The ancient Saraswati Ambal temple at
Koothanur is a one of its kind temple dedicated exclusively to the Goddess
of Learning Saraswati. Although there are shrines to Saraswati in most Saivite
temples as well as niche shrines to Bhrahma, temples dedicated exclusively to Bhrahma or
Saraswati are very rare.
Koothanur is located near Poonthottam
on the railway line between Mayiladuturai and Tiruvarur, in the heart of the Temple belt of India in
This ancient shrine is rich in legends
and beliefs and is closely associated with the Tamil poet Ottakoothar - a
contemporary of Kamban and the author of works such as Kulottunga
Cholan Ula. Ottakkoothar enjoyed the patronage of the Imperial Chola rulers.
Legend has it that a young devotee
desirous of knowledge performed severe penances at the Saraswati shrine
here (11th-12th century CE), seeking the blessings of Saraswati. Saraswati took the form
of a courtesan and materialized before him and expressed her desire to bless him. The
devotee refused to accept her blessings, not knowing who she was. Upon hearing of this
incident, and recognizing the identity of the courtesan, the poet Ottakkoothar rushed to
the spot and prostrated before her seeking her blessings. It was after this incident that
the fame of Ottakkoothar is said to have spread throughout the Tamil land. In fact, the
name Koothanur derives from the poet's name Ottakoothar.
Antiquity: The shrine here is said to
have been erected by the poet Ottakoothar very early in the 2nd millennium CE. He is also
said to have celebrated Vijaya Dasami, the day following the 9 day
Navaratri festival in the tamil month of Purattasi here. Several stone inscriptions,
validating the antiquity of the temple are seen here.
Temple (Birla) at Pilani, Rajasthan