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Tirunelveli Nellaiappar Temple Story

The Nellaiappar Temple is dedicated to Mahadev Shiva and is located at Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. Within its sacred confines, Shiva is venerated in the form of Nellaiappar (also known as Venuvananathar), symbolized by the lingam, while his divine consort, Parvati, is portrayed as Kanthimathi Amman. Additionally, this temple holds significance in Vaishnavism, as the deity Vishnu is also honored here, having borne witness to the union of Nellaiappar and Kanthimathi. Consequently, the temple is recognized as an abhimana kshetram of Vaishnavism.

In ancient Puranic eras, the location was known as Venuvana, a bamboo forest. According to legend, the deity now enshrined in the temple is said to have manifested within this bamboo thicket. The four Vedas appeared as bamboos here and Shiva appeared in the form of a Shivling. Ramakone, a milkman, who was carrying milk accidently hit the Shivling and fell on the Shivling and a scar appeared on the Shivling. The milk fell on the Shivling and the milkman performed abhishekam on it. Shiva gave darshan to the milkman here as Venuvananathar.

It is believed that Vishnu, the deity, observed the sacred union of Shiva and Parvathi at this very spot. The temple houses an image of Vishnu, accompanied by a metallic Gindi—a vessel with a spout—depicting this divine tale.

It is said that in order to safeguard the world, the Goddess Gandhimathi (Goddess Parvati) undertook rigorous penance seeking the blessings of Shiva here.

Departing from the Kabilai Hill abode, Goddess Umadevi, carrying two measures of paddy, reached Venuvanam where she fostered charitable endeavors. Settling by the Kamba riverbank, she meditated upon the Lord, beheld the vision of Shiva, and entered into marital union.

Together, Lord Shiva and Goddess Ambal exemplified the joys of worldly existence and safeguarded all life forms. In a bid to instill the practice of penance among the people, the Goddess assumed the form of Kamatchi and engaged in penance. This sacred site witnessed the divine play (Thiruvilaiyadal) of God, illustrating the omnipresence of God in all living beings and the eventual union of all souls with the divine.

An incident during the offering of naivedya to Lord Shiva is noteworthy. Vedha Sharma, a Brahmin, sought paddy grains for the ritual and laid them out to dry. Unexpectedly, rain poured down, prompting Vedha Sharma's prayer for divine intervention. Responding to his plea, Lord Shiva shielded the paddy grains from the rain, earning him the appellation Nelvelinathar. Since that incident, the place came to be known as Thirunelveli.

As per another legend, Shiva took the form of Pitchadhana Moorthy to teach a lesson to arrogant and ignorant saints.

Sage Thuruvasar once curse Indra and he got relief from curse after taking bath in Kari Uru Maari Theertham in the temple.

King Swetha Kethu once governed Nellayampathi and faithfully worshipped Nellaiappar every day. Despite his devoted efforts, he remained childless. As his final days approached, he undertook a Shiva Puja at the temple. When the God of death, Yama, attempted to seize his soul with a rope, the rope inadvertently landed on Lord Shiva. Reacting swiftly, the Lord kicked Yama aside, rescuing the king from imminent demise. Enchanted by the divine sight of Shiva, the king sought Moksha, a request that was graciously fulfilled.