I was in India in August and I took the opportunity to visit a few temples when I was there. Kumbakonam as it is rightly called as the temple city with literally 100s of temples and most of them are padal petra sthalangal (means temples which are reversed in the verses by 63 Nayanmars and are considered as the greatest Saiva temples in Tamil Nadu. There are 275 of them). One such temple is at Thirukkarugavur, where the moolavar (the prime God) is Mullai vana nathar (God living in Mullai vanam) and Ambaal is Garba Rakshambigai. In that temple, both Vinayakar and Siva lingam and nandhi are Swayambu. Swayambu means, the sculptures were formed several thousands of years back on its own with no instrument like uli used to carve them. The Siva lingam here is one of the only 64 Swayambu Lingams. The lingam is formed by ant hill mud, therefore, they do not perform abhishegam with water. They use something called Punuhu for abhishegam. Even today, you can see an impression of Jasmine creeper on the lingam, which once must have covered the Swayambu Lingam
The Gurukkal in the temple was kind-enough to take me round the temple and tell me the sthala varalaru (story about the temple) and explain me the significance of the temple. The sthala puranam goes like this:
Sage Nidhruvar and his wife Vedhika were living happily in a Mullaivanam. They were blessed with everything except one thing which is, they had no children. They were advised to be in penance for 48 days on Lord Shiva. There was no Shiva Lingam in Mullavi vanm, so they decided to pray in front of an ant mud that was in the shape of Shiva Lingam. At the end of penance, Vedhika realised that she was pregnant. They decided to continue poojas to Lord Shiva there while they were expecting the blessed new arrival. One day when Sage Nidhruvar was away, Sage Oordhvapadar visited the mullai vanam and visited their ashram for Bikshasi. Vedhika didn't notice the Rishi or hear him, therefore, she failed to respond and unwittingly failed to offer, due hospitality to the guest. Oordhvapadar who was unaware of Vedhika’s pregnancy, was insulted and cursed Vedhika. Vedhika got the disease called “Rayatchu” which made her get diseased and it also hurt the child in her womb. Vedhika could realise that her child is being gradually destroyed. She prayed to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi to help her. It was because the pregnancy was by the blessings of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvathi took the avatar of Garbarakshambigai and appeared before Vedhika and protected her child in the womb by holding it in a "kalasam" a divine pot. The goddess has helped the child grow in the divine pot until it grew as full fledged child. The child was named as Naidhruvan.
When Vedhika cried as she was not able to feed the baby with her milk. Kamadhenu, a sacred cow came in front of the temple, created a pond / kulam and filled it with sacred milk. Vedhikai prayed to Goddess Garbarakshambigai to remain in the temple forever and bless all women with good soul mate, child birth and safe pregnancy.
Assisted pregnancy, IVFetc. are in a very advanced stage in the current days. However from the fact that the sthala puranam has been in existence for several centuries, it is evident that the concepts of test tube baby, assisted pregnancy etc. were conceptualised by Hindu religion several thousand years back. It has taken that long for human beings to bring the concept to reality.