Parthasarathy Temple, Triplicane
|Venkatakrishna Parthasarathy Perumal Temple|
|Other names||Sri Parthasarathy Perumal|
|Proper name||Parathasarathy Swamy Thirukoil|
|Sanskrit transliteration||Brindaranya Kshetram|
|Tamil||Thiruallikeni Thiru Parthasarathy Kovil|
Sri Venkatakrishnan (a) Parthasarathy
Sri Rukimini Thaayar
|Important festivals||Panguni Serthi, Pallava Utsavam, Ramanujar Utsavam, Vaikunda Ekadashi, Every Friday Sri Vedavalli Thayar Purappadu|
|Architectural styles||Dravidian architecture|
|History and governance|
|Date built||8th century AD|
The Parthasarathy Temple (Tamil: பார்த்தசாரதி கோயில்) is an 8th-century Hindu Vaishnavite temple dedicated to the god Krishna, located at Triplicane, Chennai, India. The temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Alvar saints from the 6th–9th centuries CE and is classified as among the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu. The name 'Parthasarathy', in Sanskrit, means the 'charioteer of Arjuna', referring to Krishna's role as a charioteer to Arjuna in the epic Mahabaratha.
It was originally built by the Pallavas in the 8th century by king Narasimhavarman I. The temple has five of the incarnations or avatars of Vishnu: Narasimhar, Ramar, Varadaraja, Ranganathar and Krishna.
The temple is one of the oldest structures in Chennai. There are shrines for VedavalliThayar, Ranganatha, Rama, Gajendra Varadharaja Swamy, Narasimha, Andal, Anjaneya, Alvars, Ramanuja, Swami Manavala Mamunigal and Vedanthachariar. The temple subscribes to Vaikhanasa agama and follows Thenkalai tradition. There are separate entrances for the Krishna and Narasimha temples. The gopuram (towers) and mandapas (pillars) are decorated with elaborate carvings, a standard feature of South Indian Temple Architecture.
The temple was originally built by the Pallavas in the 8th century, subsequently expanded by Cholas and later by the Vijayanagara kings in the 15th century. The temple has several inscriptions dating from the 8th century in Tamil and Telugu presumably from the period of Dantivarman, who was a Vishnu devotee. Thirumangai Alvar, the 9th century alvar also attributes the building of temple to the Pallava king. From the internal references of the temple, it appears that the temple was restored during 1564 CE when new shrines were built. In later years, endowments of villages and gardens have enriched the temple. The temple also has inscriptions about the Pallava king, Nandivarman of the 8th Century.
The temple was extensively built during the Chola period and a lot of inscriptions dating back to the same period are found here. The outer most mandapam is replete with sculptures of various forms of Vishnu, especially the avatars. One can also see inscriptions of Dantivarma Pallava of the 8th century, Chola, Pandiya and Vijayanagara in the temple. The first architectural expansion of the temple took place during the reign of the Pallavas (Tondaiyar Kon) as vividly described by Tirumangai Azhwar. Reminiscent of this is the inscription of the Pallava King Dantivarman (796-847 A.D.), which is preserved in the temple. The temple witnessed a major expansion during the rule of the Vijayanagar kings like Sadasiva Raya, Sriranga Raya and Venkatapati Raya II (16th century). Many subshrines and pillared pavilions (mandapas) like the Tiruvaimozhi Mandapa were added.
Tiruvallikeni aura remains because of the Parthasarathy Swamy temple.
A Pallava king built the present temple in the eighth century. The gopuram was also built by a Pallava king - Tondaiman Chakravarthy. There are inscriptions that record the contributions of the Chola kings Raja Raja and Kulottunga III, Pandya King Maravarman and many rulers of the Vijayanagar dynasty including Ramaraja Venkatapathiraja and Vira Venkatapathy. For a while the East India company administered the temple. The pushkarani is called Kairavani and five sacred teerthams are believed to surround the tank - Indra, Soma, Agni, Meena and Vishnu. Seven rishis - Bhrigu, Atri, Marichi, Markandeya, Sumati, Saptaroma and Jabali - performed penance here. All five deities in the temple have been extolled by Tirumangai Azhvar.
The temple has two gopurams (tower) each in eastern and western directions. The temple has five vimanams namely Anatha Nilaya Vimanam over Parthasarathy shrine, Ranganathar Sannidhi vimanam, Ramar sannathy vimanam, Narasimha sannidhi vimanam and Andal Sannidhi vimanam. The temple tank called "Thiruallikeni" is derived from the place where Vishnu's consort Lakshmi herself was born as Vedavalli to Sage Bhrigu. The tank contains five wells and lies opposite to the eastern entrance of the temple.
The temple has two main shrines built back-to-back. The Mulavar (main deity), Parthasarathy alias Venkata Krishnan, faces East. Along with his consort Rukmani Piratiyar, he holds sword in one hand (this is debatable since the official site says he holds conch in his right hand, as he had promised not to take up arms in mahabharat war), Varadha Muthirai on the other hand. Krishna's brother Balarama is positioned on his right, Satyaki to his left; Krishna's son Pradyumna and grandson Aniruddha are also found in the sanctum. This is one of the Vishnu temples where the Vishnu is present along with his three generations. The shrine of Narasimha (Thellia Singhar) faces west and just as the main sanctum, there is a separate entrance and flag post (Dwajasthambam) for Narasimha. The deity is seated in Veetrirundha Yoga thirukolam (Sitting Posture). The two sanctum sanctorums are located back-to-back with a very narrow passage in between.
There is a shrine for Ranganatha (Sri Mannanathar) and Ramar located in the passage to the main sanctum. Ranganatha is in Bujanga Sayanam, reclining posture facing east. The shrine of his consort, Vedavalli Thayaar, is located parallel to the main sanctum, facing east. There is a shrine of Gajendra Varadar There is a shrine for Rama (an avatar of Vishnu), known here as Chakravarthi Thirumagan. He is seen here with his entire family, i.e., consort Sita Piratti, brothers Lakshmana, Bharatha, Shatrughna and devotee Hanuman opposite to the shrine of Ramar. There is also a separate shrine for Andal, one of the 12 Azhwars who is also considered as a consort to the presiding deity.
It is one of the very few shrines in the country dedicated to Krishna as Parthasarathy, charioteer of Arjuna and to contains idols of three avatars of Vishnu: Narasimha, Rama, and Krishna. Because of the association of the temple with Krishna, Tiruvallikeni came to be regarded as the Southern Brindavana.
Triplicane owes its name to its historic existence as Tiruvallikeni (or Thiruvallikeni) or Tiru-Alli-Keni (Sacred Lily Pond, in Tamil) denoting the pond in front of the temple, amidst a big Tulasi forest. The place was also referred to as Vrundha-raNyam (beautiful garden) in Puranic scriptures.
Krishna was the charioteer for the Pandava prince Arjuna during the Kurukshetra War in the epic Mahabaratha. Kunti (also called Pritha), Arjuna's mother was the aunt of Krishna and the sister of Krishna's father, Vasudeva. Krishna addressed Arjuna as Partha, the son of Pritha. Krishna was thus referred as Partha Sarthy, meaning the charioteer of Arjuna. The Bhagavat Gita is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna taking place in the middle of the battlefield before the start of the war with armies on both sides ready to battle. Responding to Arjuna's confusion and moral dilemma about fighting his own cousins who command a tyranny imposed on a disputed empire, Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and prince, and elaborates on yoga, Samkhya, reincarnation, moksha, karma yoga and jnana yoga among other topics.
Krishna was neutral during the war, giving his army to Kauravas and offered himself for the Pandavas. Parthasarathy in the temple is thus depicted with a moustache and having only the conch, without his weapon Chakra. This is attributed to the promise he made to the Kauravas not to take weapons during the war. Following the traditions of a charioteer, he sported the moustache and the same is depicted in the temple. The scars in the face of Parthasarathy's festival idol (presumably made of aimpon, an alloy of five metals) in the temple is full of scars depicted to show the injuries caused by the arrows of Bhishma in the war. The utsavar (festival deity) also has only a stick depicting Krishna was born in a cowherd clan.
Venkateswara, another form of Vishnu, appeared as Parthasarathy to fulfil his promise to King Sumathi that he would give darshan to the king in this form. Sage Athreya had installed the idol of Parthasarathy. Legend has it that the parents of the Sri Vaishnava saint, Ramanuja came to the temple and prayed to the Lord for a son and eventually the saint was born. It is also believed that the Ramanuja is none other than Parthasarathy himself who was born to revive Vishishtadvaita.
Vedavalli Thayar is said to be born to Sage Bhrigu as a result of his penance in the banks of Kairaveni in a lily pond (Alli keni). The legend says, that so many kings attempted to marry Thayar, but she chose Ranganatha in the midst of many kings and called the lord vaarum en manare, means "Welcome, my lord of this universe". The celestial wedding took place between Vedavalli Thayar and Sri Mannanathar on 12th Day (Dwadashi) during the month of Thai - Masi. The wedding is celebrated every year. Vaikasi Festival is exclusively held of the presiding deity Gajendra Varadhar. It is said that Rama appeared here on the request by Sage Madhuman in Thirvallikeni. A grand festival of Rama Navami is celebrated here for 9 days in the Tamil month of Panguni.
The temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Alvar saints from the 6th–9th centuries CE and is classified as among the 108 Divya Desam temples, dedicated to Vishnu. Among the 12 Alvars, three of them namely Peyalwar, Thirumalisai Alvar and Thirumangai Alvar have sung on the different forms of God in this temple. Many acharyas have also written songs on the various deities in this temple.
Thirumangai Alvar wrote of Tiruvallikeni as an area so densely wooded that the sun's rays cannot penetrate the canopy formed by the tree tops. He also said Tiruvallikeni was a home for beautiful birds like peacocks and Koels. However, Triplicane is changed over time and these features of the city are lost. He also mentioned about the Telliya Singar shrine within the temple.
Darshan, Sevas and Festivals
The temple is administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu. The temple follows the traditions of the Thenkalai sect of Vaishnavite tradition and follows vaikanasa aagama. The temple has grand brahmotsavams (big festival) for Sri Parthasarathy swami during the Tamil month of Chittirai (April–May),on the same month Udayavar uthsavam is also celebrated. In the month of Vaigasi, Sri Varadarajar uthsavam, Sri Nammalwar uthsavam (vaigasi-visagam) and Vasanthothsavam are celebrated. Sri Azhagiyasingar (Lord Narashimha) during the Tamil month of Aani (June–July). So uniquely two Bhrammotsavams are performed here annually. There are also festivals for Sri Ramanuja (April–May) and Sri Manavalamamunigal (Oct-Nov) besides festivals for Alwar and Acharyas. Vaikunta Ekadesi and during the Tamil month of Margazhi (December–January) draws lot of pilgrims.
These take place round the year in Parthasarathy temple. Urchavams (or utsavams), as these are termed, take place for a particular god at a particular period of ti me in the year. It's a religious practise to carry the different gods of the temple through the mada veethis of triplicane during some of these festivals. The Gods will move in different religiously built temple vehicles (vaghanams, as these are termed in Tamil), like Elephant, Garuda, horse, Yaali (a mythical animal), temple rath (ther in Tamil, chariot or ratham, alternative terms), etc.
The following are the various festivals or urchavams or utsavams or utsav in Parthasarathy temple in different parts of the Tamil Calendar year. During festival days the place is given a new look and accompanied by various traditional rites.
1. Chithirai (April–May): Shri Bhrahma Utsav (Brahmotsavam)- Lord Shri Bhrahma himself will perform this most important festival. Seer Shri Udaiyar's Utsav and Vidaiyaatri (Concluding and Leave-Taking Ceremony).
2. Vaigasi (May–June): Vasanthoutsavam- Spring Festival Shri Gajendra Varadaraja Swamy Utsav Shri Ranganatha-Shri Vedavall Thayaar Utsav
3. Aani (June–July): Shri Narasimha Swami BhrahmoUtsavam and Kodai Utsav (Summer Festival)
4. Aadi (July–August): Shri Gajendra Motsham (Salvage for Gajendra-King of Elephants) Shri Parthasarathy .Jyeshtabishekam. Jyeshta-means Chief-in-Brethren: Abhishekam means pouring of selected Holy Liquid and Solid Items (like milk, honey, etc.) on the Lord Thiru Paavadai Utsav Anointing of Epicurean Offerings on the Holy Physique. Thiru Aadi Pooram - Birthday of Shrimadh Aandal on Iler Birth Zodiacical Star Shri Parthasarathy .Jyeshtabishekam.
5. Aavani (August–September): Pavithroutsavam (Thiru Pavithra Utsav) - Santification ceremony. Shri Jayanthi or Krishna Jayanthi (Birthday of Lord Krishna)
6. Puratasi (September–October): Navarathiri -Festival of nine lights Shri Vedavalli Thaayar Laksharachana
7. Iypassi (October–November): Shri Manavaala Mamunigal Utsavam Deepavali or Diwali - Festival of Lights Anna kooda utsavam- offering variety of rice
8. Karthigai (November–December): Thir karthigai Deepam - Various and Varied Lights Thaila Kaapu - anointing of several medicinal oils or his/her corporal
9. Margazhii (December–January): Maargazhii Pagal Pathu (Days-Ten) Shri Vaikunta Ekaadasi (Entering into Heaven) Raa Pathu (Night-Ten)
10. Thai (January–February): Laksharachana of Shri Parthasarathyswamy Rathasapthami (Ratha-Car, Sapthami- Seventh Lunar Occasion) Visiting Festival to Ekkatuthangal
11. Masi (February–March): Masi Magam (Magam-star day) Theppam or Thepotsavam (Float Festival in Temple Tank) Dhavana Utsav (Spring Festival)
12. Panguni (March–April): Panguni Uthram (uthram - a star day) Shri Rama Navami (Birthday of Lord Ram)
The most important among these festivals are the Vaikunda Ekadesi - as huge crowds from not only chennai, but also various parts of Tamil Nadu and India come to the temple on this day; Theppam or Thepotsavam - the colourful float festival, and the utsavam for the main deity lord Parthasarathy.
Theppam (Float) festival
Also known Teppothsavam (= Theppam + urchavam), this pictorial and colourful festival takes place on 7 days in the Tamil month of masi, 3 days for Lord Parthasarathy, one each for Sri Narasimhar, Sri Ranganathar, Sri Ramar and Sri Gajendra Varadhar. The seven-day event attracts a large number of devotees and onlookers from different parts of Chennai and Tamil Nadu.
A floating structure made up of drums, timber would be constructed and would be beautifully decorated with lights, flowers, religious paintings, silken buntings, etc. which serves as a visual delight. For better ambience, lights were also installed in the garden around the tank and additionally, focus lights were placed on the corners of the neerazhimandapam (the mandapam (structure) in the center of the temple tank). Perumal (God) would come to the temple tank in purappadu (departure) and be placed majestically inside the float. On all the days, the float completed five rounds around the neerazhimandapam. After this, the deities were taken in a procession around the four Mada Streets. Devotees in hundreds would converge and sit everywhere on the steps of the temple tank to have darshan of the Lord on theppam. The speciality of the third day function ‘Thirumanjanam' was performed to the deity inside the float. Other than the bhattachariars (temple priests), no one was allowed inside the float. A Rescue team of about 10 swimmers is usually provided by the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services.
This theppam festival exhibits one of the aspects of the richest cultural heritage aspects of triplicane, age old culture which one could not see anywhere else in chennai, other than mylapore or triplicane.
The temple had internal conflict during from the 1750s till the end of the century between the two subsects of Vaishnavism, namely Thenkalai and Vadagalai. The two sects were grounded over the right of reciting each of their own version of concluding verses in the temple. A petition was received by the ruling British government to decide the religious dispute. English records mention petition during the year 1754 filed by local inhabitants and merchants seeking to resolve the dispute. They suggested that the Tenkalai Brahmins could recite their Srisailesadayaptram in the Parthasarathi shrine, while the Vadakalai Brahmins could recite their Ramanujadayapatram in the Telinga Singar shrine. The council agreed that the suggestion in the petition be accepted and publicly announced. There were further petitions in 1780 from the Tenkalai Brahmins that since the temple was built, recitals were made only in Srisailesadayaptram, which should continue. It also asserted that the trustee Manali Muthukrishna Mudali favoured Vadakalai resulting in the issue. While both the sects were claiming theirs should be the practice followed in the temple, the English administrators in India has deep rooted belief that old ways were the only solution to preserve tranquility. The Tenkalai sect had the sanction of antiquity and custom resulting in Tenkalai gaining precedence.
The bearers at the temple were traditionally fishermen of Triplicane. During the temple festivities, they carry the festival idol in their sturdy shoulders in an atmosphere of wine and toddy shops. They bargained for additional rights in the temple in 1928, which eventually ended their ties with the temple.
Bharathiar, the legendary Tamil poet and independence activist was struck by an elephant at the temple, whom he used to feed regularly. Although he survived the incident, a few months later his health deteriorated and he died.
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