Chozha Period Temple near Coimbatore
Offering of Pepper to the Lord is a speciality at this temple
The current Bhattar's clan have been performing pooja for over 800years at this temple
(This story is dedicated to my class teacher Imam of 40 years ago (in the mid 70s) who used to come every morning by bus (25kms) from Sulur near this temple to the school in Saibaba Colony in Coimbatore to teach us. She did that for many years).
Located 20kms from Coimbatore on the Trichy Highway and just a couple of kms off the Air Force Base is the 1100years old Venkatanathan Perumal temple in Sulur (original name Suralur), a temple with huge outer walls and grand vahanas. The temple dates back to the early 10th Century AD to the Chozha period with earliest records dating back to 908AD. 1000s of acres were allotted to the temple most of which have been usurped during the passage of time.
Recognition for the 24 Service officials
It is fascinating to find that the 24 different service officials of the temple were granted lands and specific duties and responsibilities relating to the temple. They received monthly grants in terms of provisions / sacred food. These service officials include Archakas, Maniam, Sthanigam, those who did Parayanam, Parijathakar, the ones who played the instruments during festive occasions and during poojas, the ones who brought and made sacred flowers for the Lord and the ones who blew the conch.
The Name of the Place
In centuries gone by, this place was referred to as Suralur, an indication of the swirling winds that used to be a feature at this place (Soora + Kaatru). With passage of time, Suralur became Sulur. Even in peak summer, one finds the swirling breeze here around this temple keeping the place cool.
During the rule of Kadiraditya Chozha, this place was referred to as Ariya Piratti Nallur. During the Pandya rule, this place was referred to as Sundara Pandya Nallur. Sundara Pandyan renovated the tank and lakes here in Sulur in the 13th Century AD.
King Ko Kandan Veera Narayanan donated liberally to the temple during his rule.
One of the oldest Trade routes
Sulur was an integral part of one of the oldest trade routes between Palghat in Kerala and Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu with Pepper (Milagu) being an important commodity of Trade. This important route also comprised of Perur and Vellalur in Coimbatore, Palladam, Kangeyam and Karur East of Coimbatore and Uraiyur in Trichy.
The temple legend
Traders used to congregate at Kangeyam Palayam about 3kms East of the Venkatanathan temple to put together the pepper in sacks for the next day sales in the market in Sulur and other neighbouring places.
One night after a tired day’s work, they were woken up late in the night by a shabby looking old Brahmin. He had developed Stomach pain and requested the trader for some pepper that could solve his ailment. In his anger of being disturbed from his slumber, the trader remarked that he had no pepper and that all he had was only black gram (Ulunthu).
The next morning as the traders made their way to the market, they found that the entire pepper sacks had turned to black gram. The trader then realised the conversation from the previous night and went in search of the old man.
It was here at this location in Sulur that he found a huge stone with an old man leaning on it. The old man consoled the trader asking him to forget about the now lost Pepper and to go back to the market with the promise that his black gram would fetch just as good a bargain as Pepper and that he should do something good with the extra profits he was to derive.
Much to his surprise, the trader found that the black gram which usually fetches a price much lower than pepper was up significantly that day and he made a great profit. Delighted at this, he came to the 2nd location and promised to build a temple here with the Lord in a grand standing posture.
Nandi in front of the Lord
Cows are said to have assisted the construction of the temple. When they fell tired and were hungry, it is believed that the Lord provided them with his food. As a thanking gesture, Nandi sat in front of him. Hence Nandi in front of the Perumal is a unique feature at this temple.
Only Sweet Dishes -Sacred Food
The Lord who provided a third darshan to the trader presented him with a packet of pepper since that is what he had asked the trader in the first instance when he met at Kangeyam Palayam and asked him to include pepper in the presentation of the sacred food every day and as prasadam to the devotees who visit the temple.
Given the legend relating to this temple, only sweet dishes are offered to the Lord every day since the Lord is already presented with the spicy pepper all the time. All other Thaligai at this temple are only sweet dishes, mostly Chakkarai Pongal. No other spicy dishes are presented here at the temple on any day of the year, except for this sweet offering.
In addition to Tulasi, Pepper is also presented to the devotees who visit this temple.
Many Divya Desams are home to specific delicacies. If in Koviladi Divya Desam in Thiruper Nagar, Appam is a speciality, at Oppiliappan temple in Thiru Vinnagar, ‘Saltless’ food is the order of the day. Similarly here at this Abhimana Sthalam in Sulur, pepper is a speciality in the offering to the Lord.
Rayar Temple - The location where the Lord asked for Pepper
Three Kms east of here is the ‘Rayar Temple’ where the Lord provided the first of his three darshans as an old Brahmin late in the night. It is said that sitting from here, the Lord watches the offerings to him at the Thiru Venkatanathan temple in Sulur to confirm that Pepper is being offered every day.
Both the temples were built in its current form by Dasa Palanjika Chettiars who hailed from Mysore and who spread themselves across this region as trade merchants. They were Vishnu devotees. Pepper was one of the prominent items they traded in.
Grand Festivals and Vahana Procession
The Lord is driven on different vahanas during the annual Brahmotsavam that is celebrated in a grand way in Navarathri ( Puratasi/ Aipasi). Vahanas include Sesha Vahana, Hanumantha Vahana, Elephant and Horse Vahana and the beautiful Garuda Vahana. A temple chariot that had been constructed in the early 19th Century AD (1816AD) was damaged in the last century and a new one has been recently built.
Gopalakrishna Bhattar’s clan has been taking care of the temple for the last 16 generations – almost 800years. Gopalakrishna Bhattar has been here at the temple for over four decades. His performance of the Archanai is a treat to hear and watch, such is his devotion to the Lord.
10 day Brahmotsavam during Navarathri
Hanuman Jayanthi – the only day in the year when he is anointed with Vada Malai
Moolavar: Venkatanathan in an East Facing Standing Posture
Time : 730am-1pm and 430pm – 8pm
Contact : Gopalakrishna Bhattar @ 0422 2680204 / 78100 21957 or Ramesh Bhattar @ 95433 34476
How to reach
Take the Tiruppur /Trichy bound bus and get down at Sulur Police Station stop. The temple is 5minute walk north of the bus stop.
Take an auto from this temple to Kangeyam Palayam to reach the Rayar Temple behind the Air Force in Sulur (3kms). Auto from Venkatanathan temple and back to Sulur bus stand will cost Rs. 125. (Auto Balaji @ 98422 56321)
Temple contact of the Rayar Temple behind the Air Force : 98941 38835 / 94431 91762