Friday, December 25, 2015

Ulagalantha Perumal Temple, Thirukovilur – The Temple

Ulagalantha Perumal Temple, Thirukovilur – The Temple

This Temple is facing towards east with an imposing eleven-tiered Rajagopuram with a height of about 192 ft (59 m) and has three prakarams. The Rajagopuram is considered as the third tallest temple tower in Tamil Nadu, after Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple and Srivilliputhur Andal Temple. The temple covers an area of 5 acres (20,000 m2) and houses residential buildings in the precincts around the temple tower.

There is a second gopuram at the entrance of the inner prakaram. The rear gopuram in a comparative state of disrepair is not used frequently. There is a small gopuram on the northern side of the temple. It is said that Poigai Alwar wanted a small gopuram to be built within a day and he himself wanted to build it. But he could not build it since the daylight came. So, he left it incomplete.

There is a 40 feet tall Garuda pillar with a small temple built on it, facing the sanctum. It is believed that Garuda is worshipping Lord Vishnu from this temple. Dhwaja Sthambam can be found facing the sanctum. The Sanctum Sanctorum consists of Sanctum, Ardha Mandapam, Maha Mandapam and Pandyan Mandapam. Presiding Deity is called as Ulagalantha Perumal / Trivikrama and is facing east. He is housed in the sanctum.

The sanctum houses an imposing idol made of Dharu wood and measures the world with his right leg lifted up towards the sky. The idol is about 21 feet tall and considered as one of tallest idol in India. He holds the conch in his right hand and the chakra (discus) on his left hand which is unusual as normally the chakra is held in his right hand and conch in left hand. Lord Brahma can be seen offering Teertha on the right foot of Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi can be seen in sitting posture below the right foot.

Prince Namasu, grandson of Mahabali can be seen worshipping the left foot of Lord Vishnu. Prahalada and Mahabali on the right side and Mrikandu Maharishi along with his consort, Sukracharya, Sounaga Rishi, Kashyapa Rishi, Kalva Rishi and three Mudhal Azhwars (Pey Azhwar, Bhoothatazhwar and Poigai Azhwar), on the left side can be seen in front of Lord Vishnu worshipping him.

The festive (Utsava) deities, the metal images of Kovalan / Aayanaar and Pushpavalli Thayar are housed in the sanctum.  The Utsava idol of Lord Vishnu show 3 postures (Nindra (Standing), Kidantha (Reclining) and Veetrirundha (sitting)). The Vimana over the sanctum is called as Sri Hara Vimanam. The images of Azhwars are housed in the hall preceding the sanctum. There is a small shrine to Vamana behind the image of Trivikrama.

Mother is called as Pushpavalli / Poonkoval Nachiyar. She is housed in a separate east facing shrine. The Mandapam in front of her shrine is of architectural wonder. It is built in the cantilever system. There is a shrine for Lord Rama behind the Mother shrine. The image of Krishna is made of Saligrama stone and is housed in a separate shrine on the right side of the gopuram entrance.

The devotees must begin worship from this shrine and then only proceed to the sanctum to have darshan of the presiding deity. There is a unique shrine for Vishnu Durga in the temple premises. Normally, she is housed in the Koshta in most of the Shiva temples. Hence her shrine in the Vishnu temple is considered as a rare feature. Her Shrine is situated right in front of the sanctum. She is considered the custodian of the temple worshipped with great devotion.

It is said that the idol is of Swayambhu (self-manifested). This temple is considered as the only temple out of 108 Divya Desams to house Swayambhu Vishnu Durga. Thirumangai Alwar, who generally praises only the Lord in his hymns, had glorified Mother Durga in one of his verses. People pray to Mother Vishnu Durga during Rahu Kalams on Tuesdays and Fridays for relief from the adverse aspects of planets. There is shrine for Chakrathazhwar in the prakaram. He is with sixteen hands and back side of the idol, depiction of Narasimha can be seen.

There are separate shrines for Venugopala, Lakshmi Narayana, Lakshmi Hayagriva, Lakshmi Raghava, Lakshmi Narasimha, Udaiyavar, Vishwakasena, Manavala Mamuni,  Varadaraja, Rama, Veera Anjaneya, Andal and Sukracharya, the Guru of Asuras, in the first prakaram. There are few Uri Adi Mandapas, seen outside the gopurams. There are sixteen temple tanks associated with the temple, with Chakra Theertham located outside the temple being the most prominent.

Chakra Theertha is believed to have been from the waters used by Lord Brahma to wash the feet of Vamana. It is believed that the water is source of river Pennar, which flows nearby the temple. Bathing in the waters of this Theertham is considered very sacred, especially in the Tamil month Ani. Chanka Theertha, located in the east, Krishna Theertha, Thenpennai (Krishnabadra), Akasha Ganga, Mrikandu Theertha, Varaha Theertha and Kalava Theertha, located in the south west, are the various other temple tanks in the temple. Sthala Vriksham is Punnai tree.