Chinnakkaavanam Sri Ashtotheeswarar
Chinnakkaavanam is located about 40 kms from Chennai and about 3 kms from Ponneri. Chinnakkaavanam village is on the banks of Arani River just after crossing Ponneri town. The main deity here is Sri Ashtotheeswarar, also called as Sri Nootreteeswarar (நூற்றெட்டீஸ்வரர்) in Thamizh. This place was called as Chathurvedhapuram in ancient days and this temple’s main deity was Sri Chathurvedheeswarar and Goddess Sri Sivakami Amman. Sage Agasthiyar during his visit to this part of the country came here to worship the Lord. He was advised by a divine voice of Lord Shiva to install and worship Him under the Eru Azhinjal (ஏறு அழிஞ்சல்) Tree, which is called Angola Viruksham in Sanskrit.
It is said that, those days this entire district had lots of Eru Azhinjal trees, which is considered most sacred. It is believed that any spiritual act performed under the Eru Azhinjal tree would be most divine and fetch desired results. There are 3 places in the present districts of then ‘Thondai Mandalam’, where Sage Agasthiyar had worshipped Lord Shiva under Azhinjal Tree. They are Azhisoor near Kanchipuram, Thirumazhisainear Poonamallee and Chinnakkaavanam near Ponneri. Azhinjal Tree is the Sthala Viruksham for this temple.
The rarity of the Azhinjal tree is the certain seeds which fall from the tree gets attracted back to the tree and gets merges with the tree itself. It is also said that the tree has some medicinal values. According to the legend, Sage Agasthiyar as per the order of Lord Shiva collected the sand from the nearby Arani River, which was then called Brahmaaranya River, made Shiva Lingam out of it and started worshipping Him under this Azhinjal Tree everyday for 108 days, thus creating 108 Shiva Lingams. But to his surprise, when he completed creating 108th Shiva Lingam, all the 108 Lingams merged to become Lord Ganesha’s idol. Then, he was told by a divine voice that he forgot to worship Lord Ganapathi before starting the Shiva Pooja and hence all the deities merged together to form an idol of Sri Ganapathi.
Later Sage Agasthiyar made another Shiva Lingam and worshipped, which came to be known as Sri Ashtotheeswarar and also as Sri Nootreteeswarar. The God was called so, as Agasthiyar worshipped 108 Shiva Lingams at this place. The Azhinjal tree under which Agasthiyar worshipped, remains till today and is 2500 years old now. Also the Swayambhu Ganapathy which formed from the 108 Shiva Lingams is seen under the same Azhinjal tree and is called as Sri Angola Ganapathy, as He evolved Himself under Angola (Azhinjal) tree.
There are 2 main deities in this temple. First is Sri Chathurvedheeswarar, who was present even before Sage Agasthiyar came here. The Goddess is Sri Sivakami Ambaal. Another deity is Sri Ashtotheeswarar which was created and worshipped by Sage Agasthiyar here. The Goddess is Sri Ashtothravalli. There are 2 parallel shrines for both and each has separate Nandhi respectively. It is said that the temple was renovated by ancient king Nandhivarman during his reign. Other deities of the temple are Sri Subramanyar with Sri Valli and Sri Devasena, Sri Surya Bhagavan (called Siva Suriyar) & Sri Kaala Bhairavar. A Splendid, ancient temple with rich heritage, Chinnakkaavanam is a feast to eyes and soul.