March 11, 2012

Mamallapuram Sthala Sayana Perumal Temple

Site Name: Sthala Sayana Perumal Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Near bus stand, Mamallapuram, near Chennai (55 kms from Chennai), Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of 108 Divya Desam temples
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Chennai
Hotel: A lot of options are available within Mamallapuram and East Coast Road outside the town
Restaurants: Many options and varieties across the town

Mamallapuram is the heritage town of South India. The town, located near Chennaci city, is full of Pallava era rock cut temples and beautiful sculptures. The sites such as Shore Temple, Five Rathas and Arjuna's Penance in Mamallapuram are world famous. Thousands of travellers throng to Mamallapuram town to see the extraordinary sculptures. However, only few travellers do visit to Sthalasayana Perumal Temple, another important landmark of the heritage rich town.

It may be true that Mamallapuram became a popular tourist site due to the Pallava kings. However, the town was popular as a port even in the ancient times. In due course, the town also got religious importance. It is the birthplace of Bhootath Alwar, one of the twelve Alwars. It is believed that he lived during the 7th century CE. Being the birthplace of one of Vaishnavite saints, the town became an important religious place for Hindus. Also, the temple located at the heart of the town, which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is one of 108 Divya Desam temples (108 important temples for Lord Vishnu).


Lord Vishnu is named as Sthalaya Sayana Perumal in this town. The other name of the town is Mahabalipuram. There are people who claim that it was ruled by Mahabali and relate the story to Vamana Avatar of Vishnu. However, there is no record or religious text to proove that claim.

As per the legend, Pundarika Maharishi founda lotus flower with one thousand petals in Tiruvidanthai Varaha temple tank. He wanted to dedicate this flower to Lord Vishnu in the milky ocean. Due to his devotional fervor, he attempted to drain the ocean water in Mamallapuram by piling water out of ocean. Probably, he thought that he would ultimately reach Vishnu by doing this. Lord Vishnu appeared as an aged devotee and offered him help. The saint went to find a means to feed the devotee. When he returned, he found Vishnu in the reclining posture. Lord Vishnu is found in the reclining posture in many temples; however, in most of the places, he rests on the divine serpent Sesha. However, in this temple, Lord Vishnu is resting on the floor. Hence, he is called as Sthala Sayana Perumal.

Temple Structure:
The current structure of the temple appears to have been built by the Vijayanagara kings in the 14th century CE. The east facing temple has a beautiful Raja gopuram (tower). The sanctum santorum of the temple has Sthala Sayana Perumal - resting on the floor with Garud near his feet; Pundareeka rishi is also found in the sanctum. The utsav (metal) idols of Perumal along with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi are also found in the sanctum. 

The Goddess of the temple is  Nila Mangai Thayar, who is found in a separate shrine. Similar to the other South Indian Vishnu temples, Garud shrine is facing the main shrine. The flag staff (kodi maram) and bali peeth are also found in the temple.

The prakara (corridor surrounding the main shrine) has few small shrines dedicated to various deities such as Andal, Bhootath Alwar, Ram-Lakshman-Sita, Hanuman and Lakshmi Narasimha. All the metal idols of the temple are found in a separate shrine near the main shrine.
Tirumangai Alwar and Bhootath Alwar have sung the praise (mangala sasanam) of Sthala Sayana Perumal. The temple tank is located outside the temple complex.

When you go to Mamallapuram, along with the sculptural marvels of Pallava, do visit this religiously important place too.

Happy travelling.

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