Srivanchiyam Temple, Tamil Nadu where lord of death ''Yama'' gets special status

Vanchinadha SwamyTemple, Srivanchium. /
idol of Shiva on the Yama Vahana, Srivanchiyam temple, TN. /
Srivanchiyam Temple, located at Tiruvanchiyam (17 km from Tiruvarur) near Nannilam and  Kondeeswaram in Tiruvarur district is a huge one dedicated to God Shiva who  is referred to as Vanchinathan and his consort is Goddess  Mangalambika. The sthala vriksham (sacred tree of this temple) is Sandalwood tree. Believed to be a  muktistalam (place where you get salvation), it  is here the holy  Gupta Ganga theertham is popular and the belief is  demi-god Ganga herself bathed here to cleanse her sins in this theertham, so those who bathe here  and pray to the presiding deity, can get rid  their sins - a religious  act  very much similar to  bathing in the river Ganges in Khasi, UP. The  large holy water tank is close to the temple. Yama Theertham, Agni Theertham and Lakshmi Theertham are the various bodies of water associated with the temple.  This temple, one in the series of 'Tevara Stalams'', is on the banks of the Cauvery river and  is one of the six Shiva temples  that  are considered equivalent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in UP.  The six holy temples that are on the sacred banks of the Cauvery river are:  Aiyarappar Koil, Thiruvaiyaru, Mahalingeswarar Koil, Thiruvidaimarudur. Mayuranathaswamy Koil, Mayiladuthura. Chayavaneswarar Koil, Sayavanam, Swetharanyeswarar Koil, Thiruvenkadu, Srivanchinadhaswamy Koil, Srivanchiyam.  
Demi God Yama/
Above image: Yama or Yamaraja is a god of death, the south direction, and the underworld  belonging to an early stratum of Rigvedic Hindu deities. In Sanskrit, his name can be interpreted to mean "twin".In the Zend-Avesta of Zoroastrianism, he is called "Yima". According to the Vishnu Purana, Yama is the son of sun-god Surya and Sandhya, the daughter of Vishvakarma.  According to the Vedas,  became Yama  was  the first mortal who died by virtue of precedence, he became the ruler of the departed, and is called "Lord of the Pitrs". In Buddhist mythology in East Asia, Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka he is referred to as as a Dharmapala under various transliterations, but often called  as "Dharmaraja" His vahana is water buffalo and his weapon to take life of people is a rope called  Paasakkayaru in Tamil 
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The legend has it Goddess Mahalakshmi who was separated from Lord Vishnu, prayed to Shiva here and was  at last, united with Mahavishnu here. Mahalakshmi`s `Vaanchai` and her prayers were answered by the lord, hence the name Tiruvanchiyam. Other deity Brahma, demi-gods Indra and Yama,  and  sages like  Parasarar and Atri are said to have worshipped here. The sandal tree, the  stalavriksham (temple tree) of this temple, gives the name Chandanaranyam to the shrine.
Occupying on a land of three acres of land, this old temple has  three prakarams - prathakshana paths  and  many towers/gopurams and vimanams.  According to the original stone inscriptions, the  structure dates back to Kulottonga Chola I (1075-1120) who ruled this region. Renovation of the entire temple and the shrine took place during the rule of Rajaraja Chola II (1146-1172 CE).
It is said that a bath in the temple tank on Sundays in the month of Viruchigam - Scorpio is considered sacred here and the wishes will be fulfilled.  Included on the temple premises are two separate shrines for Dakshinamurthy and  Yama, the demi-god of death.  The unique tradition  of this temple is in the month of  Maasi  (Bharani star), God Shiva is taken out in a procession and his mount being Yama.   Indeed,  a rare tradition and, it is said, at no other Shiva temples  the procession(al)  deity is taken out on  Yama Vahana. In the shrine dedicated to him, 
Yama is seen in seated posture with Chitragupta, his associate by his side. Shashitabthipurthi (60th birthday of the couple) or Sadhaabishekam (80th birth day of the couple) is also celebrated here. But, the Thirukadiyur Shivan temple near Mayavaram  is the preferred destination for many couples.

 Demi-god Yama - ''Dharmaraja" wanted to get rid of his sins of deciding the death of living things and mortals almost daily as part of his duty.  'He  felt unhappy as he made countless people unhappy over death in their families.  So,  he came to this place, once a sandalwood forest - Gandharanya Kshetram  and meditated on God Shiva,. God Shiva not only removed his sins and asked him to be his Vahana here   so that devotees who worship her will have better longevity. Here, Yama is worshiped first and then  puja is done to other deities. Daily pujas are done to Yama at his shrine by the temple priests.  
Yet another belief is  a Naga kannika (Snake princess), who had worshiped Shiva for a long time, one day  became one with Him as Ammai Appan. It has two shrines facing both sides of  God Vanchinadha. Rahu-Ketu, carved out in a composite sculpture. On Sundays during Ragu kalam,  Raghu kala abhisekham is done to get rid of delayed marriages.   There is a separate sannathiv- shrine  for Shani (Saturn) Bhagawan. Yoga Bhairavar is in the inner Prakara and is worshiped by Vanni leaves. The powder from the leaves, it is said, is good for nervous ailments. 

The annual Bhrammotsavam celebrated in the month of Karthikai gets lots of people. Aadi Pooram, Navaratri  are other temple festivals held here . Normally, ''Sundays'' in the month of Karthigai are considered sacred because  in this  month  (Nov-Dec),  a special temple ritual  called Theerthavari (sprinkling of sacred water) is held  in the Gupta Gangai temple tank before a large gathering of devotees; it is done on the 2nd of May every year.   It also includes a ten-day festival and a car (Chariot) festival at the end of the month.