The temple at Palani dedicated to Lord Thandayuthapani (Lord Murugan) is one of his six famous abodes known as ‘aarupadai veedu’. It is situated in the district of Madurai about 112 km from Madurai and 152 km from Trichi. The shrine of Lord Thandayuthapani is at the top of a hill about 500 feet high, but there are several shrines and ‘theerthams’ surrounding the hill itself. One of these is the famous shrine called ‘Aavinankudi’ situated at the foot of the hill, which is mentioned in old religious verses. It is believed to be more than 2000 years old. Some devotees go round the hill itself before climbing it.
The temple is about 5 km from the railway station on the Dindugal – Coimbatore line of the Southern Railway. There are bus services from all the major towns in Tamilnadu as well as from the adjoining state of Kerala.
The shrine situated at the top of a hill can be reached either by climbing the flight of steps or by travelling in a carriage hauled to the top by winches along rails laid on the side of the hill. Along the steps there are small shrines to various deities with resting places where tired devotees can rest awhile during their climb. There are about 690 steps to the top of the hill. Extensive building works and renovation have created a large area at the top of the hill. Large corridors run on all sides of the temple with various buildings attached to it. The whole complex had been built at a height of 1086 ft above sea level, and standing at the top one realises the mammoth task involved in transporting the building materials to the top of the hill which has no access either by road or rail.
Sage Agasthiar during one of his trips away from his abode at ‘Pothigai’ created two hills, Sivagiri and Sakthigiri. He then prayed to Lord Shiva and his consort Sakthi to appear on these hills so that he could offer his daily ‘pooja’. In response to his prayer Lord Shiva along with his consort appeared one on each hill. At the end of his worship Agasthiar wanted to take these two hills to his place in Pothigai. He therefore asked his disciple Idumban to transport these two hills. Idumban in response to his preceptor’s request tied these two hills in a ‘thandu’ (pole) and carried them like a ‘kavadi’ and followed Agasthiar on his journey. Arriving in the area now known as Palani Idumban felt tired and put the ‘kavadi’ down and rested for a while. While Idumban was resting another event was unfolding in ‘Kailash’ – the abode of Lord Shiva.
Naradha, the celestial wanderer and ‘mischief-maker’, acquired a rare and precious mango fruit and offered it to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy. Lord Shiva in turn wanted his children to enjoy this rare fruit. So he summoned his two children Subramanya and Ganesha but he could not decide as to who should get this fruit. So he set a contest between them. He told them, “Whoever goes round the Universe and returns to me first will get this fruit”. Lord Subramanya without wasting time immediately got on his mount, the peacock, and flew away at a lightning speed, while Lord Ganesha pondered over this problem for a while. He then slowly got up from his perch and went round his parents and requested the fruit for himself, saying, “You are the Universe and all the Universe is in you. By going round you I have gone round the Universe. Therefore the fruit is mine.” Parvathy and Parameswaran (another name for Lord Shiva) delighted by these words gave him the fruit. Lord Subramanya on his return found that he had been outwitted by his brother and became angry. He threw down all his ornaments and renouncing all his worldly possessions but with just a loin cloth (Kaupeenam) and a staff (Thandu) went in search of a retreat for himself. On his search he came across the hills that Idumban had laid down and settled on one of them.
Idumban after his rest tried to lift his ‘kavadi’ so that he could continue on his journey but found that he could not lift them. He found out that there was an intruder in one of his hills and tried to attack him without realising who the intruder was. Lord Murugan (Lord Subramanya) immediately killed Idumban but he was later restored to life at the pleadings of Idumban’s wife and of Agasthiar. Idumban then prayed to Lord Murugan that he be allowed to stand at the entrance to Lord Murugan’s shrines as ‘Dwarapalaka’ and any devotee carrying a ‘kavadi’ to these shrines in fulfilment of a vow should be granted his wish.
Lord Shiva finding that his son had become a recluse tried to pacify his anger by appealing to him that he (Murugan) himself was the fruit of all the wisdom and righteousness of this world and that he did not need another fruit. The pronouncement that Lord Murugan himself was a fruit (Pazham = Fruit; Nee = yourself) gave the name to this place as ‘Palani’
The deity on the hill shrine thus appears in the form of an ascetic and stands with just a pole in his right hand and is called ‘Thandaayuthapaani’ (Thandu = Pole; Aayutham = weapon; Paani = Appearance. There is another hill nearby called ‘Idumban malai’, the other hill that was carried by Idumban.
Festivals and Opening Hours
The early morning worship starts at 6 am. and the temple is open all day until the last worship is conducted at 8 pm.
There are special ‘pooja’ every month on ‘karthigai’ day. The main festivals fall on ‘Thaipoosam’ in January; ‘Panguni uththaram’ in March; ‘Vaikasi visakam’ in May; ‘Skanda sashdi’ in Oct/Nov. ‘Pankuni uththaram in March is the main festival and draws large crowds from all over Tamilnadu and the neighbouring state of Kerala.
The idol of the deity in the hill shrine is made up of a wax-like substance and is believed to be an amalgam made up of nine different herbal substances while others believe it to be of nine rare minerals. Devotees believe that any substance that comes into contact with the body of this idol acquires miraculous curing powers for many illnesses. The materials used on this idol during ‘abishekams’ (purifying ablution), especially the sandal paste used to cover the body overnight are highly sought after. It can also be observed that the ‘panchamirtham’ (a mixture of fruits and honey) used in the ‘abishekam’ is kept for long periods without any preservative in it. These are distributed to the devotees who do not suffer any ill effects when they ingest it