I'm currently visiting India, and I just passed by a Vishnu temple in the town of Thiruparkadal in Tamil Nadu. Thiruparkadal is Tamil for "ocean of milk" (Kshirsagara in Sanskrit), referring to the divine abode of Vishnu; the reason it's called that is that it has a Ranganatha temple, depicting Vishnu lying down on the serpent Adiseshan just as he does in the real ocean of milk. But the more famous Vishnu temple in Thiruparkadal is the one next to it, the Prasanna Venkatesha Temple, which curiously depicts Vishnu coming out of a Shiva Lingam:
The story of the temple as I understand it goes roughly as follows (the Wikipedia article has a similar story.) The sage Pundarika once went to Thiruparkadal to see the Ranganatha Vishnu temple. When he arrived, he was hungry, but he had a policy that he would only eat once he got Prasadam from a Vishnu temple. But all he could find were Shiva temples. So he resigned himself to starvation and sat under a tree waiting to die. Just then, a little boy offered to take him to a Vishnu temple nearby. The boy led Pundarika to a temple which had Nandis on the outside, and Pundarika asked "Are you sure this is a Vishnu temple? It has Shiva's bull Nandi." But the boy insisted so Pundarika went into the temple, where he saw a huge Shiva Lingam. He told the boy that he wanted Vishnu, not Shiva, but the boy insisted that it was Vishnu. And suddenly Pundarika saw the Linga burst into pieces, and out of it appeared Venkateshwara (the Vishnu deity worshipped in Tirupati, AKA Balaji or Srinivasa). The deity came to be known as Prasanna (appearing) Venkatesa, because he appeared out of the Linga.
My questions are:
- Who was this sage Pundarika whom Vishnu appeared before?
- Is he mentioned in any Hindu scriptures?
- Did he attain Moksha after seeing Vishnu?