Goddess Punnai Nallur Maariamman temple built by the Marathas, Thanjavur

Punnainallur Maariamman temple,Thanjavur  TN. .findmytemple.com

Punnainallur Maariamman idol(Moolavar),Thanjavur  picasaweb.google.com

Across the state of Tamil Nadu there many famous Maariamman temples, Samayapuram Maariamman, near Trichy, Kootai Maariamman in Salem city, Mangadu Amman in Chennai are a few examples. Punnainallur Maariamman temple is equally famous and is being visited by lots of people from Tamil Nadu. Goddess Maariamman is a form of Parvathi or Durga or Kaali. The worship of this goddess is quite prominent through out Tamil Nadu, cutting across caste distinctions. In rural Tamil Nadu, Maariamman shrine is an integral part of the community. 

entrance at Punnainallur Maariamman temple,Thanjavur,TN. 
Particularly on Sundays and auspicious days the Maariamman temple  here is over crowded. Venkoji Maharajah (a half-brother of the great Maratha king  Shivaji; reign April 1674  till 1684) of the Thanjavur  Maratha Dynasty was the first Raja of Thanjavur from the Bhosale  dynasty. Once he  went on a pilgrimage  to Samayapuram (now near the city of Tiruchirapalli or Trichy), also known as Kannapuram and offered worship at the Amman temple. He stayed there for the night  and, while in deep sleep, he had a strange dream in which the Goddess (Ambal) appeared in divine form and   advised him to go to ‘Punnaikkadu’, about  5 km east of Tanjore town and  worship her there. Following morning upon recalling his reverie, he realized that it was a divine dispensation and he had to follow what had been told.  Later he went to  Punnaikkadu  with his paraphernalia and, to his surprise, he found an idol of the Goddess. Soon he had a temporary shelter built over the idol and named it ‘Punnai Nallur‘, a place rich in Punna trees in those days. Further, Venkoji Maharaja donated the  entire village to the shrine to take care of the temple needs and puja rituals.

Thanjavur Maratha kingdom, Tamil nadu. america.pink

According to yet another legend associated with this temple,  once the daughter of the Maratha ruler Thulajaji  Maharajah(1770s) contracted smallpox and  lost her vision because it reached the advanced stage. The ruler, having no other recourse sought refuge in Punnainallur Amman and prayed to her intensely. The goddess not only cured the disease but also restored the vision of the ruler’s daughter. Since then this temple had become well-known in that region. The main temple structure  was built  during the Maratha regime. Punnainallur Maariamman is  supposedly  the elder sister of Samyapuram Maariamman, near Tiruchirapalli.
Devotees come here to fulfill their Prarthana - prayer by way of shaving their head, conducting ear-boring ceremony for their kids, bringing their baby or kid for the very first Mottai – first tonsuring. Paal Kudam rituals are well known here in the month of April. Quite famous is the Brahmin community Paal Kudam; women and men with a pot of milk on their head walk barefoot to the shrine all the way from Thanjavur city, a distance of 5 plus kilometer, barring hot summer. More than 1000 plus people participate at a time and there will be Annadhanam – free food for thousands of people on that day.
Indian President Pranab Mukerji at Punnainallur Maariamman temple TN. thehindu.com
Sadasiva  Brahmendral  was  a saint, composer of Carnatic music  and also an  Advaita philosopher who lived near Kumbakonam, Tamil  Nadu during the 18th century. He was from the Telugu Brahmin community and  was the one who installed the deity  at this temple as per Agama Sastras.