Legend of Nellaiappar Temple
There is a story behind the name of the town Tirunelveli. Once there was a poor Brahmin in this town named Veda Sarma who was a great Siva Bhakta. Every day he used to go out begging and the alms thus gathered were used by Veda Sarma for offering to the Lord. One day, when the brahmin was drying the paddy which he had collected for offering to Siva,
it rained suddenly and Veda Sarma feared that all the paddy might be washed away due to heavy rains. He became much distressed and prayed for help to the Lord who took pity on him and protected the paddy from the rain by covering it and standing around it like a fence. So this place came to be known as Tiru Nel Veli (Tiru - means beautiful, Nel - means paddy and Veli - means fence). The Lord also came to be known as Nellaiappar.
There is another legend connected with this shrine. In the south-eastern corner of the prakaram, a Siva Lingam, known as Anavarata Khan, has been enshrined. It is said that the wife of one of the Nawabs was suffering from some acute disease and consulted the Brahmins as to how she might be cured of it.
The Brahmins advised her to worship Nellaiappar and perform some religious ceremonies in the temple. She readily agreed and did the poojas through the temple priests. To the surprise of all, the Muslim queen not only recovered from her disease but also gave birth to a male child.
The boy was named Anavarata Khan and the shrine with a sivalingam known as Anavarata Khan was built in a corner of the prakaram in memory of the Muslim queen and the prince. An opening in the outer wall of the prakararn just opposite the shrine was provided so as to enable the Nawab and his son to worship the Lingam, standing outside the temple.
According to yet another legend associated with this temple, Lord Siva once took the form of a Lingam, came to Tirunelveli and took his abode here. All the four Vedas stood around Him as bamboo trees and provided Him shade. So this Sthalam is came to be known as Venu Vanarn (Venu means bamboo tree and Vanam means forest) and the Lord came to be known as Venuvananathar..