Lord Murugan is considered as the favorite deity of Tamilians. If you visit Madurai in Tamilnadu, India, you will find the devotion attached to Lord Murugan (otherwise known as Subramanyar and Karthikeyan in North India) and the milling crowds gathering at all Murugan Temples. One such temple is Pazhamuthircholai, 19 kms away from Madurai city, in a beautiful and serene surrounding of greenery, atop a small hill called “Solaimalai” or “Azhagarmalai”.
The very name Pazhamuthircholai in Tamil means a forest full of fruit-trees. Unlike other Murugan Temples, for example Thiruparankundram, 8 Kms from Madurai, this shrine is not big or with a structure normally goes with Temples of South India. Yet this is very ancient temple standing for centuries, as can be evidenced by Tamil Literature.
The famous Tamil Poet Nakkeerar of Madurai is said to be entangled with a wordy-duel once, with none other than Lord Siva on an issue concerning a Tamil Poem and argued that the Poem consists of a mistake in concept. The Lord burnt him with his third eye and re-incarnated him praising his love for Tamil. Poet Nakkeerar has composed a book of poetry in praise of Lord Murugan in his 6 special abodes – Thirumurugartupadai – in which he profusely praises Lord Murugan in the 6th abode Pazhamuhircholai.
There is also another heart-rending story about Pazhamuthircholai Murugan to show to this world, what one studies is equivalent to quantity of handful whereas what is to be studied yet is that of a mountain. Another popular lady Tamil Poet Avvayar rested with fatigue and thirst here once. Lord Murugan in the disguise of a small boy appeared and asked her what she wants for her thirst – Jambu fruits hot or cold. The very exponent of Tamil, Avvayar wondered how can a fruit be hot and wanted only cold fruits. When the boy shook up the tree, fruits fell on the mud and Avvayar had to blow from her mouth to remove mud, as if it is hot. The Lord criticized why she has taken a “hot” fruit. Avvayar was amazed that all her knowledge was of no use before a country boy and got the real dharshan of Lord Murugan of Pazhamuthicholai. (This jumbu tree is still there for all to worship.)
Standing in the serene atmosphere of the temple, you will feel cooled and watch people taking a holy bath in the small but perennial stream Noopura Gangai, the water of which is considered to have medicinal value, flowing amidst forest herbs. The Vel (the weapon of Lord Murugan for destruction of evil forces) is worshipped with reverence, although the idol of Lord Murugan along with his consorts Valli and Deivayanai on both sides is also there.
There is a rose-apple tree (as the auspicious tree found in each temple) which bears fruit exactly every year during the festival Skantha Sashti (October/November). The temple of Azhagar dedicated to Lord Vishnu is at the foot of the hill, where also devotees of hundreds of thousands in number throng the place.
With two temples to visit at a time, Madurai people consider Pazhamuthircholai and Azhagar Koil a week-end get-away for enjoying the cool of the hills and forest. Regular busses from Madurai Periyar Bus-stand (Route No.44) are run to this place. (Taxi-Rs.500).
Madurai is a prominent pilgrimage center, situated 498 Kms (308 miles) south-west of Chennai (formerly Madras), the capital of Tamilnadu State.