The river Tamravarni flowing from the Western Ghats reaches the plains at Papanasam where it drops to form a small waterfall. This waterfall which is believed to absolve all sins from people who bathe in it has made Papanasam (meaning absolution of sins) an important pilgrim centre. There is an interesting story behind Papanasam. Once upon a time the Pandyan kings who converted to Buddhism wanted other people in their kingdom to convert themselves and follow Buddhism. He started harassing others, a family of a father and two children who were ardent devotees of Lord Shiva; unable to face this harassment left their state and went to a neighbouring state. The family got caught up in a civil and the children were separated from each other. Many years later after wandering through many states they arrived in Benares. By chance they met each other, fell in love and got married without realising that they were siblings. Later on when they came to know about it they started searching ways of absolving their sin. They were advised to wear black and to bathe in all the sacred waters in India and when their black clothe turned white it was an indication that they were absolved of their sin. According to the advice given to them they clothed themselves in black and went from place to place in search of redemption. Finally they arrived at Papanasam and when they bathed in the river their clothes turned white thus indicating the absolution of their sin. Hence the deity in this temple is called 'Papavinaseswarar' (the redeemer of sins). The river runs on a rocky bed and fishes are found in abundance in the water. They are quite harmless and approach the bathers in large numbers. The devotees believe that these fishes are redeemed souls and harming them would bring retribution.
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