Thursday, July 2, 2015

Pagasalai Padhiri!

The Murugan temple at Pagasalai

There are a number of temples in Tamil Nadu where Lord Muruga is found alone, without his consorts Valli and Deivanai. Out of these temples, those in which he stands as Brahma Sastha are noteworthy. Lord Brahma had once become arrogant, that he was indeed the creator of the entire universe, and without him, the world would come to an end. Lord Muruga wanted to humble him and asked him the meaning of Pranava Mantra.
Lord Brahma did not know the meaning. Lord Muruga imprisoned him in order to punish him,  and took over the role of creation. He also acquired the symbols of Lord Brahma, namely, the Akshara Mala and the Kamandalu. This form of Lord Muruga is referred to as Brahma Sastha, where he is found with the Akshara Mala and Kamandalu in his rear arms and the right fore arm is shown as Abhaya Hastha and the left fore arm is placed on his waist.

There are a number of places such as Ayanavaram, Thiruvottriyur, Vayalanallur, Poondi and Manavur around Chennai City where Lord Muruga is found in the form of Brahma Sastha. By far, one of the most beautiful of them resides in Pagasalai, a small village between the Cooum and the Kusasthalai rivers. In fact, Pagasalai is closer to Kusasthalai (Kortalai River) than to Cooum, but it is significant to include Pagasalai in the list of Cooum sites, because in the past, Cooum comprised of eighteen Kottams or sub-divisions out of which Pagasalai was one.

Saint Arunagirinathar has sung three hymns on this temple. In them, he lists all the ailments that one could suffer from, thereby taking them to the graveyard, and seeks Lord Muruga's blessings to save him from all those and make him focus on the golden feet of the Lord. Truly, to this date, the Pagasalai Murugan is known to save his devotees from all kinds of ailments.

People suffering from diseases or their family members pray for their speedy recovery and light ghee lamps for forty eight days, using lotus wicks, within which period the patient's health condition improves. During our visit to the temple, stories about devotees poured from the villagers. Recently a seventy year old lady had come to light lamps for the health of her son. As she was weak and old and had to travel by suburban train to reach the temple every day, the priest and others at the temple, offered to light the lamps on her behalf asking her to pray in her house every day and come back on the forty eighth day. However, the old lady was adamant and kept coming every day.

After twenty days, she brought her son along with her, and both of them started weeping in front of Lord Muruga. Perplexed, the priest asked the old lady what had happened. She explained that those were tears of joy. Her son had had speech difficulties from birth, owing to which he had issues in finding a good job and getting married. The lady was worried about his future after her time and had vowed to light lamps to Lord Muruga. Wonder of wonders, her son's speech disorder vanished as if it had never been there, and he was able to speak normally like anyone else.

Similarly, there are a number of stories of patients on ventilators, where even doctors had given up hope, who had recovered and are leading normal lives, thanks to the grace of Pagasalai Murugan.

Lord Ganesha on the wall to the Sanctum Sanctorum

This temple has not just been worshipped by Saint Arunagirinathar, but also by Adi Shankara and Guru Raghavendra Swamy. The temple is found on the banks of the river Kusasthalai and is mentioned in Matsya Puranam, Koorma Puranam, Bhavishya Puranam, Linga Puranam and Markandeya Puranam. The Kusasthalai river is referred to as Dakshina Sivaganga Theertham and as Uttaravahini as it flows from South to North.

The image of Adi Shankara in one of the pillars in the temple
Any river flowing from South to North is said to be holier and benefit those who meditate on its banks seeking liberation or mukthi. Hence saints like Adi Shankara and Guru Raghavendra Swamy have worshipped at this temple. Guru Raghavendra Swamy spent fourteen years meditating at Kakkalur Anjaneya Swamy temple. The idol in this temple was installed by Saint Vyasaraja, the previous Avatara of Guru Raghavendra Swamy. During his life time, Saint Vyasaraja, has created and installed about 730 idols , out of which Kakkalur Anjaneya Swamy is one.

During this period, Raghavendra Swamy has also visited Pagasalai and worshipped Lord Muruga and Lord Shiva found in the form of a Maragathalingam (Emerald Shivalinga) with the name Thirumoolanathaswamy. The Shiva temple is right on the banks of the river. There is also a beautiful but completely dilapidated Adhikesava Perumal Temple in this village.

The image of Guru Raghavendra Swamy in one of the pillars
Lord Muruga at this temple has also been worshipped by Sage Agasthya, Lord Brahma, Chitragupta, Narada, and the nine planets as per the Puranas.

The temple has been recently consecrated and looks clean and beautiful. The original single granite shrine has been extended on both sides to form Mandapas and circumambulatory space. During the annual Brahmothsavam in the Tamil month of Maasi, (Feb-Mar) a special pooja happens here. The Sakthi Vel (spear) of Lord Muruga is worshipped by the devotees in this pooja, and they find that they are relieved from chronic problems in their life.

The Vel Mandapa in the temple where the Vel Pooja happens
Pathiri Ayya:

Lord Muruga in the form of Brahma Sastha - over 5.5 feet tall, looks majestic in the sanctum sanctorum. He is commonly known as Padhiri Ayya or Padhiriyar. There is an interesting legend behind this name. During the British Period, there was a collector who was travelling along the river. As he rested under the shade of the trees, he found the idol of Lord Muruga in the then, single shrine granite structure. In the form of Brahma Sastha, holding Akshara Mala and Kamandalam, he seemed from a distance, like a priest holding a Rosary to the British officer. So he wanted to take a closer look at the Padhiri.(word for Priest) Those with him thought it was not a good idea, as he may not be allowed access into a Hindu temple.

However, it is believed, that Lord Muruga, came in the form of a priest and took him into the temple that night. The Collector was overwhelmed . From then on, the Lord has came to be known as Pathiri Ayya.

Till date, during the Aadi Krithigai festival, a number of Christians join the Hindus in breaking coconuts thanking the "Pathiri" for fulfilling their prayers. The temple is an excellent example of communal harmony where people of both religions come together and offer their gratitude side by side.

There is a separate shrine for Saint Arunagirinathar. Along with him idols of the other Muruga devotees, namely, Saint Pamban Swamigal, Chidambaram Swamigal who installed the Murugan at Thiruporur, and Kumara Gurubarar. The priest at this temple was formerly working in the police department as Sub-Inspector. He visited the temple once and was immediately drawn towards the Lord. He has since left his position and has been serving as a priest in the temple over the last twenty years. He performs the poojas with a lot of care and devotion.

Procedure for lighting lamps to be rid of diseases:

Those who are desirous of being rid of diseases or a representative from the family, vows to light lamps with ghee and lotus wicks for forty eight days. If this is followed sincerely and with true devotion, the person's health improves within the time period. In case of those unable to come to the temple daily, the priest offers to light the lamps on their behalf. Once they are better, the devotees or their representatives come to the temple and perform 108 circumambulations or Anga Pradakshinams (rolling around the temple) to offer thanks.

How to reach here:

Pagasalai is in the Tiruvalangadu Taluk of Tiruvallur district, about 58 kms from Chennai. It is about 4 kms away from the Manavur railway station on the Chennai Arakkonam suburban train route, and a number of autos and share autos ply from the Manavur station to the temple.

Map Coordinates - 13.0669281, 79.78960249

Temple Timings:

Morning - 7.30- 11 am
Evening - 4.30 - 7 pm

Contact : Ganesh Gurukkal - 91765 29893


  1. Another excellent write up of another little known but important temple.It seems the temple is open almost from morning to night on Krithigai days as several special pooka,abhishegams are performed.For the devotees going for the first time can go on a Krithigai day so that disappointment of reaching late and seeing closed temple can be avoided.

  2. very interesting temple and with a visit. Thank you very much. Best regards.

  3. The way you narrated thanks lord muruga will bless u