Salt is one of the main and basic ingredients in the food that we consume everyday. In tamil we say food without salt should be discarded. However, we have a standing (literally) example where our Emperuman has sacrificed this very basic ingredient to marry the girl of his choice.
In Kritha yugam (first of the four yugams), when the mighty milky ocean was churned, Mahalakshmi came out of the ocean and adored Emperuman’s chest. This was followed by Tulasi Devi, who also wanted a place with Emperuman. Emperuman wanted to give a special status to Tulasi devi, so told her to go to Sage Markendeya’s hermit and be in the form as a shrub and wait for his instruction.
As days went by, sage Markandeya (the same sage who got the boon to be young always) wanted to have a girl child whom he would give in marriage to Emperuman. The sage undertook penance to please the lord. Emperuman was please with the penance and told the sage that he would find a girl child and he should raise her up and at appropriate time, he would wed her. Emperunman instructed Mahalakshmi to be appear as a girl child under the tulasi tree, who is Tulasi devi performing her penance.
As per Emperuman’s instruction, Sage Markandeya found a cute child under a tulasi plant near his hermitage. He named her Bhoomi Devi as she was found in the ground. Days passed, one day an old Brahmin with torn cloths and with a walking stick came to the sage’s hermitage, seeking the hand of the little girl child, who was 5 years old at that time. Hearing this Sage Markandeya was shocked and tried to explain to the old man that the child was too young to run a household. The old man would not have any of the argument and threatened to commit suicide if the young girl was not given in marriage to him.
Not knowing how to come out the situation, Sage Markandeya closed his eyes and prayed to lord Narayana to help him out of the situation he is in. After sometime when he opened his eyes he saw Lord Narayana in all his pomp and glory in place of the old man. Realising the divine play enacted by Emperuman, Sage Markendeya was over whelmed by emotion.
Emperuman told Sage Markendeya the truth about his girl and granted three boons to sage. The sage requested that (1) The lord should stay in this place for ever. (2) This holy place should be named after the Sage and (3) The lord should partake food without salt. The Lord gladly granted the three wishes. The lord blessed the Sage and told him from then on the place would be called as Markandeya kshetram. He also blessed Tulasi devi and lovingly gave her a place by his board shoulders.
Emperuman in this Divya desam is very special as he conceded to all the wishes of his devotee to extend that he so willingly has forsaken salt, which is one of the basic ingredient in the food we prepare. For this reason perumal in this Divya desam is called as Oppillappan (Oppu-illatha-appan Lord who has no equal) this name got corrupt and now-a-days the perumal is called as Uppillappan (uppu-illatha-appan – Lord without salt), which incidentally conveys the meaning correctly. Even today salt is not allowed beyond the Garudan sannidhi.
The permanent abode of the Lord is called Vinnulagam and this place is also called Vinnagaram as the Lord has promised to stay here.
Oppiliappan stands up to 8 feet tall in the centre, facing East and Thayaar, Bhoomidevi is seen in kneeling posture, with two hands joint in prayer, facing North. While Makandeya Maharishi is in position to perform Kannikadhanam to his daughter. There is no separate Thayaar sannidhi.
The moolavar holds Sanghu and Chakram in his in the Left and Right rear hands respectively and his left fore arm is in Katyavalambita pose, His right hand raised palm outward, fingers pointing down in the Varada Hastam (the giver of boons). Left hand contains the inscription "Maam Ekam Saranam Vrija" made of diamonds which is gita charama slokam (Chapter 18 verse 66 of Bhagavatgita).
The vimanam is Suddhananda vimanam (pure happiness). An interesting note: The vimana in Tirumala - Tirupati is Ananda vimanam.
Emperuman in this Divya desam is considered as the elder brother of Srinivasaperumal of Thirumala Thirupathi. So all the offerings due to Thirupathi perumal can be offered here and it's taken as equivalent as it were offered at Thirupathi.
The pushkarani of this temple is called "Ahorathra Pushkarani", there is an interesting tale regarding the reason behind the name of this pushkarani.
Once there was a Brahmin named Devasharma belonging to the clan of Bharadwaja Maharishi. One day it happened so, that he took forcefully the daughter of Gymini Maharishi as his wife. The rishi heard his daughter’s cries and at once he cursed Devasharma to turn in to a Krunchu Paravai (a type of bird). Then Devashrama realized his mistake and he pleaded with Maharishi to repel his curse. As his anger subdued, he told Devasharma to wait near pushkarani of Oppiliappan perumal temple and one day he would be freed from the curse.
It happened so one day during night time. A huge storm broke out and the branch in which Devasharma was sitting as a bird broke and he fell in the pushkarani. As soon as the divine water splashed in the bird’s body, Devasharma was freed from his curse. Generally one has to take bath in the pushkarani only in the day time. But as unusually this pushkarani paved the way to freedom Devashrama's curse during the night time, this pushkarani is named as "Ahorathra Pushkarani" which means literally "Unusual in night".
Before we conclude one more interesting feature of the temple that is so very unique. There are no Sridevi and Bhodevi utsava moorthies. Whenever Oppiliappa Perumal's idol is taken for procession, He is always accompanied along with Bhoomidevi only. As per the boon granted to Markandeya Maharishi Emperuman would not step out the temple without Thaayar.
Mangalaasaasanam: Three Alwar’s have sung praise of the Lord in this Divya desam.
- Pei Alwar 2 pasurams
- Thirumazhisai Alwar 34 pasurams
- Nam Alwar 11 pasurams
Location: This temple is located 7 kilometers from Kumbakonam