Saturday, April 26, 2008

Thiru Kovilur Ulagalandha Perumal

The first Divya Desam to be praised by the Azhvaars
The story of ‘Place for one to sleep, two to sit and three to stand’ 

Only Divya Desam with a Sannidhi for Durgai

Located about 40 kms West of Villipuram in the South Arcot district of Tamil Nadu on the banks of Pennai River (Krishna Bhadra), the Ulagalanda Perumal temple in Thiru Kovilur dates back to a period before the four Yugams. At the Thiru Kovilur Divya Desam, one finds several interesting inscriptions dating back to the Pallava, Pandya and Chola periods.

The 11 storied 192 ft high Eastern temple Tower is one of the tallest temple towers among the Divya Desams. The gigantic Lord Trivikrama measuring over 20 ft in height is seen in a grand standing posture with the left foot on the ground and his right leg raised 90 degrees to his right and with the conch in his right hand and the chakra in his left.

Naalayira Divya Prabandham’s first verses were composed here
The first three of the Azhvaars- Poigai Azhvaar, Bhoothath Azhvaar and Pey Azhvaar- came to ThiruKovilur on a rainy night. First to reach was Poigai Azhvaar, of Kanchipuram, who sought refuge for the night at the ashram of Mrugandu Rishi, who told him there was place for just one person to sleep and that he was welcome to sleep here for the night.

BhoothathAzhvaar, from Mamallapuram, followed shortly and he too requested that he stay at the ashram for the night. PoigaiAzhvaar welcomed him saying there is place for one to sleep and two to sit and took him inside.

PeyAzhvaar, from Mylapore, too reached the ashram. He was told that there is place for one to sleep, two to sit and three to stand. The three of them stood there through the night sharing their experiences.

A little later the three Azhvaars felt the presence of a fourth person and with space only for three to stand, the Azhvaars felt uncomfortable. Through their special vision the three Azhvaars realised that the fourth person was Lord Vishnu himself. Delighted at this, they showered praises on the Lord.

This is the first temple where the first three Azhvaars sung praise (Paasurams) of Lord Vishnu, the composition of which later came to be called the Naalayira Divya Prabhandham.

It is believed that this ashram where the 3 Azhvaars stayed that rainy night is the one where one , today, finds the sanctum. The first of the three Azhvaars also find a place inside the Sanctum.

Vaamana Avatara displayed again
Mrugandu Rishi, who had missed the Vaamana Avataram, is said to have undertaken penance here at Thiru Kovilur. Pleased with his prayers but wanting to test him more, Lord Vishnu visited his ashram disguised as an old hungry Brahmin. With no food at his ashram, Mrugandu requested his wife to organize food from somewhere. Finding no place to go, his wife offered prayers to Vishnu and sought help from the Lord, so the Brahmin does not leave their ashram in the hungry state.

Happy with their commitment of not letting go a hungry Brahmin, the Lord filled the vessels with food, much to the surprise of the Rishi. When the happy couple came out to offer the food to the Brahmin, they found Lord Vishnu standing there displaying his full form –with conch and chakra. Delighted at this sight, the Rishi requested the Lord to display his Vaamana Avataaram at this place and to stay put at Thiru Kovilur.

Parasurama and Agastyar are said to have penanced at ThiruKovilur. Arjuna is believed to have taken bath at the Pennai River and then undertaken penance here.

Durgai idol in this temple
This is the only Divya Desam with an idol of Durgai. Thiru Mangai Azhvaar in his praise of this temple refers to Durgai and says “ Karpudaya Madakanni Kaaval Poonda……..”

Pancha Krishnaranya Kshetram

This is one of the Pancha Krishnaaranya Kshetrams, the others being Thiru Kannangudi, Thiru Kannamangai, Thiru Kannapuram and Kapisthalam.

Azhvaar Praise

The  First three Azhvaars  in the Thiruvanthaathi verses (Iyarpa) have expressed delight at having found the Lord here at Thiru Kovilur:

Poigai Azhvaar’s praise
வையம் தகளியா வார்கஅடேய் நெய்யாக
வெய்ய கதிரோன் விளக்காக
செய்ய சுடராடி யானடிகி சூடினேன்
ஸொன்மாலை இடராழி நீங்குகவே என்று 

BhoothathAzhvaar's praise on the Lord :
அன்பே தகளியாய் ஆர்வமே நெய்யாக
இன்புருகு சிந்தை இடு திரியா நான்புருகி
ஞானச்சுடர் விளகேற்றினேன் நாரணற்கு
ஞான தமிழ் புரிந்த நான் 

PeyAzhvaar says he saw the beautiful face:

திருக்கண்டேன் பொன்மேனி கண்டேன்
திகழும் அருக்கன் அணி நிறமும் கண்டேன்
செருகிலரும் பொன்னாழி கண்டேன்
புரிசங்கம் கை கண்டேன்
என்னாழி வண்ணன் பால் இன்று 

The administration of the temple is under the control of Thiru Kovilur Sri Emberumaanar Jeer.

Quick Facts

Moolavar     : Trivikrama Ulagalantha Perumal East facing standing posture
Thaayar       : Poongoval Nachiyar
Utsavar        : Ayanar or Gopalan
Temple Time : 630am-12noon and 430pm-8pm
Priest           : Prakash Bhattar / Kothandarama (Gopi) Bhattar @  04153 252 552 or 97869

How to reach ThiruKovilur:

From Madras, ThiruKovilur is about 200 kms South West via Villupuram and 40kms from Villupuram. Take right at Villupuram into the Perumbakkam, Mugaiyur, Arakandanallur State Highway.

Direct buses ply from Madras (will take about 5 hours to reach). From Cuddalore, Thirukovilur is about 70 kms via Panruti

From Madras, one can also take a train to Villipuram (2 ½ hours) and then a bus from Villipuram to Thiru Kovilur( 1 hour)

Thiru Kovilur Tiruvannamalai rail section has recently been converted to  broad gauge.
(Trains now ply on the Villupuram Katpadi route via Thiru Kovilur)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Thiru Neermalai Neer Vanna Perumal

Rain and floods forces ThiruMangai Azhvaar to have his longest wait at any Divya Desam 
Praises Lord of Thiruneermalai as one who is seen in Four different postures- Standing, Sitting, Sleeping and Walking
Giving Thiruneermalai a special status, Thirumangai compares it with Naraiyur, Thiruvali, Thiru Kudanthai and Thiru Kovilur and reveals that one can see the Lord of all these four temples at Thiruneermalai.

In his reference to Thiru Naraiyur, Thirumangai talks about the standing Lord residing amidst groves in the well watered town. He refers to Kudanthai as the Lord in a sleeping posture, to Thiruvali, where the Lord is seen sitting and to Thiru Kovilur as the one in a standing posture.

In conclusion Thirumangai says that on the hills of Thiruneermalai, one can find him in all these four postures and hence it is sacred to visit this place.

“அன்ராயர் குலகொடியோடு மணிமா மலர் மங்கையுடன் பலவி
அவுணருக்கு என்றானுமிறக்கும் ..... இரும்பொழில் சூழ்
நன்றாய புனல்

நறையூர் , திருவாலி குடந்தை தடந்திகல் கோவல் நகர் நின்றான் இருந்தான் கிடந்தான் நடந்தார் கிடம்
மாமலை யாவது நீர் மலையே ” - Periya Thiru Mozhi

The 2000 year old Divya Desam praised by ThiruMangai Azhvaar and BhoothathAzhvaar is on the outskirts of Madras, about 5 kms West of Pallavaram. At Thiru Neermalai, one finds Lord Vishnu in four forms - Sitting, Sleeping and Walking posture atop the hill and Standing posture in the temple at the foot of the hill.

ThiruMangai's 6month wait

Thiru Mangai Azhvaar came here to sing praise of the Lord but heavy rains flooded the place and he could not reach this temple. Having come this far, he decided to wait till the rains stopped. It proved to be a long wait of 6 months before Thiru Mangai could meet his Lord. The hill on which he stayed during these 6 months still exists and is called ThiruMangai Azhvaar Puram. This is the only Divya Desam where Thiru Mangai waited this long to meet the Lord. One has seen in the stories relating to a few of the other Divya Desams where Thiru Mangai has left/threatened to leave without waiting for the Lord.

Utsavar goes up the hill only thrice a year

The Utsavar deity of Ranganatha is seen at the Neer Vannan temple at the foot of the hill. Only thrice a year- on the first and last day of Brahmotsavam festival and on the Panguni Uthiram day- is he taken up the hill to be alongside the Moolavar Lord Ranganatha. This place is called Madhya Rangam and Lord Ranganatha is seen in Bhoga Sayanam.

Darshan as Raama to Valmiki
Having offered his prayers to the three Lords atop the hill, Valmiki is said to have missed the presence of Lord Raama at this place and is said to have undertaken penance thinking of Lord Raama.. Ranganatha is said to have appeared before him as Raama, Lakshmi as Sita and Adhiseshan as Lakshmana at this place.

Azhvaar Praise

Thirumangai Azhvaar praises the Lord of Thiruneermalai as one who is seen Standing, Sitting, Sleeping and even Walking. He also refers to four other Divya Desams -Thiru Kovilur, Thiruvali, Naachiyar Koil and Thiru Kudanthai while showering his praise on Thiru Neermalai.

Among the Divya Desams, this is the first Thaayar (Goddess) – Mani Maa Malar- that Thiru Mangai has praised with his paasurams.

BhoothathAzhvaar in his only paasuram compares this temple to Srirangam and Tirupathi.

One of the two oldest ‘hill’ Divya Desams
During Dwapara Yugam, there were only two Divya Desams that were on hills. One was Ahobilam and the other was Thiruneermalai.

It is believed that Lord Narasimha gave darshan to Arjuna after he performed the Ashwamedha Yaagam here at this place. Only Divya Desams where Lord Narasimha is seen in a cool posture – called ‘Shaanta Narasimhar’.

Prarthana SthalamThis is a prarthana sthalam and the Lord is said to answer prayers relating to different issues, especially marriage.

One of the 8 Mukthi Sthalams
Thiru Neermalai is said to be one of the 8 Mukthi Sthalams, others being Srirangam, Tirupathi, Saaligram, Naimisaarinyam, Sri Mushnam, Pushkaram and Naarayanpuram.

Quick Facts

Deity           : Neer Vannan ( at the foot of the hill) standing posture facing East

Deities atop the hill: Ranganatha in Bhoga Sayanam, Shaantha Narasimha in Sitting posture and Trivikrama in Walking posture

Goddess       : Mani Malar Mangai Thaayar

Temple Time : 8am-12noon and 4pm-8pm
Contact        : Raju Bhattar @ 98405 95374

How to reach
One can take bus 55A from Pallavaram Bus Stand to reach the temple