Velleeswaran Koil is one of the seven Siva temples of Mylapore. It is physically closest to the Kapaliswarar Temple, existing as it does on South Mada Street. The presiding deities are Sukreswarar/Velleeswarar and Kamakshi. Of equal importance is Muthukumaraswami who has his own flagstaff thereby signifying that he has a set of annual festivities quite independent of Velleeswarar. This is similar to what happens at Kapaliswarar Temple where Singaravelar has his own events calendar.
In its time, the temple must have been a small but pretty shrine with Shiva facing East, the Goddess having her own sanctum to the right and facing South and Muthukumaraswami a little behind facing East as well. A fairly large Ganesa shrine (Selva Vinayakar) faces the entrance. It is significant that Tekkur Selva Vinyakar Koil Street is exactly opposite the temple and I have often wondered if this Ganesa is that Tekkur Selva Vinayaka,though as to what is Tekkur I don’t know. The late Sundari Mani (a wonderful lady of indomitable spirit) once told me that this Ganesa was also known as Kaikolar Ganapathy as the area was full of weavers till the 1940s. Apparently, the first garment from every loom would be offered to this Ganesa.
The temple has in later years become a maze of shrines and sub-shrines, each rivaling the other in poor conception and execution. The biggest star today is Sarabheswarar who draws enormous crowds on Sundays.
But I digress. The story behind the temple’s origin (as always it is said to be a thousand years old though the list of trustees carved on a wall has it that the first trustee was a Chengalvaraya Mudaliar in 1874), is that this was where Sukra (Venus), was blessed with eyesight after Vishnu in the Vamana incarnation blinded him. There is a shrine for this in the temple. Among the processional deities in the shrine is a unique icon of Vishnu as Trivikrama, a foot lifted up to hold the heavens. I enquired about it and was told that during the annual Brahmotsavam which happens in Vaikasi (May/June), one of the highlights is the restoring of eyesight to Sukra. The event was held yesterday with yours truly in attendance.
At 3.45 in the afternoon, Brahma on a swan, Vishnu on Garuda and Shiva on the bull, set off to the Chitra Kulam (known at this temple as Sukra Teertham). The processional icon of Velleeswarar does not go for this, the pradosha icon standing in instead. Alas! the Trivikrama is all trussed up and made to appear seated on Garuda and looks so disproportionate. What a beauty the icon is without all this unnecessary decoration.
Anyway, off they go to Chitra Kulam with band, nagaswaram and drums. There they wait for Sukra to complete his penance.This is taking place inside a makeshift shelter just outside the tank. An oduvar reads from the Tirumurai, the verses chiefly being those composed by Sundaramurthy Nayanar for regaining his vision. At the end of this, a screen which covers the shelter is removed and we see a canopy in which are Mahabali holding an enormous kindi, Sukra in anjali pose and Vamana. Deeparadhana is offered and Sukra sees the Trimurthy. The deities then return to the temple, followed by Sukra, Mahabali and Vamana.
Wonder how many Shiva temples other than this one have a Garuda Sevai as part of their events!
I understand that Shukra complained bitterly about his having to wait next to smelly Chitra Kulam for so long. The Trimurthys apparently pleaded helplessness. There is only so much that the Gods can do in the face of human apathy.