Matavarvalakam (Srivilliputtur), Vaidyanatha Temple
This temple dedicated to Shiva as Vaidyanatha, ‘God of Healing’, is sited in Matavarvalakam, now a suburb of Srivilliputtur, some 2 km away from the great Vaishnava temple dedicated to Andal and Vatapatrashayi. The temple was allegedly built by the Pandyas, and the legendary Varagunavarman Pandya II, who reigned in the second half of the ninth century, was responsible for several renovations. Further extensive renovations and additions were sponsored in the seventeenth century by the Madurai Nayakas.
Enshrined in the sanctuary is a svayambhu linga, a ‘self-manifested’ linga, which, according to the legend was discovered under a vanni (rusty acacia) tree, hence its name Vanninatha.
Among the many legends woven around this temple, one of the most famous narrated how the mighty ruler of Madurai, Tirumala Nayaka (r. 1623-1659), who suffered from severe stomach pains, visited this place. It is said that he worshipped Vaidyanatha for forty-eight days and was miraculously cured. As a token of gratitude to the deity, he ordered the spacious front mandapa to be built. His portrait along with that of his consorts and other members of his family grace the outer festival mandapa by the main gopura.
An interesting, albeit damaged, set of 17th century murals, bearing the names of the sponsors, adorns the ceiling of the entrance mandapa. The paintings, bearing Tamil captions, illustrate narratives from the sthalapurana, the legends connected with the site, extolling the sanctity of the svayambhu linga enshrined in the temple and the deities and sages who came here to worship it.