Srivilliputhur Divya Desam
|Srivilliputhur Divya Desam|
|Other names||Vanpudhuvai, Sri Dhanvipuram, Srivilliputhur andal kovil|
|Proper name||Srivilliputhur Divya Desam|
|Primary deity||Vatapathrasayee (Vishnu)|
|Important festivals||Aani Alwar Uthsavam (June–July) Thiruvadipooram (August) Ennaikappu (December–January)|
|Architectural styles||Dravidian architecture|
|Number of temples||3 (Sri Vatapathrasayee, Sri Andal and Sri Periyalwar)|
|History and governance|
|Date built||Before 1 B.C.|
Srivilliputtur Divya Desam is a popular 2000-year-old Hindu temple and one of the 108 Divya Desams, the most important abodes of Lord Vishnu. It is the birthplace of two of the most important alvars (saints) in the Vaishnavite tradition: Periyazhvar and Andal. The temple follows Thenkalai tradition of worship. The temple is in the town of Srivilliputtur, about 74 km from Madurai, India. It is significant that the temple tower is used in the Tamil Nadu government's official seal.
As per Hindu legend, the land around Srivilliputhur was under the rule of Queen Malli. The queen had two sons called Villi and Kandan. While the two were hunting in a forest, a tiger killed Kandan. Unaware of this, Villi searched for his brother, got tired and fell asleep. In his dream, divinity narrated to him what happened to his brother. By divine orders, Villi founded a city. The city is originally named after its founder, Villi forming the word Sri-Villi-Puthur. 
The history of Srivilliputhur centres around the Srivilliputhoor Temple, dedicated to Andal (8th century or earlier), the only female Alvar of the 12 Alvar saints of South India. She is credited with the Tamil works of Thirupavai and Nachiar Tirumozhi that are still recited by devotees during the Winter festival season of Margazhi. Andal is known for her unwavering devotion to god Vishnu, the God of the Srivaishnavas. Adopted by her father, the Alvar saint Periyalvar who found her as a baby, Andal avoided earthly marriage, the normal and expected path for women of her culture, to "marry" Vishnu, both spiritually and physically. In many places in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, Andal is treated more than a saint and as a form of god herself and a shrine for Andal is dedicated in most Vishnu temples.
During the reign of Thirumalai Naikar (1623–1659) and Rani Mangammal (1689–1706), this city became very popular. Thirumalai Nayak renovated the temples of this city. From 1751 to 1756 A.D., Srivilliputhur came under the rule of Nerkattumseval palayakkarar Puli thevar and was a maravarpalayam. Later the Fort of Srivilliputtur was ruled by Periyasami Thevar. Then it fell into the hands of Mohammed Yousoof Khan. Until 1850, Sri Andal temple was under the care of the king of Trivancore. The British ruled the country till India attained freedom in 1947.
Within the temple's sanctum sanctorum is an image of the Lord in a reclining posture; His consorts, Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi, are shown attending to him at His feet. Sage Bhrgu stands near His head and Markandeya is near His feet. The banyan tree — whose leaf is known as Vatapatram, on which the Lord is said to rest in the form of a baby during deluge — is at His head, behind Sage Bhrgu.
Images of Panchamurtis, Thumburu, Narada, Sanatkumara, Kinnara Mithuna, the Sun and the Moon are shown all around Rangamannar as well as representations of Villi and Puttan, who stand reverently at His feet. The sanctum sanctorum has three doorways from which the Lord can be seen in His reclining posture. A flight of stairs leads to the sanctum sanctorum; below them is a large, impressive hall with detailed wooden carvings depicting incidents from the Puranas. These carvings support as well as decorate the ceiling.
Srivilliputtur (Shenbagaranyakshetram) finds mention in the Brahmakaivatsapuranam and the Varaha puranam. The Varaha puranam foretells the existence of Srivilliputtur and the consequent visit of Bhagavan during the Varaha Avataram. The Brahmakaivatsa puranam mentions the location of Vatapatrasayi Temple in Srivilliputtur.
The Srivilliputtur divya desam has the unique distinction among all other divya desams of being the birthplace of two important azhwars among the twelve azhwars, sri periyazhwar, who became the father-in-law of the Lord Ranganatha himself and Sri Andal who was the incaranation of Bhoomadevi and attained union with the Lord Ranganathan at Srirangam. It is one of the few divyadesams where all the Srivaishnava temple traditions and festivals are followed regularly every year. The town, which wakes up to the sounds of Thiruppavai, a sublime atmosphere throughout the day.
Festivals and religious practises
The temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. Like other Vishnu temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Vaishnavaite community, a Brahmin sub-caste. The temple rituals are performed six times a day: Ushathkalam at 7 a.m., Kalasanthi at 8:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 12:00 p.m., Sayarakshai at 6:00 p.m., Irandamkalam at 7:00 p.m. and Ardha Jamam at 10:00 p.m. Each ritual has three steps: alangaram (decoration), neivethanam (food offering) and deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for both Vatapathrasayi and Andal. 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.
Thousands of people from the state participate in the "Aadi Pooram" festival celebrated in the Andal Temple. After early morning special pujas, the presiding deities, Sri Rengamannar and Goddess Andal are taken in decorated palanquins to the car. The festival marks the adoption of presiding deity, Andal, by Periyazhwar after he found her near a Tulsi plant in the garden of Vadabadrasai Temple at Srivilliputhur on the eighth day of the Tamil month of Adi.
Srivilliputtur is known by other names such as Varaha kshetram, Thenpuduvai, Vadeswarapuram, Vadamahadamapuram, Shenbagaranya kshetram, Vikrama chola chaturvedhi mangalam, and Sridhanvipuri.
- "Architectural grandeur". The Hindu (Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India). 12 August 2005.
- "Thenkalai customs should prevail in Andal temple". The Hindu (Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India). 12 November 2011.
- TN Government-Srivilliputhur municipality
- Urban Infrastructure Report 2008, pp. 8-9
- Das, Sisir Kumar (2006). A history of Indian literature, 500-1399: from courtly to the popular. Sāhitya Akādemī. pp. 48–50. ISBN 9788126021710.
- "Princely States of India". Princely State of India. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- "Sri Vadapathrasai, Andal temple". Dinamalar. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- "Thousands of devotees likely to throng Srivilliputtur today". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 2009-07-25. Retrieved 2013-02-19.
- "Hundreds participate in Andal Temple car festival". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 2006-07-30. Retrieved 2013-02-19.
- Urban Infrastructure report (2008). Conversion of City Corporate Plan into Business Plan (PDF) (Report). Tamil Nadu Urban Infrastructure Financial Services Limited. Retrieved 2012-12-29.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Srivilliputhur Divya Desam.|