Sri Adhi Kesava Perumal Temple, Kazhiyur, Kanchipuram
Sri Adhi Kesava Perumal Temple is dedicated to Hindu God Vishnu located at Kazhiyur or Kaliyur, small village on the way from Kancheepuram to Cheyyar. Kazhiyur village is located about 81 Kms towards east of Thiruvannamalai and about 103 Kms from Chennai. Almost 130 years ago Sri Vaishnavaite Iyyangars migrated from Mannargudi and came to settle down in this village. It is said that a plague like epidemic made people leave Mannargudi long back. The Srivaishnavas were disciples of His Holiness Sri Sri Sri Mudaliyandan Swamigal who is the first and the dearest disciples of Swami Ramanuja.
It is believed that the Srivaishnavas carried the deity of Lord Adhi Kesava Perumal all the way from Mannargudi on their head to Kazhiyur the present place and worshipped the Lord by constructing a temple with the locals support. It is not a practice to abandon Perumal even in adverse circumstances. Here the Lord gives Darshanam in Nindra Thirukkolam (standing posture). After their resettlement in Kazhiyur, the village became a cradle of Vedic scholars, purohits and astrologers.
The devoted families lived in the Agraharam (first row of houses built around the temple and occupied by the temple priests). The Agraharam is located around the temple of ‘Sri Adhi Kesava Perumal Swamy’, which was also built and maintained with financial support from the local Mudaliars and many devotees. Kazhiyur has been a great centre of Vedic Astrology. They have been uniformly well versed in astrology and are keepers of the most ancient astrological knowledge in the world.
Almost all of them have been treated like the religious leaders and the astrological guides from time immemorial. Many Kazhiyur families have been practicing astrology for more than seven generations in an unbroken tradition since they first arrived in 1840. It is believed that in ancient times there was a temple dedicated to Goddess Kali near to the main temple and hence the village is called ‘Kazhiyur’ the home of Goddess Kali. After moving to Kazhiyur the Sri Vaishnavaites engaged themselves in agriculture apart from performing the temple services.
Due to this reason they are also called the Mannar Mudumbai families a direct connection to Lokacharyar Swamy Pillai Lokacharyar’s legacy. They were orthodox and are considered to be an authority on Sri Vaishnavism. Unlike other South Indians who carry the name of village and the name of the father as their initials the Kazhiyur Srivaishnavas use the initials K. M. meaning Kazhiyur Mannar. It was an attempt to retain the Mannargudi identity.
The priests from Kazhiyur have been serving in some Seva or other in almost all the 106 Sri Vaishnavite temples and the majority of them at Tirumala, Sholingur, and southern side Vaishnava Divya Desams. The first Priest who served even in the Temples at United States of America is from Kazhiyur. Kazhiyur is also closely connected with the Sri Ramar Sannadhi and the temple of Shree Govindaraja at the foothills of the Tirupati temple. Srivaishnavas from Kazhiyur were also chosen to carry the offerings from the Lord of Seven Hills at Thirumalai to the temple of Govindaraja at foothills.
The priests walked bare-footed all the way down the hill carrying the offerings on their head. Kazhiyur has been very closely linked to Kancheepuram from the very inception. Every year during the month of January, July and December, the Utsavar (processional deity) of Lord Adi Kesava Perumal, Shri Varadar is taken in a procession to the Iyengar Kulam, a lake at the outskirts of Kancheepuram.
About forty people start the procession and many more join them en-route to Kancheepuram. The procession travels on foot for the entire stretch of 18 km. After arriving at Iyengar Kolam, the Lord is given a ceremonial bath in the kolam and then taken back to Kazhiyur with pomp and show. This custom has been copied from Lord Varadharaja going to ‘Padai Seevaram’ on the day of Chithirai Poornima at Tirupati. This ritual is also known as ‘Parvettam’ (forest hunting).
Today out of few houses in Kazhiyur Agaraharam, only six or seven houses are occupied and the remaining is kept locked. However, every year during the month of April, on the day of Chittirai Revathy, the birth star of Lord Adi Kesava, Kazhiyur Srivaishnavas from all over the world gather in the village to celebrate the annual festival. Shri Kodandam swamy is the present temple priest who is serving the temple past two decades leaving his lucrative job.