This is a legend involving all three of the trinity Bhrama,
Vishnu and Shiva.
Bhrama the creator was originally endowed with five
heads. When he started displaying his arrogance, as the supreme creator of the Universe,
Shiva assumed the form of Bhairava the terrible, and with the mere snap
of a finger nail, cut off one of the five heads of Bhrama. The severed head stuck to the
left palm of Bhairava. In order to expiate for the sin of cutting of Bhrama's head
(bhramahatti dosha), Shiva had to take the Kapaalika vow of wandering all
over the world as a beggar, carrying the skull as his begging bowl.
As an enchanting beggar Bhikshaatana,
accompanied by the enchantress Mohini, Shiva entered Dharukaavana
the home of the arrogant ascetics, and quelled their arrogance and continued his sojourn
around the world and reached the abode of Vishnu. When Vishwaksena, the
attendant of Vishnu refused to let him in , he impaled him with his trident and walked in
with his corpse (Kankaala Murthi). Vishnu offered his own blood to fill
the kapaala, but even vast quantities of Vishnu's skull could not fill up the skull bown.
It was after reaching Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges, that the bowl
slipped off Shiva's palm.
The fierce Bhairava form of Shiva is enshrined in
several temples. The Sattainatha-Bhairava form of Shiva is enshrined at Sirkazhi, near Chidambaram.
Bhikshatanar is enshrined at Bhikshaandaar Koyil or
Uttamar Koyil along with Bhrama and Vishnu. Also near Bhikshaandaar Koyil is Tiruppaachilaasramam where Nataraja dances over the
snake flung at him by the munis of Dhaarukaavanam. The Bhrama Shira Kandeeswara form of
Shiva is enshrined at Tirukkandiyur near Thanjavur.
This temple is one of the 8 Veerata stalas celebrating Shiva as the
destroyer of evil forces.
A variant of this legend is that it was only after Mahalakshmi
offered alms into the skull bowl of Shiva, as advised by Vishnu that the bowl became
unstuck. Vishnu, known as Hara Saapa Vimochana Perumaal is enshrined at Tirukkandiyur in a temple across the street from the
Bhrama Shira Kandeeswara temple. The same legend holds at the Vishnu shrine at
Bhikshaandaar Koyil, and at the Vishnu temple at Tirukkurunkudi
near Tirunelveli in Tamilnadu.
Another variant of this legend is that Shiva performed
the Ekadasha Rudra Aswamedha Yagna and worshipped Vishnu; at the end of the eleven yagnas,
Vishnu appeared and relieved Shiva of his curse, and at his request took 11 abodes in the
vicinity of Tirunangoor, near Chidambaram. All of these 11 shrines are associated
closely with the last of the tamil Alwars, Tirumangai Alwar (9th century CE).