Vanamutti Perumal temple and the legend, Kozhikuthi, TN

Vanamutti Perumal temple, Kozhikuthi, near Mayiladuthurai, TN
Vanamutti Peruma temple, Kozhikutthi, near Mailladuthurai, TN
Vanamutti Perumal temple, dedicated to Vishnu in the village of Kozhikuthi near Mayiladuthurai, Nagapatnam district is a unique one. The moolavar, 15 feet tall  is made from a single Athi tree and such wooden deities of perumal are and considered sacred. The three deities - Balaramar, Krishnar and sister Subadhra - of  world famous Jagannath temple, Puri, Odisha are made of certain neem tree and the old  idols  are replaced every 12 years. In the case of wooden idol made from athi tree (fig tree), as per Agama sastras, is strong, durable  and can last for centuries. Most importantly,  it is resistant to water. This shetram is well-known for the cure of skin diseases. Here, Perumal is in a standing posture with four hands and the 4th one showing Abhya mudra (''I protect thee''). South of Kanchipuram, this is the only historical temple that I know of has a Moolavar idol  made of  Athi wood!!. The temple  is roughly 6  to 7 km from Mayiladuthuai town and the village Kozhikuthi can be accessed  very easily and is well connected with other towns and cities in India. 
Sri Marga Sahayeswarer
According to the sthalapuranam (legend/ temple history), a ruler by the name of   Nirmalan was suffering from severe  skin disease with no cure in sight.  Once while passing through a forest grief-stricken and preoccupied with his painful skin ailment,  he ran into a sage accidentally.  Paying obeisance to him,  he sought the advice of the sage and his blessings for  permanent relief from the dreadful disease.  Compassionate as he was, the sage  asked him to chant a mantra daily.  One day upon chanting the mantra, the king suddenly  heard a voice from above, “This is the voice of Lord Vishnu.  The affliction of severe skin disease is due to sins - dosha  committed by you.  To get rid of  the disease caused by your past sins, walk along the Cauvery bank and pray at Sri Marga Sahayeswarer (Lord Shiva) at Moovalur''. Accordingly, the king walked along the Cauvery river and prayed to the Moolavar at the Shiva temple,  Responding to his intense  prayer, Lord Shiva asked the king to travel north and pray at Vanamutti Perumal temple in Kozhikuthi after bathing in the river Cauvery.

Up on the river bank after the bath, the king  had a wonderful divine experience that no one  could  ever think of. On the tall  well- grown fig tree (athi maram) the ruler  saw Sri Vishnu (Narayanan) in Visvaroopam (in giant size, each hand  with conch, divine disc, mace and the fourth showing abhya mudra). It was a rare, divine and soul-stirring sight.  His happiness knew no bounds and was much thrilled. Soon, the king  was cured of the chronic skin disease. The king surrendered to the lord and relinquished his royal duty and began to engage in penance. Over a period of time, he became a sage called Pippalar.  Since  sage Pippalar had a permanent relief from sins - Kodi Hathi Dosham, this place is also called  Kodi Hathi Papa vimochana  puram.
The belief is sin committed by us knowingly or unknowingly will be removed for good if a person repents it and remains  reformed till his end. Merciful god will parden him provided he  does not commit sins again. 

The Maratha ruler Raja Serfoji (24 September 1777 -7 March 1832) also spelt as Sarabhoji II Bhonsle, was the last ruler of the Bhonsle dynasty of the Maratha principality of Tanjore) visited  this temple on the advice of sage pippalar  and prayed to the lord to get rid of his blemish /sin he committed during wars. He bathed in the Cauvery for 48 days and then prayed to the lord. It is said the lord gave him darshan and later the ruler had a tall wooden idol carved out of a single fig tree - athi tree and installed it as moolavar as per Agama sastras. Lord's consort  Bhumi Devi is on the left side and other consort Mahalakshmi is on the chest of the idol.  Since the idol is a wooden one, no anointing / abishekham is done to the deity, only ''kappu  (herbal mix) sathuthal'' is done by the temple priests. The sanctum / garbhagriha is umbrella shaped.

Raja Serfoji made additions - he built the prathakshana paths prakarams around the sanctum.  Presently, there is one prakaram in this temple.  The temple tank is called ''Pippalar Thertham'' where, the sage was cured of his skin disease. There is a stone image of Pippalar in the temple of ''Marga Sahayeswarar. This 800 year old temple is yet another rare Vishnu temple in India with 15 feet tall Moolavar made of Athi wood.
Ref: Kozhi Kuthu  Van Mutti Perumal, Dinamalar: Bakthi weekly Magazine dated 18 july 2019.