Azhahar Malai is a small hill situated about 12 miles north of Madurai. There are two shrines, one at the base of the hill and the other at the top , about 2 miles up the hill. The temple at the base is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the deity installed is worshipped as Kallazhahar. This temple is called Azhahar koil. The temple on the hill is known as Pazhamuthir Cholai and is dedicated to Lord Subramanya. Thus this place attracts both Vaishnavite and Saivite devotees.
The temple is easily accessible from Madurai which itself is a renowned temple town, the home of the famous Meenakshi – Sunthareswarar temple.
The origin of the temple is not very clear but the ‘sthalapuranam’ mentions a few legends associated with this temple. Yama, the deity who presides over death once visited this place and enchanted by its beauty stayed here for meditation. Lord Vishnu appeared before him in response to his meditation. He requested that the Lord remained in this place so that people could worship him. In granting his wishes Vishnu stayed there with his two consorts, Sri Devy and Boo Devy.
There is also a legend associated with the river Silambar that runs on the western side of the temple. A king by the name of Bali by his severe penance became very powerful and brought all the three worlds under his domain. The Devas who had thus lost all their possessions and exalted position approached Mahavishnu and requested that he should restore them to their rightful place. Mahavishnu then took the form of a dwarf by the name of Vamanan and went to King Bali and sought three paces of land for himself. King Bali seeing this dwarf acceded to his request. Then Mahavishnu assumed a gigantic form (Brammanda soroopam). He measured the three worlds by two paces and asked King Bali where he could measure his third pace. King Bali, unable to find any other place, showed his head whereupon Mahavishnu put his foot on his head and pushed him into the netherworld. Lord Brahma seeing this large foot washed it with water from his ‘Kamandalam’ (pot). The water that trickled from the Silambu (Anklet) worn by Mahavishnu formed into a river thus taking the name ‘Silambar'(Silambu+Aaru). The sanctity of this place is further enhanced by the fact that all twelve Vaishnavite saints (Azhwars) had visited this temple and had sung in praise of the presiding deity.
The processional deity here is called Soundararajar or Azhahar and the installed deity as Paramaswamy. A special feature of this deity is that the spinning wheel (chakram) of Mahavishnu is depicted as in the process of being released (Prayoga state). The processional deity is made of a very special and costly type of gold called aparanji. In a corner of the corridor of the temple is a shrine to Lord Ganapathy. He is depicted as having his trunk turned towards his right, which is not a common theme. Hence this Vinayagar is called Valampuri Vinayagar.