Sri Suddha Rathneswarar temple, Oottathur where devotees go for cure of kidney ailments

Suddha Rathneswarar temple  Oothathur, TN Trell
That, among the Indian states Tamil Nadu has countless ancient temples dedicated to Hindu Trinity Gods Shiva and Vishnu
across its land, brings out the fact that religion has been occupying an important part of the people's lives since ancient time. The ancient rulers had deep faith in almighty and ruled the land and their subjects efficiently without deviating from fair justice and path of righteousness. They built lots of fascinating temples of beauty and grandeur for the benefits of people so that they could  lead a  disciplined life and chase wealth and prosperity honestly with a spiritual bent of mind and not deviating from the path of Dharma.  So, it is not surprising to see Hindu temples with hoary past in remote places in Tamil country. A fascinating aspect of some temples is they are unique in their own way. Some temples are purported to ward off sins commuted by devotees, some help you prosper in your business and other temple are for childless couples, etc.  There are some temples that offer some kind of remedy to incurable  health problems which doctors themselves find it tough to cure. For example, to be bestowed with good health, lots of people visit the famous Vaitheeswaran temple (Presiding deity Vaidhyanatha swamy) near Mayavaram, Nagapatnam District.  Though it may sound superstitious, as I mentioned in many of my early posts on this subject, trust in God is the key factor reminding us of the old wise saying , ''Faith can move mountains.'' One such temple is The Rathneswarar Temple  in the small town of Oottathur (also Uttatur) in Perambalur District.

 The presiding deities  in this Shiva temple are Sri Suddha Rathneswarar and his consort Sri Akilandeswari. It is one of the  275 Paadal Petra Sthalams  glorified  by Nayanmars in the early medieval Tevaram devotional hymns on Lord Shiva.  Believed to have been originally built in the 7th Century, it was renovated by none other than Raja Raja Chola I, Rajendra Chola and his son  Rajadhiraja Chola as confirmed by the numerous inscriptions in this temple from their times. It is said there are as many as 50 inscriptions by the Chola rulers. 

The legend has it  God Brahma (a Trinity God in charge of ''Creation'' according to the Hindu mythology) who has just a few temple dedicated to Him  because of a curse he incurred apparently from Lord Shiva (refer to the legend of Karthikai Deepam) wanted to get rid of the sin. When he sought forgiveness, Lord Shiva told him  to worship him with holy Theertham collected from the holy rivers across the world.  So he  chose a place close to this temple, had a well dug  and poured all the holy waters into it. He  created a spring here  containing holy waters and, at last,  He was free from the curse he incurred, This holy water is called Brahma Theertham.  The strong belief is if a person takes bath mixed with this Brahma Theertham, he will be free from health problems. Almost daily lots of people make a beeline to this place for medical remedy, to be relieved from ailments. 

 In a semi-dry place like Oottathur and its surrounding areas where the ground water can be accessed at great depths, the Brahma Theertham spring near the sanctum is  perennial,  available year round . More or less the ground water level is between 10 to 15 feet from the ground. It is said that the underground water tunnel linking Brahma Theertham and nearby Perumal is either closed or blocked. 
 A note on the name of this place: Because of the presence of a Spring in this place, it was  then called Ootrathur (in Tamil ''Ootru'' means spring) during the colonial period, it was called Uttatur. Presently the name is spelt Oottathur.

How did the Shiva temple come up in this part of land far removed from big towns?  According to a legend : Once the great Chola king Sri Raja Raja I was passing through this place, once a wooded area full of wild plants and bushes and while his soldiers were blazing the trail by removing the plants and wild grass, etc, they accidentally saw  blood oozing from the ground. On orders from the Chola king, they dug the ground  and found an amazing Shiva Linga which had a cut on the upper part. The original Suddha Ratneswara Temple (7th century) had been buried under the sand during that time and was covered by thick Bilwa trees and bushes. The king, being  a pious Shiva Bhakthar, built this temple with this Shiv Linga idol as the main deity.
Oottathur Shiva temple. Nataraja stone statue  Aalayam Kanden

A fascinating feature of this lingam is it is made of  pure ruby with clear surface (Suddha manickam or Suddha Ratnam).  To the left of the garbagriha -  Sanctum Santorum, is a separate shrine for Nataraja called  Panchanadhana Nataraja and his consort Sivakama Sundari. It is rare to see the Lord of Dance  Sri Nataraja in dancing posture carved in stone. On the idol of Suddha Ratneswara the Sun's ray falls  during a particular time for three days in the Tamil month of Maasi (12, 13, 14) and for three minutes on Vaikasi Visakham day.

 Yet another odd feature in this temple is, besides the regular Nandi (bull), Lord's mount, there is another Nandi  facing East of  the Artha mantapa.  It is said on orders from Lord Shiva Nandi drank the holy waters of all five rivers  and among them, it was the Ganges water that  flowed through the Nandi  and it formed the Nandi river.     .
 There is a river  close to the temple called  Nandi Aaru (Nandi River) that flows into the Kollidam river. Legend has it once King Raja Raja carrying his father (king Sundara Chola)'s Asthi to be immersed in the Ganges in Kasi. He stopped overnight near the Nandi River for rest and relaxation. Following day, the Asthi turned into fragrant flowers. At Kasi, upon opening the urn, the flowers turned back to Asthi. Not willing to immerse the Asthi at Kasi, he returned to the bank of Nandi river and immersed his father's Asthi. Hence the saying:  ''Kaasikku Veesam Kooda"implying it is better to perform the last rites on the  banks of the Nandi river than  in Kasi.  Kasi Viswanatha Temple on the banks of the river was built by the Chola ruler.
Nandi (bull) East  facing at Oottathur  Sulekha Rivr
Nandi facing East Oottathur Suddha Rathneswarar

 Brahma Theertham is used for abhishekam for Lord Suddha Ratneswara and devotees collect the Abhiseka water as it has medicinal properties.  This temple is famous for the cure of kidney problems and people  from various places with kidney ailments flock to this temple regularly in large numbers to be blessed and cured of their health problem.  First they offer Vetiver (local herb) Mala (garland) to the deity and and perform abhishekam (anointing) with the water of Brahma Theertham. This water is then collected and given to the  person concerned. It is said after consuming a small amount of the medicinal water continuously for 45 days, the person can see improvement in his health and countless people's positive remarks bear testimony to the effects of the medicinal water from Brahma Theertham.
The shrine of Goddess Akilandeswari is found in the second praharam (Prathakshana path) behind the temple.