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Lord Vishnu

Temple History

Varadharaja Perumal Temple is one of the Divya Desams, the 108 temples of Vishnu believed to have been visited by the 12 poet saints, or Alwars. One of the greatest Hindu scholars of Vaishnava VisishtAdvaita philosophy, Ramanuja is believed to have resided in this temple. Among the Divya Desams, Kanchipuram Varadaraja Perumal temple is known as the ‘Perumal Koil’. This is one of the most sacred places for Vaishnavites.

History

Varadharaja Perumal Temple was originally built by the Cholas in 1053 and it was expanded during the reigns of the great Chola kings Kulottunga Chola I and Vikrama Chola. In the 14th century another wall and a gopura was built by the later Chola kings. When a Mughul invasion was expected in 1688, the main image of the deity was sent to Udayarpalayam, now part of Tiruchirapalli District. It was brought back with greater difficulty after the involvement of local preceptor who enlisted the services of general Todarmal. There is a belief that the temple was first built by the Pallava king Nandivarman II.

The temple covers an area of 23-acre (93,000 m2) complex and shows the architectural skills of ancient Vishwakarma Sthapathis in temple architecture and is famous for its holiness and ancient history. The temple has three outer precincts (prakarams) namely Azhwar Prakaram, Madai Palli Prakaram and Thiru Malai Prakaram. There are 32 shrines, 19 vimanams, 389 pillared halls and sacred tanks some of which located outside the complex. The temple tank is called Anantha Theertham. One of the most famous architectural pieces in the temple is the huge stone chain sculpted in a single stone. There is a 100 pillared hall which has sculptures depicting Ramayana and Mahabaratha. It is a masterpiece of Vijayanagara architecture.

Apart from the main stone idol, the temple has the wooden image of Varadarajaswamy preserved within a silver box from which water is pumped out every 40 years.[25] It is kept back in the silver casket and immersed in the water. It is believed that there is a heavy downpour after the idol is immersed to fill the tank. The presiding deity is a 10 ft (3.0 m) tall idol made of granite in standing posture, while Thayar is a 4 ft (1.2 m) image in sitting posture. There is a shrine of Narasimha on the hillock. In the second precinct downstairs contains four shrines, of which the important one is of Malayala Nachiar (Kerala consort), presumably built during the Chera kings in the early 14th century. The third precinct has the shrine of Goddess Perundevi Thayar; it is customary for devotees to visit the shrine first before visiting the main Perumal shrine.

Legend

As per Hindu legend, Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, separated with his wife Saraswathi over a misunderstanding. He did an Aswameda worship (with a horse) seeking boons from Vishnu. Vishnu was pleased by the devotion and came out from under the earth as a boar and got Saraswathi unite with Brahma. As per another legend, Saraswathi cursed the king of celestial deities, Indra, to become an elephant and roam around the place. He was relived off the curse with the divine power of Vishnu, who appeared as the mount, Hastagiri. Attagiri indicates a mount in the form of elephant. As per another legend, the disciples of sage Gautama were cursed to become lizards. They resided in the temple and were relieved off the curse by the divine grace of Vishnu. There is a panel in the temple where the two lizards are depicted in the roof of the temple. Indra, the king of celestial deities, after getting released from the curse of Goddess Saraswati, installed the silver and golden lizards who were the witness of the ordeal.

Brahma performed a yagna here, which was about to be washed away by the fast flowing river Vegavathi, known today as Palar River. The temple deity, Vishnu laid himself flat to stay the flow and the yagna was successfully performed. Vishnu emerged with brilliance of thousand Suns as Devarajaswamy and stayed here permanently.
Thirukkachi Nambigal(Also known as Kanchi Purnar) was an ardent devotee of this temple. He used to bring flowers everyday from Poovirundhavalli, where he maintained a garden. He did Aalavatta Kaingariyam, waving to produce breeze with the help of hand fan. It is believed that Vardharaja used to converse with him, while he was doing that seva. Aalavatta Kaingariyam is a worship practise followed in modern times also.

Nambi also composed Devarajaashtakam(A Sanskrit poem of 8 verses) on the presiding deity. Sri Ramanujar, another great Vaishnavite, got answers to his six questions from Lord Varadharaja through Sri Thirukkachi Nambigal.

 

Additional Information

The temple is famous for its huge umbrella used during festive occasions. During the bhramotsavam (major festival) in Vaigasi (May/June), thousands of people throng the temple and that increases at least by a two-fold during the Garuda Vahanam and the Ther Thiruvizha procession.

From Chennai International Airport the temple is around 60 KM , 6 KM from Kanchipuram New Railway Station and 4.5 KM from Kanchipuram Bus Stand. From Chengalpat Tollgate bus stop the temple is only 350 m.
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