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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tamilnad temples - Thiruvellarai Sri Pundarikaksha Perumal temple

This article is to give details about the Thiruvellarai Sri Pundarikasha Perumal Temple. The temple is in a village named Vellarai near Trichi in Tamilnad. It is an important temple of worship for the Vaishnavaites of India. They have 108 Divya desams (holy or sacred places) and Thiruvellarai Perumal temple is one of them. 

Thiruvellarai Pundarikaksha temple

This is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and deity here is called as Pundareekakshan. The name of the temple as Thiruvellarai was due to the fact that it is on a hill at a height of about 100 feet of white stones. In Tamil Thiru is a used as salutation to divine, royal or other leaders. Vellarai means Vella (white) arai (hill) or white hill. So the name of the temple is temple on white hill. Vellarai is in Trichy district. There is a reason for calling the Lord here as Pundareekakshan. There was a yogi by name Pundareekan. He made a garden in this place and worshipped the Lord with the Tulsi leaves he had grown in the garden. The Lord was pleased with his Bhakti and worship and gave darsanam to Pundareekan. From that time the Lord was known as Pundareekakshan. 

Two entrances to Thiruvellarai Pundarikasha Perumal temple

The temple has two entrances to the sanctum sanctorum or the Moolasthanam (place of principal deity) of the deity.  Normally only one door is open by turn. The procedure is to use one door during the ‘Utharayana’ time (from middle of January to middle of June of the English calendar) and the other during ‘Dakshinayana’ time (from mid June to Mid January).  The doors are known as Utharayana vaasal – door and Dakshinayana vaasal.  It is the belief of the people here that the 2 entrances or doors represent (1) entering of the life and (2) coming out of the life. While going through either of the doors the devotees are to feel the existence or the presence of the god or Paramaatman.  To remind this principle or make it understandable to the devotees the Lord of the temple resembles to Surya Narayanan during Utharayan and as Govindan during Dakshinayan. There are certain beliefs about Dakshinayan (6 months from middle of Jul to middle of Jan of English calendar) when no auspicious activities like marriage or setting up of home etc are supposed to be done. Similarly death during this period is supposed to be inauspicious. In Utharayan period (6 months from mid Jan to mid Jul) it is good to perform all auspicious activities. Death happening during this period is supposed to be very good. But for doing auspicious activities during Dakshinayana period there is a way out by offering worships to Surya Narayan before starting the intended activities.  

Though officially the temple is having 2 doors as mentioned above, there is supposed to be a third door known as ‘Naazhi kettan vaasal’ meaning door for late coming. The story behind is that once when the Lord came very late, his consort asked him why he was s late. For that he replied that he tried to come through the Naazhi kettan vaasal. 

Main deity of the Thiruvellarai Sri Pundarikaksha temple

The main deity or Moolavar is called as Pundarikashan but also known as Thamaraikannan and Maayavan (at the end of Dakshinayan period) etc. He is also called as "Thai Maatha Naayagan" meaning the leader of the Tamil month Thai (Jam 15 to Feb 15). He is in standing position facing East direction.  The Lord here is supposed to represent the ‘Vedas’ which is supposed to be white in colour. The temple gives sevai (service) to the deity along with his consort called Thamarai (lotus) Selvi (beloved daughter, also identified as goddess Lakshmi) periya (large – big) Pirattiyar, in nindra (standing) sevai (worship). Since the king Sibi saw a boar which resulted in the construction of this temple, the moolavar is Lord Vishnu in his Varaha (boar) incarnation.

In the sanctum there is a separate sannidhi for the thayaar (literal meaning is mother but here referred to the goddess – the universal mother) the consort of the Moolavar of this temple. She is known as Shenbagavalli (also called Periya Pirattiyar, Lakshmi Devi).  The Utsava Moorthy (idol used in temple processions and outside Poojas etc) of the goddess is known as Pangajavalli. 

Other structures of the Sri Pundarikaksha temple

The temple is having a big compound wall all around to it. The Pundarikasha temple of Vellarai is having 7 temple ponds or Pushkarinis or Theerthams. These 7 Theerthams are also within the temple compound wall.  The 7 Theerthams or Pushkarinis are known by the names Divya Theertham, Kanda kshree Theertham, Chakra Theertham, Chakra Theertham, Pushkala Theertham, Padma Theertham and Varaha Manikarnika Theertham. There is a vimanam known as the Vimalakruthi Vimanam in the temple. 

Hoy Vaishnav Hymns about the deity of Thiruvellarai temple

There are some Mangalasasanams (hymns or verses praising the Lord Vishnu or his different incarnations and aspects) prepared and sung by some of the Alvars. Alvars are Vaishnav Bhaktas (acharyas - staunch devotees of Lord Vishnu) and many of them are so deeply devoted that they have nothing else in their minds except the Lord and his wondrous deeds. Some of them have written prose and some others hymns about the Lord and Goddess of various Vaishnav temples. One of them known as Periyalwar had 11 hymns written another by name Thirumangai Alwar had written 13 and Vedantha Desikar has written Hamsa Sandesam (message of the swan) in which also some Mangalasasanams on Sri Pundarikaksha of this temple.  

Steps leading to the Sanctum of Lord Pundarikashan

There are 22 steps to be climbed to reach to the temple. The first 18 steps are supposed to represent the 18 chapters of the Bhagavath Geetha and the next 4 steps are supposed to represent the four Vedas.  This place is having the Balipeetam (place where offerings are offered to the Bhootha ganas of the deity). After offering the worship here cross the 5 steps representing ‘Pnacha boothas’ (the booth thathwas of life namely fire, water, space – ether, air and earth) to the two entrances. Take the appropriate entrance (Dakshinayan door) during Dakshinayan period and Utharayan door during Utharayan period) to have darsan (view) of the Lord Pundarikashan also known as Thamaraikannan, Maayavan and Thai Maatha Naayagan of Vellarai.  
Some Specialties of Thiruvellarai

1.        1.       Swami Engalazhwan, a great Vaishnav Acharya and a Disciple of Sri Ramanuja and Thirukurukai Piran Pillan and teacher of Sree Bhashyam and Sri Nadaa thooram Aalukku oppatra pungai Maalai was born here. Nadaathoramaal means Bhakthan – devotee who was an epitome of Bhakthi (devotion to Lord) on the God. There is a story related as to how the name "Nadaathoramaal" was given to Engalazhwan.  He used give milk everyday to Emperumaan (Lord Vishnu is addressed as Emperumaan in respect). He was so devoted to the Lord that he used to blow the milk with air from mouth to cool the milk if it happens to be hot so that the Lord does not have any inconvenience. 

2.   Another staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu Bhakthar Uyyakondaar was born here and he along with Sri Ramanujar Acharya stayed in this place and explained about Vaishnavam to spread Vaishnav cult.The temple is on a white rock hill of about 100 feet high.

3. If any sound is made in front of the big pillar of this temple, it replicates and echoes within the temple. For this reason some of the paasurams (verses praising the Lord) in Divya prabhandhams (holy scriptures) are recited 2 or 3 times so that it replicates, reverberates or echoes within the temple complex. This is due to the fact that there are some rooms built around in stones which cause the echoes or the feeling of repetition of the sounds made. 

5.       4.      The Raja Gopuram (main entrance) of the temple is an incomplete structure. While the construction of the Gopuram was going on there was a mishap and the work was stopped. The work to complete the Gopuram was not taken up again till today. 

6.      5.              Lord Vishnu is also Sriman Narayanan and Surya Narayan. By his rays he gives light, security and heat for the life. Because of him it rains in the world; it is because of him plants grow; his heat will destroy the adverse forces which affect the lives; and his rays make life in the universe. 

Symbolism about the 2 doors

The Utharayana door is to symbolize the entrance of all living beings (Jeevathmas) into the world which supposed to be the place under Lord Kuberan (god of Wealth). The Dakshinayana door is to symbolize the entrance to the world after death which is the place of Lord Yama (the king of Swarga and Naraka. Irrespective of wealth persons who are good and do good deeds will go to the Lord and merge with him. 

Other deities in Pundarikasha Perumal Temple

As is the custom in Vaishnav temples, idol of his vehicle the Garudan (golden eagle) can be found. He is known as Periya (big) Thiruvadi (sacred feet) normally. 

There are other images of Sibi chakravarthy, Bhoomi Piratti (representing mother earth and second consort of the lord), Maarkandeya Maharishi, Lord Brahma, Rudhran (Lord Shiva).   All the idols and images of this temple namely Sri Pundareekakshan, Bhoomi Piratti, Periya Piratti, Suriya and Chandiran and Aadisheshan (the serpent king who is a constant companion of the Lord) all are made in the form of human beings. 

Legend about the Pundarikasha Perumal Temple

The legend is related to the great Chakravarthy (emperor) Sibi. He is one immortal ruler like Satya Harishchandra.  Sibi Chakravarthy was known for his daan (deserving gifts. He cut a portion of his thigh to save the life of a pigeon from a Vulture. This great ruler once went to a forest to hunt with his warriors. They made tents for camping in the forest. While taking rest in the tent he saw a white boar crossing through the front side of his tent. He went after the boar. At a particular point the boar went inside a hole and disappeared. In spite of trying all possible means he could not find the boar afterwards. Near to this place Saint Markandeya was under penance. The king went to the saint and explained the incident to him and wanted to know the meaning. The saint suggested to the king to do milk abhisheka to the hole. When the abhisheka was going on the Lord Vishnu appeared before them and blessed them and disappeared. Saint Markandeya suggested to the king Sibi to bring 3700 Vaishnavas (devotees of Lord Vishnu). The king went to North and brought 3700 devotees of the Lord and made them to settle down here and built a temple for Lord Vishnu.  During the process one of the Vaishnavaites died and the king was very sad that the number is reduced. At that time the Lord Vishnu appeared as a Vaishnavite and told the King to count him as one vaishnavite so the number is the full 3700. 

How to reach Thiruvellarai

Thiruvellarai is near to Trichy (formerly known as Thiruchirapalli) in Tamilnad. The village is on the route from Trichy to Thurayur at a distance of about 27 km from Trichy. Bus facilities are available from Trichy and Sri Rangam.  Nearest place with lodge facility is Trichy.

Other references about Thiruvellarai Sri Pundareekaksha Temple



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