Agni Theertham, is on the banks of the Patha river. During Dwapara Yuga, the Saptharishis were performing a Yagna to protect people from being killed by the Pralaya. Fearing his power would be lost, Agni did not help the burning of the sacrificial fire. Angered by this, the Rishis cursed Agni to lose his heat, light and energy. Agni was shocked and wanted to escape from the Sapa Hathi. So he took the form of a fish and hid in the Herambayar Theertham near the Patha River.
Since Agni went missing, the Saptharishis asked his three elder brothers to take the Havi (offering) of the Yagna to Lord Shiva. The three brothers, not having the strength to carry the Havi, perished. In the meantime, the Sapa Hathi came looking for Agni, found him hiding in the Herambayar Theertham, and caught him.
Agni lost his heat, light and energy. When Sage Sudama came to the Theertham for a holy bath, Agni knelt at his feet and asked for a way out of his misery. The Sage asked him to install a Shiva Linga there and worship him to be rid of his curse. Agni did as advised and soon regained his strength and vigor through the grace of the Lord. He also helped the Saptharishis complete the Yagna by carrying the Havi all by himself. Since Agni installed the Shiva Linga here, the place came to be known as Agni Theertham.
The idol of Sri Agneeswara was worshipped by several saints and Siddhars over time. The water of the Patha river flowed around Agneeswara bathing and worshipping him. Over time, Agneeswara was removed from there by Sri Vijayendra Bhupathy Mudaliar who placed it in a grove of Vanni Trees (Shami) and built a small temple around it. Once he was placed in a Vanni grove, he came to be known as Vanneeswara.
When we reached the Agni Theertham it was around 5.30 pm. The entrance to the pond was neatly painted and the birthdays of the eighteen Siddhars was inscribed in one of the walls. Mr Sivakumar who is the caretaker of the place welcomed us warmly and took us down the steps into the Theertham.
The Multi-pillared Mandapa around the pond was clean and well maintained. Mr. Sivakumar, pointed out the panel on one wall depicting a Shiva Lingam and Sage Agasthya performing Abhishekam beneath which the spring of water came in and filled the pond.
On one side of the Mantapa was the Athistanam of a Siddhar who had attained Samadhi there. While his details are not known, the Lingam over the Athistanam is called Theerthapaleeswara. The Dhandam of the Siddhar is also worshipped here to date.
The vibration when you get down into the Agni Theertham is electric. The setting sun, the gentle sound of the water pouring into the pond from an unknown source, the vibrance of Sri Theerthapaleeswara all added to the divine experience. I could feel goosebumps raising in my arms as I sank down on the floor to take in the complete experience of the environment. It was indeed an extremely special place. After meditating there for some time, we went across to the Sri Balasubramania Temple. The pillars in this temple have images of several Siddhars as well as Arjuna doing penance. The main deity Balasubramania Swamy stands alone, looking majestic in his simple Alankara.
When I told Mr Sivakumar that this place was so soothing and divine, he shared the experience of the Uzhavara Kuzhu in restoring this temple from its previous dilapidated state.
With the main diety being moved to the Vanniappar Temple, the Agni theertham lost its glory. Several Siddhars had spent years in meditation at the Agni Theertham thereby enhancing the vibration. The Balasubramania Temple next to the Theertham was a shelter for the Sages and Yogis who stayed in the Mandapa and worshipped at the Agni Theertham. But this too lost its glory and very soon it became dilapidated and deserted.
Mr. Sivakumar, promised to send me pictures of how the place was when the Uzhavara Pani Kuzhu had started the restoration work and how they had worked relentlessly with the help of the villagers of Azhwarkurichi to raise the temple to what it was now. As promised the pictures reached me in two weeks time in a CD. I had tears in my eyes when I started looking at the pictures.
From this dilapidated condition, the temple has been raised to what it is now.The Uzhavara Pani Kuzhu of Alwarkurichi and the villagers have worked relentlessly with a commitment to bring thetemple back to its lost glory.
The Kumbabhishekham of the temple was completed in the year 2010. Every year on the Makam Star in the tamil month of Maasi (Maasi Makam) 10,008 lamps are lit around the Agni Theertham. On every full moon day lamps are lit and the Siddhars are worshipped.
This temple is one among the Dakshina Pancha Krosa Kshetrams. Since this theertham flows from the North, it helps to remove one's sins and help him attain Mukthi. The Theerthapaleeswarar in Agni Theertham has been worshipped by Vidhyadharas, Gandharvas, Siddhars, especially Agasthya and Athiri Maharishi as well as Naga Kanyas. Residing one day in Agni Theertham is said to relieve one of the worst of sins as well as Pithru Sapam and fear of death.
According to the Tamiraparani Mahatmiyam, worshipping here on Solar and Lunar Eclipse days as well as Tamil New Year, New Moon and Full moon days and Ashtami will help one see the vision of the Lord in the form of Light. It will also help them gain all kinds of wealth.
How to get here:
Alwarkurichi is very close to Ambasamudram. It is about 35 kms from Tirunelveli and 25 kms from Tenkasi. Buses plying from Tirunelveli to Tenkasi stop at Alwarkurichi. Nearest Railway station is Tirunelveli. The Agni Theertham is a stone's throw away from the Vanniyappar Temple.
The priest at Balasubramania Swamy Temple is available from 6.30 to 9.00 am in the morning and 4.00 to 7.30 pm in the evening. His contact number is 97501 52566.
The Agni Theertham however is open throughout the day. Contact person Mr. Sivakumar 93606 69929.
The Agni Theertham is definitely a must visit place if you happen to be passing by this area. Visit the Theerthapaleeswara worshipped by the Siddhars and the Siddhanathan - Sri Balasubramania Swamy here.