Oppiliappan Koil is our Family God. Almost every year we visit the temple and do our prayers. It is located at Thiru Nageswaram near Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district of TN. The easiest way to reach is by a taxi, auto, or bus from Kumbakonam town which is about 4 miles from there.
Once up on a time Narada prayed to Lord Brahma to enlighten him on the history and greatness of the holy Markandeya kshetra that will also be of a great benefit to humanity.
Once Tulasi mata who was born along with amrita, begged Lord Vishnu that she also be adorned by Him on His chest like Mahalakshmi. Lord said that Lakshmi did very severe penance to gain a place on his chest. The Lord further told that Lakshmi would appear as Bhoomidevi at a holy place near Kumbakonam, to the south of Kaveri and would be adopted by sage Markandeya as his daughter. Tulasi should go there earlier and be in the form of Tulasi plant at the sage’s hermitage. Then Lakshmi would appear under the same Tulasi plant as Bhoomidevi. Later Lord Narayana would come and marry Bhoomidevi and live there forever. Then glory of Tulasi will become known to all.
The Lord further said that those who worship with petals of tulasi, shall attain all prosperity in the world and also get the benefit of performing ‘Asvamedha yaga’.
Sage Mrikandu’s son Markandeya, after visiting many holy places and bathing in sacred waters, finally reached this holy place. He was so enchanted by the peaceful surroundings here that decided to stay here permanently. Wishing to get a daughter who would be given in marriage to the Lord himself, he started doing severe penance to achieve his objective.
Lord Narayana was pleased by his penance and decided to bless him. He asked Lakshmi to appear as a small child in the tulasi forest, to be brought up by sage Markandeya and given in marriage to the Lord. .
Goddess Lakshmi appeared as a small child in the tulasi forest and was found by sage Markandeya. Thrilled beyond words, he named her as Bhoomidevi, as she was found on earth. The Sage brought her up and as she grew up, he was very much worried about her marriage. One day Lord appeared before the sage, in the guise of an old
brahmin, clad in torn clothes and with a walking stick in hand, on the day of Panguni Sravanam at noon.
Markandeya, without knowing that the old man who was coughing incessantly was Sriman Narayana himself, received him respectfully proceeded to serve him, attending to his needs Then the old man said he was on the look – out for a suitable bride, as he wished to marry and settle down in life and have good sons. He therefore sought the hand of Bhoomidevi in marriage to enable him to attain his objective.
On hearing the strange request of the old man(Narayana), Markandeya was stunned and did not know what to do. He then started explaining to the old man that Bhoomidevi was very young and was too tender in age to run a family. Moreover the age gap between the old man and the young girl was too much. He requested the old man to drop His idea. The old man would hear none of it. He threatened to commit suicide if the young girl was not given in marriage to him.
The sage Markandeya did not know what to do. He tried all methods to dissuade the old man from compelling upon marrying the young girl. The sage told the old man that his daughter was too young and did not even know how to cook properly. She might even forget to put salt in the eatables, which may result in the old man getting angry and cursing her. Finding the old man still stubborn and unrelenting, the sage silently prayed to Lord Narayana for guidance.
After prayers to God for a long time, the sage opened his eyes and there he found before him Lord Narayana in all splendour and glory, in the place of the old man. Sage understood that the Lord had played a practical joke on him, the sage danced and cried in ecstasy.
The Lord, blessing the sage Markandeya, said that He will marry Bhoomidevi and will take only saltless offerings in this temple. Anyone who brings salt inside the temple will go to hell.
Sage’s Prayer for boon
With at most joy, Markandeya readily agreed for the marriage and prayed for 3 boons:
1. The Lord, after marrying Bhoomidevi, Should Stay in this place for ever.
2. The holy place should be known in his name as Markandeya Kshetra.
3.Saltless offerings in this temple should also be relished by the devotees.
He should also be granted moksha.
The Lord gladly granted the boons as prayed for and further blessed that the place will be known as “Tiruvinnagar” and “Tulasivana Markandeya kshetra” and stated the marriage would be held in the month of Aippasi on Sravanam day. At the request of the sage, the Lord also agreed to make all arrangements for the marriage.
And the marriage was celebrated with utmost happiness by the sage
After getting the grace of the Lord and obtaining His permission, Brahma performed the ‘Utsavam’ (and hence called Brahmostsavam) for a period of 9 days in the month of Panguni, In accordance with Vaikhanasa Agamas, with the chariot festival on the 9th day, coinciding with Sravanam.
To the south of the temple run three holy rivers, even now:-
1.Dakshina Ganga (ganga of the south), now named as Nattaru
2.Dakshina Yamuna, now known as Arasalar.
3.Dakshina Godavari, now known as Kirtiman river.