The most sacred and ancient shrine of Sri Kurmam, situated on the shores of Bay of Bengal, is the only swayambhu temple in the world where Lord Vishnu is worshipped in the form of Kurma avataara (tortoise – the second incarnation of the famous dasa avataaraas).
This ancient shrine is believed to be prior to the golden era of Sri Raama (raama raajyam).
Prominent references about this shrine are available in Kurma , Vishnu, Padma, Brahmaanda Puraanaas.
While the shrine is said to be more than a few million years old, outer structures were reconstructed many a time – after dilapidation of previous one , and the latest temple structure is more than 700 years old.
Legend says that during Kruta Yuga, A Pious King – Sweta Maharaja , observed fierce penance for many years.
Fulfilling his wish, lord Vishnu manifested (swayambhu) here in the form of Kurma Avataar. Lord Brahma, the creator of universe, himself officiated the celestial rituals and consecrated the shrine with Gopaala Yantra .
Sweta Pushkarini (the lake in front of the temple) is formed by the Sudarshan Chakra. Sri Mahaa Laxmi (the consort of lord vishnu), emanated from this lake and is adored in the name of Sri Kurma Naayaki, in varadaa mudra posture seated on Garuda Vaahana.
Sri kurmam shrine is believed to be the “Moksha Sthaanam” and the Sweta Pushkarini has cosmic cleansing powers. so, like in Varanasi, people perform the last rites of the deceased and drop (nimajjan) the Asthikaas (ashes) in it, which eventually metamorphose into Saalagraamaas (divine stones). even mother Ganga takes a bath in this lake every year on Maagha Shudha Chavithi (around february) to cleanse herself of all the sins left by the devotees .
The Prasaadam of the lord is said to possess mystic curative powers – after taking this prasaadam, the celestial dancer became devotional and renunciated desires., king Subhaanga won the war., a devotee by name Vaasu deva got leprosy cured.
Unlike many other temples ,the presiding deity here is facing west and hence there are two “Dwaja Stambhaas” (flag posts) in east and west directions. this is also the reason to permit devotees to enter the “Garbha Gruha” (sanctum sanctorum) for a closer darshan of the lord. this temple is known for its marvellous sculpture, particularly on the southern entrance, apart from the 108 pillars, where no single pillar is similar to the remaining.
The unique stones on the floor in the Pradakshina mandapam (circumambulatory passage) are said to infuse magnetic energy into the devotees through their feet. the ancient pictures on these walls, made from natural colours, resemble those in Ajanta – Ellora caves. “Kaasi Dwaram” – the under ground tunnel to Varanasi in the north eastern corner of the Pradakshina Mandapam is another magnificent piece of ancient engineering skills. the entry is closed now, since many wild animals and snakes are entering the temple.