The famous Dhandeeswarar temple was born as a result of the climax in the fascinating duel between Markandeya and Yama which began at Thirukadavur and ended at Velachery, a part of Puliyur Kottam, ancient Chennai, according to the legend.
The legend of Markandeya
The legend about the Dandeeswarar temple at Velachery begins with the story of Markandeya. Sage Mrikandu and wife Marudhvathi were childless for a long time. After intense penance, Shiva granted him a boon but asked, “Do you desire to have a virtuous, wise and pious son who will live up to sixteen years or a dull- witted, evil-natured son who will live long?”
The sage Mrikandu sought the short-lived son of whom he could be proud. Shiva granted the request and departed. Even in boyhood, Markandeya mastered all the Vedas and Shastras. In the sixteenth year, when the parents feared the death of their son, Yama personally appeared with a noose in hand to end Markandeya’s life. The boy resisted and said he would defy death, and hugged the Shiva idol.
Yama threw his rope with the loop and it encircled Markandeya’s neck and also the Shiva Linga.
The Shiva Linga at once split into two and out came Shiva, trident in hand. He pushed Yama aside and killed him to save the child. According to another version, Siva dealt a blow to Yama on the chest, and protected Markandeya.
How Yaman lost and got back the Dhandam
Shiva then granted a boom to Markandeya that he would live as a young man forever, till the end of the world, and took away Yama’s Dhandam (staff) as a punishment for tormenting his bhakt, Markandeya. Bhoomidevi was worried that the earth would lose its balance due to rising population as no one would die. Yaman, who lost his power as the Lord of Death, began a journey to Kailasam to recover his Dhandam and seek permission to continue his duties.
Naradar instructed him to instead visit Vedasireni (now Velachery) and make his request before the suyambu lingam of Shiva there. Accordingly, Yaman created a theertham now called Yaman theertham. After taking a dip in the theertham, he prayed before the lingam.
Shiva then restored the Dhandam and the powers of Yaman as the Lord of Death. On Yaman’s request, the place was named Dhandeeswarar, and that is how the Dhandeeswarar temple came to be formed, according to the legend which is partially mentioned in the Thiruvanmiyur sthalapuranam.