The river Tamravarni flowing from the Western Ghats reaches the plains at Papanasam where it drops to form a small waterfall. This waterfall which is believed to absolve all sins from people who bathe in it has made Papanasam (meaning absolution of sins) an important pilgrim centre.
Papanasam is a small village away from the tourist trail. The nearest town is Thirunelveli from where buses ply to Papanasam. Accommodation though available in Papanasam is basic.
Once there was a Pandyan king who converted to Buddhism. He harassed and ill-treated those among his subjects who did not convert to Buddhism as he decreed. A family of a father and two children who were ardent devotees of Lord Shiva, unable to face this harassment left their state and went to a neighbouring state. Unfortunately the family got caught up in a civil war that was raging in that state. The children, one boy and the other a girl, got separated from each other. Many years later after wandering through many states they arrived in Banares. By chance they met each other, fell in love and got married without realising that they were siblings. They found out their mistake afterwards and sought ways of absolving their sin. They were advised to wear black and to bathe in all the sacred waters in India and when their black clothe turned white it was an indication that they were absolved of their sin. Accordingly they clothed themselves in black and went from place to place in search of redemption. Finally they arrived at Papanasam and when they bathed in the river their clothes turned white thus indicating the absolution of their sin. Hence the deity in this temple is called ‘Papavinaseswarar’ (the redeamer of sins).
The river runs on a rocky bed and fishes are found in abundance in the water. They are quite harmless and approach the bathers in large numbers. The devotees believe that these fishes are redeemed souls and harming them would bring retribution