Legend has it that several miraculous events
occurred in Madurai during the reign of Sundara Pandyan and Meenakshi in Madurai.
Sixty four of these events are collectively referred to as Tiruvilayaadal
(the divine play). These legends have been frozen in Tamil poetry in Tiruvilayaadal
puranam by the Tamil Saint Paranjyoti Munivar. The Sanskrit
version of Tiruvilayaadal Puranam is known as Haalaasya
It is to be noted that Madurai is also known
as Aalavaai from the legend that Madurai is believed to be a city
surrounded by a celestial snake, with its tail held in its mouth.
Another legend holds regarding the name Madurai.
It is believed that the venom emitted by the serpent jewel of Shiva was cooled off by the
rays of nectar (madhu) emanating from the crescent moon adorning Shiva hence the name
Another legend has it that evil demons sent
destructive forces to Madurai, to raze the city down. These evil forces took the form of
an elephant, a cow and a snake and attacked the city. Shiva is said to have changed these
charging animals into stones; hence the hillocks Yaanaimalai, Pasumalai
and Naagamalai surrounding Madurai.
Legends from the Tiruvilayaadal
Puraanam are depicted on the walls of the temple and are also enacted
during some of the many grand festivals celebrated by the temple (Pittukku Mann
sumanda Kadai being one of them). Ten of these are enacted during the Aavani
Moolam festival, three in Thai, one in Pankuni
and four during the grand Chittirai Tiruvizhaa.