To Make a Discus and Use it Too, Thiruvirkudi
Thiruvirkudi, a small town near Thiruvarur, is the penultimate one on our list of the Ashta Veeratta Sthalas. It was here that Shiva destroyed an asura named Jalandhara, with a discus. Since Maheshwara had assumed his terrific form to destroy Jalandhara, this place too is considered to be a Veeratta sthala.
The story of Jalandhara and his death is told in the Mahabharatha. Indra once came to Kailasha to meet Shiva. However, having searched everywhere, he was not able to find Shiva. Suddenly, he saw a hermit resting on a rock nearby. Approaching the hermit, Indra asked him, “Respected rishi, do you know where Shiva is?”.
Silence. No answer came forth.
Indra repeated the question again. Silence. Indra’s wrath exploded at the disrespect of a mere mortal towards him. He whipped out his Vajrayudha and hit him on his head. But surprise of surprises, the hermit did not die. He hardly moved at all. Instead a column of fire emanated from between his eyes and charged towards Indra. Indra realised that it was indeed Shiva in the guise of a hermit and, realising his mistake, he immediately prostrated at Shiva’s feet apologising profusely. Shiva, the ever graceful, pardoned him at once.
But the fire sparks which had come out of the forehead of Shiva could not be extinguished. They reached high into the heavens and bounced back deep into the oceans. In the oceans, the sparks transformed into a baby and lay floating on the waves, crying loudly.
Not being able to bear its cries, the devas rescued the baby and carried it to Brahma. When they placed the baby on Brahma’s lap, he attempted to stop the cries by patting the baby. However, the baby pulled Brahma’s long, lush beard with such a force that it brought tears to Brahma’s eyes. Deeply shocked at the surprising strength of the little baby, he christened the child Jalandhara (The one who was born in the waters).
Jalandhara grew up at Sathyaloka over the years. But in spite of the continuous company of the devas and gandharvas, Jalandhara was more attracted by the occasional asura who came to visit Brahma. Before long, to the surprise of no one, he was over to the dark side. There, seeing his exceptional leadership qualities and extraordinary strength, he was crowned the king of asuras. He married Brindha, a pious woman, the daughter of another demon king and started to rule over the asuras.
Just like his predecessors,the power hungry Jalandhara waged wars with the various kingdoms on earth and won over every ruler. Very soon, the entire earth was under his rule. However, not being satisfied with the capture of earth alone, he set his sight heavenwards. Gathering a large army of asuras, he attacked the devas. Taken by surprise, the devas fought valiantly, but unable to bear the demonic forces, they succumbed to Jalandhara’s army. Indra and the devas were driven out of Swarga and Jalandhara took over Indra’s throne. Soon Jalandhara marched over to Vaikuntha and Sathyaloka and captured them too. Surprisingly, no one was able to stop his march of victory.
Having no other place to go, the devas ran to Kailasha. Falling at the feet of Shiva, the pleaded him to put an end to his own son. Shiva smiled at the devas and asked them to explain everything to him in detail. As Indra narrated the countless tortures of Jalandhara and his surprising strength, Shiva listened with rapt attention. When Indra was finally done with his long tale, Shiva smiled yet again. The same smile which moves the earth and all creations.
“Jalandhara is no doubt a terrible asura. However, there is something that stops even me from defeating him. It is that power which has given him all his victories and made him to survive all the wars. As long as that exists, we cant do anything about Jalandhara”, announced Shiva.
The devas jerked their heads up on hearing this sudden bit of news. “What is this power that keeps him alive Mahadeva?”, they demanded.
“It is his wife, Brindha. She is an exceptional Vishnu Bhaktha. Everytime Jalandhara leaves for a war, she sits down and meditates on Vishnu, praying him to save her husband from all dangers. It is this highest from of devotion that has saved Jalandhara from every single danger and catastrophe. Even when Jalandhara invaded Vaikuntha itself, it was the power of her prayer to Vishnu which kept him alive. Such is her Bhakthi.”, said Shiva, smilingly.
“So is there no other way to destroy him?”, demanded Vayu, shocked at this new bombshell.
“There exists exactly one way. As Jalandhara marches to Kailasha this very moment, his wife is already in deep meditation on Vishnu. If she is brought out of the meditation even for the tiniest amount of time, Jalandhara can be vanquished.”, explained Shiva.
The devas now summoned Vishnu, praising him and his grace. Vishnu appeared before them, mounted on Garuda, with angels fanning him on both the sides. Getting down from Garuda he asked the devas the reason for summoning him.
“Jagannatha”, cried the devas, “you alone can save us from our present plight. As Brindha prays for her husband, you must somehow distract her from her concentration. Then alone can Jalandhara be slain and the world be free of distress.”
“But that will totally be against dharma. Brindha ties me up with her devotion. It is my duty to protect my devotees.”
Seeing Vishnu protest, the devas fell at his feet and begged him again. “For the good of the world, you have to do this for us, Narayana. It is also your duty as the supreme protector to ensure the welfare of the world and its inhabitants”, they pleaded. Finally Vishnu gave in to their pleas and agreed to distract Brindha.
Back at the palace of Jalandhara, Vishnu took the form of Jalandhara himself and walked in calling out for Brindha. The true pathibhaktha that she was, Brindha immediately stopped her prayers and thinking that Jalandhara had returned, she rushed outside. And that was enough for Shiva to slay Jalandhara.
At Kailasha, as Jalandhara forced himself through the gates, Shiva once again took the form of an old man and blocked Jalandhara’s path. “Oh great king”, he said, “What purpose do you have in Kailasha today?”
Jalandhara laughed loudly at the question. “Why, to defeat Shiva and conquer Kailasha ofcourse”, he said, continuing to laugh.
“Mighty king, I would like to test your strength before you proceed to war against the creator of all universe. If you pass the test that I am going to keep, you will surely conquer Kailasha.”, tempted the old man.
Jalandhara scoffed at the old man’s offer but nevertheless accepted the challenge. The old man drew a circle on the sand with the Big toe of his right feet. Then, pointing to the circle he said, “There, if you are able to break apart the circle from the ground and lift it high, I am sure you can win over anyone.”
Jalandhara bent down, laughing at the ridiculousness of the task. However, the earth was very difficult to break. With much effort he finally managed to crack the circle of earth and breathing heavily he lifted it overhead. At the moment, as Jalandhara stood savouring his triumph, the old man revealed his true form. Shiva in all his glory, stood before Jalandhara and in a flash he transformed the disc of earth into a chakra and forced it through Jalandhara’s body, killing him that very instant. Jalandhara was DEAD.
When Brindha came to know the truth, she was mad with anger. In a fit of rage she cursed Vishnu, “I believed you and worshipped you day and night. In the end you tricked me and plucked away the very thing that I prayed for. Is this what your dharma says? May you be turned into a stone for your trickery.” And with that she jumped into her husband’s pyre and immolated herself.
The true bhaktha that she was, Vishnu was forced to end up as a stone. The salagramas that are found along the banks of the Gomti river are considered to be this stony form of Vishnu and are held to be very sacred. Vishnu, however, blessed her to be born as a Tulasi plant in her next birth, so that she could always adorn him. That was the reward that Brindha got for her pure heartfelt devotion.
The temple at Thiruvirkudi enshrines Shiva in his Jaladharari Moorthi form, or the Vanquisher of Jalandhara. The main deity of the sthala is Parimalambigai Sametha Veerattaneshwarar Swamy. However, much of the attention goes to the utsavar, a bronze statue depicting the death of Jalandhara which shows Shiva holding the discus in his hand and killing Jalandhara. This is one of a kind statue, where Shiva is shown to be holding the chakra, which is usually an aspect of Vishnu.
Some Shaivite legends even claim that it was this chakra that was obtained by Vishnu from Shiva. Vishnu, who wanted a powerful weapon to carry on with his duty of the universal sustainer, coveted the chakra that Shiva had used to kill Jalandhara. Desiring the chakra, he decided to worship Shiva with a 1008 lotuses chanting his 1008 names. Collecting the flowers Vishnu commenced his worship. However, on completing 1007 names and after offering the 1007th lotus, Vishnu realised that he was short by one lotus. Not wanting his worship to end, Vishnu was about to pluck out his eye and offer it to the linga, when Shiva appeared before him and gave him the chakra. Pleased with his intense devotion Shiva also bestowed him with the name, Kamalanayana (The lotus eyed one). This legend is celebrated in the form of the Chakrapradha Moorthi which depicts Shiva handing over the chakra to Vishnu.
There are a number of other legends associated with Thiruvirkudi. One of them praises the place to be the location where Vishnu’s broken bow fell when it was damaged by the devas who had become termites. The nearby kshetra of Thiruveezhimalai is where the Chakrapradhar form of Shiva is worshipped. It is also widely believed that during the year long incognito hiding period following the 12 year long vanavaas, Arjuna hid the weapons that he had obtained from the Himalayas in the temple here. Shiva granted him a boon that the weapons would appear as serpents to anyone who approached them and thus would remain safe.
Interestingly, the sthala vriksha of Thiruvirkudi is the sacred Thulasi. It is believed to be the reincarnation of Brindha. Thiruvirkudi is one of the very few places where Shiva is worshipped with Thulasi rather than Vilva.
The temple at Thiruvirkudi has two Prakarams with an imposing Rajagopuram over the western entrance. The temple is situated amidst lush vegitation between two rivers. Since the mound of earth on which the temple stands between the two rivers resembles the ear of a cow, the place is also known as Gokarnam (Go-cow, Karna-Ear). There are also several theerthas in the sthala. People throng to the temple in large numbers during the Jalandhara Samhara Thiruvizha, when the killing of Jalandhara is re-enacted. Otherwise it is a calm and crowd free place, situated in serence surroundings.
Thiruvirkudi is easily accessible from both Mayiladuthurai and Sirkazhi. Buses and other forms of public transport are available in plenty that take one right to the temple entrance.
There come certain situations in our life which give one a lot of torture and agony. All such influences are believed to vanish when one worships Jaladhara Samhara Moorthi. The temple in Thiruvirkudi is sanctified by the trio of Moorthi (Jalandharari), sthalam (Virkudi) and Theertham. And that alone makes it a place worth a visit.