June 5, 2010

Ulagalanda Perumal Temple, Kanchipuram, India

Site Name: Ulagalanda Perumal Temple
Site Type: Hindu ancient temple
Location:  Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: 35 feet tall gigantic deity; Four Divya Desams in a single temple complex
Nearest Railway Station: Kanchipuram
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road and train
Hotel: A lot of options across Kanchipuram
Restaurants: A lot of options across Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram is one of the seven holy sites for Hindus. The ancient town is located at a distance of around 75 kms from Chennai city in Tamil Nadu state of India. The town is said to have more than one thousand temples. However, currently although one thousand temples cannot be found, there are about one hundred important and ancient temples found across the town. Let us discuss about Ulagalanda Perumal Temple in this article. 

Ulagalanda Perumal Temple is located very near to the most famous Kamakshi temple in Kanchipuram. The temple is considered as the 50th Divya Desam located in the Tondai region. Apart from this, there are three other Divya Desams located within this temple complex. Nowhere else, we can find four Divya Desams together. Moreover, the 35 feet tall gigantic idol of the presiding deity is the major attraction of this temple. 


Highlights:

  • Four Divya Desams in a single temple complex - Ooragam, Karagam, Karvanam and Neeragam

Ooragam

  • Tirumangai Alwar and Tirumazhisai Alwar have sung about this site in their verses.
  • It is considered as the 50th Divya Desam temple. It is located in Tondai region.
  • Vishnu is found in the gigantic 35 feet high and 24 feet wide form
  • God - Ulagalanda Perumal a.k.a. Tri Vikrama
  • Goddess Aaranavalli a.k.a. Amritavalli
  • Vimana - Sarasreekara Vimana
  • Teerth (sacred water) - Naga Teerth

Neeragam

  • Tirumangai Alwar has sung about this site in his verses.
  • It is considered as the 47th Divya Desam temple
  • God - Jagadeeswarar a.k.a. Tiruneeragathan
  • Goddess - Nilamangaivalli
  • Vimana - Jagadeeswara Vimana
  • Teerth (sacred water) - Akroora Teerth

Karagam

  • Tirumangai Alwar has sung about this site in his verses.
  • It is considered as the 52nd Divya Desam temple
  • God Karunakara Perumal
  • Goddess Padmamani
  • Vimana - Vamana Vimana
  • Teerth (sacred water) - Akraya Teerth

Karvanam

  • Tirumangai Alwar has sung about this site in his verses.
  • It is considered as the 53rd Divya Desam temple
  • God Tirukkarvanna Kalvar a.k.a. Navaneetha Chora
  • Goddess Kamalavalli
  • Vimana - Pushkala Vimana
  • Teerth (sacred water) - Gowri Tadakam

Legend:

Ooragam

According to Dr. Nagaswamy, the famous archaeologist, as this temple is located in the center of the city ("Oor" in Tamil), it was probably named as Ooragam.

The temple is associated with the legend of Vaman Avatar of Vishnu, but it does not mean that the incident related to Vaman and Bali happened in this site. 

Bali was a powerful Asura King. Indra sought the help of Vishnu to control Bali. Vishnu took the form of a dwarf (Vaman) and asked for three feet of space to the King. When the King offered the same, Vaman took the gigantic form called as Tri Vikrama and measured the sky and the earth with two feet. For the third foot, the King offered himself to Tri Vikrama. Thus, Tri Vikrama put his right foot on the head of the Asura King and sent him to Patal Lok. As the King could not get the darshan of the gigiantic form, Vishnu appeared in the form of Sesha (serpent) and gave darshan to him. 

This temple represents the images of Tri Vikrama as well as Sesha (Ooragam).


Neeragam

Vishnu appeared in the form of a child on a banyan leaf to a Rishi named Akroora in this site.

Karagam

The sage Garga got darshan of Lord Vishnu in this site. The name of the site was probably Garagaham, which would have later become Karagam. As per another concept, the word "kaar" means cloud in Tamil and the site name might relate to that.


History:


The temple is believed to have been built by the Pallavas originally, with additions made by the Cholas and Sambuvarayars. Kulotunga Chola I had done a lot of contributions to this temple. 

There are 21 stone inscriptions and one copper plate belong to this temple complex. 

Some of the stone inscriptions belong to Nandivarman III Pallava (9th century CE), Rajaraja Chola I (10th century CE), Rajendra Chola I, Kulotunga Chola I (11th century CE), Rajaraja Chola II, Rajaraja Chola III (13th century CE), Jatavarma Sundara Pandya and Sambuvarayas are found in this temple. The copper plate belongs to Uttama Chola (10th century CE). 


Temple Layout, Structure and Sculptures:

Ooragam

The temple is east facing and has a beautiful three tiered tower. The tower was probably built by the Sambuvarayars.

The Avatars of Lord Vishnu such as Ram, Krishna and Narasimha have many temples. But, the other Avatars of Vishnu have only few temples. This temple of Ulagalanda Perumal is dedicated to Vaman Avatar of Vishnu, which is rare. 

In the sanctum, the gigantic 35 feet high and 24 feet wide stucco icon of Ulagalanda Perumal, who is also called as Trivikra, is found. He has his left leg raised towards the sky and his right leg rested on the head of Bali. It is an exciting experience to get darshan of this magnificent deity.

The sanctum also enshrines the utsav idols of Vishnu along with Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi. Lokanathan is the name of the utsav deity.

The sanctum is called as Sandhara Sanctum. (The sanctum that have a narrow prakara surrounded by walls on both the sides is called as Sandhara Sanctum.) Unfortunately, we do not have access to this prakara nowadays. 

In the Ardha Mandap, Vishnu in Sesha form is found in a small north facing shrine. Few people believe that this is Ananta or Balaram. This shrine is called as Ooragam, whereas the main shrine is called as Peragam. Both the shrines together form a single Divya Desam, which is popular in the name of Tiru Ooragam

The Vimana above the sanctum is called as Sarasreekara Vimana. This rectangular shaped vimana is unusually broad like a gopura and looks very attractive and artistic. It was reconstructed during the period of Kulotunga Chola I. The Ardha Mandap and the Mukha Mandap belong to the later period. 

The Goddess Aaranavalli a.k.a. Amritavalli is found in a separate shrine in the prakara.

The bali peeth, tall flag staff and Garud are found facing towards the sanctum.

The sub-shrines of Andal, Vishwaksena and Alwars are found in a separate mandap in the outer prakara.


Neeragam

Neeragathan shrine is found in the outer prakara of Ulagalanda Perumal temple. The original deity is not found. What we see today is the new deity and not the original one. He is found in the standing posture and has four arms. The utsav idol is said to be original. 

Karagam

The south facing shrine of Karunakara Perumal is located in the prakara of the temple. It is considered as a separate Divya Desam. Vishnu is found seated on Sesha. However, this is not the original deity. As per the pasuram sung by Tirumangai Alwar, it is understood that the original deity was found in the standing posture.


Karvanam

The west facing shrine of Karvanna Kalla Perumal is located in the prakara of the temple. It is considered as a separate Divya Desam. Vishnu is found in the standing posture. However, this is not the original deity. The utsav idol is found along with Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi.


It is not known why the utsav idols of Neeragam, Karagam and Karvanam were brought to the premises of Ulagalanda Perumal temple. The stone idols, vimanas, teerth, the icons of Goddess and the original structure of all these three sites are lost. 

Outside the temple complex, the holy pond is located. Similar to many other ponds of Kanchipuram, this pond too is without water. 

Facing towards the Raja gopura, outside the temple, the shrine of Hanuman is found. It is a rare idol. Hanuman has four arms holding conch and discus in his two upper arms.

Happy travelling.


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