Thiruvanthipuram Devanathaswamy Temple, Cuddalore
Devanathaswamy temple (also called Thiruvanthipuram Kovil) in Thiruvanthipuram, a village in the outskirts of Cuddalore in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil canon of the Azhwar saints from the 6th–9th centuries AD. It is one of the 108 Divyadesams dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Devanathaswamy and his consort Lakshmi as Hemabhujavalli.
The temple in its current form is believed to have been built during the Medieval Cholas, with later expansion from Pandyas, Hoysala Empire and Vijayanagara Empire. The temple has fifty inscriptions from Kulothungan Chola I (1070–1120), Vikrama Chola (1118–1135), Rajaraja Chola III (1216–1256), Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan (1251–1268), Vikrama Pandya, Vira Pandya III, Vijayanagar king Achyuta Deva Raya (1529–1542 CE) and Kopperunjingan.
A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all its shrines and bodies of water. The rajagopuram, the temple's gateway tower has five tiers and rises to a height of 60 ft (18 m). Though the presiding deity is Devanathaswamy, the temple is known for Hayagriva, the horse faced avatar of Vishnu. The temple is the only historical temple in South India to have a shrine of Hayagriva.
Devanathaswamy is believed to have appeared to Adisesha (the sacred serpent of Vishnu), sage Markandeya and Hindu god Indra. Six daily rituals and three yearly festivals are held at the temple, of which the chariot festival, celebrated during the Tamil month of Chittirai (March–April), is the most prominent. The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.
The place was originally believed to have housed a Shiva temple. A Chola ruler, who was a Saiva fanatic, wanted to demolish the Vishnu temple in his province. Seeing the images of Vinayagar and Dakshinamurthy, which are otherwise found in Shiva temples, he was taken aback. It is believed Vishnu himself appeared before the king to acknowledge the oneness of almighty. Following the legend, the image of the presiding deity holds a lotus, the symbol of Brahma and has a third eye like Shiva, denoting the oneness. The region was called Tiruvaheendrapuram to honor Adisesha, who was originally called Vaheendran. Vaheendra is believed to have propitiated Indra, the king of celestial deities. Tiruvaheendrapuram became Thiruvanthipuram with the passage of time.
The temple finds mention in Brahmanda Purana, Naradiya Purana and Skanda Purana. According to the accounts, a group of sages wanted to have a sacred view of Vishnu and went all the way to Thiruparkadal, the Ocean of Milk. They could not view Vishnu there and went all the way to Vaikunta, the heavenly abode of Vishnu. The guardians there stated that they could meet Vishnu only in a place close to the seashore north of Kumbakonam, south of Tirupathi and west of Kanchipuram. When the sages reached there, they found sage Markandeya and his daughter Bhudevi was doing penance.
They could view Mahavishnu in resplendent form with his weapons Sudarshana (wheel), Panchajanya (conch) and Komedaki gracing his arms.
As per another legend, Vishnu handed the job of obtaining the pure water of Lake Vraja Theertha located in the nether world to Garuda, the eagle vehicle. Garuda reached the nether world and secretively obtained the water from the lake, without the knowledge of the sage, who established the lake. The sage came to know about it and cursed the water to turn impure. Garuda then pleaded with the sage indicating the orders of Vishnu. The elongated transaction delayed the proceedings and Vishnu established a tank with water from other sources. Garuda was highly aggrieved and felt for his guilt. Vishnu appeased him saying that he would establish a river, which is believed to be the Kedilam River. A ceremonial bath is celebrated annually to commemorate the event.
The Epigraphical Department has found more than 50 inscriptions in the temple belonging to the Medieval Chola period. The inscriptions indicate grants to the temple from Kulothunga Chola I (1070–1120), Vikrama Chola (1118–1135), Rajaraja Chola III (1216–1256), Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan (1251–1268), Vikrama Pandya, Vira Pandya III, Vijayanagar king Achyuta Deva Raya (1529–1542 CE) and Koperunjinga. The Chola country was under siege during the rule of Rajaraja Chola III and he was imprisoned by Koperunjinga, a Pallava scion. Vira Narasimha II (1220-1234) came to the rescue of the Chola and ultimately killed the Ceylon king Parakramabahu.
A temple tower was erected during the reign of Koperunjinga, while the procedures of worship were accorded similar to other temples during the reign of Maravarman Sundara Pandyan. The descendants of Ramanuja were given special provisions for worship during the period of Vijayanara Empire. In modern times, the temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.
The temple is built in Dravidian Architecture on the foothills of a hill and river Kedilam. It is the only Vishnu temple built on the banks of the river, while there are a few prominent Shiva temples. A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all its shrines and bodies of water. The temples faces east, but the rajagopuram, the temple's gateway tower, is located on the western entrance and has five tiers and raises to a height of 60 ft (18 m).
The image of the presiding deity, Devanathaswamy, is housed in the central shrine. The sanctum also houses the image the consort, Senkamalavalli Thayar (also called Hemabhujavalli, Vaikunta Nayagi and Amruthavarshini) in sitting posture. The festival images of Vishnu, called by different names like Moovaraghia oruvan, Achuta, Dvistantha, Devanatha, Vibhuthanatha and Dasyatha, is housed in the sanctum. The temple houses the images of other deities like Pallikonda Perumal, Andal, AdiKesava Perumal, Azhwars, Hanumar and Garuda.
There is a separate shrine housing Rama, though the presiding deity is Devanathaswamy, the temple is known for Hayagriva, the horse faced avatar of Vishnu. The images of Garuda and Hanuman are depicted in unique postures of Anajalihasta, which is different compared to all other temples. The temple is the only historical temple in South India to have a shrine of Hayagriva.
Festivals and religious practices
The temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis based on Vaiksana Agama. As at other Vishnu temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Vaishnavaite community, a Brahmin sub-caste.
The temple rituals are performed six times a day: Ushathkalam at 7 a.m., Kalasanthi at 8:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 12:00 p.m., Sayarakshai at 6:00 p.m., Irandamkalam at 7:00 p.m. and Ardha Jamam at 10:00 p.m.
Each ritual has three steps: alangaram (decoration), neivethanam (food offering) anddeepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for both Neelamegha Perumal and Tirukannapura Nayagi. During the last step of worship, nagaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument) are played, religious instructions in the Vedas (sacred text) are recited by priests, and worshippers prostrate themselves in front of the temple mast. There are weekly, monthly and fortnightly rituals performed in the temple.
The major festival, the twelve day Brahmotsavam is celebrated during the Tamil month of Chittirai (April - May). Rathotsavam, the temple car is drawn during the ninth day of the festival. Masi Mahotsavam is another ten day festival during the Tamil month of Masi (February - March). During the festival, the festival image is taken in procession to the seashore in Cuddalore. There are religious discourses, musical performances and floats organized during the festival.
The other Vaishnavite festivals like Krishna Janmashtami, Karthigai, Tamil New Year, Margazhi ten day festival, Sankaranthi, Panguni Uthiram and Rohini Utsavam are celebrated. The temple is a renowned pilgrim centre and devotees tonsure their heads during auspicious occasions. Marriages are also performed in the premises. Manavala Mamunigal Utsavam is a festival celebrated by Thenkalai, a sect of Vaishnavites, commemorating the saint Manavala Mamunigal. During the event, the festival image of the saint is taken in procession around the streets of the temple.
The temple is revered in Nalayira Divya Prabandham, the 7th–9th century Vaishnava canon, by Thirumangai Azhwar in eleven hymns. The temple is classified as a Divyadesam, one of the 108 Vishnu temples that are mentioned in the book. Thirumangai mentions about the location of the temple under the foothills and glorified the scenic location surrounding the temple. He also mentions the various avatars of Vishnu.
Srivillputhurar, in his Villibharatam narrates that the temple was visited by Arjuna, thePandava prince during his pilgrimage. Divya Kavi Pillai Perumal Aiyangar in his Ashta Prabanda states that heavens shower flowers on the devotees of the temple. Vedanta Desika, a proponent of Vaishanvadatta philosophy and Vadakalai tradition is associated with the temple. He lived up to the age of 102 years and spent most of his time in the temple.
He is attributed to two works in Sanskrit, namely Devaneya Panchasat & Achuta Sataka and seven works in Tamil, namely Mummanikovai, Ammanai, Oosal, Aesal, Navamanimalai, Kazhal and Pandu.
Almost all of these works have indirect and direct mention of the temple. The image of Vedanta Desikar is housed in a separate shrine, with a separate Dwajasthambam, a flagstaff.
The temple is the only historical temple in South India to house an image of Hayagriva, an avatar of Vishnu with horse face. Two iniquitous horses, named Madhu and Haitaba, are believed to have taken the Vedas away from the world. Brahma sought the help of Vishnu who propitiated in the form of Hayagriva. Hayagriva is believed to be the god of knowledge and wisdom, who is believed to have restored the Vedas to Brahma. Hayagriva is also called Hayavadhana. Vedanta Desikar has eulogized Hayagriva in his works.
Tamilnadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment is administering the functioning of this temple. It comes under the Tamil Nadu Government. There is an Executive Officer appointed by the H.R & C.E Department. The Executive Officer will be the in-charge of the entire administration and functioning of the temple. Devotees are requested to donate liberally for the above scheme and gain the grace of Lord devanatha.
The Executive Officer,
Arulmigu Devanathaswamy Temple,
Thiruvahindrapuram, Cuddalore Taluk
All buses from Cuddalore to Ulunthurpet are plying via Panruti will stop at Tiruvaheendrapuram stop and it is only a walk able distance to temple.
It is situated 7 kilometers west of Thirupathiripuliyur (Cuddalore New Town) railway Station in the Chennai – Tiruchirappalli main line of the Southen Railway.
Nearest Airport is at Pondicherry which is at 35 Kms from Cuddalore & Nearest Busiest Airport is at Chennai, Tamil Nadu, which is just 175 km away from Cuddalore.