Irulappan-Pathala Pechi of Srivilliputhur
This famous temple is near Thirumukkulam of Sriviliputhur town of Tamil Nadu. It seems three dacoits called Irulappan, Mayandi and Veerabhadran used to enter this village daily and commit robberies in the village. There are two stories about the origin of the temple for them in the village.
I. The villagers requested Goddess Parvathi to help them and she assured that she would solve the problem. Next day when the robbers were coming she was lying on heir road as a pregnant woman who was in late stages of pregnancy. When they requested to give her way, she told, “I am not able to get up and so you can go round me. They agreed but the lady was growing at a fast rate preventing them from going to the village. The robbers understood her divinity saluted her and asked for her pardon. They assured her that they will no more steal. The goddess made them as a part of her. That lady in the form of pregnant woman was worshipped as Patala Pechi and by her side and the three robbers were worshipped as the power of lord Shiva.
II. It seems there was a deep well in the place where the present temple is there. It seems some bad elements attacked a pregnant woman who came to take water from the well and threw her inside the well. Irulappan and friends, who came to hunt there fought with the bad spirits and saved the pregnant woman. That lady wanted them to save the village also and lay own on their way. Since they were not able to cross her, they also sat there.
It seems during this time a black magician came from Kerala, stayed in Chaturagiri Mountain near by and wanted to take Pechiyamman and Irulappan in two pots by his magical powers. It seems Irulappaswami told about this to one of his devotees in a dream. He also told that the magician will suffer a lot. That year was a very dry year with no rains but it seems torrential and a terrible rain lashed at the place where the magician was doing pooja and the pots were swept away. The magician understanding the power of Irulappan ran away from there.
The patala Pechi who is about 6 feet tall is in the form of a pregnant woman lying on the floor. Behind her in a stage are the heads of Irulappan, Veerabhadran and Mayandi. There is no roof to this temple. It seems Pechiyamman has not agreed to have one. On the wall to the temple, there are 18 lamps. They are considered as assistant Gods. First worship is offered to Irulappan and others and then Patala Pechi is worshipped. In the shed outside the temple, there is a statue of Irulappan riding on a horse.
Normally devotes of such temples belong to one caste or even one clan. But this temple has devotees belonging to nineteen castes including Brahmins. On Tuesdays and Fridays, there is heavy rush in Patala Pechi temple. Except for the annual Shiva Rathri, there are no festivals in this temple.
On the day before Shiva Rathri at midnight the priests of temple enter the temple. No body except the drummers who are strictly confined to a circle and are not allowed any where near the temple. And the priests sacrifice a two month old sheep, mix its blood with pongal and throw it in the four directions in side the temple. It is believed that Pechiyamman takes the pongal. If it falls down on earth, the priests would conclude that Pechiyamman has gone from there. Then they bury the head of the sheep just outside the temple and give the body to a particular caste.
Then on Shiva Rathri day there is a great celebration with worship, anointing and giving of general feasts. Nineteen oracles representing the nineteen castes get in to a trance and tell answers to all questions asked to them. This goes on for seven days.
Devotees believe that Patala Pechi would cure all diseases they keep a lime fruit on the body of Pechi, worship it. Later by drinking the juice of the lime fruit, they believe that their ailments would be completely cured.
There is another peculiar custom at this temple. They keep a big ghee lamp and show a Ghee applied bottom of a pot to this flame. A black paste forms at the bottom of the pot. This is taken and put in tins and distributed. This is called “Mai kutti Marundu.” People believe that when going on an important job, if we apply a dot with “Mi kutti Marundu” on their forehead, the job will succeed. This medicine cannot be got as a routine and would be given by the priests according to the wish of God.