Tiruvisainallur nestling on the bank of the River Cauvery in Thanjavur district, where Ayyaval stayed celebrates the event with great fanfare. The utsavam lasts for ten days ending on the New Moon day in the Tamil month of Karthigai. On all these days people from various places converge on Tiruvisainallur to worship Ayyaval. Especially on New Moon day, the crowd swells to take a bath in the well of the Ayyaval Math. It is said, Goddess Ganga manifested Herself on this day nearly 300 years ago to enable the great Siva devotee to bathe in the waters of the Ganga and thus pay off the penalty prescribed by the villagers for his act of having fed a harijan on his father's "sraddha" day. On all the ten days, exponents of "Harikatha" and Carnatic music render concerts. Please read on to know more about Sri Ayyaval.
Ayyaval, an erudite Karnataka smartha Brahmin, having spurned the ministerial offer made to him by the then ruler of Mysore, embarked upon a kshetradanam (pilgrimage) of the south along with his wife, Sundari Ammal, and settled down in the village of Tiruvisainallur. The place was then known as Shajirajapuram since it was gifted by Shaji II to 45 pandits well versed in the Vedas (1685 A.D. - 1712 A.D.). In fact, the sign board carrying the name of the village as Shajirajapuram was seen at the entrance to the village on the Veppathur-Kumbakonam road till 1950, and it was an "inam" village up to 1952. Ayyaval's profound scholarship in Sanskrit, and above all his devotion to Lord Siva attracted the notice of Shaji II. The fact that Shaji II was close to Ayyaval is revealed in Ayyaval's work, "Sahendra Vilasa", comprising eight sargams, on the king's expedition to Rameswaram.
Ayyaval was an ardent devotee of Mahalingaswamy at Tiruvidaimarudhur, also known as Madhyarjunam. Not a day passed without Ayyaval visiting the great shrine. Ayyaval spoke to God, and God spoke to him, and his life was replete with miracles. His work, "Taravali Stuthi" comprising 29 hymns on Siva has a story behind it. When he was in Thanjavur, Ayyaval is said to have brought back to life a boy who died of cobra bite. On this occasion, the above work was composed. It is the author's confirmed belief that by reciting these hymns sincerely one can save the life of his near and dear ones, whose hopes of survival are next to nothing.
Ayyaval lived during the period of Sadasiva Brahmendra and Bhodhendra Swamigal. And several incidents are cited to underline the strength of his bhakti which helped him to communicate with God. A few samples: During Krishna Jayanti, Krishna's portrait was decorated and taken in a procession along the streets of Tiruvisainallur. Some brahmins of the village heckled at Ayyaval and went away without stopping in front of his house. When the procession reached the next house, the portrait of Krishna had disappeared. It was being worshipped by Ayyaval in his house and the brahmins realised the greatness of Ayyaval who composed "Dola Navaratnamalika" then.
Some of his other compositions are Dayasathakam, Bhagavannama Bhushanam, Agyashasthi, Mathrubhuta Sathakam, Stuthi Padhathi, Siva Bhakti Kalpalatha, Sivabhaktha Lakshanam, Dharavali Stothram, Aarthihara Stothram, Kuleerashtakam, Jambunatha Ashtakam, Dosha Parikarashtakam, Krishnadwadasa Manjari, Achuthashtakam, Namamrutha Rasayanam - which speak only of the greatness of Siva and Vishnu namas. Tiruvisainallur and its surrounding areas suffered for want of rains for a long period. Moved by the hardship faced by the people, Ayyaval composed the stotram "Gulirashtakam" in the name of the local presiding deity Garkateswarar after which there was copious rain.
One day, Ayyaval wanted to cross the Cauvery to reach Tiruvidaimarudur on the other bank, but the river was in spate. Praying to Lord Siva, he composed Arthihara Stotram. Lord Siva, in the disguise of a temple priest (at Tiruvidaimarudur) came and offered the prasadam to Ayyaval and disappeared. He realised that it was none else than Madhyarjunar Himself!
It is said that those who helped Ayyaval complete the ceremony were none other than Lord Vigneswara and Subramanya. However, the villagers prescribed the penalty of taking a bath in the River Ganges on Ayyaval for his act. He prayed to his "Ishta Devata", Lord Siva to come to his rescue. It is said that the Goddess assured him that she would manifest Herself in the well in his house on New Moon day of Karthigai month. Just like Valmiki, he composed "Gangashtaka", and recited it in front of the well on the appointed day. The Ganges gushed out of the well and flooded the whole village. Even today, there is a place called Gangaikanda Thidal in Tiruvisainallur.