January 7, 2011

Thirumazhisai Nagar Jagannath Temple - Chennai, India

Tirumazhisai Alwar is one of the twelve alwars - the twelve great devotees of Lord Vishnu from South India who were responsible for the Bhakti movement. The town where Tirumazhisai Alwar was born is Thirumazhisai Nagar, which is located near Chennai city. There is a 1000 year old temple dedicated to Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu in this town. The name of the deity in this temple is Jagannath.

Lord Jagannath temple in Thirumazhisai Nagar is one of the three important Jagannath temples in the world. Jagnnath is a name given to Lord Krishna. Puri is considered as Uttara Jagannath Kshetra (North Jagannath), and Tiruppullani is considered as the Dakshina Jagannath Kshetra (South Jagannath), and Thirumazhisai Nagar is considered as the Madhya Jagannath Kshetra (the middle Jagannath site).

Even though the exact age of Jagannath temple is unknown, from the records and inscriptions, it is evident that this temple was maintained by Kulothunga Chola III of 12th century AD. Tirumazhisai Alwar, the great devotee of Lord Vishnu, who was associated closely with this temple, belonged to 8th century AD. Hence, we can assume that this temple should be at least 1000 years old. It could have been built by Chola kings when they were ruling this region.

There is another temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, in Thirumazhisai Nagar, which is located well on the high road. However, Jagannath temple is located interior in the town. The temple has a majestic temple tower (Rajagopuram) with five levels, and the temple tank (Bruhu Teerth) and a mandap stand in front of the temple tower. If you enter into the temple, you can find the dhwajasthambha in front of the main shrine. The main shrine has the main deity of the temple, Lord Krishna, who is called as Jagannath in this temple. Jagannath is found with his consorts Rukmini and Satyabhama on his either sides. All the three idols are big, wide, and gigantic, and they are in sitting posture. The idols of the saints Markandeya and Bruhu are also seen in the sanctum itself. There is a separate idol for Tirumazhisai Alwar - a big idol in sitting posture with his third eye on the thumb nail in his right leg.

The goddess of the temple Tirumangai Valli Thayar has a separate shrine in the corridor. There are separate shrines for Andal, and Narasimha with Lakshmi on his lap in the corridor. Near the main sanctum, next to the shrine of Tirumazhisai Alwar, there is a shrine for Kannan (Krishna). The idol is too beautiful. Garud is found in front of the main sanctum as usual. There are shrines for other alwars too in this temple. The walls of the temple have the idols of Ganesh, Vishnu, and Vaishnavi.

Tirumazhisai Alwar's story is an interesting one. Even though I wouldn't give his story in detail in this post, I would like to brief about the same. Tirumazhisai Alwar was born to Bhargava Rishi, and he was born as a lifeless foetus without limbs. He was thrown into a forest. Lord Vishnu appeared before him and gave life and limbs. Then, he was found out and picked up by a tribe named Tiruvalan. Tirumazhisai learnt about Buddhism and Jainism. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. It was Peyalwar who converted him to Vaishnavism. Lord Shiva once appeared before him and asked him to ask for boon. When Tirumazhisai Alwar asked for Moksha, Shiva answered that it could be granted only by Lord Vishnu. After few arguments, Tirumazhisai Alwar made fun of Shiva. Shiva got angry and showed his third eye on his forehead. Immediately, Tirumazhisai Alwar also showed his third eye on the thumb nail of his right leg. Shiva appreciated his Bhakti towards Lord Vishnu and disappeared. There are a lot of stories about Tirumazhisai Alwar connected with few temples in Kanchipuram.

When you get a chance, ensure that you visit the Madhya Jagannath Kshetra.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:
Site Name: Jagannath Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location: Thirumazhisai Nagar, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India 
Highlights: 12th century ancient temple built by Chola king
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India
Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable by road, train, and flight
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city

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