The Thiruvilaiyadal legends associated with Shiva refers to an occasion, when God Shiva in order to help a poor Bhramin poet get a thousand gold coins as the prize, wrote a verse to be submited to the Tamil sangam. The poem found fault with Nakeeran, who was the chief poet of the Kings court. Shiva then manifested as a rich poet and confronted the court to explain his verse. He even revealed his godly status and his third eye in his forehead which was capable of burning the poet with just a stare. In spite of the threat, the chief poet stood unfazed and opposed the verse being accepted, saying that no wrong to the chaste Tamil literature could be committed by any one high or by even by god himself. Standing on the banks of temple tank the angered Shiva turned his fiery gaze at the chief poet, burning him to ashes.
However on the court seeking pardon the poet was transformed back to life.The spot where the poet was burnt and was transformed back to his normal self is now secluded . Here, reconciliatory prayers as well as poojas are offered everyday. People however, avoided visiting it. Maybe the natives believe it to be inauspicious to visit the site of death, forgetting that the place was also one of resurrection. Surprisingly, I found a few kittens resting beside the Deity and I guess that they found it to be a place of safe haven.
I washed my feet in the temple tank which was surrounded by four corridors and climbed the granite steps back to the corridor. Its walls had paintings of gods incarnations, and the history of the kings. The tank is now used by the people for performing customary rituals and not for testing Tamil literary works. The corridors are where the devotees relax and spend time savouring the temple prasadam as well as the savouries ,which were supposed to be the favourite of their Gods. I spent time with friends whom I met and sat in the corridor, shared the Godly favourites.
Having spent good enough time, I came out of the temple on to the outer lanes. I was told that the temple was fortified as a square and had four entrances. This came to be the centre of the Pandyan capital of Madurai. The town was planned with lanes running in squares around the temple. They connected the main roads leading to the four main gates which were facing the four directions. I could not see all the twelve temple towers that stood amid the court as the temple was surrounded by the crowded streets having residences, buildings and a market. However I was stunned and astonished at the several thousand sculptures that beautified the few towers I came across.
These sculptures explained the various deities and their interaction with the people. To study each of section by listening or researching the legends connected with it, meant that it could take several years and as BBC rightly put it, this temple deserves a place as a heritage and a world wonder not only for its architecture but also for the unbelievable legends associated with it. Coming out of the marvel, I once again looked up at the towers and this time around, saw a great many legendary halos over the sculpted celestial beings, apart from the amazing construction made by artistic hands blended with engineering skill. It was surprising to see the work of people who lived through the many legends many thousand of centuries ago.
One last word. “If you want to take flight and journey into the world of artistic imagination or faithfully traverse into Hindu mythology, or dream on legends or relive Tamil culture, this temple is where literally, you have to get screened before boarding, to travel into mystical time, through the many centuries, gone by, probably even into heaven and back. This was port to the flight of fascination and if fascination was the beginning, what would the journey behold? Well. Be there soon, revel and behold one of the ancient cultural landmark, in the history of world civilizations.