April 24, 2016

Raja Gopala Swami Temple - Manimangalam

Site Name: Raja Gopala Swami Temple
Site Type: Hindu ancient temple
Location:   Manimangalam, Near Chennai, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: 1000 years old lesser known but architecturally beautiful temple
Nearest Railway Station: Tambaram
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Tambaram and Chennai
Hotel: A lot of options across Chennai
Restaurants:  A lot of options across Chennai and Tambaram

Manimangalam is a small locality located near Tambaram, which in turn is located near Chennai in Tamil Nadu state of India . Manimangalam is a historical site. The great battle between the Chalukya King Pulikesi and the Pallava King Narasimha Pallava was fought in Manimangalam in the 7th century CE. The locality has few ancient temples. Let us explore about an ancient and beautiful temple in this locality called as Raja Gopala Swami Temple in this article.


Highlights:


  • God Raja Gopala Swami 
  • Goddess - Chenkamala Valli
  • 1000 years old Chola period temple
  • Inscriptions of 11th century and 12th century CE are found in the temple
  • Five niche (Koshta) idols on the exterior walls of sanctum similar to typical Shiva temple, which is unique for a Vishnu temple
  • Ganesha and Durga as Koshta idols in a Vishnu temple
  • The presiding deity holds conch instead of discus on his upper right arm
  • More than 7 feet tall gigantic idol of Raja Gopala Swami 


If you live somewhere near Chennai and if you have not yet visited this beautiful temple of Raja Gopala Swami in Manimangalam village, I would call you unlucky. Such an artistically and architecturally beautiful temple it is. Unfortunately, it remains unknown. Even the other Chola period temple in Manimangalam (which is slightly popular), Dharmeswar temple is not comparable to the beauty of this one.

Temple Layout:

The east facing temple does not have Gopura, but it does not lessen its beauty. All the three Vimanas of the temple are extremely attractive. The temple covers an area of around 1.25 acres and looks very big with a lot of open space around the sanctum.


The east facing sanctum enshrines more than 7 feet tall gigantic idol of Raja Gopala Swami. His idol is very beautiful. (I am not sure even Vishnu residing in Vaikunth can be compared to his beauty.) He is found in the standing posture. His right upper arm holds conch and his left upper arm holds discus. This is very unique. Usually, he holds discus in his right arm and conch in his left arm. He holds mace in his left lower arm. His lower right arm is in abhaya mudra. His consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi are found on his either sides. They are also in the standing posture.

The utsav idols of Raja Gopala Swami with his two consorts, Chenkamala Valli and Andal are all found together in the sanctum.


The inner prakara is something very interesting and no one should miss this. Generally, the exterior walls of Vishnu temple do not have niche (called as Koshta in Sanskrit) idols similar to the temples of Lord Shiva. Hardly one or two niche idols are found in few Vishnu temples. However, in this temple, there are five Koshta idols found on the exterior walls of the sanctum. Ganesha, Chakra Prayoga Murti, another Chakra Prayoga Murti, Paramapada Nathar and Durga are found as the niche idols. Interestingly, it is unique to find Ganesh and Durga as the Koshta idols in a Vishnu temple. The miniature carvings of Dakshinamurti, Nardana Krishna, Yoga Narasimha, Kalingana Nardana Krishna and a Vishnu seated in Padmasana posture are found above all these niche images.  Interestingly, even the miniature relief image of Vishnu also holds conch in his right arm similar to the presiding deity. Dakshinamurti is not found inside any other Vishnu temple but only on Vimanas. It is another unique feature of the temple.


A sculpture of Hanuman is also found inside the inner prakara. The maha mandap area has beautiful pillars in round shapes. The walls have inscriptions. In Ardha mandap, there are utsav idols of few Alwars, Vishwaksena and Ramanuja are found. The entire main shrine is situated on an elevated platform. 

In the outer prakara, there is a vast open space area. The shrine of the Goddess Chenkamala Valli and the shrine of Andal are found in the outer prakara. Both Chenkamala Valli and Andal are very beautiful idols. The entrance of both the shrines have the mural paintings. Similarly, the Dwarapalas are found in the form of mural paintings at the entrance of the main shrine.


The Vimana of Raja Gopala Swami is artistically beautiful. Similarly, the vimanas of both the shrines of the Goddesses are also very attractive.

Garud sub-shrine, bali peetha, flag staff and the deepa stambha are all located facing towards the main shrine.

There is an interesting window gilded with the sculpture depicting the fight between Vali and Sugreev. A very big  bell is also found in this temple.


The entire temple is surrounded by huge fort like compound walls. The entrance of the temple has two sculptures of serpents.

Outside the temple, there is a four pillared mandap and further exterior to that, there is a sub-shrine for Hanuman who faces towards the entrance of the temple.

The temple is located in a typical village atmosphere and is surrounded by trees and old type tile roof houses with thinnais.


Belief:

It is believed to be a Parihara Sthalam for those having eye related problems.

History:

The temple is rich with stone inscriptions in Tamil and Sanskrit languages. Some of them date back to the 11th century CE and few belong to the 12th century CE/13th century CE. An inscription talks about the gift given by the Chola Emperor Raja Raja Chola to this temple. Another inscription mentions the grant made by Kulotunga Chola I. There are few other inscriptions found in the temple, including that of Vikrama Chola, Raja Raja Chola II, Raja Raja Chola III, Jatavarma Sundara Pandya etc. 

It is believed that the saint Ramanuja visited this temple.

Happy travelling.









2 comments:

  1. Nice write up. Thanks for sharing.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot for your encouraging words, Mr. Srikanth.

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