Koodal Alagar Temple
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 Koodal Azhagar and his consort Lakshmi as Mathuravalli.
The temple is originally believed to be built by the Pandyas, with later additions by the Vijayanagar and Madurai Nayak kings who commissioned pillared halls and major shrines of the temple during the 16th century.
Koodal Azhagar is believed to have appeared to slay the demon Somuka who abducted the four Vedas. The temple follows Thenkalai tradition of worship. Four daily rituals and three yearly festivals are held at the temple, of which the fourteen-day annual Brahmotsavam during the Tamil month of Vaikasi (May - June) being the most prominent.
As per Hindu legend, a ruler named Vallabhadeva went incognito everyday to know about the lives of people under him. During one of his visits, a scholar told him that the ultimate goal in life is to "collect provisions in summer and save for winter", which also meant that one should work during his younger days and save for his old age. Vallabadeva was not convinced and he set this as a competition among scholars to make him realize the true value of life. Vishnucitta, who would later go on to become Periazhwar, one of the twelve most revered saints of Vaishnava sect, came to Madurai from Srivilliputhur. He was believed to have been directed by the heavenly words of Vishnu and he expouned the sacred verses. He explained the concepts of Hitham and Purushartham from Vedas and proclaimed that attained the feet of Narayana could lead to salvation. Vallabhadeva was pleased with the explanation and he awarded a bag of gold to Visnucitta. It is believed that the current gopuram of Srivilliputhur Temple, was built by Periazhwar with the gold won.
Periazhwar obtained the name as he is believed to be an ardent worshipper of Vishnu. While coming out of Madurai, he was taken out in procession to Srivilliputhur and he got the divine vision of Vishnu at the instance. He started reciting his composition, Periya Thirumozhi, which was compiled in Nalayira Divya Prabhandam by Manavala Mamunigal. Manavala decreed that the verses of Perizhwar starting with Tirupallandu should be the first and last verse while reciting Pradandam in any sacred occasion in Vishnu temples. Ramanuja, a proponent during the 10th century, believes that Tirupallandu originated at Madurai. Thus Koodal Azhagar temple finds an indomitable position in Vaishnavite belief. During Mahapralaya, the great disaster, the devotees sought the abode of Vishnu in Madurai. It is believed that Vishnu stood as a bulwark against the impending disaster, giving him the name of the city as Naanmadakoodal or Koodal Nagar ('Koodal' in Tamil is bulwark).
The place is mentioned to be significant during four ages namely, Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapar Yuga and Kali Yuga. The temple has Navagrahas, the nine planetary deities, which are otherwise found only in Shiva temples. It indicates the co-existence of Shaivite and Vaishnavite cultures during the medieval period.
In modern times, 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 six times a day: Kalasanthi at 8:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 12:00 p.m., Sayarakshai at 5:00 p.m., and Aravanai Pooja at 6:00 p.m. Each ritual has three steps: alangaram (decoration), neivethanam (food offering) and deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for both Koodal Azhagar and Maragathavalli. 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.
The fourteen day annual Brahmotsavam during the Tamil month of Vaikasi (May - June) is the most prominent festival of the temple. The festive images of the temple are brought in chariot round the streets of the temple in various mounts during all the fourteen days.
The inscriptions in the temple refer the presiding deity as Koodal Azhagiya Perumal. There are inscriptions in the temple indicating generous gifts and endowments in the form of land, houses and gold to maintain and administer the temple. An inscription from the 8th century indicates the donation of granite stones for the construction of Ardha Mandapa. The temple was expanded during the rule of Madurai Nayaks in the 16th century. The Dwajasthambam madap (flag staff) and mandap before the Hema Pushkarani were constructed by the Nayaks. The temple was renovated by Alagappa Chettiar in 1920.
From Madurai Airport the Koodal Alagar Temple is 11.2 KM, it is 850 m from Madurai Junction and 400 m from Periyar Bus Stand. Auto and taxis are easily available from Airport. Being near to railway station and bus stand, it is advisable to walk and explore the neighborhood.
- 5.00 to 12.00 pm and 16.00 pm to 21.00 pm
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