Temples dedicated to the Goddess Saraswati are seldom found in India.
There are very few temples in India dedicated to Saraswathi, the Goddess of learning. Though we see Her in collaboration with other deities in most other temples, a shrine dedicated to the Goddess Herself is very rare. Located in the Mayiladuthurai-Tiruvarur rail route and one and a half kilometres away from the village Poonthottam is the temple dedicated to Saraswathi – Koothanur.
Legend says that Koothanur is also associated with the mingling of the three revered rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi. These rivers merge here as the Harisol river or Arasalaru colloquially. It is believed that Ganga attained Lord Shiva here. Ganga was separated from Him in order to facilitate Lord Shiva marry Parvathi and give birth to Muruga, who would thence kill the demon, Tarakasuran.
On the other hand, Saraswathi who had an ego clash with Brahma was born on earth. After worshiping Lord Shiva both Brahma and Saraswathi got emancipation. Saraswathi could mingle as a river in Harisol and was also allowed to have a shrine on the bank of the river as the Goddess of learning. However Brahma, who was already with another curse, was deprived of a shrine. Eventually, after prayers Lord Shiva allowed him to have poojas in the rituals performed towards departed souls. Thus Brahma Pooja has come to be associated with rituals, and the rituals if performed here have a special significance.
The story associated with the river Yamuna is that she was tempted by the acts of Lord Krishna with the gopikas. Subject to a curse she prayed for emancipation and came as a river here.
History tells us a different story. The origin of the word Koothanur was a village gifted by Raja Raja Chola II to the songster Ottakkootthan The temple has attained popularity by gaining the status of the only temple dedicated to Saraswathi. Devotees throng the place praying for their children’s education, liberation from previous births by taking a bath in the Triveni Sangamam.
Bhaskarar, who wrote the Sri Lalitha Sahasranama Bhashyam, said that only if a person has done good deeds in previous births he would be able to admire the Goddess. The Devi Mahatmiyam praises Her as follows: Clad in a white garment, seated in Padmasana in a white lotus, holding a book in the left hand, a veena in the right hand, with eyes expressing compassion and the third eye revealing knowledge, along with the lips rendering a warm smile.
Koothanur is a small village located near Poonthottam in the heart of the Temple belt of Tamil Nadu. This village is especially famous for the Saraswati Temple and its association with Ottakoothar, the Tamil poet.