‘Thondai Mandalam’ was a Pallava dynasty kingdom that included the present day, Chennai.
Kanchi was the capital of this Kingdom and Emperor Kadavarkhoon was reigning the Thondai Mandalam, in which there was a small village called ‘Thiruninravoor’.
In that village, there was a poor brahmin priest, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. His name was Poosalar.
He used to do daily poojas to a small statue of Lord Shiva which was under a Mahua tree in Thiruninravoor, close to modern-day Chennai.
He was living off the fruits and pooja items and the little money offered by the villagers who come to pray to Lord Shiva. Sometimes he would go hungry by using them to feed hungry pilgrims who rest under the Mahua tree.
The poor Priest Poosalar, had an insatiable desire to build a temple for the Lord under the mahua tree, exposed to all extremes of the weather.
So whenever someone offered him money for food, he would talk to them about his desire, and ask them for money to build a temple for the Lord. Even if he was able to get some of the money, most of it would go towards feedings the pilgrims.
People would laugh and question just how was a man who did not even have money to buy a square meal, who had a hand-to-mouth existence, build a temple? “Impossible,” they would say.
However, no amount of ridicule would deter the spirit of Poosalar.
He thought that “if I can’t raise enough money to build a temple for the Lord, I would instead, build a great temple in my mind”.
He had no idea that it was going to be recognized not only by Lord Shiva but also by the emperor.
Every day, after finishing his poojas to the Lord, he would sit down near the statue and close his eyes and mind, he would begin meditating.
Being in that meditating position, he imagined himself as having necessary funds, going to the market, and buying the necessary tools.
He would hire the necessary sculptors, skilled craftsmen, and workers and then supervised their work. He would even shout at them if there were untidy in their work. He would rush them out to finish off tasks in time and paid them all promptly.
Every day, he would continue from where he left off in the previous day.
The temple started growing up in his mind. The passers-by did not know what was happening to him but would witness him sitting in utmost serenity, with a blissful smile on his lips.
Poosalaar spent time and was very careful so as to build the temple step by step. He had designed everything in his mind right from vimana, sanctum, temple pond, compound walls, etc., and executed each in detail as per what ‘aakama veda’ rules stipulated.
At the same time, Pallava Emperor Kadavarkhoon (Rajasimha) was building the Kailasanatha Temple in Kanchipuram, the capital of Thondai Mandalam. A magnificent exhibition of Pallava architecture and a unique temple paralleled to no other rose up exquisitely.
It was god willing that both temples’ works were being completed at the same time.
Having built such an architectural wonder, the King consulted with famous astrologers of his land and fixed the date for the consecration of his temple.
Coincidently it was the same date and time that was fixed by the Priest Poosalar as well.
Since he was in trance almost all the time, Poosalar would not know what is going on in the country and so he was not aware of the King’s plan for the Kanchipuram temple. And because it was being built in Poosalar’s mind, no one was aware of his temple or his consecration plans.
One day after visiting the temple and making sure all works had been completed to his satisfaction, the King went to sleep with great peace of mind that the temple is ready for consecration. Soon he was in deep sleep.
Lord Shiva appeared in his dream. “Oh King, on the date you have chosen for consecration, I have already committed being at the consecration of the temple built by Poosalar of Thiruninravoor, a great devotee of mine and so can you move your consecration arrangements to another day and I will be there”. With these words, he disappeared.
The king, awakened with great surprise, waited until morning. He postponed his Kailsanathar Temple’s consecration ceremony to another day.
The king and his entourage went to Thiruninvur on the day of consecration. He asked the people of the village about the Shiva temple and the consecration ceremonies.
No one gave the king the right answer. They replied that there is no such temple in their village.
This confused the King and he asked the village chief if there is a person called Poosalar. He responded by saying all about Poosalar and his poverty and his desire to build a temple for Lord Shiva which did not materialize. The chief arranged to send some people to fetch Poosalar to where King was in.
The King stopped them and instead asked them to take him to the place where Poosalar was in.
The priest was, still in meditation.
Suddenly, he came out of his meditation and was surprised by the sight of the king and his entourage around him. He startled and felt a sense of worry that he had done something wrong.
The king said, “Swami, on the direction of Lord Shiva, I am here to witness the congregation ceremony of the temple you build for Lord Shiva but I could not see a temple anywhere here. Can I see that, please”?
Poosalar nearly fainted. He thought to himself that no one knew about the temple that he was building in his mind. But here is the King of the land with details intimated by none other than the Lord whom the temple was being built.
Tears were brimming his eyes, as the Lord has recognized his great work. He was speechless for some time and then explained to the King that the temple was built in his mind and nowhere else.
The king and the villagers were amazed and fell at the feet of Poosalaar. The king then said goodbye and returned to Kanchipuram leaving Poosalar to continue with his ceremony.
Poosalar completed the congregation ceremony and continue to do daily poojas in that temple and attained the feet of Lord Shiva.
He became known as Poosalar Naayanar, of the 63 great devotees of Lord Shiva.
Later the King built an actual temple in the same village. The temple is known as ‘Iruthaya Eeswarer Temple’ (Iruthaya in Tamil means Heart) can be seen in Thiruninravoor (near Chennai) and the ‘Kailasanathar Temple’ also can be seen in Kanchipuram.