Legend behind the temple
Sage Narada once visited the celestial court of Shiva at Mount Kailash to present to him a fruit, the gyana-palam (literally, the fruit of knowledge), that held in it the elixir of wisdom. Upon Shiva expressing his intention of dividing the fruit between his two sons, Ganesha and Murugan,the sage counseled against cutting it. He decided to award it to whichever of his two sons first circled the world thrice. Accepting the challenge, Karthikeya started his journey around the globe on his mount peacock. However, Ganesha, who surmised that the world was no more than his parents Shiva and Shakti combined, circumambulated them. Pleased with their son's discernment, Shiva awarded the fruit to Ganesha. When Kartikeya returned, he was furious to learn that his efforts had been in vain. He left Kailash and took up his abode in Palani hills in South India. It is believed that Karthikeya felt the need to get matured from boyhood and hence chose to remain as a hermit and discarded all his robes and ornaments. He went into meditation to know about himself.
As per another legend, once all sages and gods assembled in Kailash, the abode of Shiva. It resulted in the tilting of earth towards one direction. Shiva asked sage Agasthya to move towards South to balance the tilt. Agastya employed a demon by name Ettumba to carry two hills in his shoulders to be placed in the South. The demon carried the hills down south and rested in a place. When he tried to lift one of the hills, it didn't budge and he found a young man standing at the top of the hill not allowing it to be moved. The demon tried to attack the young man, but was defeated. Sage Agastya identified the young man as Karthikeya and asked him to pardon the demon. Karthikeya readily did so and let the hill remain there at Pazhani. It is a practice followed in the modern times where people carry milk in both their shoulders as a devotion to please Karthikeya. The demon carried the other hill to Swamimalai, which is another abode of Karthikeya
History behind Palani Temple
The temple was believed to be constructed by Cheraman Perumal – A king of the chera dynasty. There is an interesting story about it. When the king was touring the Palani hills, Lord Murugan came and gave a darshan in his dream. He instructed the king to rebuild the hill temple. The Chera King went up the hill and really found the idol of Murugan. He with all devotion rebuilt the present temple.
Next came Cholas and Pandyas; they also expanded the small temple by adding mandapams and gopurams between 8th and 13th centuries. The Nayaka kings did their part by adding beautiful sculptures.
The edicts on the walls of the Temple stand as proof of the gifts for conducting poojas and constructions made by several kings.
The names found are – Jadavarma Sundara Pandian (1259 A.D), Sadayavarman sundarapandiyan, Sadayavarman veerapandian, Veera Nanjana wudaiyar, Mallikarjuna Devarayar II and others. Mallikarjuna Devaryar belonged to Nayaka Dynasty.
There is also mention about Palani temple in Sangam Literature where it is called as ‘Podhini’.The book is ‘Thirumurugattrupadai’.The poems refer Palani as the third Padai Veedu of Murugan in his fights against the Asuras.
Speciality of Palani Murgan Idol
Bhogar, the creator of the unique idol for Palani Andavar are found in the hymns of Tirumular called Tirumantiram. Tirumular is the pillar of Saiva Siddhanta who showed the right path for spiritual evolution of souls by self realisation, a process for our soul to merge with the Ultimate.
After cleverly compounding the amalgam, Bhogar chose to sculpt the figure of Lord Murukan in an unconventional style. Normally, in all the temples of Lord Murukan, the deity is sculpted with a splendour of beauty and an expression of charming adolescence. The idols always faced east. In contrast, the idol at Palani temple is quite slim with a saintly expression facing westwards with a shaven head, clad in a saffron loin cloth and holding his baton staff called the dandayudham. The recluse and renunciation brought out in the idol's expression, clearly flashes the message, "I am the Fruit of Wisdom".
It is astonishing to note that this cleverly composed and delicately sculpted figure of the Lord has stood the effects of devotees pouring their love and devotion in the form of abhishekams. About 6-700 abhishekams are performed every month on kiruttikai days. This delicate idol has withstood all this miraculously and beyond human explanation.
Nevertheless, a close examination of the idol will disturb anyone. For the region below the neck, the idol has lost its proportionate shape. The hands and feet are totally eroded by the corrosive action of the abhishekam materials. The region below the knees has become very thin and slender and now the legs look like polio affected legs, thin like two steel rods resting on a pedestal.
The body region is not only eroded but appear rugged, with uneven surface and with sharp angular edges. During abhishekam, the archakas are not able to smear and rub oil on the idol, fearing possible cuts from its sharp and rugged surface. At one stage, people thought that the idol would soon buckle and fall for lack of support for the eroded legs.
The devotees and the public became concerned about such a condition of the idol of the presiding deity. Several representations were sent to the Tamil Nadu State Government. Realising the seriousness of the situation, the Government took up the issue during the year 1983-84 and started considering various possibilities to ensure that the valuable idol would be preserved without any further damage at the powerful temple at Palani.
The Government at one stage considered the possibility of replacing it with a new idol. At this point, the real problem cropped up. There is a code laid down by the agamas that every twelve years a temple should be renovated. On completing the renovation, a kumbabishekam (consecration) of the temple should be performed. But this has never involved the replacement of the idol. This was never done and there was no precedent.
The replacement idea never occurred even in temples where the idol is sculpted out of granite. In such cases, the idol is temporarily moved to another location in the temple complex. The idol is re-installed in it's original location with new astabandhanam (an adhesive material made out of herbs and made into a paste by mixing with butter).
At Palani, the scenario is totally different. The strong belief is based on the tradition that the idol of the presiding deity is made out of a unique amalgam formulated by Bhogar with his divine power and futuristic thoughts reflecting his concern for future generations. The amalgam is widely believed to have medicinal qualities and curative abilities.