tirunellikkaa or thirunellikkaval as it is called today is located 17 km from tiruvarur and 23 km from mannargudi.
thirunellikkaval is one of the 278 temples sung in thevaram. appar and sambandhar had sung in praise of the lord.
the five sacred trees of devaloka – parijatham, karpakam, mandaram, harichandanam and santhanam – became very proud of their ability to fulfil devotees’ wishes, which led them to not respect sage durvasa. the angry sage cursed them to be born as nelli (gooseberry) trees, whose fruits are sour. once on earth, the trees prayed to the lord, were relieved of their curse, and went back to heaven. however siva stayed back to teach the world the goodness of nelli, as a swambhu murti here. he also blessed the sage durvasa to overcome his anger here. in sanskrit, nelli is called amla, and so the lord here is also named amlavanaveswar.
legends from chora times
once, a siva devotee came to the forest here and saw animals and birds living happily together. even devas would visit every day. he reported this to the chola king, who was very pleased. he cleared the forest and established a town, along with this temple. the king took on the name amlanesan.
king uttama chola and his queen padmai did not have any children. once when they visited this temple, a very young girl came and sat on the queen’s lap, and a voice told them to bring the girl up as their own, which they did. the girl – mangalanayaki – was none other than parvati. when she came to marriageable age, she married lord siva here, on the first day of the tamil month of avani (august-september).
this temple has a quaint connection with the ramayanam. kakasura – an asura in the form of a crow – troubled sita during her imprisonment in lanka. after rama invaded lanka, he shot an arrow at the crow, and to avoid it, the crow went praying to various places, finally reaching here and getting the protection of lord siva. the lord requested rama to pardon the crow. sage susanam had killed his father in a fit of anger, and was therefore afflicted with brahmahathi dosham. this story of kakasura was narrated to him and he came to tirunellikkaa and took at bath in the teertham, and fed a crow. when he did this, he was liberated from his curse.
vishnu, sani, brahma, suryan and chandran have worshipped here. a gandharva was cured of his leprosy by worshipping here. so, the place also has the names arunapuram and kushtarogaharapuram, and the teertham is called brahma teertham. this temple is a roga nivarani sthalam for leprosy.
for a week starting the 18th day of the tamil month of masi (february-march), and for a week starting the krishna paksha chaturti in the tamil month of aipasi (october-november), when evening puja is performed, the rays of the sun fall directly on the moolavar lingam here. it is believed that suryan himself performs this puja. this is a west-facing temple.
pancha kaa kshethram
this is one of the pancha ka kshetrams (places with names ending with ka, a shortening of kadu or kavu – meaning forest) – tiruvanaikka, tirunellikka, tirukolakka, tirukodikka and tirukurakka. these place names are often pronounced with a suffix “val” (as in tiruvanaikkaval), which is often considered incorrect.