Saturday, August 17, 2019

Senkalipuram Perumal Temple

Twin Temples of Parimala Ranganatha and Varadaraja Perumal whose legend relates to previous Yugams

Birth Place of Anantharama Dikshithar
                              Kalyanam Bhattachar
87 year old SB Kalyanaraman (popularly known as Kalyanam) Bhattachar has spent his entire life in the agraharam at Senkalipuram, the birth place of the renowned Anantharama Dikshithar and a location historically renowned for Vedic recital. His devotional service to Lord Parimala Ranganatha, who is seen with 6 fingers on one hand, has not dropped a wee bit in the seven decades of service that he has rendered and despite his old age, he is ever ready to serve the visiting devotees.

It was the revered Swaminathan Dikshithar who taught Kalyanaraman Bhattachar’s father and Anantharama Dikshithar Vedic lessons in this very agraharam.  Swaminathan Dikshithar had told Kalyanam Bhattar’s father that the temple in its current form and structure was at least 400 years old.

Anantharama Dikshithar would visit the Perumal Temple every day and collect Theertham from Kalyanam Bhattar.

கல்யாண ரூபாய க்ளுஜனானாம்
கல்யாண தாத்ரே கருணா சுதாப்தே
கம்ப்வாதி திவ்யாயுத  சத்கராய
வாதால  யதல்ச நமோ நமஸ்த்தே

நாராயண நாராயண...

Be ever in Service to the Lord
Kalyanarama Bhattachar says that his father’s message was very clear “Do not leave the service at the temple under any circumstance." He was completely dedicated to the Lord and wanted me to continue through my life.

This ancient temple town is surrounded on all four sides by prominent ancient saivite temples amidst fertile green lands. Choleswarar Temple in the East, Dundubeeswarar in the West, Viswanathar temple in the South and a temple dedicated to Lord Muruga were historical temples. Growth for a large part was always in excess till the first half of the 20th century. Villagers would come and present their harvest to the Lord. Overall it was a lively atmosphere in this temple town.

In the first half of the 20th century, 60 Kalam Paddy was given to the Bhattars for their services. As with many other temples in Tamil Nadu, the lands belonging to the temples here too were whisked away in the 1960s and 70s. There is still 100 acres of land belonging to the temple but no income accrues. The salary from the 1960s and 70s dropped drastically and there came a time when there was no salary paid to the Bhattar.

Kalyanam Bhattar remembers the good old days when  agraharam was vibrant with around 200 traditional families, most of them Smarthas residing at this historical location. There was an ancient patshala where Kalyanam Bhattar did Veda Adyayanam. For several decades, he presented Upanyasam across the state.  

On the occasion of Avani Avittam, over 100 families came to the Ranganatha temple to invoke the blessings of the Lord.  Festivals were grand once upon a time with Vahana processions of the Lord. Those too came to a halt 50 years ago and remained so for a couple of decades. Chariot festival too was grand at this temple. 

The Legend
Kalyanam Bhattar stresses the legend of the location to establish its historical importance. It was here that after the demolition of Madhu-Kaidapar, the Lord cleansed his chakra in the Chakkarai Theertham in Senkalipuram. When the rishis suggested that he was contaminating the Kulam by washing the weapon that was used to kill, he told them that this entire place would become sacred as he has put an end to the asuras’ violence and hence will become a renowned location, much to their delight.

Another story goes that Prahalada undertook penance here to relieve himself from Pithru Hathi Dosham. When Jalamedha, the grandson of the Pandavas performed a Sarpa Yagna, his hands shrunk as a result of the killing of the snakes. He is believed to have undertaken penance here to relieve himself from the dosham.

The recovery of the idol
During the Muslim invasion, the idols had been buried under the sand and a big mound accumulated.
Centuries ago, a sadhu, seen not seen in a great mental frame, shouted about the presence of Lord. When the farmers came to the agraharam to sell their harvest, the sadhu once again shouted out the name of the Lord. The farmers who had come there with sickels dug the place and unearthed a Lord sleeping atop Adisesha with two and a half furls. An invisible voice asked them to stop and hence in a unique posture, Lord Parimala Ranganatha is seen in a unique posture atop Adishesha with 2 ½ furls.

Kalyanarama Bhattar initiated his sons and grandsons into the agamas and Vedas directing them to continue the service at the temple. While there is not much of a salary, grandson Balaji Bhattar has stuck to this service with great devotion. With support from devotees, they have revived the Brahmotsavam in Maasi and also are performing the Pavitrotsavam. Over the last few years, devotee crowd has increased but it is still not enough to manage a family, financially. Balaji Bhattar makes ends meet by performing Homams and participating in Samprokshanams. 

Most of the traditional inhabitants had quit the agraharam by the 80s leaving the Bhattar family as one of the few. It is to their great credit that this family that has performed aradhana at this temple for several generations has continued to serve in tough and challenging times with the monthly salary paid by HR &CE not enough to run a family.  Kalyanaraman Bhattar is happy that in the most challenging of decades, the family stayed back to serve the Lord unmindful of the low salary.

The temple is open from 7am -1130am and from 5pm to 730pm. Contact Kalyanarama Bhattachar @ 94441 61609 / Balaji Bhattar @ 83001 81629/63811 87235

How to reach
Senkalipuram is 4kms from Kodavasal off the Kumbakonam – Tiruvarur Highway and under 10kms from Thiru Cherai Divya Desam. Auto from Kodavasal will cost Rs. 150.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Sirupuliyur Divya Desam

One Legged Srikanthan Bhattar has been instrumental in the revival of this once prominent Thiru Mangai Azhvaar praised temple 

He serves the Lord each day of the year with an artificial leg 

Till half a century ago, Sirupuliyur, a Divya Desam gloriously praised by Thiru Mangai Azhvaar, was so prominent among the temples in the erstwhile Chozha kingdom, that it was the main supplier of archakas to other Perumal temples in the region. Such was the vibrancy in the agraharam that this temple town reverberated with Prabhandham Recital and Vedic Chanting all through the year. There were 365 acres of land belonging to the temple and rice was available in plenty at the temple for food presentation to the Lord.

During the time of Thiru Mangai Azhvaar, it stood out as a devotional location for he praises it as one where Vedic Seers chanted the Vedas continuously. It is hard to believe that the sea shore would be so close to Sirupuliyur as it now at least 25 kms away!!! But Thiru Mangai Azhvaar refers to gems being washed all across Sirupuliyur from the eastern sea shore. He says that the temple was surrounded by green fields on one side and by the ocean on the other.

பறையும் வினை தொழுது உய்ம்மின்
நீர் பணியும் சிறு தொண்டீர்
அறையும் புனல் ஒருபால் வயல் ஒருபால் பொழில் ஒருபால்
சிறை வந்து இனம் அறையும்
சிறுபுலியூர்ச் சலசயனத்து
உறையும் இறை அடி அல்லது
ஒன்று இறையும் அறியேனே

As with many other remote Divya Desams, the changing political climate in the State in the 1960s and 70s led to a dramatic downturn in this temple town, one that lasted 3 decades.

G Venkata Gopalan Bhattar is 77 years old now and still active at the temple. He was in his prime when the political take over and HR &CE’s ascendancy to power hit temples across Tamil Nadu. His grandfather had served at the temple for many decades in the glory days in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. His father Govinda Bhattachar too served at the temple for several decades till his death in 1968.

Moves away from Sirupuliyur
Soon after his thread ceremony, Venkata Gopala Bhattar began learning agamas from Srinivasa Bhattar at Thiruvazhundur Divya Desam in the early 1950s. With the overall negative scenario at Sirupuliyur that also included strong opposition to temple activities from the non-traditional residents, he moved to Kuttalam (near Therazhundur Divya Desam) about 25kms West of Sirupuliyur to perform services at the Aadhi Kesava Perumal temple where he remained for three decades performing pooja at a salary of a couple of hundreds. His three sons grew up in Kuttalam.  
Right from his school days in the early 1990s, Srikanthan Bhattar, the 2nd son, began supporting his father at the temple in Kuttalam. After his school, he would go to Therazhundur to learn agamas from the revered Kannan Bhattar (father of Vasan Bhattar) who passed away a few years ago. Even back then, as a young boy, Srikanthan Bhattar’s mind was set on reviving Sirupuliyur Divya Desam where his forefathers had served for so long and he missed being at his hereditary location.

Grim Situation at the Divya Desam
The once vibrant agraharam looked deserted. Samprokshanam had been performed in 1973 but that was just white washing the outer walls. The Brahmotsavam came to a halt in the 1970s including the once popular chariot festival. Over time, the two chariots, one for Perumal and another for Manavala Mamunigal, suffered damage. During those dark decades, almost all the festivals came to a standstill. There were just three utsavam days - Vaikunta Ekadasi, Panguni Uthiram and Vaikasi Hastham- in the entire year. 

By the 1980s, the entire lot of the traditional residents of the agraharam had left Sirupuliyur seeking greener pastures. There was just one man left - the accountant at the temple. There had been no processions for two decades. The entire complex was dark with no lighting. There were no personnel in the madaipalli. No one could adapt to the traditional lifestyle at an ancient temple town. Even today there is none. Seeing the deplorable state of this Divya Desam, the now renowned Vasan Bhattar of Therazhundur, then in his 20s, used to cycle 15kms from Therazhundur to perform aradhana for the Aruma Kadal Lord at Sirupuliyur.

On AV Rangachari’s ( ) request, Venkata Gopalan Bhattar came back to Sirupuliyur in the late 1990s at a salary of Rs. 300 per month. By then, his elder son had moved to Banaswadi Perumal Koil, in Bombay.

Life Changing Story
When Srikanthan Bhattar was growing up in the late 1980s and 90s, even 10-15 rupees brought home by his father would delight the family as it helped in the everyday sustenance. The key was Srikanthan Bhattar did not choose to go away in frustration. Instead he chose to remain devotional committed to Kripa Samudra Perumal who his forefathers had served and one that Thiru Mangai Azhvaar had praised as the ‘Lord in my Heart’ and as one who provides the devotees with a positive change in life.

கள்ளம் மனம் விள்ளும் வகை,
கருதிக் கழல் தொழுவீர்
வெள்ளம் முதுபரவைத் திரை விரிய
கரை யெங்கும் தெள்ளும் மணி திகழும்
சிறுபுலியூர் சலசயனத் துள்ளும்
எனது உள்ளத்துள்ளும்
உறைவாரை உள்ளீரே

Srikanthan Bhattar, then not even in his teens read a story in the 1990s narrating the pitiable state of the Sirupuliyur temple. Citing the scenario of even Oil and Thiri not being available to light even a single lamp, the story requested devotees to present these at this divya desam so at least one lamp could be lit. Srikanthan promised that day that he would serve the Lord of Sirupuliyur for the rest of his life and would work towards reviving the Divya Desam. Ever since, his sole aim in life has been to get the temple back to its past glory.

It was Vasan Bhattar who helped anchor the revival of the utsavams, first with a five day Brahmotsavam. He was a mentor to many of the archakas in the region and he played an active role at Sirupuliyur in supporting the initiatives of Srikanthan Bhattar.

Letting go one’s EGO
The legend of this Divya Desam relates to a story on the letting go of one’s ego. Believing that he was closer to the Lord and performing better service to the Lord, Garuda questioned the role and service contribution of Adisesha. When the latter sought the help of the Lord, HE provided darshan here at Sirupuliyur in a Bala Posture like a young boy and slept atop Adisesha. Humbled at the lesson, Garuda realized his mistake and stood on the ground. Hence at this Divya Desam, Garuda is seen in a unique posture of standing low on the ground. From a devotion point of view, Thiru Mangai Azhvaar says that not just humans but also Gods in large numbers visited Sirupuliyur to have darshan of Sala Sayana Perumal who he praises as one seen in a sleeping posture atop the five hooded Adiseshan.

Referring to the kid like image of the Lord, he says that he not seen any Lord like this anywhere else. And as an indication of the two rishis at the feet of the Lord, he says that those who worship the Lord’s feet at Sirupuliyur will find a positive change of heart towards devotion. He asks the devotees to surrender to the Salasayanam Lord and see for themselves as to how their sins are cleansed. 
Every day when Srikanthan Bhattar narrates the Sthala Puranam to devotees and presents aloud the verses of Thiru Mangai Azhvaar from the Periya Thirumozhi, he remembers the legend and the tale of the temple town that once was and reminds himself to dedicate his life to the Lord and to seek nothing else. And that’s how he has lived the last two decades at this Divya Desam.

The Revival over the last decade
When he joined the temple just under two decades ago as a teenager, his first priority was to provide basic amenities to visiting devotees- bath and toilet facilities outside the temple. In those days, his mother, who sported a smile all the time (she passed away all of a sudden over a decade ago) played a great host to all visitors to this Divya Desam feeding them to a sumptuous meal despite a financially challenging situation in the family.

He then went about reviving the utsavams. In 2007, Srikanthan Bhattar revived the Pavitrotsavam with the help of Vasan Bhattar who has been an integral part of the transformation at this temple. Earlier this decade, the temple saw a full scale renovation for the first time in a century giving it a fresh look. While the samprokshanam in 1973 was followed by two dark decades, this samprokshanam 4 decades later in 2012 led to a complete revival of the temple. Brahmotsavam was restarted with vahana processions. 

Last week in recognition of Vasan Bhattar’s three decades of support, Srikanthan Bhattar, in a thanking gesture, posted a large banner outside the temple during the Pavitrotsavam.

A road accident that took away a leg
In February 2013, a bus ran over Srikanthan Bhattar’s legs and he lost a leg in the accident. HR & CE and the TN Government did nothing to compensate. It was Vasan Bhattar who through devotees helped him have an artificial leg planted. For six years, he has continued to serve the Lord in the same devotionals manner as before despite getting a salary of just around Rs. 1000 per month, an amount completely inadequate these days. Srikanthan Bhattar is currently in the process of building two new chariots, one for Perumal Brahmotsavam and another for the Manavala Mamunigal utsavam at a cost of over Rs. 30 Lakhs. Srikanthan Bhattar and his father also double up as the cook in the madapalli. Srikanthan Bhattar is also the one who over the last decade has decorated the Lord ensuring a certain grandeur in terms of jewels and vastrams. 

It is solely due to the efforts of such devotionally committed Bhattars that remote Divya Desams have stayed alive and continued into the next generation.

Kripasamudram Perumal Divya Desam in Sirupuliyur is open from 730am-12noon and 5pm to 830pm. Contact Srikanthan Bhattar @ 91598 67324.

How to reach Sirupuliyur
Sirupuliyur is 2kms from Kollumangudi and about 10kms from Mayiladuthurai on the Tiruvarur highway. Auto from Kollumangudi will cost Rs. 75.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Thirumeni Azhagar Temple Mahendra Palli

Thiru Gnana Sambandar praised the Lord as ‘Azhagar’ and compares the Lord to the ones at Thiru Kailayam, Thiruvarur and Thiruvanaikaval 

As with other HR & CE administered temples in TN, the priest, whose family had served the Lord through the 20th Century, is now paid a daily wage of Rs.20!!
10kms East of Achalpuram off the Alakkudi road on the banks of Kollidam is the ancient Thiru Gnana Sambandar praised Thirumeni Azhagar (Sundareswarar) temple in Mahendra Palli. This is the farthest location in the East in the region and there is no path across the Kollidam to reach the other side.

In his verses of praise on Mahendra Palli, Thiru Gnana Sambandar compares the greatness of this temple with Thiru Kailayam, Thiruvarur and Thiruvanaikaval.
A Vibrant Thevaram Sthalam
Till half a century ago, the Lord provided darshan to devotees on different vahanas. One finds a big temple tank at the Eastern end where Theppotsavam was conducted till the 1960s.

Senthil Gurukal has been performing pooja at the temple for over three decades and now gets just Rs. 20 per day as salary from the HR&CE but he continues to perform service to the Lord with sincerity. His father and grandfather had taken care of the temple for almost 100 years at miniscule salary. 
Special Features
Between the 7th and 13th day in Panguni, the Sun’s rays fall directly on the Lord. A unique feature at the temple is that Nandi’s neck is slightly tilted to the left.
The Saint Poet, who attained Mukthi near here at Achalpuram, has praised the beauty of the Lord and refers to him as ‘Thirumeni Azhagar’, the one with handsome features.  He also refers to Indra, Chandra, the Sun God and the great rishis as having performed pooja at Mahendra Palli.
 சந்திரன் கதிரவன் தகுபுகழயனெடும்
இந்திரன் வழிபட இருந்தவெம் இறையவன்
மந்திர மறைவளர் மயேந்திர பள்ளியுள்
அந்தமில் அழகனை யடிபணிந் துய்ம்மினே

There are still a few traditional houses in the agraharam that was once home to Saivites and Vaishnavites. There is also a big Perumal temple in Mahendrapalli, that has been recently renovated.
Dilapidated State
Such a historical temple with distinguishing features is now seen in a bad shape. Most of the Vahanas had been damaged and for decades there have been no vahana processions at this temple. 
The Temple tank is now dry with the Theppotsavam not having taken place in the last 50 years. The outer walls of the temple are seen in a broken state. The madaipalli has been non functional for a long time. In the middle of all this, the Gurukal is seen performing the daily service to the Lord with utmost commitment having imbibed the values from his forefathers who too served without much financial returns. 

It is hoped that the HR & CE will restore this historical temple to its past glory and also revive the grand utsavams. It is also hoped that the HR & CE will increase the salary of the priest to a fair level in line with the current cost of living.

The temple is open from 7am -1130am and from 5pm-730pm. Contact Senthil Gurukal @ 97511 00938.

How to reach
Mahendrapallil is 15kms East of Kollidam ( Chidambaram-Sirkazhi Highway) and 10kms East of the Thiru Gnana Sambandar Mukthi Sthalam of Achalpuram

Buses ply every hour between Kollidam and Mahendrapalli along a winding road amidst green fields. Auto at Mahendrapalli - Palani @ 90473 47357.

A version of this story featured in The Hindu Friday Review

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Thiru Kannangudi Divya Desam

Renovation of the Damodara Narayana Perumal Divya Desam at Rs. 1 crore but Bhattar’s Salary remains in Three Digits

Prabhakara Bhattar's devotional commitment keeps him all alone at the Thiru Manai Azhvaar praised temple near Nagapattinam

Not too long ago, the Damodara Narayana Perumal Divya Desam in Thiru Kannangudi praised by Thiru Mangai Azhvaar was in a dilapidated condition. The Thiru Madaipalli was crumbling down as was the Azhvaar Sannidhi. The worst of the lot was the Ramanuja Sannidhi at the Eastern Entrance of the temple. Ahead of the 1000th year, the sannidhi lay in a completely damaged condition with the entrance to the sannidhi dug up. Conflicts between HR & CE, donors and the general public delayed the renovation efforts. Just a couple of years ago, one wondered if the renovation would see the light of the day such was the scenario then.

Praises the Divya Desam as one with Mansions and High Walls
Thiru Mangai Azhvaar praised the Lord as on in a Standing Posture before whom Vedic Seers chanted the sacred mantras. The temple during this period was surrounded by high walls and mansions, paddy fields and water tanks where different coloured lillies and lotuses were seen in large numbers. 
வங்க மா முந்நீர் வரி நிறப்  பெரிய 

வாள் அரவின் அணை மேவி 
சங்கமார் அம் கைத்தட மலர் உந்தி 
சாம மா மேனி என் தலைவன் 

அங்கம் ஆறு ஐந்து வேள்வி நால் வேதம் 
அருங் கலை பயின்று எறி மூன்றும் 
செங்கையால் வளர்க்கும் துளக்கம் இல் மனதோர் 
திருக்கண்ணங்குடியுள் நின்றானே 

Bananas, Jack Fruits and Mangoes were found among the numerous trees around the temple where peacocks danced happily to the tunes of the bees. 
கான் உலா மயிலின் கணங்கள் நின்று ஆடக் 
கண முகில் முரசம் நின்று அதிர 
தேன் உலாம் வரி வண்டு இன் இசை முரலும்
 திருக்கண்ணங்குடியுள் நின்றானே 

The mansions and the high walls as described above seem to be a thing of the past. There are no buses or any form of public transport to this Divya Desam. An auto from Azhiyur bus stop costs Rs. 50. 
While the major repair works were delayed for many years, the Raja Gopuram was painted as were the Vimanams. And yet other sannidhis remained in dilapidated state. Subsequently, caught in the middle of this fight and unable to proceed with the consecration, the then EO of the temple quit the Divya Desam. Twice Samprokshanam date had been fixed but was postponed. The priest remained a silent spectator amidst all this drama with his views on agama and the need for consecration falling on deaf ears. Thiru Koshtiyur Madhavan had taken up the renovation at the Divya Desam but there was opposition to his continuing the service. This too delayed the repair works. By this time, the paint in the Raja Gopuram had faded and wore an old look!!!

Finally, earlier this year, the temple authorities decided to speed up the final phase. And Samprokshanam was performed last month after almost two decades.

A Grand New Look
The temple now wears a never before seen fresh look. The Raja Gopuram and the Vimanams have been repainted.  The previously damaged sannidhis have been restored to old glory. It is the best this temple has looked for many decades. There is a certain positive vibration inside the temple especially watching the devotional commitment of Prabhakara Bhattar who has been managing the aradhana and utsavams all alone for the last 10 years.

Renovation at Rs. 1crore, Monthly Salary in the 100s- Why?
As is the case with many Divya Desams, despite this renovation of the temple complex and the sannidhis at a cost of almost Rs. 1 crore, the salary of the priest remains in three digits. How would a single Bhattar manage an entire Divya Desam and multiple sannidhis all alone at a three digit monthly salary?
He is now in the middle of the 48 day mandalabhishekam. For a fortnight now, he has been having his first meal of the day at 2pm but no one really cares. Devotees are impatient and want a quick darshan of Perumal and Thayar for they are keen to move on to the next Divya Desam. 

HR & CE officials have done the renovation work through the donors and they are basking in glory of the new look. New hundials have been placed all along the Perumal Sannidhi. 

Long Hours at the Temple at minimal salary
6 hours in the 1st half and 4+ hours in the 2nd half, day in day out through the year without any substitutes and all for a few hundred rupees. That's the life of Prabhakara Bhattachar at the Kannangudi Divya Desam. For one who had previously served at the Nandipura Vinnagaram Divya Desam at Nathan Koil for a decade, it is all down to the presentations in the Thattu by devotees to help him see through each day. 

How to reach
Thiru Kannangudi is just under 10kms from Nagapattinam off the Tiruvarur Highway. Get down at Azhiyar to reach the temple (2kms) by auto or walk. When here, also visit Pancha Narayana Kshetram (

Monday, August 5, 2019

Kerala Divya Desams

There are 13 Divya Desams in Kerala that could be divided into three groups – 8 Divya Desams around Kochi, 3 around Thiruvananthapuram and 2 on the Shoranur – Mangalore route. All of these Divya Desams have been praised by Namazhvar in his Tiruvoimozhi. One can have darshan of all these 13 Divya Desams in two days, though it is better to visit the three near Thiruvananthapuram on a separate trip. 

Almost all the temples in the region open at 5am and close at 11am and reopen at 5pm and close at 8pm as contrasted with the Divya Desams in Tamil Nadu. The set of temples around Chenganur is believed to have been visited and built by the Pandavas and are propularly referred to s ‘Anju- Ambalam’. There are also a set of temples around Kochi (three are non Divya Desams) that are believed to have been visited by the four brothers from the Ramayana.

Kutta Nattu Thiru Puliyur, Thiru Chittaru, Thiru Varan Vilai, Thiru Van Vandur, Thiru Valla, Thiru Kadithanam (Chenganasery) can be visited in one half of the day starting at 5am at Thiru Kadithanam (Chenganasery) and ending at 11am at Thiru Chittaru or the other way around. The two Divya Desams around Kochi can be visited between 5pm and 8pm in the evening. On the next morning the two Divya Desams near Kuttipuram can be visited between 5am and 10am,

The three Divya Desams in and around Thiruvananthapuram can be visited on a separate trip between 3am /4am and 11am.

1.    1. Thiru Katkarai – Kochi

Located 10kms North East of Ernakulam, close to the Science and Technology University near Edapalli is the over 1200 years old Thiru Katkarai Appan Divya Desam where the Lord  Katkarai Appan is seen with Conch, Chakra and Padma Hastham.

 உருகுமால் நெஞ்சம் உயிரின் பரமன்றி 

பெருகுமால்  வேட்கையும் என் செய்கேன் தொண்டனேன் 
தெரிவு எல்லாம் காவி கமழ் திருக்காட்கரை 
மருவிய மாயன்  தன் மாயம் நினைதொறே 

Namazhvar refers to lotus flowers growing in large numbers around the temple. He praises the location as being home to fertile groves. He praises the Lord, Thirukatkarai appan as having lotus eyes and beautiful lips and seen with four arms.

Katkarai Appan came here as a Vamana Moorthy to end the troubles caused by King Bali and hence this place is referred to as Vamana Kshetram. To mark this event, it is believed that Lord Vishnu visits this Divya Desam every year on the Thiruvonam day in Avani. Bali is said to have invoked Lord Shiva every day. Hence, there is a Paramasivan Sannidhi to the right of the Perumal Sannidhi, with Bali seen invoking the blessings of Lord Shiva.

Special Plantain Trees
A King tried to plant several plantain saplings but none grew into a full fledged tree. He then decided to present the Lord Katkarai Appan with a Golden Plantain Sapling.  Pleased with the devotional commitment, the Lord is said to have blessed him with a huge number of well grown special plantain trees at this place, now referred to as ‘Nenthram banana’.

Onam is the biggest Festival at this temple

The Temple is open from 5am-11am and 5pm-8pm. Contact: Priest S. Venkatan @ 99952 16368 / 97475 36161, Manager Vinod @ 94462 05706 or President Janardhan @ 0484 257 6653

How to reach
The temple is 4kms from Edapalli railway station. An auto to the Divya Desam will cost Rs.150/- from Ernakulam Railway Station A taxi-to and fro- from Ernakulam railway station will cost Rs.400-450/. There are direct buses from Ernakulam Town to this temple (Edapalli)

2.    2.  Thiru Moozhikalam – Lakshmana Kshteram
      Namazhvar in his praise refers to the Lord as being beautiful and at his radiant best. He describes the Lord as having lotus eyes and wears Tulasi garlands. He says that the flower groves of Thiru Moozhikalam give out nectar like drops. Nam Azhvaar in his opening verse of praise on this location asks the true devotees to go to Thiru Moozhikalam to invoke the blessings of the 'pot dancer'.

      தூது உரைத்தல் செப்புமின்கள் தூ மொழி 
வாய் வண்டு இனங்காள் 

போது இறைத்து  மது நுகரும் பொழில் 
மூழிக்களத்து உறையும் 

மாதரைத் தம் மார்வகத்தே வைத்தார்க்கு 
என் வாய் மாற்றம் 
தூது  உரைத்தல் செப்புதிரேல் சுடர்வளையும் களையுமே 

While the Divya Desams around Chenganur relate to the legend from Mahabaratha, this Divya Desam in Thiru Moozhikalam dates back to the Ramayana period and is a temple dedicated to Lakshmana. This is one of the four temples in this region relating to the four brothers.

Baratha, who came in search of Rama, was suspected by Lakshmana to have come to battle with Raama. Lakshmana is said to have prepared himself to taking on Baratha only to be cooled down by Raama. Having wrongly suspected his brother Baratha, Lakshmana is believed to have come here to repent for his wrong doing. Much later, it became a tradition here to worship Lakshmana as the Moolavar deity.

How to reach
Thiru Moozhikalam is about 10kms from Angamaley off the Thrissur- Ernakulam Rail route and around 30kms from Ernakulam on the Mala Road. Buses every 15 minutes from Alwaye (Aluva) to this temple.

3. Thiru Varan Vilai – Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple

Located about 10kms East of Chengannur Divya Desam on the Southern banks of the Pamba river on the Pathanamthitta State Highway is the Thiru Kuralappan Divya Desam in Aranmul, said to have been built by Arjuna. This Divya Desam has been praised by Namazhvar as Thiru Vaaran Vilai and symbolises Arjuna’s thanks giving gesture to his sarathy (charioteer) Krishna who guided him through the Mahabaratha war. Arjuna undertook penance here to repentfor the killings of his relatives, especially his brother Karna, who he unceremoniously killed when his chariot was grounded to the earth.

Namazhvar, who refers to Thiru Varan Vilai as one of great fame, praises the Lord as one who is seen amidst groves and surrounded by gardens. Similar to the many of the Divya Desams in Tamil Nadu, this Divya Desam was full of mansions that were so tall that Namzhvar visualised it as almost touching the sky. The devotees of the time were seen worshipping the Lord  in every way possible, through their deeds, with a good heart and by uttering pure words.

Ornaments for Sabarimala Lord
Lord Ayyappa’s ornaments are kept here through the year and are taken from here to Sabarimala 2 days prior to the Mandala Vilakku during the Makara Jyothi period.

The Aranmula Boat Race is  a popular event and takes place at the Pamba River which runs right next to the Aranmula Divya Desam.

10 day Brahmotsavam in January
Big Pushpa Abhishekam in May
12 day Kalapam Festival in November when the Lord is decorated completely with Chandanam- a beautiful sight to watch
In March every year, the Goddess from Punnan Thottam temple, about a km east of this temple visits the Aranmula Divya Desam and the two are seen together for a day.
Tulabharam, an age old practice, continues to take place at this temple.

Priest Krishna Kumar Namboodari @ 94471 16689 or 0468 2212170

How to reach
The temple is 10kms East of Chengannur. There are buses from the Chengannur bus stand, opposite the railway station.   An auto from the Chengannur Railway Station to the Puliyoor Divya Desam will cost Rs.100/-.

 4.  Thiru Puliyoor - Bheema Kshetram

ஊர் வளம் கிழார் சோலையும் கரும்பும்
பெரும் செந்நெலும் சூழ்ந்து
ஏர் வளம் கிளர் தண் பணைக்
குட்ட நாட்டுத் திருப்புலியூர் 

சீர் வளம் கிளர் மூவுலகு உண்டு உமிழ்
தேவ பிறான்
பேர் வளம் கிளர்தண்றிப் பேச்சு இவள்
இன்று இப் பனை இழையே 

Namazhvar refers to this place as ‘Kutta Nattu’ Thiru Puliyur as distinguished from the Sirupuliyur 
(near Mayiladuthurai) praised by Thiru Mangai Azhvaar.  Bheema  undertook penance at this place and created the Puliyoor Divya Desam. Hence, this place is referred to as Bheema Kshetram. On a direction from Lord Vishnu, Indra came on a Tiger and killed the demon at this place. Hence, this place has come to be referred as called ‘Puli’yur.

Makara Atham Nakshatram - Brahmotsavam
Thiruvonam Makara Sankara Nakshatram- Kavadi Aattam

The temple is located  6kms West of Chengannur Railway Station on the Mavalikera Highway. Contact Unni Krishnan Namboodari @  99478 31069, 0479-246 4825

5.  5. Thiru Chittaru Imayavarappan Divya Desam, Chenganur

Referred to as the Dharmaraja temple, the East facing Imayavarappan Divya Desam in Chengannur has been praised by Namazhvar as Thiru Chittaru temple in Thiru Chenkundroor.  This is one of the five Pandava brothers related temples in this region.

Unhappy at the death of his cousins in the Mahabaratha war, Dharma Raja, the eldest of the Pandava brothers, came to this place and built this temple. This is believed to be the first of the Vishnu temples built by the Pandavas in this region.

Panguni Ashta Nakshatram 10 day Brahmotsavam
Ashtami-Rohini- Birthday celebrations of Krishna
Dasavatharam Utsavam- The Lord gets decorated in different avatarams. On the last day, he takes on the Mohini Avataram
January -7 day Sapthaham Festival- During this Utsavam, Bhagavatham Parayanam takes place every day

The temple is 1km West of the Chengannur Railway Station. Contact Mohan Rao @ 94976 74799 or 0479 2456672

 6. Thiru Vanvandur Pambanai Appan temple
Namazhvar refers to the Pambanai Appan Temple as being on the Northern banks of the Pamba River in Thiruvanvandur. The Lord is seen here with Conch, Chakra, Spear and Mace. Nakula renovated the Thiruvanvandur temple. At the Western entrance, one finds sculptures relating to Kalinga Narthanam and Dasavatharam.
வைகல் பூண்கழிவாய் வந்து மேயும் குறுகினங்காள்
செய்கொள் செந்நெலுயர் திரு வண்வண்டூர் உறையும்

கைகொள் சக்கரத்து என் கனிவாய் பெருமானை கண்டு
கைகள் கூப்பிச் சொல்லீர் விணை யாட்டினேன் காதன்மையே

Namazhvar refers to this as a prosperous location where paddy trees grow tall. He refers to the Lord as being ‘Wealthy’.  One heard the sound of the conches at all times. The place reverberated amidst the chants of Vedic Seers. Namazhvar identifies the personality of the Lord as one with Discus and Conch and describes him as one with red lips, lotus eyes and feet.

Ashtami-Rohini Krishna Festival, 11day Festival in Dhanur and 10 day Uthiratadhi festival in Kumbham are celebrated in a grand way at the temple.

Contact priest Parameswaran @ 0479 2427808

How to reach:
The temple is located about 7kms North of Chengannur and about 5kms South West of Thiruvalla on the Erimala route. Auto from Thiruvalla bus stand will cost Rs.125/-

7. Thiruvazh Marban, Thiruvalla 

At the Thiru Vazhmarban Divya Desam in Thiruvalla, the Lord is seen in a standing posture facing the East. The sanctum is in such a way that one cannot see the feet of Thiru Vazhmarban.  The Moolavar Lord is also known by the names of Vallabhan and Kolapiran. This place is referred to as the ‘Vallabha Kshetram’.

Lord Vallbhan disguised himself as a Brahmachari and killed an asura with his chakra. The Chakra is said to have fallen at the place where the temple is situated currently. It is a tradition to organise Kathakali to invoke the blessings of Lord Vallabhan. Another tradition is that the Lord is presented with 12000 ripe bananas, half of which is distributed to the devotees.

Thirumangai Azhvaar, who has not sung praises of too many of the Malai Naatu Divya Desam Lords, has dedicated 10 verses to Thiruvalla Lord and has referred to the Lord as ‘Valla Vaazh’. 
உருவின்  ஆர்பிரவி சேர் ஊன் பொதி நரம்பு
தோல் குரம்பையுள் புக்கு
அருவி நோய் செய்து நின்று,
ஐவர் தாம் வாழ்வதற்கு அஞ்சினா யேல்

திருவின் ஆர வேதம் நான்கு ஐந்து தீ
வேல்வியோடு அங்கம் ஆறும்
மருவினார் வல்லவாழ் சொல்லுமா வல்லை
ஆய் மருவு நெஞ்சே

One can find a number of historical inscriptions inside the temple. There are references to the Thiruvalla Lord in Garuda Puranam and Matsya Puranam.

The other Thiru Vazhmarban temple in Malai Naatu Divya Desam is in Thiruvan Parisaram

NamAzhvar in his praise refers to a large number of Areca trees and Jasmine gardens around the temple. The Punnai, Magil and Madhavi flowers give a great fragrance to the devotees as they make their way to the temple. Here too, Vedic recital was a regular feature and compares their rendition to the roaring of the sea in high waves.  Namazhvar also refers to thick smoke from Vedic sacrifices that darken the sky.  Repeatedly he refers to the tall groves of Thiruvallaval and water lilies and lotus flowers growing in the water tanks of the temple. He also makes a mention of Sugarcane and Paddy fileds at Thiru Valla.

10 day Festival in Poosam
Kathakali Festival is the most popular festival at this temple
Every Saturday morning, there is a special pooja

Contact PK Unnikrishnan Pothi/ Govindan Namboodhari  0469 2700191

How to reach Thiruvalla:
Thiruvalla is located about 30kms South of Kottayam on the Ernakulam-Kottayam-Kayankulam rail route. The temple is about 4kms from the railway station. An auto from the station to the Divya Desam will cost Rs.100/-.  There are buses every10minutes from Kottayam to Thiruvalla.

8. Thiru Kadithanam, Chenganaseri 

The Arputha Narayanan Divya Desam in Thiru Kadithanam is one of the important Kadigai Kshetrams. Legend has it that those who visit the Arputha Narayana Perumal Koil in Changanachery and stay here for at least one Kadigai (24minutes) will be liberated from all sins/curses. Also read

Namazhvar praises the Lord as one seen with Lakshmi on his chest. He says that Vedic recital was a regular feature at Thiru Kadithanam. Kalpa trees were abound in large numbers.

அற்புதன் நாராயணன் அறி வாமணன்
நிற்பது மேவி இருப்பது என் நெஞ்சகம்
நில் புகழ் வேதியர் நான் மறை நின்று அதிர
கற்பகச் சோலைத் திரு கடித்தானமே

Sahadeva is said to have consecrated this temple. This is one of the special Krishna temples in India specifically dedicated for moksham.

There was a festival of dance here at this temple. The belief was that ladies dancing with buckets on top of their head and undertaking prayers to Lord Arputha Narayanan helped them conceive. 10day festival in Virchigam and Narasimha Jayanthi are celebrated in a grand way at the temple.

The temple is 4kms east of the Chenganancheri Railway Station (Kottayam-Kayankulam rail route)
Contact  Vasudevan Namboodari @  94972 22107 or 0481 2435711. An auto from the Chenganacheri Railway Station to the Divya Desam will cost Rs.100/-

9. Thiru Vithuvakkodu - Five Idols temple near Pattambi 

On the western banks of Baratha Puzha River, off the Pattambi – Guruvayur highway is the Uyavantha Perumal Divya Desam at Thiru Vithuvakkodu. The Lord has been praised by Kulasekara Azhvar. Arjuna, Dharmaputra, Bheema and Nakula/Sahadeva created an idol each for their daily poojas at this temple. The main Moolavar deity was installed by Arjuna.  Dharma Raja installed the idol on Southern side as did Nakula and Sahadeva. Bheema installed the idol of Vishnu on the Northern side.

Pleased with a rishi’s prayer, Kasi Viswanathar found himself a small place in the umbrella of the rishi. After his bath, the rishi found the umbrella broken and found a swayambu idol of Lord Shiva at this place. Later, a separate temple was built for Shiva. Hence, this place is referred to as the ‘5 idols’ temple.

Janmashtami, Shivarathri are celebrated in a grand way.  Kalababhisekam is presented on Vaikasi Mrigaseesham

The temple is about 5kms South of Pattambi off the Palghat- Shoranur- Kozhikode rail route

Contact Ravichandran and Ramachandran Embranthari @  98460 92853

How to reach:
An auto from Pattambi Railway Station to this Divya Desam (about 7kms) and back will cost Rs.150/-.

10. Thiru Navai
Only Divya Desam in Kerala with a separate Sannidhi for Thaayar 

On the Northern Banks of Barathapuzha River is the Navai Mukundan Divya Desam, praised by Thiru Mangai Azhvar and Namazhvar.  The Lord is seen in an East Facing Standing Posture. On the other side of the river are temples for Lord Shiva and Brahmma. Hence this is said to be a Tri Murthy Sangamam 

Goddess Lakshmi and Gajendran wanted to adorn Lord Narayana with Lotus flowers. However, Gajendran could not locate the flowers and undertook prayers here to Narayana, who asked Goddess to stop plucking the Lotus flowers, thus providing an opportunity to Gajendran to adorn the lord with flowers. Goddess Lakshmi is said to have asked the Lord to provide her with an equal status at this temple. Hence, there is a separate sannidhi for the Goddess here, the only Divya Desam in Kerala.

Nava Yogis undertook penance at this place and are said to have installed the idol at this place. Hence, this place was referred to as Thiru ‘Naa’ ‘Vaai’.

Parasurama performed Tharpanam for his father at this place. Hence, this Kshetram is auspicious for performing ‘Pitru Tharpanam’.

Azhvaar Praise
Thiru Mangai in one of his 2 paasurams refers to Thiru Navai Lord alongside Koshtiyur Divya Desam and Thiru Naraiyur Naachiyar Koil.

கம்ப மா களிறு அஞ்சிக் கலங்க, ஓர்
கொம்பு கொண்ட குறை கழல் கூத்தினை
கொம்பு உலாம் பொழில் கொட்டியுர்க் கண்டு பொய்
நம்பனைச்சென்று காண்டும் நாவாயுலே” -1856

In another verse, Thiru Mangai Azhvar refers to seeing the Thiru Navai Lord at Thiru Naraiyur

தூ வாய புள் ஊர்ந்து வந்து, துறை வேழும்
மூவாமை, நல்கி, முதலை துணித்தானை
தேவாதிதேவனை, செங்கமலக் கண்ணானை
நாவாய் உளானை நறையூரில் கண்டேனே”- 1520

10 day festival in April (14-23)

NamAzhvar's Praise of Thiru Navai Devotee
Devotees who think of him and invoke his blessings with sincere devotion will be blessed says Namazhvar in his opening verse in praise of the Lord of Thiru Navai.

அறுக்கும் வினையாயின ஆகத்து அவனை 
நிறுத்தும் மனத்து ஒன்றிய சிந்தையினார்க்கு 

வெறித்தன் மலர்ச் சோலைகள் சூழ் 
திரு நாவாய் 
குறுக்கும் வகை உண்டுகொலோ கொடியேற்கே 

Contact Narayana Namboodari 0494 2603747 or 93876 34946

How to reach
Thiru Navai is about 30kms West of Shoranur on the Palghat - Kozhikode rail route. Take Chennai Central-Mangalore Mail and get down at Kuttipuram Station (630am arrival). A local bus from outside the station will take you to the Divya Desam in 20minutes. Auto from Kuttipuram Station to Thiru Navai Divya Desam will cost Rs.200/-

Not many trains stop at Thiru Navaya Railway station. An auto from Navaya station to the Divya Desam (about 2kms) will cost Rs.30-40/-. Accommodation is available here opposite the temple.
For cab to visit the 6 Divya Desams around Chenganur, contact: Anoop@ 94462 79788/85477 63079. Approximate charges to cover the 6 temples in one half of the day Rs. 1500.