Pazhayaarai was one of the capitals of Chola Empire. Located at about 6 km from Kumbakonam, the town is now scattered into several small hamlets like Patteswaram, Sakthimutram, Cholan Maaligai,Muzhaiyur, Pazhayarai, Vadathali, Melthali, Thenthali, Udayalur etc. Though the Palace of the Great Cholas is not found there at present, the marvellous Temples built by them are still there to tell inspiring messages for the generations to follow in the form of inscriptions on the walls. Their dedication towards Lord Shiva was not just to build huge Temples. It also nourished many communities like artisans, Priests,Oduvars( who sung Thevaram Hymns).Temple building took a new style during their regime. The ambitious programme of King Raja Raja was followed by his son,King Rajendra , Raja Raja II and Vikrama. Outstanding Bronze images were also made and presented to several temples. They also initiated annual festivals at various places and created Endowments for them. Incidentally, the Great Saiva Saints Thirugnana Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar belonged to that period ( 6th-9th Century) and that had great impact on the Kings to propagate the Bhakthi movement.
Amarneethi Nayanar was a trader in Pazhayarai who never failed to serve the devotees of Lord Shiva and ensured to meet their expectations fully. On one day Shiva Himself visited him in the form of a bachelor to show the world the Greatness and commitment of Amarneethiyar. He handed over his cloth to Amarneethiyar and asked him to keep it safely in his custody and return it on his return. Amarneethiyaar gladly accepted the cloth and kept it safely and made arrangements to offer food to the bachelor. When the later returned after a bath in the river Cauvery, Amarneethiyaar received him and went inside to bring the cloth entrusted to him. He was stunned when he noticed that the cloth was missing! He pleaded innocence but the bachelor went on to keep his cloth on one side of a balance and insisted for a compensation of anything that equals the weight of the one kept on the scale. Despite offering his entire wealth on the other pan, the scale did nit rise! Finally Amarneethiyar prayed Lord Shiva and stood along with his wife and son. The scale equalled and The Lord gave Dharshan to Amarneethi Nayanar and his family. They were blessed to attain the Lotus feet of the Lord and the incident took place in the Tamil month of Ani ,the star being Pooram.
The nearest railway station (where only the passenger trains stop) is at Sundara Perumal Koil on Kumbakonam- Thanjavur section of Southern Railway. We have to cross Karaikal road on the way before taking a right turn from there. The road leads us straight to Nallur Temple which faces east. A beautiful Pond is in front of the Raja Gopuram. Kunthi,the mother of the first three Pandavas worshipped the Lord here and took bath in this tank. The Annual festival is celebrated every year , ending on Masi Magam day.
The Temple is built at a raised level in the form of a "mada koil" Kailasa Ganapathi is seen near the foot steps by which we climb the elevated platform . We notice the south facing Shrine of Goddess Giri Sundhari first in the lower level of the platform. Upon climbing few more steps,we enter into the Mahamandapam of Sri Kalyana Sundara Murthi . The moolavar, a Swayambu Murthi, changes colour five times in a day. Hence He is also known as Pancha Varneswarar. Brahma & Vishnu made in Sudhais are also seen in the worshipping posture by facing the Lord inside the Sanctum. One can also see huge sudhai structure of Uma Maheswara behind the Moolavar. This Temple is also famous for the Kali Devi's shrine in the outer prakara.
During his young age, Saint Appar( then Marul Neekkiyar), joined Jain Monks and became Dharmasena. Distressed by the decision taken by her brother, Thilakavathi prayed Lord Shiva of Thiruvadhigai(Near Panruti) for the return of her brother into Saivism. Her prayer was answered when Marulneekkiyar got rid of the incurable illness when he returned to Thiruvadhigai and sang Thevaram Hymns on The Lord. But he felt unhappy with his own act of getting into the fold of Jain monks. On reaching Thiru Saththi Mutram,near Pazhayarai,he prayed The Lord to keep His Lotus feet But he was asked to visit Nallur to receive the wish he asked for. Appar received the supreme blessing when The Lord placed His Lotus Feet on his head. The Saint acknowledges the Grace in his Hymn on this place. A crown bearing the Feet of The Lord is placed on the heads of all devottes even now to mark the incident.
On Ani Puram day, special abhishekams are performed in the morning and Bhikshadana murthi is taken in a procession and finally arrive at Amarneethi Nayanar's Mutt, near the Temple after "Theerthavari" in the Temple Pond.
The incident which brought fame to the Nayanar is enacted in the evening inside the Temple. A huge balance is kept inside a four pillared Mandapam on the outer prakaram. The Deities of Amarneethi Nayanar & his family are brought to this place and the offerings are carried out by placing more and more clothes given by the nayanar. Finally The Lord gives Dharshan to the family and bless them.
It is surprising that such a great incident goes unnoticed by many locals and outsiders. It is disappointing to find very few devotees gather there to witness the event. Perhaps the greatness of the Nayanmar is not known to most of us. Efforts are to be taken to educate the people to participate in the important festivals of rural Temples.