Sathuragiri Hills is also known as’ Chathuragiri’ or ‘Sundara Mahalingam’ and is situated in Virudhanagar District of Tamil Nadu. Chathuragiri is believed to be the abode of Gods and 18 Siddhars. Siddhars are saints who are Shaivites (devotees of Shiva) who profess and practice unusual forms of Siddhas, which are yogic powers.
The saints who practice Siddhis are called Siddhars. This place is located 10 kms. from a place called Watrap or Vathirairuppu which is near Srivilliputhur. The base village is Thaanipaarai which is 7 kms. from the Saathuragiri Hills.
One derivation of the name is from ‘Chatur’, meaning Four Veda (the Vedas) and ‘Giri’ , meaning Hill. It is believed that all the Four Vedas met and the hill was formed according to Siva Puranam. This Hill of the Gods also has another derivation; the mountain is in a square and hence named Chathuragiri. It is also believed that the Siddhars still make their penance to God Shiva from this hill. Some of the Siddhars who are believed to have made this Hill their abode are: 1. Agasthiyar, 2. Gorakkar, 3. Sattai Muni, 4. Rama Devar, 5. Sundaranandar, 6. Pathanjali, 7. Idaikadar, 8. Sri Bogar, 9. Nandi Devar, 10. Sri Thirumoolar, 11. Sri Konganavar, 12. Valmiki, 13. Kudumbai, 14. Kamalamuni, 15. Dhanwantari, 16. Pambatti, 17. Machamuni and 18. Karuvaroor. Since the Siddhars pray to Lord Shiva, the hill is also called Shiva Malai or Shiva Hill.
Agasthiyar the First Siddhar
Agasthiyar was the Guru of all Sidhhars and legend has it that the Siddha system was handed over to him by Lord Muruga, the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati. He is believed to have lived in the 6th century BC and is also responsible for the first Tamil grammar called Agathiyam. His greatest creation is supposed to be Boopathi Kuligai, a concoction so powerful that it can even bring the dead back to life.
Legends say that Lord Siva, disguised as Sivanadiyar, which means devotee of Shiva, came to this hill at Chaturagiri and accosted a priest who was looking after a temple there. The priest told the Sivanadiyar that the temple was very old and the land on which the temple stood belonged to a very wealthy landlord who took care of the temple. On hearing this, the Sivanadiyar laughed out loud saying that the land belonged to him. The priest was apprehensive of the answer. To prove his claim, Sivanadiyar told the priest that he could take whatever extent of land he needed. Hesitatingly, the priest produced a conch and said that the land to which extent the conch be heard when blown will be the property of the temple. The devotee agreed and the priest was said to have blown the conch. The sound waves travelled through a large extent and on looking out for the devotee, he was found missing. The Lord Siva appeared before the priest and pleased with the priest granted him that extent of land.
It is believed that the hills were the abode of Athiri maharishi and his wife, Anusuya Devi. The hill has a lot of stories, legends and imprints that makes one believe of their relation to God.
OTHER LEGENDS AND STORIES
At the foothills there are temples dedicated to Mahakali Amma, Vinayagar, Paechi Amman,Vana Durgai Amman and Karuppaswamy of which the idols of Paechi Amman and Pilavadi Karuppaswamy were installed by the Siddhars in Thaanipaarai. While Pilavadi Karuppaswamy and Mahakali Amman are the guardians of the hills, Vana Durgai Amman oversees the Sundara Mahalingam Temple. There are two Siva Lingams in two caves in Kora Kunda (Gorakkar Cave), on the way to the peak.
The Siddhar Goraknathar is a part of the 18 Siddha traditions. He was well versed in the Nava Nath Siddha tradition and Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism. This Siddhar has created Kayakalpa and many other Siddha medicines. It is believed that he appears in the form of light on the 10th day of the Tamil calendar.
There is yet another legend of hoof marks found on the way to the peak. A devote, lost his way to Sathuragiri as the place was thickly forested and was confused. Lord Shiva on seeing the predicament sent his favourite cow, Kamadhenu to assist the devotee. Kamadhenu appeared before the devotee and showed him the proper way to the temple. Being a divine cow, Kamadhenu, flew off to the heavenly abode after leaving an imprint of its hooves on the soil. This is visible even now and is revered with great piety.
There are two lingams in yet another cave known as the Irattai Mahalingam which is said to be Syambhu Lingam, meaning lingam that have grown out of earth. The story that makes its round is that there was a very happy couple who only had one difference. The husband was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and the wife, a devotee of Lord Hari / Vishnu. They argued that their God was most powerful and this argument was taken up with a lot or scholars. The answer was either in favour of one God or the other. Finally, they decided to do penance to find out the most powerful God and for that they came to Sathuragiri Hills. Both of them prayed fervently and Lord Shiva appeared before the man. The husband was so very pleased and called upon the lady to show that Lord Shiva was the mightiest. The lady was agitated and told Lord Shiva that she wanted to see Lord Hari. On hearing this, Lord Shiva transformed in to Lord Hari to prove that all Gods are one. While parting, the Lord Shiva appeared as Shankara Narayana (the forms of both Lord Shiva and Lord Hari) and then took the form of Irattai Syambhu (Twin-Shiva and Hari).Lingam. It is said that the Linga was worshipped by Rama Devar Siddhar.
Sundara Murthy Swami Lingam (Anidai Lingam-Worshipped by the Siddhars): This lingam was worshipped by famous Siddhars like Agasthyar and Sundaranandar. The story is that Lord Shiva went around the Universe, looking out for a priest to perform worship in his temple. He went on saying” Solvar Undu, Kaetpar illai” (meaning, there is someone to say but no one to listen). Finally in a village he heard a tiny voice saying “Kaetpar Undu, Solvar Illai” (meaning there is a person to say but not one to listen”). It was from a three- year old child and Lord Shiva was pleased and took the child to the hills. The child was anointed Sundara Murthy Swami. He became the official representative of Sundara Mahalingam (Lord Shiva) and ensures that the prayers of the devotees reach Lord Shiva and that the prayer is answered.
There are a few other temples and monuments on the way to the peak and they are: Oonjal Karuppan Swamy, Korakkar Scripture Rock, Vellai Ganapathy, Nadu Kathu Ganapathy, Naga Kanni kavu, Lord Ganesha at Thavasi Cave and Periya Mahalingam.
Sathuragiri Hills have three temples and they are:
Sundara Mahalingam Temple
In the abode of Shiva and Parvathi, the Sivaganas, who are the attenders of the Lord, live together. One day Lord Shiva noticed one of his attendants, Yazhvalla Devar eyeing a Deva Loga Apsaras (a heavenly beauty). Lord Shiva was infuriated by this and cursed both of them to be reborn as human beings. The lovers begged for mercy and Lord Shiva told them that they will be brought back in their lifetime. Yazhvilla Devar was born in to a cowherd’s family living in the outskirts of Sathuragiri as Pachaimal. He led his life by selling milk and later married Sadaimangai, his aunt’s daughter. They moved their herd of cattle near the hills for better grazing ground and Pachaimal, as usual milked the cows and his wife took the milk to the in-laws house and sold it to them. One day, an elderly sage met Sadaimangai on the way and after evoking the sage’s blessing, she was about to leave when the sage asked for some milk.
The lady readily agreed to give the sage some milk. After quenching his thirst, the sage told her that he would be around for some days and would like to have some milk every day. The in-laws were astonished by the decrease in supply of milk and questioned Pachaimal. This man told them that in fact there was an increase in the quantity of milk and immediately suspected his wife. He followed her the next day and found out that the lady was giving some milk to the old sage. Pachaimal confronted his wife on the way to the in–laws and abused her. The lady ran to the Sage who saved her and made her a Sadathari, one of the Nava Shakthis. The husband finding out that his wife had attained divinity, repented at his own action and chose to move on to the peak of Sathuragiri and serve the sages by giving them milk. One of the Sages there at that time was Sage Sundaranandar.
One day a new sage came to the place and was welcomed by Sage Sundaranandar and Sattai Muni. Pachaimal, as usual had gone to milk his cow, one day, and found the new Sage drinking milk directly from the cow. Pachaimal flew into rage and threw a stick at the sage which wounded the sage on the head. When the other two sages intervened to curse Pachaimal, the new Sage became Lord Shiva and told Pachaimal that his life on earth had ended and took him back to Mount Kailas. The Shiva Lingam in the temple at the peak bears the brunt of a scar.
Santhana Mahalingam Temple
There are separate sanctums for the 18 Siddhars, Lord Ganesha, Lord Muruga, the Navagrahas, Santhana Mahadevi also known as Shakthi and Santhana Mahalingam (Lord Shiva). The cave of Satta Muni is found in the neighbourhood. The story goes that all holy men, devotees, sages and others went to Mount Kailas to pay their obeisance to both Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy. The custom was to circumambulate both Lord and the Goddess. One of the Sages, Bringi Maharishi paid his obeisance to Lord Shiva only. This infuriated the Goddess and she asked the Lord for the reason. Lord Shiva replied that only people who were in search of ‘Moksha’ would circle around the Lord and people who were interested in worldly materials will circulate around both of them.
This infuriated the Goddess even further and she cursed the Maharishi that he would lose all his flesh; the flesh being Shakthi (another name of the Goddess). The Maharishi was unable to move and seeing the plight, Lord Shiva presented the Maharishi with a staff with which he was able to move again. This enraged the Goddess further as she had been slighted twice. She felt that if she was a part of Lord Shiva’s body, the Ardhanarieeswarar (half male and half female form), she would not have been insulted at all. She came down to Sathuragiri to invoke Lord Shiva at a time when Sathuragiri was reeling in a drought for over twelve years. The sages who were present at the place never did anything to quell the drought as they believed that it was a natural phenomenon. When the Goddess came down to the place, nature transformed itself and there was greenery everywhere.
The sages were astonished at the phenomenon and knew that the Goddess had descended down on earth. To achieve her goal, it is said that she descended in the month of September / October and started her penance under a sandal tree (Santhana). The Linga in which she invoked her Lord was made with Sandalwood paste and that is the reason for the name of the temple. The Goddess created the Agaya Gangai Theertham, a stream, which still flows. Lord Shiva appeared before the Goddess and accepted her demands. The Linga that is in the temple is worshipped only by Maharishis and people who want to attain Moksha (attain liberation). The Linga was worshipped by Sattai Muni.
Anandavalli Amma Temple
The sanctum sanctorum of the Goddess is behind the Sundara Mahalingam temple. The Goddess is formless but a form is devolved during Navarathri (October) and Purattasi (September / October). The story is about a lady who was born to Saliya Maharishi Gothram (family) about 300 to 400 years ago. She was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and wanted to do penance on the Sathuragiri mountains. She was dissuaded by the sages as the place was unsafe for women. Not dissuaded, she did penance at the base of the mountains. It is said that Lord Shiva appeared before her and asked her to go to Sathuragiri mountain peak and bless the devotees.
To travel by road, there are buses from Srivalliputhur to Thaanipaarai, which is at the base of the hill. Srivalliputhur is located on the Highway and is linked to all major cities in Tamil Nadu. The nearest railway station is also in Srivalliputhur. The nearest airport is at Madurai, which is 70 kms way from Thaanipaarai. It is 45 kms. from Virudhanagar.
There is no electricity, no telephones and network connection is also not available at the top. There are a few small shops that provide buttermilk, coffee and snacks. The temple gives food (Annadhana) on new moon, full moon and festival days. The amenities are basic and it is advisable to get down to the base by dusk.