Sunday, June 12, 2016

Kallazhagar Temple, Alagarkoil, Madurai – The Temple

Kallazhagar Temple, Alagarkoil, Madurai – The Temple 
Kallazhagar temple is situated in a picturesque locale. The hill nearby resembles the shape of a cow, and hence the name Vrishabhadri. The temple is surrounded by two forts, the outer one being Azhagapuri and the inner one Hiranyapuri. The southern gateway to the fort, the Hiranya kottai Vaasal is the main entrance here. The Thirumalai Nayakar mandapam is a grand structure while the Anna Vahana Mandapam has sculptures describing scenes from the Puranas. The Kalyana mandapam has life sized images of Narasimhar, Krishna, Garuda, Manmathan, Rathi, Trivikrama and Lakshmi Varaha. The flagstaff here is gold plated. The Aryan mandapam houses Yalis with non-removable stone balls in their mouths as in Trivandrum. 

Kallazhagar temple covers an area of about 2 acres (0.81 hectares) and has a five-tiered gopuram (gateway tower). The temple in enclosed in a rectangular enclosure with huge granite walls. The central shrine houses the image of the presiding deity, Uragamellayan Perumal in reclining posture on a snake bed similar to that of Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple. The images of Sridevi and Bhudevi are also housed in the sanctum. There two life size images of Narasimha, the avatar of Vishnu. One of them is shown holding the demon Hiranya and other slaying him. 

The temple houses some rare Vijayanagara sculptures similar to the ones present in Soundararajaperumal Temple, Thadikombu, Krishnapuram Venkatachalapathi temple, Srivilliputhur Divya Desam and Jalakandeswarar Temple, Vellore. The architecture of the Azhakar temple corresponds to any of those of south Indian temples, with large gopurams and pillared mandapams. The gopuram of the Karuppu swamy shrine depicts the passionate side of human relationship in the form of beautiful statues.

Apart from these, it also depicts the evolution of cultural aspects of the local society including a depiction of an Englishman in British police uniforms. There is another half built gopuram on the southern side of the temple which has been used as an artistic backdrop in a few Tamil movie songs. The temple contains a shrine for Kaaval Deivam (protecting god) Karuppu Swamy, depicting the intense human relationship in the form of beautiful statues. The Main Gopuram (gateway tower) of which contains the shrine of protecting god Karuppu Swamy remains closed. Only once in a year the door is opened for the worship of Sudarshana Chakra, the divine wheel of Lord Vishnu.

There are various legends associated with this. Only Once in a year, the door is opened and Sudarshana Chakra (Or Chakrathaazhwar as the temple devotees mention), the famous Vishnu's wheel, passes over through the open door. Not even the Lord's Utsava Murti (deity for processions and festivals) goes through this passage. This is a centuries-old practice. The style of the buildings denotes 3rd or early 4th Century construction.

The grand main tower at the entrance is believed to have been built by the Pandya Kings. According to the historical scriptures, Malayadwaja Pandyan, son of Kulasekhara Pandyan, was the earliest known monarch to patronize the temple. Sundara Pandyan beautified the 'vimana' of the shrine with gold plates. After the Pandyas rule, the Nayakas patronized the deity. It is said that Lord Yamadharmaraja, daily comes to this sthalam in the night to worship the Perumal. The Perumal is also named as "Parama Swamy”.

Some research scholars opine that this was earlier a Jain temple, (the Somaskanda Vimanam for instance) but was later converted into a Vishnu temple. During archaeological excavations, many Jain caves and inscriptions were found in the same hill around this temple. However, the famous Vaishnava works in Tamil; belonging to the early 4th to 6th Centuries points to this temple as a Vishnu temple.

The famous Silappadikaram that belongs to the 3rd Century AD, points out to this temple as a Vishnu temple. During 2013, while cleaning the area in front of Karupanna Samy shrine, a big Theppakulam was discovered, filled with sand and covered with dense undergrowth.

Since the presiding deity is of the temple is Alagar (the beautiful), the temple is called Alagar Kovil. This is an important Vishnu temple, about 18 km northeast of Madurai, at Alagar Hill. This is one of the most ancient temples in India and round the temple are ruins of an ancient fortified town. The recently renovated gopurams of this temple look resplendent. The Mahabharata says that this temple was visited by both Yudhishthira and Arjuna. It is said that Garudalwar, the chief disciple of Ramanuja, regained his eyesight by worshipping the deity here. Don’t miss the 2,000 years old Sudarsana-chakra in this temple.

The Vimanam (the tower above the sanctum sanctorum) of Sri Kallazhagar Perumal Temple is called as ‘Somasundara Vimaanam’. Somasundarar is the form which is taken by Lord Shiva to marry Meenakshi Amman. As the remembrance of it, the Vimaanam is said to be the “Somasundara Vimaanam”. The Pushkarani (Temple tank) of Sri Kallazhagar Perumal Temple is called Noopurangangai and the holy tree is called Jyothi tree, Sandalwood tree.

The main deity of this temple is called Alagar, Maliruncholai Nambi and the Utsavar (processional idol) is called Alagar or Sundararajan. The stunning idol is made of gold and silver and is an exquisite example of South's craftsmanship. Both the Moolavar and Utsavar are found along with the Panja Ayudham (5 weapons) namely the Sangu, Chakkaram, Sword, bow and Gadha, in their hands. There is a shrine for Kalyana Sundaravalli, the divine consort of Alagar, in the southern enclosure. There is another shrine in the north dedicated to Andal, Sundaravalli Nachiyar also known as Sridevi. Other important shrines are of Sudarshanar and Yoga Narasimhar.

Vairavar, who is the "Shethra Balagar" of this sthalam (God of the temple) is said to be the powerful. There is another shrine nearby, dedicated to village God Karupannaswamy, the God of the local tribals, Kallars. There are finely carved eighteen steps, which are worshipped by the devotees. It is nowadays closed and you should enter via the North gopuram. The place is also known for its holy springs called Silambaru and Noopura Gangai. According to local folklore, these springs originated from the anklets of Maha Vishnu during his incarnation as Trivikrama.

The Moolavar here is Azhagar, in a standing posture facing east. Azhagar is also known as Sundararajar, Parama Swamy and Rishabadrinathar. Azhagar is considered to be the tutelary deity of the Kallar tribe of this region; hence the name Kallazhagar. Thaayaar here is Sundaravalli. Songs of the Tamil Siddhar (Bhoga Siddhar) describe the Azhagar malai hill and refer to the 18 step Karupannaswamy. Inscriptions from the period of Rajaraja Chola are seen here as well as those from the 16th century Vijayanagar period, the Hoysala and the Nayak periods.

Mandapams (Halls):
·        Car mandapam
·        Elephant vehicle mandapam
·        Sixteen pillared mandapam (Aandal mandapam)
·        Kondappa Naicker mandapam
·        Thirukalyana mandapam
·        Kodaithirunal mandapam
·        Ponveintha Perumal mandapam (Constructed by Sundara Pandyan)
·        Aryan mandapam (Padiyetra mandapam)
·        Maha mandapam (Alangara mandapam)
·        Vasantha mandapam
·        Madhavi mandapam (Noopura Gangai – Rakkaayee Amman Temple)
The Moolvar found in this Sthalam is Sri Azhagar. Other names of this perumal are Kallazhagar, Maalangkaarar and Maalirunsolai Nambi. The perumal gave his Prathyaksham for Malayathuaja Pandiyan and Dharmadeva. Moolavar is in Nindra Thirukkolam facing his thirumugham in East direction. 
The Thaayar is Alarmelmangai Thayar / Sundaravalli. She is also called as "Sridevi". She has her own separate Sannadhi in this temple.
The Speciality of this sthalam is Vibhuti (Tiruneeru) Prasadam which is generally not given in Vaishnava temples but given only in Saivites temples.
Somasundara Vimaanam. Somasundara is the form which is taken by Lord Shiva to marry Meenakshi. As the remembrance of it, the Vimaanam is said to be the "Somasundara Vimaanam". 
Sthala Viruksham (Tree):
Sandhana Maram (Sandal wood tree).