According to legend, Yudhishtirar required the milk of Purushamirugam, otherwise known as Vyagrapadha (half human and half beast) to complete a great yoga. The mighty beast was a highly devoted Sivabhakta and had a strong aversion to Vishnu and His devotees. When Bhima took up the job of bringing the milk of the beast, to subdue the haughtiness of Bhima and show that Siva and Vishnu are one, Sri Krishna gave him 12 Sivalinga images, advising him to drop an image as and when he needed help.

Bhima reached the jungle where the beast was in deep meditation. Uttering the words "Govinda, Gopala", he tried to get milk from the beast.
When the beast heard the words "Govinda", it lost its concentration and the Sivalinga appeared to the image of Vishnu. Enraged, the beast caught hold of Bhima. Unable to escape from its clutches, he dropped one of the images, from which sprang a Siva Shrine. Being a devout Sivabhakta, the beast proceeded to offer worship. After sometime, Bhima again tried to obtain the milk uttering the words, "Govinda, Gopala" and the beast chased Bhima for a few miles and caught him. Another image was dropped on the spot, where another shrine of Siva arose. Thus the 12 stones created 12 sacred Sivalayas.

Finally, when all the images were exhausted, Bhima was with one foot within the area of the latter's control and another outside; Bhima argued that he should be freed for the above reason.

Yudhishtirar passed the verdict that half of Bhima's body which was within the jurisdiction of the beast belonged to it. Deeply touched by the impartial verdict of Yudhishtirar, the beast freed Bhima and willingly supplied milk for the fulfillment of the yoga. The haughtiness of Bhima was, thus, subdued.

This story is attractively depicted in stone at a temple at Krishnapuram, near Tirunelveli. It is believed that Bhima and Vyagarapadha started their race from Tirumalai and finished it at Tirunattalam.
There is an interesting story that is being told about this run. According to this story the Pandava Prince Bhima wanted to get the milk of Purushamrugam (Vyagrapadha Maharishi, the son of Doumaya Maharshi) , which lirerally means half man and half animal. Bhima was told to chant Govindha Gopala (name of Lord Vishnu) while approaching Vyagrapadha. Also he was given 12 Rudhraksha and he was asked to drop one by one if any thing goes wrong.

Bhima started searching for Vyagrapadha. Vyagrapadha was meditating Lord Shiva and dislike devotees of Lord Vishnu. When Bhima approached him for the milk, he got disturbed with his chant and tried to catch Bhima. The freigtened Bhima dropped a Rudraksha beed on the earth. It becomes a Shivalingam. Vyagrapadha being a devout yogi of Lord Shiva, looses himself in the worship of the Mind-stealing Lord, leaving behind Bhima. Again Bhima tried to approach him for milk singing Gopala Govindha. Disturbed again the sage angrily catches him. The story repeats. This happens for twelve times and in the last time Bhima puts his one leg in the place of the sage. His brother Yuthishthira was called as the jury. In spite of Bhima being his brother, he told the right justice that Bhima was at fault. Impressed Vyagrapadha gives off the milk Bhima wanted. Then Lord Vishnu appeared and Bhima worshipped the God. Suddenly Vyagrapadha realized  that it was Lord Siva. Both great people understood that Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu are same and one.

The truth of this story is difficult to be confirmed. It could be more a folklore. But very likely that these temples are worshipped by the great saint Vyagrapadha, which is evident from the names of various places over here. Also the story tells that Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu are one and same. There is Sankara-Narayana (Siva-Vishnu) temple in the 12th and last temple Thirunattalam.

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