Thirukokarnam temple, 5km from Pudukkottai, is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Praghathambal or Araikasu Amman and to Gokaneshwarar, one of the forms of the god Shiva.The temple looks unimpressive from outside, but once inside you find a fascinating labyrinth of subterranean shrines.
The goddess Praghathambal is said to have the power to find lost things. Believers come to perform a special puja or ritual with jaggery (palm sugar) in the hope of finding something they have lost.
It is said that the ruler of the Vijayanagar empire, to which Pudukkottai belonged, once lost an extremely important document. All efforts to find it were in vain. So he prayed to Praghathambal and his document turned up again. The king was so grateful that he had coins minted with the image of the goddess in relief and distributed them to his subjects on festive occasions. They were semi-circular coins (half coins, ara kasu in Tamil); after that the goddess was known as Araikasu Amman.
There is also a belief that this place can free someone from a curse. The legend behind this belief goes like this: Indra the rain god had cursed the heavenly cow Kamadenu so she was banished and sent to earth.
She took refuge in the ashram of the sage Kapila Maharshi where she daily performed abhishekam, or rituals, to Shiva. She gathered water from the Ganges in her ears and poured it at the foot of the vakula (or bakula) tree.
Seeing this, Lord Shiva decided to test her devotion. He came to earth in the form of a tiger and threatened to eat her. Kamadenu begged the tiger to wait until she had finished her ritual to Shiva.
When she had finished, Kamadenu offered herself to the tiger as promised, upon which the tiger turned into Shiva and Parvati, blessed Kamadenu and released her from the curse. This is the origin in the name Gokaneshwarar, which means “lord of the cow’s ears”.
As well as its two main sanctums, to the goddess Praghathambal and to Gokaneshwarar, Thirukokarnam temple has several other shrines including the one to Bakulavaneshwara (“lord of the bakula forest”) and upstairs, looking out over the temple roof, shrines to Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Muruga and various Shaivite saints.