Yoga Rama Temple, Nedungunam – The Temple
The temple has two big Gopurams at the Eastern entrance – the 105 feet 5 tiered Raja Gopuram and the 65 feet Kili Gopuram. Inscriptions can be traced to the Raya period and hence the temple can be said to be at least 500 years old. Spaced in an almost 90000sq. ft area, this is the biggest Vishnu temple in the North Arcot and Thiruvannamalai districts and also possibly the biggest Rama temple in Tamilnadu. Sri Rama was installed in the temple by Rishi Krishna Premi. The temple is built by Krishnadeva Raya on a vast area of 8 acres. Theertham is called as Sukha Theertham (also called Surya Theertham). Shala Vriksham is Vilwa tree.
Sri Rama looks sitting calm in the sanctum sanctorum with his right hand on the chest, while Mother Sita holds a lotus in the right hand and left pointing to the feet of Rama as if telling the devotees that their destiny is safe at his feet. Brother Lakshmana is standing by the right side of Sri Rama. Hanuman has a place in the sanctum sanctorum itself in this temple only. Hanuman is holding the palm leaf book reading the scriptures. It is noteworthy that there is no bow and arrow with Rama in this temple. It is said that as Rama did not need to have his usual bow and arrow as he was returning back from the war on a peace path. Lakshmana holds these weapons.
Two huge and beautiful Dwarabalagars, sculptured with artistic excellence are located at the entrance of the sanctum sanctorum. The inner most praharam around the Moolavar is about 10 feet underground and one has to bend and enter/ exit very carefully signifying that we have to be very humble in the place of the Lord. In front of the Sanctum Sanctorum, there is a hall with lovely architecture. Depiction of Krishna Leela and Krishnadevaraya standing humbly with folded hands in reverence and humility can be seen in the pillars of this hall.
The second gopuram is called Kili Gopuram in honour of Sukabrahmma Maharishi (Kili means Parrot in Tamil) who stands as a hill next to the temple. This hill is called Dheerkachalam (long hill) and looks like the head of a parrot from an angle. Every panel of the gopuram had beautiful scenes from Ramayana and Dasavathara on it. There were two mandapams (Halls) facing one another with intricate craftsmanship and architectural excellence.
There is a mandapam called Kili Mandapam again in honour of Sage Sukabrahmma Maharishi. The roof of the mandapam has a beautiful structure to depict its name.
There is another Mandapam called Muthu Mandapam. This was so named after a Devadasi called Muthu, who was the daughter of Manickam. Once when Tirugnanasambandar had visited, he had been received with due respect and a performance was given by her in his honor in this hall.
Appreciating her devotion and excellence in performance, the temple had given her three "Kuzhis" of land in Kolambadi which is now part of Chetpet and the workers were instructed not to receive any wages to work in her land. The hall was also called the Muthu Mandapam in her honor.
There are two sets of Utsava murtis and the reason being that one set of idols was stolen sometimes back and just when the second set was installed, the first one was got in perfect shape. The Urchava Moorthy is called Vijaya Raghava Perumal signifying the Victory of Rama over Ravana. He is seen holding chakra and conch in their upper hands with the lower right hand showing the abhaya mudra. There is a small stone idol of Vijaya Raghava Perumal within the sanctum sanctorum as well.
There is a separate shrine for Thayar Sengamalavalli and she is connected with the Urchava Moorthy Vijaya Raghava Perumal. Like the Dwarabalagars of the Ramar shrine, the Dwarapalagis of the Thayar shrine are also stunningly beautiful. There are separate shrines for Azhwar, Sri Krishna, and Sudharsana along with Yoga Narasimhar as an integral part on its back side.
There is also a shrine exclusively for Lord Venkateswara. In a separate shrine, Vaikhanasa the preceptor of Vaikhanasa agama is seen with four disciples in a corner. There are two idols of Anjaneya one of which was found in a nearby hill.
In spite of the temple being connected mainly to Sukha Brahma Rishi, the idol of Sukha Brahma Rishi was not seen in this Temple. But his Idol was located on the nearby Dheerkachalam Hill. Dheerkachalam appears exactly as a human with a Parrot face at a particular angle while coming from Chetput to Nedungunam. On top of the hill, the feet of Ramar is present in stone in open without any shrine and can be worshipped at any time of the day.
There are totally 3 temples in this region with Ramar in yoga posture. This being the main temple and apart from this there is a small temple at Raghunatha Samudhram, 5 kms from here and a TVS group maintained temple at Padavedu near here.
A 16th Century AD inscription reveals that during the rule of Veera Achutha Deva Raya a nearby village was given as donation for the conduct of the festival at the Rama temple. An inscription near the Rajagopuram states there was a grant of land for the perpetual maintenance of the temple activities and poojas. It also has a word of caution. Anyone trying to hinder the conduct of the temple poojas/activities will incur a curse equivalent to killing a cow on the banks of the Ganges.
A 17th Century AD inscription talks about grant of land to provide for the maintenance of a doctor in Nedungunam. On the Southern end of the Kili Rajagopuram, there is a reference to Kuzhambalur Thandavarya Chidambaram ‘Daily Service’, an indication that someone was taking care of the expenses relating to the proper conduct of the daily pooja services at the temple. On a stone culvert on the Southern side of the temple, there is a mention of taxing any new resident to this place during the rule of Vijayanagara King, Venkatapathi Deva Raya.