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Thiru Pernagar also known as Koviladi, Appa Kudatthan or Thirupper is one of the 108 Vaishnava temples. Located on a hillock, it is also one of the Pancha Ranga Kshetras. The other four being Adirangam (Mysore), Madhyarangam (Srirangam), Chaturtharangam (Kumbakonam) and Pancharangam (Indalur-Mayavaram).
Thiru Pernagar, traditionally known as Appala Ranganatha Swamy temple is an age-old temple cradled by the Kaveri river on one side and the Kollidam on the other. This temple is considered much older than Srirangam (one of the foremost Vaishnava kshetras). And for this reason, it is popularly known as Koviladi (Srirangam is referred to as Kovil). Located amidst plantain farms and agricultural fields, this temple was patronised by the Cholas and has been immortalised by Nammalvar, Periyalvar, Tirumangaialvar and Thirumazhisai Alvar in their hymns. In fact, Nammalvar's last composition was on the deity of Thiru Pernagar.
This temple enshrines Vishnu as Adiranganatha, also known as Appakudathan. The deity here is seen in shayana tirukkolam (resting posture) blessing Markandeya Rishi seated by his side. Lakshmi is revered as Indiradevi and Kamalavalli. The tirtha is called Indra tirtha while the vimana is known as Indra vimana. It is believed that the sweet dish, Appam is the deity's favourite. It is, therefore, a practice to offer Appam as prasada every day to the deity.
|Vishnu here is referred to as||Adi Ranganatha, Appa Kudathan, Appalarangan|
|Lakshmi here is referred to as||Indiradevi, Kamalavalli|
|Kshetra is called||Pancha Ranga kshetra|
|Vimana is called||Indira Vimana|
|Pushkarini is named||Indira Pushkarni|
|Hymns by Alwars||Thirty Three|
|Location||4 kms from Swamimalai|
Located at a distance of 23 kms from Thanjavur, the temple Thiru Pernagar also known as Indragiri is about 8 kms from Anbil. This temple can be reached from Kumbakonam also as it is located on the Thiruvaiyaru - Thirukkatuppalli - Kallanai road. While, from Trichy this kshetra is about 24 kms.
Prof. S. Narayanan in his book 108 Temples of Azhvars says,
"Thirupernagar is one of the outstanding constructions of the early Chola kings. Although the murti or vigrahas are more than thousands of years old, they still retain their original beauty in stone. The intricate workmanship is marvelous."
The temple of Thiru Pernagar is typical of Dravidian architecture. It has a three tier gopura with a steep flight of steps along with the customary Dvaja Stambha, Bali Peeta, Garuda shrine, etc at the entrance. The gopura is small in size and a little elevated towards the east. This ancient temple unlike many of its counterparts in Tamil Nadu has a single prahara and a small doorway.
This Divya Kshetra is renowned as the ancient seat of Sri Adiranga and finds mention in many Puranic legends. Some of the legends associated with this temple are as follows:
- It is said that Mahalakshmi stayed on this sacred hillock for a long time doing penance because of which this temple came to be known as Thiruper. The story goes thus. Once Narada wanted to know who among Bhumidevi and Mahalakshmi (the two consorts of Mahavishnu) was superior. To decide this, Mahavishnu made them sit on the two sides of a scale. In the experiment, Bhumi Devi proved to be mightier. It is said that, pained by this result, Mahalakshmi left Vaikunta and came to this kshetra to offer severe penance. In due course of time, Mahavishnu being pleased with her prayers granted her a permanent fixture on his chest.
- According to another legend, Uparisaravasu, a Pandya Raja was once on a hunting expedition chasing an elephant. This elephant rushed into Gautama Maharishi's ashrama and eventually into the temple pushkarini. In that tirtha, a Brahmana by the name of Susharma was engaged in deep penance standing in waist deep water. The Raja on his chase, let loose sharp arrows at the elephant and the elephant fell dead. However, along with the elephant, the Brahmana was also crushed to death. The Raja became extremely sad at the turn of events and became inconsolable as he realised that he had committed Brahma hatya. In repentence, he immediately renounced his kingdom in search of peace and gave in to the path of discovering the Self. In the process, he undertook yatra to many tirthas to atone the papa that had taken place through him. In due course of time, he reached the Indra kshetra, the present Thiruppernagar and with complete belief and trust in his heart he went into deep penance at this kshetra.
- In this context, it is elaborated elsewhere that Sri Narayana in the disguise of an old man, approached Raja Uparisaravasu for food and help. The Raja, though full of concern for the old man, asked the old ascetic to wait for a while until the Brahmanas who were expected for food would return. However, Vishnu insisted that he be served immediately as he himself represented several Brahmanas. Miraculously, the Raja also saw thousands of Brahmanas in place of the old ascetic. Convinced of what he saw, the Raja immediately gave food to the old man out of love and concern. The ascetic consumed the entire food kept for the Brahmanas and insisted on having more. The Raja then with great devotion in his heart and tears in his eyes gave appam (a sweet dish) as prasada to the old ascetic and prayed to Sri Narayana for help. It was then that the old Brahmana moved by the steadfast devotion of the Raja, revealed his true form granting His grace. This is the legend behind the practice of taking bath at Indra pushkarini and offering appam as prasada to Mahavishnu in this kshetra. And such a sankalpa is said to yield fulfillment of one's wishes.
- Prof. S. Narayanan (April 2004), 108 Temples of Azhvars, Volume 1, Maharashtra: Sri Ramanuja Mission.