At a glance.... Vishnu Lakshmi KshetraVimanPushkarni River Hymns Location
Saarngapani, Aravamudan, Amudan, Sarngaraja, SarngaDhanan, SarngaKesan, ApryapthamrudhanKomavalliThayar, PadithandaPatthiniBhaskaraKshetra, PancharangaKshetraVaidikaVimanHemaPushkarni (Potrarnarai) Cauvery,
Arasalaru Fifty Four 2 kms from KumbakonamToWn
This holy and celebrated place is one of the ancient towns of India and a very important centre of Hindu pilgrimage. It is famous as a seat of learning, .culture, art and tradition. The temple is situated 200 kms. from Chennai. The sanctity of the temple stems from its holy head Aravamudha and the temple dates back to vedic times. The huge Sarangapani temple is in the centre of the town and all roads are so paved that they lead us to the shrine. It is the hub of spiritual life and prime attraction for every devotee of Narayana. From time immemorial highest veneration is extended to this holy shrine. Once ruled by pallavas, steeped in antiquity, the ancient town of Kumbakonam by the side of river Cauvery derives its name from its presiding deity Kumbeshwara. This city was earlier known as Kudamukku surrounded by a number of Vishnu and Shiva temples. This place is located between the two rivers, the Cauvery in the north and Arasalar in the south. It extends about two miles in length from North to South and one mile in breadth from east to west.
Sarangapani temple occupies a prominent position in the city of Kumbakonam and has provided solace to all for centuries. It is enclosed by stone walls and strengthened by pillars. The three prahar temple surrounded by the town and the busy market has an oonjalmandap, door panels, paintings, Garud shrine, Sheesh Mahal, etc.
An imposing tall tower dominating the landscape is visible from a distance. It is one of the most impressive structures remarkable for its ornamentation and rhythmic harmony. Its elegant construction and gigantic proportion are truly remarkable. The temple is noted for its excellent sculpture which includes royal procession, dancing damsels, hunting scenes and devas in a infinite variety of poses and postures. The main temple and the other shrines have jointly given the entire pilgrim centre a balanced architectural assemblage. The layout, design, colour and wooden carvings of the temple reflect the best traditions of Chola style. Thus the concept of the temple complex is very mature architecturally and is the synthesis of town planning and urban design concepts. The temple presents an austere image to a visitor today but one has to imagine it in the ever-flowering colourful environment enriched by distant past. The shikara presents a well-developed phase of Dravidian architecture. The carvings on the pillars on both sides are very elaborate and attractive. The style of the craftsman is very forceful and effective in the depiction of the puranic themes. A large number of cultural panels reflect the prolific Hindu deities in numerous aspects. Standing on par with Srirangam and Tirupathi, this DivyaDesa has a planned elevated fleet of steps at short distances. Brahmandapuran and Bhavishyapuran bring out its religious merit and prominence. Several puranic accounts focus on the importance of the shrine. This place is much venerated by its association with ThirumazhisaiAlwar, Nathamuni and Hema Maharishi. Lord Vishnu is worshipped here as Sarangapani and Lakshmi goes by the name Komalavallithayar. The much-hallowed kshetra is known as Bhaskarakshetra. The viman is known as Vaidhikaviman and the Pushkarni is named HemaPushkarni. The Lord is facing the east in a Sayana posture. It is said that the Lord gave darshan to Hema Maharishi. Inside the sanctum the atmosphere is calm and serene and darkness adding to its sublime glory. This serenity in the sanctum is the most remarkable feature of the shrine. Goddess Lakshmi is enshrined separately near the Uttarayana steps.
This temple is one of the PanchaRangaKshetras, the other four being, Adirangam (Mysore), Appalarangam (Thiruper), M adhyarangam (Srirangam) and Pancharangam of Indalur (Mayavaram).
It stands on a base of 30 mtrs. x 18 mtrs. It has eleven tiers and there are steps to reach the top tier from where one can have a panoramic view of the entire town. The Pottramarai, the Golden Lotus tank is behind the temple. A mandapam with sixteen pillars is right at the middle of the tank. The Temple covers an area of over 3 acres and has a gopuram and two praharas. The sanctum and the front mandapam are designed to look like a chariot on wheels and horses. The temple is 147 feet tall with 9 tiers. The temple tank measures 361 feet by 285 feet. The tank is known as Lakshmi theertha and Amudavani. Anyone who wants to take a dip in this tank should first worship at the shrine of Hema Maharishi. A dip in the tank purifies one and paves way for salvation. This tank is sacred since it gave birth to goddess Komalavalli. When the milky ocean was being churned the AmrutKalash broke and it is believed that some nectar spilled into this tank. The temple belongs to a very early period as referred to by Boothathalwar in his hymns. The front Mandapam is of Nayak style. It is called ThiruMamaniMandapam and is supported by 12 pillars. The Lord here wields a bow called Sarngam and therefore he is known as Sarngapani. The temple measures 90 feet by 51 feet at the base.
It is said that the Lord came down from his celestial abode to marry Komalavalli at this shrine. The very concept of a temple on a. chariot in motion breaks new ground. The canopy is called VaikuntaViman. Since the chariot landed with great force elephants are seen arresting its speed. The chariot is so sculptured that it seemed ever ready for an aerial flight. The temple is dedicated to Vishnu who is bhaktavatsala.
It was left to Ayya Kumara ThataDesikan to construct a separate shrine for KomalavalliThayar. Pleased with his devotion King Nayak erected a sannadhi for Ayya Kumara ThataDesikan.
On his Sesha couch, in the sanctum Lord Aravamudan is seen in Uthangasayana with his head slightly raised giving darshan to ThirumazhisaiPiran.
How benign is our Lord and how much concern he embodies !Bhoo and Sri are nearby even as Brahma is seen rising from his navel. Hemarishi, Saptharishis, Cauvery and Devas are paying homage. The sanctum of Komalavalli is near the Uttarayana steps. It is true that Thirumazhisai_ alwar attained salvation here.
Here the Lord is rightly known as Dravida Veda Darshaka. Cradled by Cauvery on one side and Arsasalaru on the other, the teertha is called Bhaskarakshetra as the Sun God regained his brightness after performing penance at this kshetra. Thus this Sudarsana Chakra of Lord Sarangapani is considered holy of the holies.
This is aUbhayaPradhanaDesa where both the presiding and processional deities are given equal importance. The temple has two separate entrances. The two entrances have nine steps each which is symbolic of the nine steps leading to Moksha.
Just as Srirangam, on the two sides of Kumbakonam flow Cauvery and Arasalar rivers as a grand necklace. There are two entrances to the shrine, south and north. The southern entrance is used during Dakshinayana (14th Jan-15th July) and the northern side used during Uttarayana (16th July-13th Jan). The Dakshinayana entrance is known as the doorway to marriage as Lord Sarngapani came out of this corridor after his marriage to Komalavalli. This sacred shrine is sung by seven of the twelve alwars. Because of Nathamuni, this shrine has a special significance in the history of Vaishnavism. It was in this sannadhiNadhamuni, the grand father of Alavandar first heard the ten hymns of Nammalwar in praise of Amudan and he heralded the renaissance of all the four thousand hymns of the Alwars at AlwarThirunagari.
According to Puran the place was originally known as Kudarnukku. It is said that once Brahma created AmruthaKudam, with the four Vedas offering protection on four sides. He kept it on the MeruParvatha. Later at Pralaya, the great deluge, the amrutha vessel got dislodged and spilled over the vast region of the present Kumbakonam. Hence the name Kumbakonam.
The Mahamaha festival at this place is considered to be the most sacred. It has a reason and there is a story. It is believed that the deities of the nine sacred rivers meet in confluence on the Mahamaha day once in twelve years at Kumbakonam which is depicted in a sculptural representation in the KashiVishwanatha temple. Many stories of puranic greatness are in record to show the historic importance of the much-hallowed Mahamaha tank. The importance bears ample evidence. This festival is celebrated once in 12 years in the month of Feb-March when Jupiter passes through the sign of Leo. This festival was last held as recently as March 2004.
The legend has that, once Surya, the Sun god lost in contest to Sudarshan Chakra. Having lost, after a long severe penance the Sun god regained his original glory. Therefore the place came .to be known as BhaskaraKshetra. Here the Alwars have sung in praise of both the deities, the presiding deity and the processional deity. Therefore the shrine is known as UbhayaPradhanaDivyaDesa.
The legend says that once the Lord went out of the shrine without the knowledge of Mahalakshmi. On his return the Devi refused to open the door. It was then left to the great saint Nammalwar to reconcile and bring the divine couple together.
In addition there is a SrinivasaSannidhi which is situated underground. Since the Lord is seated underground, he is known as PathalaSrinivasa and the SannidhiPathalaSrinivasaSannidhi.
Once as a matter of precaution the idols of this temple were kept in safe custody at ThiruKoshtiyur temple. In gratitude till today it is a practice to sing a hymn in honour of ThiruKoshtiyurPerumal.
According to legend, sage Brighu went to see Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu who was in the company of Sridevi did not immediately respond. Annoyed at this, Brghu kicked the Lord on his chest. Sridevi took it as a personal insult and descended on earth. She began a severe penance on a thousand-petalled lotus in a tank named Pottramarai at Kumbakonam. In his next birth, Brghu was born as a sage named Hema Maharshi. He remembered that he had committed an heinious sin in his earlier birth. He regretted that he was the main cause of separation between the Lord and the devi. To expiate this sin, he too began a severe penance. Pleased with his prayers, the Lord granted him boons. He prayed for Lakshmi devi as his daughter and the Lord as his son-in-law. The Lord granted the request and married Komalavalli much to the rishi's joy Hence the place is also known as Kalyanapuram.
There was an orphan named Lakshmi Narayana who was a sincere devotee of the Lord Sarangapani. With tears in his eyes and a beatific smile on his face he danced and sang fully realising the sweetness of Amudha. He could go on in this way for days and nights without a break and without any exhaustion. His only obsession was to build a gopura for his favouriteSarangaraja. With advancing age he was sure that the Lord would save him just as he saved the Pandavas. In due course of time he realised his dream.
The Lord truly abides in all things and he realised the Lord in his own heart. When he died the Lord directed one of his archaka in his dream to do the final samskara for Lakshmi Narayana Swami. After this dream command the archaka is believed to have taken the holy grass from the Lord and performed the final ceremony. Thus every year on DeepavaliAmavasya this ceremony is performed at Kumbakonam temple at the command of the Lord.
On the 19th day of Margazhi the Lord is bedecked as Thayar and Thayar is dressed like Perumal, an event peculiar to this temple only.
The float festival takes place in Masi in the golden lily tank. Adjoining the south wall of this temple is the Someshwarar temple.
There are many other Vaishnava shrines in Kumbakonam. They are VarahaPerumal temple, Chakrapani temple, Gopalaswamy temple, all these located in Big Street. VaradarajaPerumal temple near the Cauvery bridge, VedaranyaPerumal temple near Saurashtra street, Udayavar temple at Big Street, Brahman Kovil at Saurashtra street, Pattabhiraman temple near KamakshiJoshiar street and SaranarayanaPerumal temple at Big Bazar.*