Karaikal - karaikal Ammaiyar

Karaikal Ammaiyar Temple
Karaikal Ammaiyar temple is located in Barathiar Street, in the center of Karaikal. Malaiperumal Pillai constructed it in the year 1929. The main Goddess is Punithavati, also known as "Karaikal Ammaiyar". There is also a sanctum for Vinayaka (also spelt as Vinayak) inside this temple..
Karaikal Ammaiyar Temple

The Mangani Tirunal festival (the festival of the mango fruit) is observed in the month of Aani (June-July) on Pournami (full-moon) day. The belief is that Karaikal Ammaiyar gave Annam (food) to Bhikshatanar (Shiva) during his tour round the world begging alms, with curd rice and mangoes. To commemorate this incident, curd rice with mango is distributed on this festival day, in a big hall adjacent to the temple. 

Legend Connected With the Temple
Karaikal Ammaiyar was the wife of a rich merchant of Karaikal named Paramadatta, endowed with heavenly gifts. Her own name was Punitavatiyar (the pure lady). She was very devout and especially careful to entertain all devotees of Lord Shiva that came to her door. One day, her husband received from some persons who had come to him on business, a present of two mangoes of a very superior kind, which he sent home to his wife. Soon after-wards, a holy devotee arrived at the house as a mendicant guest. She had nothing ready to offer him except some boiled rice. She offered him boiled rice and as there was no other side dish, she gave him one of the mangoes. At noon, her husband returned and took his meal with the other mango. He was so pleased with the mango that he told his wife to give him the second mango of the two that he gave to her, His wife was perplexed, as she had already given the other mango to the mendicant. Immediately she offered fervent prayers to God, who never deserts those who serve Him. God heard her prayers and straightaway a mango was found in her hands. She served it to her husband. 

As the mango was a divine gift, it was of wonderful sweetness. Tasting it, her husband asked her how she got the mango. At first she hesitated, but at last revealed what had happened. 

Her husband did not give much credence to her words and asked her to get another mango in the same way. She went away and prayed to God and immediately she found another fruit, still lovelier, in her hands. When she carried this to her husband he took it in astonishment. But, behold! It forthwith vanished. 

Utterly confounded by these wonderful happenings, he came to the conclusion that his wife was a supernatural being whom he dared not touch with carnal thoughts, and resolved to go away from her. 

Her husband did not reveal his decision to anybody, but quietly equipped a ship in which he put in a great part of his wealth, and then, on an auspicious day, worshipping the God of the sea, with sailors and a skilful captain, set sail to another country, where he accumulated a fortune, and after some time, came back to India to another city in the Pandyan land. There he married a merchant's daughter and lived in great luxury. A daughter was born to him. To her, he gave the name of the wife with whom he dared not live, but had great reverence. 

His friends in Karaikal, who resolved to compel him to receive his first wife again, knew his return and prosperity. Accordingly they proceeded to the new residence of the merchant, taking his saintly wife in a litter. 

When her husband heard that his first wife was staying in a grove outside the town, he proceeded with his second wife and daughter, to the place where his first wife was camping. 

Reaching there, the husband at once prostrated with profoundest reverence before her and said that he was her slave and that he was happy and prosperous through her benediction. 

His first wife Punitavatiyar became confounded by the salutation and worship and took refuge among her kinswomen, who all cried out, "why is this mad man worshipping his own wife?" 

To this Paramadatta replied that his wife is not an ordinary lady, but a supernatural being. So, he ceased to look upon her as his wife and worshipped her as their tutelary deity and also dedicated his daughter to her. 

From Beauty To Demoness
Punitavatiyar pondered over the matter and prayed within herself to Lord Shiva to take away her beauty that she cherished up till now for the sake of her husband and give her the form and features of one of the demon-hosts ('Bhutaganas') who are attendants of Lord Shiva. 

That very instant, by the grace of God her flesh dried up and she became a demoness, one of Lord Shiva's hosts. Then the Gods rained flowers on her. Heavenly minstrels sang her praises and her relatives, in fear and awe, paid her adoration and departed. So, she had now become a demoness and her abode was the wild jungle of Alangadu (forest of Banyan trees). Through inspiration from God, she sang several sacred hymns, which are preserved to the present day. Alangadu is 40 miles from Thanjavur. 

Afterwards, she got an irresistible desire to see the sacred hill of Kailas. With inconceivable speed she fled northwards till she arrived at the foot of the mountain and realizing that it was not right to climb the heavenly mountain with her feet, she threw herself down and measured the distance with her head. Uma, the consort of Lord Shiva, beheld her thus ascending and enquired her husband about the demoness. 

To this, Lord Shiva replied that the mighty demon-form was the Mother, who obtained this form by her prayers. When she drew near, Lord Shiva addressed her with the words of love calling her by the name of Mother ("Ammaiyar"), which she forever bears. As soon as she heard the word, she fell at his feet worshipping and ejaculating, "Father!" 

She worshipped Lord Shiva to grant her a boon that she should no more be born on earth and if she did, then she should be born as a devotee of the Lord who in any form, at any time, will not forget The Lord and that when the Lord performs the sacred mystic dance, she should stand beneath the Lord's feet and sing in His praise. 

Lord Shiva granted her the boon and asked her to stay at Alangadu. Then, the sacred Mother of Karaikal returned, measuring the distance still on her head, to holy Alangadu where she beheld her God's sacred dance and sang her renowned lyrics in His praise.