January 20, 2013

Tiruvellarai Pundarikakshan Temple

Site Name: Pundarikakshan Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Tiruvellarai, near Trichy, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of 108 Divya Desam temples (the most important temples of Lord Vishnu)
Nearest Railway Station: Trichy
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Trichy 
Hotel: Go to Trichy where there are a lot of options 
Restaurants: Go to Trichy where there are a lot of options

Tiruvellarai is a village located near Trichy in Tamil Nadu state of South India. It has an important Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This temple is considered as the fourth among the Divya Desam temples (108 most important temples of Lord Vishnu) located in Chola country.  

  • Called as Swetagiri in Sanskrit. Vellarai and Swetagiri mean hillock of white rock.
  • It is believed to be older than even the popular Sri Rangam temple.
  • The main shrine has two entrances - "Uttarayana Vayil" and "Dakshinayana Vaayil". As implied by their names, the Uttarayana Vaayil is opened from the Tamil months of Thai to Aadi; post that the other entrance alone remains opened.
  • There is another entrance referred as the "Naazhi Kettan Vayil". It is believed that Lord Vishnu was interpreted and questioned by his consort Lakshmi upon his returning home late.
  • Periyalwar and Tirumangai Alwar had sung the hymns of the site.
  • This is the birth place of Vaishnavite saint Uyyakondan and Ramanuja's student Engal Alwan.
  • God: Pundarikakshan
  • Goddess: Shenbagavalli; the procession (utsava) idol is named as Pankajavalli
  • Teerth: Divya Pushkarani
  • Vimana: Vimalakriti Vimana

As per the legend, the mythological king Sibi chased a white boar which hid inside an anthill. When he inquired about this to the saint Markandeya who was performing penance here, the saint advised him to pour milk on the anthill. The king did so and discovered the idol of Lord Vishnu. The Lord appeared and ordered him to build the temple. The king brought 3700 families of Vaishnavite Brahmins from the banks of Yamuna and Ganges and settled them here before building this temple as per the advice of sage Markandeya. When one of the Brahmins passed away, Lord Vishnu took the form of Brahmin and helped the king.

As per another legend, Goddess Lakshmi did penance here for her union with the Lord. The Lord appeared as Krishna from a well named as 'Ponkinaru'. It hapenned even before he took the incarnation of Lord Krishna.

Another legend claims that the saint Markandeya, as per the advice of Lord Shiva, worshiped Lord Pundarikakshan in this temple and got moksha (the salvation).

Temple Layout:

The grandeur north facing unfinished tower, probably of Hoysala style architecture, is the best highlight of this temple.

The temple complex is huge (around 10 acres) and surrounded by thick and tall walls. There is an inner tower which leads us inside the temple. The devotees have to pass 18 steps representing the 18 chapter of Bhagavad Gita and then 4 steps representing the four Vedas first. Then comes the unusually huge bali peetha where there are another five steps representing the Pancha Bhootas. In this temple, abhisheka is performed only to the bali peetha and not to the presiding deity. The flag post is also found near the bali peetha. There are two entrances to the main shrine - Uttarayana Vayil and Dakshinayana Vaayil. These entrances are on the true right side of the shrine and not on the front side. The front side entrance is called as the Nazhi Kettan Vaayil. The main shrine is built in mada kovil (raised platform) architectural style.

The sanctum santorum has 18 feet tall gigantic wooden idol of Lord Pundarikaksha. His Tamil name is very beautiful - Chentamarai Kannan. He is in the standing posture holding chakra and sankha. The chakra is in the form of Pryoga chakra; it appears as if the Lord is ready to throw that to destroy his enemies. Surya and Chandra are seen waving chamaras on his either sides. On his feet the sage Markandeya and Bhooma Devi are seen worshiping the Lord. Adi Sesha and Garda are found on his either sides in the form of devotees. The sanctum santorum is facing the east direction.

The wall around the sanctum santorum has huge stucco (suthai) images of Pundarikaksha, Surya, Chandra, Indira, Garuda, Gayatri, Saraswati and Savitri. Near the twin entrances also five big stucco statues are found - Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna and another Shiva.

There is a huge open space prakara around the main shrine. The Goddess Chenkamalavalli Thayar is found in a separate shrine. The Goodess is also called as Shenbagavalli. The processional idol is named as Kamalavalli. The mandapa in front of the shrine has a lot of sub-shrines for various Alwars, Uyyakondan, Ramanuja, etc.

There is a separate shrine for the huge idol of Chakrathalwar with 16 hands; the utsava (procession) idol is found with 8 arms; Narasimha is found behind Chakrathalwar. A small shrine of Lord Krishna is found in the main shrine area. The shrines of Andal, Hanuman, Nammalvar and Garuda (facing the main shrine) are also present in this temple.

The swastika shaped tank on the northern side of the temple is another highlight. It was built by the Pallava kings. There are totally seven teerths in this temple.

The temple is a must visit for devotees as well as those who love art and architecture.

Happy travelling.

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