foremost of the Nayanars He wrote the sacred hymns called Tiruvachakam. His father's name was Shambhupadashrita.

There is another temple of Shiva on the hill called Perumalmalai which lies to the west of the village called Arittapatti, at a distance of about 6 kilometers west of Melur. It is a beautiful rock-cut temple. The sacred place is almost midway between Alagarkoyil and Melur, a kilometer and a half south of the road joining them.

At Karungalakudi also, about 13 kilometers north of Melur, there is an ancient temple of Lord Shiva on the top of a hill lying to the west of the village. The name of the deity is Tiruchunai. At kottampatti, about 22 kilometers north of Melur, there is a noted temple of Kartikeya at the foot of a hill situated about 8 kilometers north-east of the village. There are two other temples also near it.

Tiruppuvanam railway station is about 22 kilometers south-east of Madura city. There is a noted temple of Lord Shiva in the village. The annual car-festival is held during the full moon of Vaisakh - Shrisubrahmanyashtakam, Stotrarnavah.

Sivakashi is 19 kilometers south-west of Virudunagar, by railway. It is about 45 kilometers south-east of Madura. There is a noted temple of Shri Krishna at Sivakashi. The deity has four arms.
About 3 kilometers north of Sivakashi, there is a Divyadesha called Tiruttankalur, where there is a famous temple of Lord Vishnu. The deity, with two images of the Goddess Lakshmi, is in standing position. There is a sacred tank called Papabinasham. Bhutayogi and Parakala Alwars sang the praise of the deity and the sacred spot.

The holy town of Srivilliputtur is 42 kilometers south-west of Virudunagar by railway. It is nearly 75 kilometers south-west of Madura by road. The magnificent pagodas of Srivilliputtur look very beautiful to the onlooker from a distance. It is a Divyadesha. Its praise was sung by Vishnuchitta Alwar.
There is a famous and ancient temple of Shri Ranganatha, called Rangamamar at Srivilliputtur. In the main shrine there is an image of Andal, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Vrihat stotraratnakarah the only woman Alwar, together with that of Lord Ranganatha, the deities are in standing position. There are scenes from the great epic Mahabharata depicted in coloured sculptures on the walls of the temple.

Adjacent to the temple of Shri Ranganatha mentioned above, there is another large temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The image in the main shrine is resting on the bed of the divine serpent, Shesha. There is also another image of Vishnu called Vatapatrashayee because the deity is lying on a leaf of a
banyan tree, the way in which the God rests during the great deluge. There is a shrine of Lord Narasimha also in this temple.

At a distance of about a kilometer from the temple of Shri Ranganatha, there is a holy tank in the waters of which Shrimati Andal used to take bath. Srivilliputtur is the place of birth of Vishnuchitta who is also known as Periya Alwar.

About 32 kilometers of Ramanathapuram  lies the sacred place of Uppur. Ramanathapuram, also called Ramnad, is 611 kilometers south-west of Madras city by railway.

There is an ancient temple of Lord Ganesha at Uppur. It is said that for removing all obstacles the deity was worshipped by Shri Rama on his way to Ceylon (Lanka) for rescuing his wife Sita before bridging the ocean (Gulf of Mannar).

Ramanathapuram means the town of Ramanatha. It is, in short, called Ramnad. Since Shri Rama worshipped Lord Shiva at Rameshwaram in this area, Lord Shiva is called Ramanatha and the entire district and its headquarters are called Ramanathapuram or Ramnad. Formerly it was the capital of the kings of Ramnad who trace their lineage from Guha, who was a great friend of Rama in the forest. They have the title of Setupati, which literally means ‘the Lord of Bridge’).