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Puranic Background:

Lord Shiva was carrying 64 Vidyas in a boat during the Pralayakalam (Meaning: Storm). He found the region presently known as Sirkazhi in Tamil Nadu free from the effects of ravaging Pralayam. Hence, he decided to reside in this Kshetra. As he came in a boat, he is called Thoniyappar and his consort Goddess Parvati is referre as Thiru Nilai Nayagi. Also, the creator Brahma did penance in this region seeking grace and benevolence of Lord Shiva.