Sri Oppliappan Katha: The story of the lord’s arrival at Thiruvinnagaram
Blessing Sage Markandeya
The great Sage Markandeya had settled down in the grand city of temple near a tulasi vanam. The lord impressed with his devotion wanted to play his all wonderful games with his devotee and in turn bless him and all of us. Sage Mrikandu’s son Markandeya, after touring many holy places and bathing in sacred waters, finally reached this holy place Thiru Vinnagar – Sri Oppiliappa Perumal Temple. He was so enchanted by the beautiful surroundings here that he decided to stay here permanently. Wishing to get a daughter who would be given in marriage to the Lord Himself, he started doing sever penance to achieve his objective.
The lord of the universe asks Mother Bhumadevi to be born under the tulasi vanam, near Kumbakonam to the south of Kaveri and the lord’s passionate play with his devotees began thus.
Blessing Tulasi matha
The lord wished to fulfil his vow to tulasi mata also, which he had given during the churning of the ocean. Once upon a time Tulasi Devi who was born along with amritam, while churning the milky-ocean, prayed and requested Lord Narayanan that she also be adorned by Him on His chest like Goddess Mahalakshmi.
Lord said that Lakshmi did very severe penance to gain a place on His chest. The Lord further said that Lakshmi would appear as Bhoomidevi at Thiru Vinnagar – Sri Oppiliappa Perumal Temple, near Kumbakonam, to the south of Kaveri and would be brought up by sage Markandeya as his daughter.
Tulasi should go there earlier and be in the form of lovely Tulasi plant at the sage’s hermitage. Then Lakshmi would appear under the Tulasi plant as Bhoomidevi. Later on Lord Narayana would come and marry Bhoomidevi and live there forever. Then the glory of Tulasi will become known to all.
The Lord further said that those who worship Him with petals of tulasi, shall attain all prosperity in the world and also the benefit of performing ‘Asvamedha yaga’. All those who reside in this holy place will attain Sri Vaikunta at the end of their lives.
From then onwards, Tulasi lived in this holy place Thiru Vinnagar – Sri Oppiliappa Perumal Temple, which therefore came to be known as Tulasi Vana (Tulasi forest).
Birth of Sri Bhumidevi Taiyar
Goddess Lakshmi accordingly appeared as a small child in the tulasi forest and was found by sage Markandeya. With immense pleasure he lifted the divine child Lakshmi from the ground, fondled her and asked about her parentage. For this the child replied that she did not know who her parents were and that Markandeya was everything to her. Thrilled beyond words, he named her as Bhoomidevi, as she was found on earth.
Markandeya brought her up lovingly and as she grew up, he was very much worried about her marriage. He was in frantic search for a suitable bridegroom. At this stage Lord Narayanan decided to play some mischief with the sage. So He 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 realizing that the old man who was coughing incessantly was Sriman Narayanan himself, received Him with due admiration and respectfully proceeded to serve Him, attending to His needs like washing His feet and so on. The sage then reverentially asked the old man the purpose of His visit.
The old man then proceeded to state that He was on the look – out for a suitable bride, as He wished to marry and settle down in life and beget 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 very sad 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 disparity 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 his sayings. He threatened to commit suicide if the young girl was not given in marriage to Him.
The sage Markandeya tried all methods to dissuade the old man from insisting 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.
The sage also sought his foster – daughter’s views in the matter and asked her whether she was willing to marry the old man. She threatened to commit suicide, if she was forced to marry the old man, much against her wishes.
Sage Markandeya was caught between the old man who threatened to commit suicide, if the girl was not given in marriage to him, and his daughter who threatened to commit suicide if she was given in marriage to the old man. He fervently prayed to the Lord to show him a way out of the piquant situation.
After prayers to God for a long time, the sage opened his eyes and there he found before him Lord Narayanan himself in all splendor and glory, in the place of the old man. Realizing 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 once He will marry Bhoomidevi will take only salt-less offerings in this temple. Anyone who brings salt inside the temple will go to hell.
Overwhelmed with joy, Markandeya readily agreed for the marriage and prayed for three boons
·The Lord, after marrying Bhoomidevi, should stay in this place forever.
·The holy place should be known in his name as Markandeya Kshetra.
·Salt less offerings in this temple should also be relished by the devotees.
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.
The Lord Himself wrote out the marriage invitation and instructed His Vahanam Lord Garudan to hand over the invitations to Brahma and all devas and further help Him in conducting the marriage on the day of sravanam in the month of Aippasi.
The joy of Brahma and other devas knew no bounds on hearing the happy news of the divine wedding and they all duly came with their wives to attend and worship the divine couple at their marriage. The holy wedding of the Lord and Bhoomidevi was duly conducted on a grand scale according to Vaikhanasa Agamas.
Then onwards, the Lord continues to reside in this temple, along with His consort Bhoomidevi, blessing His devotees and granting them their desires. After invoking the grace of the Lord and obtaining His permission, Brahma performed the ‘Utsavam’ (and hence called Brahmotsavam) 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.
Again in the Tamil month of Purattasi, Brahma, with the permission of the Lord, conducted another Brahmotsavam, lasting 9 days and with the small chariot (Goratham) festival on the 9th day, coinciding with Sravanam.
As Lord Oppliappan arrived before the Lord of the Seven Hills Malaiappaswamy, Perumal of Vinnagar accepts any prayers made at Thirupathi as an elder brother. Another fact about this temple is that it is one of the two places on earth where one can bathe at any time. The Ahoratra Pushkarni and Ganga Maiya are the only two places where one does not need to see time for bathing .
May the lord of Bhumidevi bless all his devotees .
Sri Bhumidevi Sametha Lavanavarjita Venkatesha Prabramhane Namah
Courtesy: Oppliappan Kovil booklet, Vasthurengan.com, www.oppiliappanswamytemple.org