Thiru Parameswara Vinnagaram (Vaikunta Perumal Temple), Kanchipuram – History
Parameswara Vinnagaram or Vaikunta Perumal Temple is a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, located in Kancheepuram in the South Indian state of Tamilnadu. The temple is believed to have been built by the Pallava King Nandivarman II (720-96 CE), with later contributions from Medieval Cholas and Vijayanagar Kings. The great Vaishnava saint Thirumangai Alvar was his contemporary.
This temple is revered in Nalayira Divya Prabandham, the 7th–9th century Vaishnava canon by Thirumangai Alvar in 10 hymns. The temple is classified as a Divyadesam, one of the 108 Vishnu temples that are mentioned in the Vaishnava canon. The temple is one of the fourteen Divyadesams located in Kanchipuram and is part of Vishnu Kanchi, the place where most of the Vishnu temples in Kancheepuram are located. Vaikuntha Perumal temple was first built with a distinctive style in South India.
The walls of this temple are adorned with religious sculptures. Further, the inner wall of the verandah running around the four sides of this temple, has a series of Pallava Dynasty history sculptured on it, up to the reign of Nandivarman II Pallavamalla (builder of the temple). Nandivarman II came to the throne at the age of twelve in c. AD 731-32. He ruled for nearly 65 years and it was an important era in Pallava history. His relations with the Chalukyas, the Rashtrakutas and the Pandyas were varied, and at times hostile, at times peaceful.
Nandivarman's reign is notable for the development of two conflicts one in the north with the Chalukyas, which is traditional, and the other in the south with the Pandyas which was later to have such fateful consequence in the battle of Thiruppurambiyam. One particular sculpture that stood out was of I Ching, the famous Tang Dynasty Buddhist monk, who traveled by sea to India and studied at Nalanda University for eleven years before returning with a collection of as many as 500,000 Sanskrit stanzas.
He translated more than 60 sutras into Chinese, including Saravanabhava Vinaya, Avadana and Suvarnaprabhascottamaraja-sutra. He is also responsible for the translation of eleven Buddhist tantras and eighteen works on monastic discipline, as well as exegetic works. I Ching travelled in India during the reign of King Narashimhavarmman II (aka Rajasimha) who is the father of King Parameswaravarmman II, whom Nandivarman II inherited the Kingdom from.
One of the main attractions of Vaikuntha Perumal temples is the exceptional 1000 paired hall. The extra characteristic about it is that each pillar has a statue carved on it. Inside the temple, lion pillars support the enclosed passages and the architecture of the temple has played a vital role in the architectural evolution of the grand thousand pillared mandapas (halls) built-in the later South Indian temples. On the wall of the temple there are several inscriptions related to the wars between the Pallavas and Chalukyas.
One interesting phenomena here is the Nawab Sathathullah Khan Mosque which was built by the Nawab of Arcot who ruled the Carnatic territory under the patronage of the Mughals located next door to this temple. Interestingly the temple shares its water source from a tank for more than 300 years with the mosque. The beauty is that Moslems participate in the Brahmotsavam festivals of the temple every year.
The Nawabdom of the Carnatic was established by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1692 AD. With the Vijayanagara Empire in serious decline, the Nawabdom of the Carnatic controlled a vast territory south of the Krishna River. The Nawab Saadatullah Khan (1710-1732 AD) moved his court from Gingee to Arcot. Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah (1749 - 1795) was freed from his suzerainty and made the independent ruler of the Carnatic by the Mughal emperor in 1765. His rule was long and mostly peaceful. He donated generously to Churches, Temples and Mosques. The temple at Sri Rangam was one which benefited from his generosity.
The thirteenth Nawab, Ghulam Muhammad Ghouse Khan (1825–1855), died without issue and the British annexed the Carnatic Nawabdom applying the doctrine of lapse. Ghouse Khan's uncle Azim Jah was created the first Prince of Arcot (Amir-E-Arcot) in 1867 by Queen Victoria, and was given a tax free pension in perpetuity. This privilege continues to be honoured by the Government of India. This status is protected by the Indian Constitution and the family continues to retain its privileges and titles. The current Prince of Arcot Abdul Ali came to the title in July 1994. Religious harmony was and still exists, in Kancheepuram.