Regarding Mahodaya Punyakalam and Ardhodaya Punyakalam, it is stated as follows in the compendium of Dharma Sastra ‘Smriti Muktaphalam’ in ‘Sraadha Kaandam-Uttara bhaga’:
महाभारते श्रवणाश्विधनिष्ठार्द्रानागदैवतमापतेत् ।
रविवारयुतामायां व्यतीपातः स उच्यते ॥
व्यतीपाताख्ययोगोऽयं शतार्कग्रहसन्निभः ॥
“In Mahabharata, if on a Sunday, Amavasya and one of the stars – Sravanam, Asvini, Avittam, Tiruvadirai or Ayilyam, occurs, then it is called ‘Vyatipatam’. This Vyatipata yogam is equal to a hundred Surya grahanas in merit.”
अमार्कपातश्रवणैर्युक्ता चेत् पुष्यमाघयोः ।
अर्धोदयः स विज्ञेयः कोटिसूर्यग्रहैस्समः ॥
“If in Pousha or Maagha month, Amavasya, Sunday, Vyatipata yogam and Sravana star occur, then it is called ‘Ardhodaya’. It is equal in merit to a crore of Surya grahanas.”
सौम्यवारेण योगोऽयं महोदय इति स्मृतः ।
“If the above combination occurs on a Monday, it is called ‘Mahodaya’.”
Such conjunctions occur rarely. On Mahodayam day people should perform Snana in Tirthas, especially in Samudra - Sea. In Tamilnadu, Vedaranyam and Rameshwaram are the two most important kshetras to perform Samudra Snana. Those not nearby the sea may perform snana in river, temple tank or any other auspicious teertha. Snana may be performed early in the morning.
Pujyasri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal observed all rituals including Sankalpa Snana, Puja, Danas etc. during Mahodaya Punyakalam a few years ago at Vedaranyam. Similarly Sri Mahaswamigal also performed Snana etc. a hundred years ago here during Mahodayam.
On Monday, 4 February 2019 Mahodaya Punyakalam was observed by a large number of devotees with great religious fervor at Vedaranyam as directed by Pujyasri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswathi Swamigal.
The religious merit acquired by performing Snana, Dana, Japa, Sraadha, Tarpana etc on Mahodayam is equated to Surya Grahana punya multiplied many times, as seen in the above citations. Skanda Puranam, Braahma Khandam, Sethu Mahatmyam, Adhyaya 52 gives in great detail the merit earned on this holy occasion. The Puranam states that one who takes bath in holy rivers or Samudra gets rid of sins like Brahmahatti, attains all wealth and even Mukti. Emphasis is laid on Danam to be given to a ‘Sat Patram’, a suitable recipient. ‘Sat Patram’ is defined as one who observes the Sastraic rules of conduct (Aachara), austerities (Tapas), chanting of Veda, listening to Vedanta, Puja of Siva and Vishnu, giving discourses on Puranas and their import etc. If suitable ‘Sat Patram’ is not available, Danam should be mentally carried out to a Sat Patram and given to him later. Danam of bronze vessel filled with milk, fruits, jaggery, ghee and Tambulam, Yagnopavita, and cow with calf is recommended. Brahmanas should be offered Vastra and fed.
The Puranam mentions the following slokas in praise of Surya, Chandra, Vyatipata and Kala, to be chanted when giving Argyam:
दिवाकर नमस्तेऽस्तु तेजोराशे जगत्पते ।
अत्रिगोत्रसमुत्पन्न लक्ष्मीदेव्याः सहोदर ॥
अर्घ्यं गृहाण भगवन् सुधाकुम्भ नमोस्तु ते ।
व्यतीपात महायोगिन् महापातकनाशन ॥
सहस्रबाहो सर्वात्मन् गृहाणार्घ्यं नमोस्तु ते ।
तिथिनक्षत्रवाराणां-अधीश परमेश्वर ।
मासरूप गृहाणार्घ्यं कालरूप नमोस्तु ते ॥
Following are the slokas in praise of Kesava and Sravana Nakshatra, Chandra, Vyatipata and Vishnu, to be chanted while giving Danam:
श्रवणर्क्षे जगन्नाथ जन्मर्क्षे तव केशव ।
यन्मया दत्तमर्थिभ्यः तदक्षयं-इहास्तु मे ॥
नक्षत्राणां-अधिपते देवानां-अमृतप्रद ।
त्राहि मां रोहिणीकान्त कलाशेष नमोस्तु ते ॥
दीननाथ जगन्नाथ कलानाथ कृपाकर ।
त्वत्पादपद्मयुगल-भक्तिरस्वचला मम ॥
व्यतीपात नमस्तेऽस्तु सोमसूर्याग्निसन्निभ ।
यद्दानादि कृतं किञ्चित्-तदक्षयं-इहास्तु ते ॥
अर्थिनां कल्पवृक्षोऽसि वासुदेव जनार्दन ।
मासर्त्वयनकालेश पापं शमय मे हरे ॥
At Vedaranya Kshethra, there are three classes of bodies of water called Vedamrita Tirtham (River), Veda Nadi (Ocean), and Vedatirtham (Manikarnika) (pond). As per Puranas, Ganga Matha herself comes here daily to get rid of sins accumulated by her from sinners bathing in Ganga and takes a dip in the Vedatirtha pond in this temple. This is indicated by the fact that the sand in the temple pond sports a colour different from the rest. Puranas also say that the four Vedas took a dip in this holy water during the month of Margazhi and attained Moksham. This Sthalam is also known to be a Parihara Sthalam for Pithru Doshas and is on par with Gaya, Prayag, Kashi and Rameswaram. People come here during Aadi Amavasya, Thai Amavasya and Mahalaya Paksham to perform rituals to their ancestors by way of atonement. Doing Snana in the Tirthams located in the temple premises is considered very meritorious.
The Vedas are said to have worshipped Siva here, giving the name "Vedaranyam" to the place. The 7th century Saiva canonical work Devaram by Nayanmars Appar and Tirugnanasambandar refers to this place as "Tirumaraikadu". When Kaliyuga started, the Vedas left this sthala closing the front main door of the Vedaranyeswarar temple here permanently. People were entering the temple through a small opening in the side wall and worshipping the deity here. When Appar and Tirugnanasambandar came here, they found that they could not enter the locked temple through the main front door. On Tirugnanasambandar's request, Appar sang devotional hymns praising Shiva, after which the gates opened. Tirugnanasambandar's devotional hymns locked the gates again; the gates became normal like in other temples thereafter, being opened and closed by human effort.
According to another Hindu legend, Rama is believed to have visited Vedaranyam, worshipped Siva and prayed for relief from the sin of Brahma hatti committed in the war against Ravana. ‘Vira hatti Vinayaka’ here is credited with relieving Rama of his ‘Vira hatti’ sin. The footprints of Rama are preserved in a place called Ramar Padam near Vedaranyam.
Vedaranyeswarar temple complex has three prakarams (corridors) and a five-tiered Rajagopuram. The central shrine of Vedaranyeswarar (Siva) in the form of Swayambhu lingam faces east. The images of the deities Ganesa, Subrahmanya, Nandi and Navagraha are located in the hall leading to the sanctum. As in other Siva temples of Tamil Nadu, the first precinct around the sanctum of Vedaranyeswarar has images of Dakshinamurthy, Durga and Chandikeswarar. The presiding Devi is Vina Vadana Vidushini (Yazhinum Iniya Mozhiyal in Tamil which means that the voice of Devi is sweeter and melodious than the sound of Vina) or Vedanayaki. Vedaranyam is also one of the Sakti Peethams.
Devi Saraswathi is seen with different appearance in this temple, i.e. without Vina in her lap as normally seen everywhere. This reminds us of what Adi Sankaracharya says addressing Devi
Lalita Parameswari in Soundaryalahari – sloka 66:
विपञ्च्या गायन्ती विविधमपदानं पशुपतेः
त्वयारब्धे वक्तुं चलितशिरसा साधुवचने ।
निजां वीणां वाणी निचुलयति चोलेन निभृतम् ॥ ६६॥
“When Saraswathi was playing on her Vina the many beautiful lilas of Siva, you nodded your head in appreciation and began to speak a few words of approval. Saraswathi found that the sweetness of your voice overshadowed the strains of the Vina, and she put the Vina out of sight in the cover.” Perhaps the Saraswathi Murtham in Vedaranyam depicts that interesting state, as Devi Vina Vadana Vidushini is famed to have sweetness of voice, which ‘defeats’ Vina.
Vedaranyam is one of the Saptha Vitanka Sthalas, housing the deity of Thyagaraja, an emerald (Marakatha) lingam, known as Bhuvana Vitanka. King Muchukunda is said to have installed the seven deities of Thyagaraja brought by him from Devendra in Swarga in seven Vitanka Sthalas. All the seven places are villages situated in the delta of river Kaveri. All seven Thyagaraja images are said to dance when taken in procession in different styles. Thyagaraja Murtham in Vedaranyam is said to perform Hamsapada Natanam (resembling the gait of swan). Thyagaraja is the Murtham of Somaskanda, a form of Siva, Uma and Bala Skanda together. Worship of Somaskanda bestows everything desired including Moksham. Skanda Purana says:
सोमास्कन्दो यतः स्वामी मूर्तिमान्-अभवच्-छिवः ।
आत्मानोहि ततो लब्ध-पुत्राहि स्युर्-नचान्यथा ॥
“Because Siva took the form of Somaskanda, living beings beget progeny; not otherwise.” Hence those wishing for progeny specially offer worship to Thyagaraja, Somaskanda.
The last Kumbhabhishekam of the Vedaranyeswarar temple was held on 26 October 2015. The temple is one of the series of temples built by Aditya Chola along the banks of river Kaveri to commemorate his victory in the Tirupurambiyam battle. It has several inscriptions dating back to the Chola period. The temple has six daily abhishekams and three yearly festivals on its calendar. The annual Brahmotsavam is attended by thousands of devotees from far and near.