May 11, 2014

Mannrakovil Raja Gopala Swamy Temple

Site Name: Rajagopala Swamy Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Mannarkovil village, near Ambasamudram town, near Tirunelveli city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: The site where Kulasekara Alwar attained salvation (moksha); a huge architecturally beautiful temple dated back to Chola period; three tiered sanctum sanctorum with the presiding deity in three different postures;
Nearest Railway Station: Ambasamudram
Nearest Airport: Tirunelveli
How to reach: Well connected by road from Ambasamudram; public transportation is not dependable
Hotel: Few options in Ambasamduram and no option in this village; more options in the nearby city Tirunelveli
Restaurants: Only few options in the nearby Ambasamudram town

 Ambasamudram is a picturesque town located on the banks of the beautiful Tamrabharani river and on the foothills of the Western Ghats. The nearest city of Ambasamudram is Tirunelveli. It is located in Tamil Nadu state in South India.The town has a lot of scenic spots and temples. Mannarkovil is a small village located at a distance of around 2 kms from Ambasamudram. The village has a 1000 years old architecturally beautiful temple, Rajagopala Swamy temple with innumerable sculptures. Let us explore this temple in detail.

Highlights:
  • A Chola period temple in the land of Pandyas
  • Around 1000 years old temple
  • Major contribution done by the popular Chola emperor Rajendra Chola; the village is also called as Rajendra Vinnagaram
  • The sanctum sanctorum has three tiers with the main deity in three different postures – sitting, standing and reclining
  • The village is located on the banks of two rivers, Tamrabharani and Karuna
  •  As Kulasekara Alwar attained salvation here, the temple is named after him as Rajagopala Swamy Kulasekara Perumal Temple
  • Also called as Veda Puri, named after Veda Narayana Perumal, another name for the main deity
  • All the main deities and sub-deities in all the sanctums and main shrines are stucco images with vivid colors
  • The inscriptions of Chera and Chola kings are found in this temple
  • The utsava idol of Perumal with Andal and Garuda – a rare sight found only in Srivilliputhur temple apart from here
  •  God – Veda Narayana Perumal (Utsava - Rajagopala Swamy)
  • Goddess – Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi; also, Vedavalli and Bhuvanavalli
  •  Teerth (holy water) - Tamrabharani and Karuna rivers, Bhrigu Teerth
  • Sthala Vruksham (holy tree) – Jack tree

Legend/History:

Kulasekara Alwar, one of twelve Alwars (important Vaishnaivite devotee) spent his last 30 years in this village. The metal idol of Lord Rama, worshiped by him, is still found in the main shrine of the temple.

Rajendra Chola, the great Chola emperor, made many contributions to this temple. Later, the Chera King Rajasimhan donated land to this temple. Jatavarama Chola Pandya and few Nayaka kings too made contributions.

This village is the birth place of Vaadhi Kesari Azhagiya Manavala Jeer who provided detailed explanation of Divya Prabhantam.

Lord Vishnu gave darshan (appeared) to the sages Markandeya and Bhrigu in this site. Hence, they are found in all the three sanctums along with the main deity.

It is believed that Vibheesana got darshan of Lord Vedanarayana here.

Temple Layout:

The majestic temple stands on about three acres of land enclosed by fort like thick walls. The east facing temple has big tower. The halls (mandapa) in front of the tower as well as behind the tower are very long. The entire temple is full of many pillared halls and so many carvings and sculptures in all the pillars and vimanas.

Main Shrines

One of the major highlights of the temple is that there are three sanctum sanctorums one above the other.

The ground floor sanctum has Vedanarayanan (Vishnu) along with his two consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi in the standing posture. Lord carries bow and arrow and has four arms. Two saints Markandeya and Bhrigu are found worshipping the Lord. The utsava idols of Rajagopala along with Garuda and Andal are also found in the main shrine. It is very rare to find utsava deities in this form. A small Garuda is found facing the main shrine. The utsava deities of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and Hanuman are also located inside this main shrine. Opposite to this shrine, there is a hole called ‘Pillai Thondu’. Women seeking child boon pass through this hole as it is believed that it would realize their wish.

The narrow steps also called as Yaanai Mudukku meaning elephant path takes us to the first floor where Vedanarayana is found in the sitting posture along with his two consorts. Both the saints as well as Garuda are found in this shrine.

The narrow steps also called as Poonai Mudukku meaning cat path takes us to the second floor where Lord Vedanarayana is found in the reclining posture with his head resting on the lap of Sri Devi and his feet on the lap of Bhoo Devi. The lotus flower on his navel and Brahma on lotus, two saints and Garuda are all found in the same shrine. The roof of the Mandapa opposite this shrine has the zodiac signs sculpted.

The shrine has the rare Ashtanga vimana.

All the deities are stucco images painted in vivid colors. Lord Vedanarayana and Bhoo Devi idols in all the three shrines are painted in green color.

The flagstaff and bali peeth are found in front of the main shrine.

Goddess Shrines

The Goddesses Vedavalli and Bhuvanavalli are located in two separate shrines in the prakara. Both of them are found in the sitting posture. Both the idols are stucco images.

Other Important Shrines

The temple has a separate shrine for Kulasekara Alwar. His idol is also a stucco image. A separate bali peetha and flagstaff are found in front of his shrine.

Next to Kulasekara’s shrine, there are two other shrines dedicated to Ramanuja and Manavala Mamunigal. Both the idols are stone idols and small in size.

All the three shrines are big shrines and they all are facing the eastern direction. They are big with a separate frontside mandapa and appear more like a separate temple.

Other Shrines

There is a small shrine for Vishwaksena in the prakara. The Dashavatara idols and Narsimha shrine are located near Vedavalli shrine.

Happy travelling.

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