On the banks of the beautiful Vagai river, there stands an ancient temple. For over 1000 years people from across South India have visited this temple to seek the blessings of the foremost Goddess of fertility – Garbarakshambigai Amman and Her consort Lord Mulaivananathar. Imagine the scene a thousand years ago. In the midst of a dense forest and the banks of the Vagai river stood the ancient temple of Garbarakshambigai Amman. The temple started as a Mullai Vanam or a jasmine garden where a Swayambu lingam manifested.
This temple is one of the five Pancha Aranya Sthalams. These represent the five forests where temples are located. The five temples are
- Mullaivanathar temple at Thirukarukavur,
- Satchi Nathar Temple at Avalivanallur,
- Paadhiri vanam. Paathaleswarar Temple at Thiru Aradaipperumpazhi (Haridwara Mangalam), Vanni vanam
- Aapathsahayeswarar Temple at Thiru Erumpoolai (Alangudi) – Poolai vanam and Vilvavaneswarar Temple
- Vilvavaneswarar Temple at Thirukollam Pudhur – Vilva vanam
Anyone visiting this temple feels a sense of peace and serenity. It is a large temple measuring 460 ft by 284 ft. Like the Lord Dakshinamurthy who faces South, this temple too has a southern entrance. The Rajagopuram is majestic and towers over the peaceful Papanasam village with its 5 intricately carved towers.
Like all temples in South India, this temple too has several prakarams or precincts. There is the famous Mullai Vanam (this is the garden from which the temple derives its name) or the jasmine garden in the southern side of the temple. There is a Vasantha mandapam on the Northern side. The shrines of Amman and Lord Shiva are located in the second prakaram.
Water bodies add serenity to any place. This temple has not one but 4 water bodies. The main temple tank is the Sheerakundam or the temple tank that was created by the wish-fulfilling cow Kamadhenu and filled with its milk. The other tank Sathyakupam is located in between the shrine of Garbarakshambigai Amman and the shrine of Lord Mulaivananathar. There is a tank called Brahma Theertham and another called Karthigai Thivatharai where Lord Nataraja gives theertham in the month of Karthigai.
The temple finds mention in Tevaram, the 7th century 12 volume Saiva canonical work by Tamil saints, namely Appar, Sundarar and Campantar. It is one of the shrines of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams glorified in the Saiva canon. The temple also finds mention in Periya Puranam by Sezhkizhar, Siva Ksehtra Sivanamaga Kalivenba by Umapathi Sivam and Vinnapakali Venba by Ramalinga Adigal. Thalapuranam by Ambalavana Pandaram, Nanmaimalai & Rettaimanimalai by Veerabathra Swamigal, Pathirru Panthathi by Govindaswami Pillai, Vadamozhi Slogangal by Anatharama Dikshithar and Amman thothirangal Tamilpattu by T.S. Vaithiyanathan are some of the religious works associated with the temple.