The legend connected with the origin of this temple shows that once upon a time, in Krita Yuga, a sage by name Purupunyar lived with his wife Satyavathi in Badarikashram. They had no children. Purupanyar performed a Sali Yajna. (Putrakameshti Yaga) with great fervor and devotion. The Sage offered 1000 Ahutis (oblations of gheeto the sacrificial fire after chanting the mantra each time) every day, for one full year. 'On the last day, when Purnahuti (the final offering) was performed, Lord Narayana was pleased with the austerity of the ritualistic observances of the Sage, and appeared in the sacrificial fire in a blissful mood to offer boons. The Sage prayed for a noble son.The boon was granted with the condition that he should be named after the name of the Yajna as Salihotran. With this blessing, Lord Narayana disappeared. Then the Sage collected the ash strewn around the Yajna Peetha and gave a handful of it to his consort to take in with great veneration as Prasadam. In the tenth month after that, a glorious son was born to Sage Purupunyar.
The child was named Salihotran as ordained by Lord Narayana. With the growth of years, the child showed signs of precocity and started on a pilgrimage-visiting temple after temple. On Tai Amavasya day (New Moon day in January-February), he reached Tiruvallur where he found that Lord Brahma, other Devas and great sages like Vasishtha, were engaged in taking bath in the Hrittapanasini tank.
Next year, on the same Pushya Amavasya day, he completed one year of penance and took a holy bath in the Hrittapanasini tank and observed his morning prayers. As he was fasting for one year without food or drink, he collected on that day some paddy and prepared prasadam out of that. He divided it into three parts; the first part was offered to Lord Narayana.The second part was kept for offering as charity and the third for his own consumption. At this juncture, Lord Narayana took the form of an old Brahmin and came the way where Salihotran was waiting to offer the share to a guest. When Salihotran saw the old Brahmin, he immediately requested him to grace his hermitage. He respectfully offered to the Brahmin the prasadam meant for the guest. Quickly the Brahmin ate up the offering and Salihotran felt from his facial appearance that he was not satisfied.
On inquiry, he learnt that the old Brahmin had had no food for the last 4 or 5 days and his hunger was not fully satisfied. At this, th-2 portion kept for himself was offered to the guest. The guest was satisfied and - left the place. Salihotran commenced another year's penance without food and drink. Again, on the day of Pushya Amavasya at its close, he took his holy bath in the tank and noticed many unusual good omens on his way. After finishing his morning rituals, he procured some paddy and prepared oblations. Like the previous year, he offered a portion to Lord Narayana and was waiting for a guest to offer the second portion, leaving the. Last portion for him.
This time also, Lord Narayana took the form of an old Brahmin and was coming by that way. Salihotran-welcomed him and while accompanying him to the hermitage, the old Brahmin expressed that he was feeling extremely hungry and thirsty and needed a place for rest also. In the hermitage, Salihotran offered the entire prasadam meant for the guest as well as for himself. The old Brahmin was greatly pleased and asked Salihotran, "Where is the place for me to lie (Evvul)?" The prince was so charmed by the beauty of the princess that he voluntarily expressed that he, a prince was on the lookout for a bride. The princess advised the prince to go and worship Lord Veeraraghava in the temple situated on the northern bank of Hrittapanasini tank, if he wanted to marry her.
But the prince did not move, but argued that if the mutual love was real, God Himself would come down to approve of it. The princess then sent for her parents. Arriving there, they enquired about the prince's lineage but the prince would not divulge his identity. However, he swore by Lord Veeraraghava that after his marriage with the princess, he would stay there. This being a very sound proposal, the marriage was fixed; and performed. Following the traditional custom of offering prayer at the temple after marriage, by the newly wedded couple, the prince and princess, accompanied by the parents and the invited guests, went to the temple of Lord Veeraraghava.
When they approached the sanctum sanctorum, to the utter amazement of all present, the newly married couple merged into the deity and stood transformed as Lord Veeraraghava, and his divine consort Kanakavalli, who blissfully blessed the parents and the assembly to attain salvation after their preordained, stay in the world.
The sacred tank here is known as Hrittapanasini. The following Sanskrit sloka describes the sanctity of the tank:
The tank is so holy that evens a sight or a touch or a bath would immediately dispel all anguish of heart. The local tradition attaches greater importance to this tank than to the Ganga, the Godavari, etc Unfortunately, the tank is now dry. As usual, at the centre of the tank there is a mandapam, where seasonal Festivals are performed. Tiruvallur was also known as Bhikshwaranyam (the forest where, sages lived on alms) in ages gone by. During January 1999, Kumbhabhishekam was performed in this temple after all the gopurams were renovated and repainted. It is a marvelous sight to see the glorious specimens of Dravidian art in sculptures depicting the mythological legends of Hindu scriptures in the pinnacles of the gopurams.