Srivaikuntanathan Permual Temple
|Other names||Kallapiran Temple|
|Architectural styles||Dravidian architecture|
|History and governance|
Srivaikuntanathan Perumal Temple (also called Srivaikuntam temple and Kallapiran temple) in Srivaikuntam, a town in Thoothukudi district in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. It is located 22 km from Tirunelveli. Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil canon of the Azhwar saints from the 6th–9th centuries AD. It is one of the 108 Divyadesam dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Vaikuntanathar and his consort Lakshmi as Vaikuntavalli. The temple is also classified as a Navatirupathi, the nine temples revered by Nammazhwar located in the banks of Tamiraparani river. The temple is next only to Alwarthirunagari Temple in terms of importance among the nine Navatirupathi temple. The temple is one of the Navagraha temples in Vaishnavism, associated with Surya, the Sun god.
A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all its shrines and two of its three bodies of water. The rajagopuram, the temple's gateway tower, is 110 ft (34 m) tall. The Vijayanagar and Nayak kings commissioned paintings on the walls of the shrine of temple, some of which are still present. Thiruvengadamudayan hall houses rare life size sculptures commissioned during the 16th century.
Srivaikuntanathar is believed to have appeared to slay the demon Somuka who abducted the four Vedas. The presiding deity is called Pal Pandian as a cow performed ablution daily to the submerged deity during the Pandyan era and Kallapiran as he helped a thief who prayed to Vishnu while he was in trouble. The temple follows Thenkalai tradition of worship. Six daily rituals and three yearly festivals are held at the temple, of which the ten-day annual Brahmotsavam during the Tamil month of Chittirai (April - May) and the Nammazhwar birth celebrations with Garudasevai with all nine temple of Navatirupathi, being the most prominent. The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.
As per Hindu legend, Somuka, a demon, defeated Brahma, the Hindu god of creation and stole the four Vedas (sacred texts) from him. Brahma was helpless and he did severe penance in the banks of Tamiraparani River seeking favour from Vishnu in the form of Vaikuntanathan. Pleased by the penance, Vishnu appeared to Brahma and promised to retrieved the Vedas. He killed the demon Somuka and restored the Vedas to Brahma. He also wished to set his abode as Srivakuntam and resided there as Vaikuntanatha.
As per another legend, the image of Vaikunatha, over the period of several ages, had no patrons and was left submerged under the earth. A cow from a herd of the king, which used to graze at the place, did ablution at the place with its where Vaikuntanatha lay buried. The king was displeased to see that a particular cow alone was not yielding milk and thought it might have been the trick of the herdsman. He deployed his men to monitor the cow, who reported the events to the king. The king realised that the cow would lead him to divinity and he dug up the region around the place. He reinstated the image of Vaikuntanathar and expanded the temple. Since Vaikuntanathar was revealed by the cow, the presiding deity got the name Pal Pandian (pal in Tamil indicates milk).
Kaladushana was a head of robbers in the region, but also was a staunch devotee of Vaikuntanathar. He stole from the rich and distributed the wealth to the poor people in the region. The ruling Pandya king wanted to arrest him, but his attempts were futile. During one of the encounters, he could arrest everyone except Kaladushana. Kaladushana prayed to Srivaikuntanathar to save him and his troop from the king. Vaikuntanathar appeared as Kaldushana and surrendered before the king.Later, he appeared in the dreams of the king to narrate the events and also informed him that he wanted the king and the people to learn that large accumulation of ill-gotten wealth would be stolen and would reach the right hands.The king was enlightened and he released Kaladushana and his troop. Since Vaikuntanathar appeared for thieves (called kalla in Tamil), he came to be known as Kallapiran.
There are six inscriptions in the temple deciphered by the Archaeological Department. The inscription from a ruler named Konerimaikondan records a gift of five velis of land as a tax free gift to the temple. The temple also obtained grant for building and maintenance of a garden from a ruler who defeated the Cheras. The Pandya ruler Jatavarman Kulasekaran I (1190–1216 CE) also offered a similar grant to the temple. Maravarman Sundara Pandyan (1216–1238) made offerings to perpetual lighting of the temple. An inscription from his reign also indicates the installation of the shrine of Vaikuntavalli. Vira Pandyan IV (1309–1345) offered land to the temple to perform special poojas in the temple during his birthday in the Tamil month of Vaikasi. During 1801, the temple acted as a fort for the British against the forces of Veerapandiya Kattabomman (1790-99). It is believed that the marks of war were visible in the temple during modern times. An official of the Madurai Nayak rule, Vadamalayappa Pillai arranged for the installation of Dasavathara images and Thiruvenkamudayan hall. There were also lot of offerings in jewels and kind made to the temple during his period. There were other people like Pillai Perumal, Ellarukum Nallan and Chockalingam, who made similar grants. The wooden chariot with minute sculptures were installed by Paramasivan Pillai during modern times.
The temple occupies an area of 5 acres (2.0 ha) and is surrounded by a granite wall 580 ft (180 m) long and 396 ft (121 m) broad. The rajagopuram, the temple's gateway tower, is 110 ft (34 m) tall. The granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all its shrines and two of its three bodies of water. The sanctum houses the image of Srivaikunanatha in standing posture with a club in his hand. Adisesha, the serpent of Vaikuntanatha, is seen holding a parasol over his head. The image is made of Saligrama stone and ablution is usually done with milk. The hall preceding the sanctum, the Artha Mandapam houses the festival image of Kallapiran made of panchaloha with the images of Sridevi and Bhudevi on either of his sides. It is believed that the sculptor caressed the cheeks of the image with his hand as he got enchanted by the image and it is seen in the image. The Ardha mandapa is guarded by two dwarapalas on either sides. This is the only temple where Adisesha the serpent, guards Vishnu in standing posture unlike the other places where it covers in sitting posture.
There are two shrines for the two consorts of Vishnu, Caikunta Nayaki and Chorantha Nayaki, both facing each other. There are separate shrines for Senai Mudaliyar, Gardua, Venugopala, Manavalamamunigal and Yoga Narasimha. The festival image of Yoga Narasimha, Lakshmi Narasimha, is also housed in the same shrine. There is another shrine that houses the images of the ten avatars of Vishnu. The temple has five precincts. The Mahamandapa and the Swarga Madapa are believed to be later additions.
The Vijayanagar and Nayak kings commissioned paintings on the walls of the shrine of temple, some of which are still present. Thiruvengadamudayan hall, located to the right of the gopuram, houses rare life size sculptures commissioned during the 16th century. It was built by Vadamalayappa Pillai, an official in the Madurai Nayak kingdom. There are numerous images of yalis, elephants and Devas in the hall, some of which are even 5 ft (1.5 m) wide. The major images seen in the temple are that of Bhikshadana, Venugopala, Madanagopala, Govardhanagiri, Nammazhwar, Manmatha and Rathi. Depiction of Hanuman in various poses can be seen in the temple. There are life size images of Agora Veerabhadra and warriors. Rama is seen hugging the monkey king Sugreeva with his right hand and holding his bow in the left and on his left stands Sita, while in another pillar he is seen hugging Hanuman with his right hand and Angada seen standing in anjali. A host of monkey warriors standing at the bottom of both the sculptures.
The Dwajastamba mandap has pillars with refined architectural features. Tirumozhi mandap has sculptures of monkeys, squirrels and parrots. It also houses images of monkeys performing various activities. The corridor inside the temple has paintings having the details about the 108 shrines of Vishnu. There are also paintings detailing the coronation of Rama. There are two temple tanks namely Brighu Theertha and Kalasa theertha near the temple. A huge temple tank near the Tamiraparani river is also associated with the temple. It is in this tank that the float festival is celebrated yearly.
The idol is most exquisitely carved with club in hand. Lions, Yalis and elephants are carved in the pillars of the mandapam. The temple served as a fort during the patriotic war of Kattabomman with the British. The temple has a nine-tier rajagopuram amidst lush vegetation around the temple.
Brahmanda Purana one of the eighteen sacred texts of Hinduism and written by Veda Vyasa contains a chapter called Navathirupathi Mahatmeeyam. The first part of the chapter refers to Srivaikuntam. Vaikunta Mahatmeeyam is another work in Sanskrit that glorifies the temple and is a part of Tamraparani Sthalapurana available only in palm manuscripts. The temple is revered in Nalayira Divya Prabandham, the 7th–9th century Vaishnava canon, by Nammazhwar. The temple is classified as a Divyadesam, one of the 108 Vishnu temples that are mentioned in the book. The temple is also classified as a Navatirupathi, the nine temples revered by Nammazhwar located in the banks of Tamiraparani river. The temple is next only to Alwarthirunagari Temple in terms of importance among the nine Navatirupathi temple. Nammazhwar makes a reference about the temple in his works in Thirvaimozhi. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the temple finds mention in several works like 108 Tirupathi Anthathi by Divya Kavi Pillai Perumal Aiyangar, Vaikuntha Pillai Tamil, Vaikuntanatha Thalattu, Vaikuntanatha Tiruppanimalai and Srivakiuntam Ammanai. Srivaikuntam temple is also called Kailasapuram and has a Nataraja shrine with eight artistically carved pillars. Sun rays fall directly on the image on two days of the year - once during uttarayana (April) and another during Dakshiyana (October), believed to be a token of worship. The roof over the sanctum is called Chandra vimana, where a stupa of gold is installed on the top. The temple also forms a series of Navagraha temples where each of the nine planetary deities of one of the temples of Navatirupathi. The temple is associated with the planet Surya, the Sun god.
The Garuda Sevai utsavam(festival) in the month of Vaikasi(May-Jun) witnesses 9 Garudasevai, a spectacular event in which festival image idols from the Nava Tirupathis shrines in the area are brought on Garuda vahana(sacred vehicle). An idol of Nammalvar is also brought here on a Anna Vahanam(palaquin) and his paasurams(verses) dedicated to each of these 9 temples are recited. The utsavar(festival deity) of Nammalvar is taken in a palanquin to each of the 9 temples, through the paddy fields in the area. The paasurams(poems) dedicated to each of the nine Divyadesams are chanted in the respective shrines. This is the most important of the festivals in this area, and it draws thousands of visitors.
The temple follows the traditions of the Thenkalai sect of Vaishnavite tradition and follows Pancharathra aagama. The temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. As at other Vishnu temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Vaishnavaite community, a Brahmin sub-caste. The temple rituals are performed four times a day: Kalasanthi at 8:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 12:00 p.m., Sayarakshai at 6:00 p.m., and Ardha Jamam at 8:00 p.m. Each ritual has three steps: alangaram (decoration), neivethanam (food offering) and deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for both Vaikuntanathan and Vaikuntavalli. During the last step of worship, nagaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument) are played, religious instructions in the Vedas (sacred text) are recited by priests, and worshippers prostrate themselves in front of the temple mast. There are weekly, monthly and fortnightly rituals performed in the temple.
- M. S., Ramesh (1993). 108 Vaishnavite Divya Desams: Divya desams in Pandya Nadu. Tirumalai-Tirupati Devasthanam..
- M., Rajagopalan (1993). 15 Vaishnava Temples of Tamil Nadu. Chennai, India: Govindaswamy Printers. pp. 155–159.
- V., Meena. Temples in South India. Kanniyakumari: Harikumar Arts. pp. 8–9.
- Tourist Guide to South India .Various authors. Page 117.
- "Sri Vaikuntanatha Swamy temple". Dinamalar. 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "Amazing posture at Srivaikuntam". The Hindu. 15 November 2001. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
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