Our country is gifted with a number of small and large temples of great antiquity. One such shrine which is very small temple but has a great history behind it is the Valikeshwara Shiva temple of Batalagundu.
It is located on the banks of Vegavati river (nowadays called Vaigai) near the town of Batalagundu, enroute Kodaikanal. It has all the aspects of a perfect Shiva temple – located away from the town, near a river and near a cremation ground on a slightly hilly terrain.
This temple is known for the Varuna japam puja which is conducted till date. This is a puja to pray to the lord for copious rains during drought or insufficent rains. Continous abhishekam is performed to the Shiva linga with water till the end of the japam. There are various rules for performing Varuna japam such as avoiding food with salt on the days of the japa.
This is a first hand experience of a person who witnessed the Varuna japam performed in 1930s – 40s in this temple and we have given a verbatium translation – ” In those days, agriculture was more important than what it is today. Whenever there was a drought or lesser than usual rains, the village elders would decide on doing the Varuna japam along with Rudram chanting. They would fast and come to the temple to start the pujas. One set of people will be performing the abhishekam to Shiva and another group would go the nearby Vaigai river and stand inside the water till their neck. It must be noted that in those times even when the rains were not enough there was never a time the river went dry. It was before the construction of the dam across vaigai (~1960). Standing inside the river waters the varuna japam would commence. It would go on for several hours. Finally after pujas completion, prasadam was served to all. The ghee flowing from the sweet pongal prasadam would make the entire hand oily. Then they would start returning back to their homes by walk and it would be closer to evening. Batlagundu village (or today’s town) was nearly 5-6 kms away. Here is where the fun starts. The moment they step out of the area, rains would start. It was an custom not to use any umbrella or any other things which would prevent the rain water from falling on them. If they used an umbrella then the rains would stop. The rains would continue till late in the night.”
It was the strong faith of our ancestors on the grace of Lord Shiva that such a thing could happen those days.
Initially, there was only a shrine for Lord Shiva. Recently, shrines for Ambaal and Lord Subramanya have been added. This temple is open only on Monday mornings and that too for only few hours due to the remote location of the temple.
Location: Batlagundu, Tamil Nadu 624202, India