March 30, 2016

Oppiliappan Temple

Site Name: Oppiliappan Temple  
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Uppiliappan Koil (Tirunageswaram), Near Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: No salt in the prasad prepared in this temple
Nearest Railway Station: Kumbakonam
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Kumbakonam
Hotel: Many options in Uppiliappan Koil as well as the nearby town Kumbakonam
Restaurants: Very good vegetarian options

Uppiliappan Koil is a small locality near Kumbakonam town in Tamil Nadu state of India. The village has a prominent temple for Vishnu called Oppiliappan Temple. It is considered as the 13th Divya Desam located in the Chola region. Let us explore about this temple in this article.


Highlights:

  • Tirumangai Alwar, Nammalwar and Peyalwar have sung hymns about this site in their verses.
  • No salt in the prasad prepared in this temple
  • Oppiliappan temple is also called as Tiru Vinnagaram
  • It is considered as the 13th Divya Desam temple. It is located in Chola region.
  • God Oppiliappan or Uppiliappan; Utsava deity - Ponnappan
  • Goddess Bhoomi Devi
  • Teerth (holy water) - Ahotra Pushkarani
  • Sthala Vruksha (holy tree) - Patali
  • Vimana Suddhananda Vimana

Legend:

Bhoomi Devi

Bhoomi Devi was reborn as the daughter of Markandeya Rishi in this site. Lord Vishnu disguised as an old man and sought her hand in marriage. To ward him off, the Rishi informed him that his daughter was not well versed in household chores. He added that she would often forget to add salt in the food that she would prepare. Then, the old man revealed himself as Vishnu and married Bhoomi Devi. In this temple, the prasad (holy food) is prepared without salt due to this reason. Due to this, the deity is called as Uppiliappan. The word 'uppu' means salt in Tamil language. Uppiliappan means the Lord who does not have food. He is also referred as Óppiliappan, which means the Lord who cannot be compared with anyone else.

I have given brief and clear version of the legend. There are few variations and extensions for the above mentioned legend. Let me brief about them too.

Tulsi wanted to adore the chest of Lord Vishnu similar to Lakshmi. As per the advice of Vishnu, Tulsi took the form of a plant and grew in Tiru Vinnagaram. Markandeya Rishi performed penance towards Lakshmi wishing her to be born as his daughter. Lakshmi took the form of Bhoomi Devi and the Rishi found her as a child under the Tulsi plant near Pushkarani. Then, Bhoomi got married to Vishnu and thus Tulsi became a holy plant and could adore the chest of Vishnu.

Brahmotsav

As part of celebrations of Vishnu's marriage, Brahma performed a grand utsav (festival) for nine days. It is even celebrated today and is being called as Brahmotsav.


Pushkarani


Once a learned Brahmin called Devasarma forcefully had union with the daughter of Jaimini Rishi. Due to this he was cursed to become a Krauncha bird by the saint. The sinner sought pardon from the saint. The saint advised him to live in the branch of tree and break the branch of the tree slowly so that the bird would fall in the waters of Pushkarani of this site. It would help him to get rid of his sin, the saint advised. As the bird fell during the night in Pushkarani, while the Brahmin was taken to the Vaikuntha by the men of Vishnu, Varun intervened them. He pointed out that bathing in the holy waters during the night was not permitted and hence the Brahmin had committed a sin again, he complained. However, the messenger from Vaikuntha clarified Varun that in this Pushkarani, it was allowed to take bath both during the day and night. From that day onwards, the Pushkarani is being called as Ahoratra Pushkarani, which means 'day and night holy tank'.

Shiva and Indra



As per few other legends, Shiva plucked off the fifth head of Brahma. To get rid of this sin, he took bath in Ahoratra Pushkarani and is still doing penance towards Vishnu.

The tanks where Surya, Indra and Brahma took bath were called as Surya Teerth, Indra Teerth and Brahma Teerth respectively. They do not exist today.

Indra had illicit relationship with Ahilya. To get rid of his sin, he took bath in the holy tank near this temple, which was called as Indra Teerth.

History:

The temple was  built by the Cholas. Inscriptions of Rajendra Chola I period are found in the temple.

Temple Layout:

The east facing temple has five tiered Raja gopuram (tower). The temple is huge in size.

The sanctum is facing the eastern direction. It enshrines the 8 feet tall gigantic image of Oppiliappan. Bhoomi Devi is found to his right side and is in the kneeling posture. Her father Markandeya Rishi is also found in the shrine. 

The utsav deity is called as Ponnappan; he is found along with Bhoo Devi in the sanctum.

The flag staff, bali peetha and Garud shrine are found facing towards the main shrine.

In the prakara, the sub-shrines of Alwars, Desikar, Anjaneya, Krishna, Ram-Sita-Lakshman, Maniappan with his two consorts and Ennappan. The sub shrine of Muthappan also used to be there in the olden days. The birth spot of Bhoomi Devi is also situated near the sub-shrine of Ennappan. 

In the olden days, apart from Áhoratra Pushkarani, there were few tanks outside the temple complex which are missing now. The names of those tanks were Saranga Teerth, Surya Teerth, Indra Teerth and Brahma Teerth. 

This is the only other temple apart from Srirangam temple where there are two holy pillars in Ardha mandap, which are believed to give salvation to the devotees. 

The huge temple complex has a lot of mandaps and many of them have beautiful pillars with sculptures.

The holy Pushkaranai is located near the outer prakara.

Happy travelling.





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