India is a country where every state and place has got its own religious importance. As stated in the Puranas, whenever there is a decline of Dharma, Gods and Goddesses come to the rescue of their devotees and reinstate the balance. In this process, they take any form needed to protect and support the righteous cause.
So in a town called Pithapuram located in the East Godavari district near Samarlakota of Andhra Pradesh, Lord Shiva the third in the Hindu trinity took the unique form of a rooster and is worshipped in the Kukkuteswara temple. This town has an immense spiritual value because, alongside the Kukkuteswara temple, the town has the temple of Puruhutika Devi, one of the Maha Shakti Peethas located in the premises of the Shiva temple and another temple is of Sripada Sri Vallabha Dattatreya the first incarnation of Guru Dattatreya.
The legend of the Kukkuteswara temple is referred to in the Skanda Purana and in Srinatha’s Bhimeshwara Purana as follows. Once upon a time, there was a demon named Gayasura who was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu the second in the Hindu Trinity. Due to his devotion, Gayasura could obtain a boon from Lord Vishnu that whoever sees Gayasura should get salvation. Due to this boon, the mortality rate on the earth came down so much so that Lord Yama and Indra got worried about the life cycles of humans.
Lord Indra along with Lord Shiva and the other Gods approached Lord Vishnu to seek help in stopping this demon from destroying humankind. Lord Vishnu heard their plea and assured them to help. So along with Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, he went to Gayasura and asked him for a pious wish. Being a devotee, Gayasura offered his help and was informed that the Hindu Trinity intended to perform a yajna or an offering that should not be stamped by any animal or human and since finding such a place on earth is impossible, they approached him. Delighted, Gayasura offered his body to do the yajna and the Hindu Trinity accepted it with the condition that he should not move and warned him that if he moved, he could be killed.
After Gayasura agreed, the yajna that was supposed to be for seven days started on his body. He extended his body by lying down on the earth with his head placed in Bihar, his naval placed in Odisha and his foot placed in Andhra Pradesh. He started counting the days by the crowing of the rooster. For six days, the yajna continued uninterrupted but since he was supposed to be disturbed, Lord Shiva took the form of a rooster and crowed before dawn to make him fail the condition.
Presuming it was morning already, Gayasura moved thereby disturbing the yajna and the Brahmins who were performing the yajna started abusing him. Everyone at the yajna abused him and this made Gayasura realise that if he was unable to bear the pain of failing a yajna, how could he bear the sins of the humans?
So he realized his mistake and asked the Hindu Trinity to have mercy on him. Pleased, Lord Vishnu gave him a boon that Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva will be remembered along with his name. So the place where his head was placed is called Siro Gaya in Bihar and the place where his navel was is called Nabhi Gaya in Odisha and the place where his foot was placed is called Pada Gaya in Pithapuram. Ever since, it is said that whoever does the last rights for the dead in these places shall present the deceased with salvation.
The temple in Pithapuram is a beautiful place with lush green fields, coconut trees and a Pushkarini or pond formed by the foot of Demigod Bhima when he tumbled over a stone and his foot got stuck in the mud. It is a place worth visiting for its scenic beauty.