Friday, December 30, 2016

Thiru Mukkoodal Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple – The Temple

Thiru Mukkoodal Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple – The Temple
This unusual Pallava style temple built during 9th century A.D. is quite large and appears to have included  original plinth (padabandha adhishtana) a sanctum (garbhagriha) and eka tala (single tier) vimana and the small pillared porch (ardha mandapa). The vimana is built above a moulded plinth (adhishtana) comprising 'upa-peeta,' 'upana', 'Jagati' , tripatta-kumuda' 'kantha' (with 'kampa'). The pada or external walls of the vimana surface have plain 'pathis' or 'bhadras' and there are two central projections and 'koshtas' (niches) at east and west walls, flanked by pilasters. Pilasters support the corbels ('potika') and architrave ('valabhi') above.

The prastara or the roof-structure of the sanctum is the very simple form. The oblong shaped  single storeyed vimana built with brick. The  pillared hall serving as a portico for one or more small shrines. Six of the  pillars found at the pillared hall reminiscent of the distinctive Pallava type with the shafts of the columns supported by the bodies of seated lions.  

The pillared halls have Mahendra style, cubical top and bottom with intermediate octagonal shaft. The cubical parts of the pillars are adorned with bas-relief images as well as various designs. The pillars and shallow pilasters carry on top massive corbels with beams.

Immense contribution was made by the Chola and Vijayanagara rulers to the architectural expansion of this temple complex. The entire temple complex - several mandapas or pillared halls, bali-Peetam and Dwajasthambam (flag mast) - are enclosed by the boundary walls. The unfinished east facing main entrance has only the base of gopuram or tower which stands with two huge granite walls (to bear the load distribution) but no towering roof present and therefore known as Mottai gopuram. 

There is a Vijayanagara style 16 pillared hall with pillars adorned with exquisite bas-relief sculptures depicting the various incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Mahalakshmi, Rama, Garuda, Hanuman and saint Ramanuja. 

The main sanctum sanctorum of this temple, which faces north, houses the imposing six feet tall stucco image of Lord Venkateswara, also known as Appan Venkatesa Perumal in a standing posture with sage Markandeya and Bhoomadevi seen meditating at his feet. The Lord faces the north and is in a standing posture. The vimana above the sanctum sanctorum is of Sayana Vimana. 

The idol is an amalgamation of the Trimurti forms i.e,  a manifestation of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. The idol appears with crown looking like matted locks of Shiva; the idol also has a third eye on the forehead. The left and right hands of the idol holds Chanka (conch) and Chakra (discus), the weapons of Vishnu. The idol stands on the lotus flower, the symbol of Brahma.

Lord Venkateswara of Tirumala offered his Conch and Chakra to Raja Tondaiman Chakravarti and saved the king and his kingdom from foreign invasion. Later Tondaiman Chakravarti erected the same Conch and Chakra in the sanctum to glorify the Lord. Lord is wearing a Salagrama stone garland made of 108 beads. As the deity is the stucco image there is no Thirumanjanam (holy bath) performed but only Thaila Kaapu.

The way to the sanctum sanctorum is through a large-pillared mantapa. To its right is a small shrine for Thaayaar (Goddess) Sri Alarmel Mangai Thaayaar facing east. Also found in this mantapam are beautiful stone images of Hanuman, Garuda and many of the Azhwars or the Tamil Vaishnava saints. The entrance to this mantapam is supported by pillars typical of the Pallava style of architecture with the lion base, reminiscent of those found in the Vaikunta Perumal temple in Kanchipuram, capital of the Pallava kings.

There are 3 Sthala Vrikshams (holy trees) for this temple, which are Devadhaari, Vanni and Sandhanam (Sandal). Other deities like Sri Varadhar, Sri Aandaal and Sri Anjaneyar (Hanuman) have separate shrines in the temple. Sri Anjaneyar is very special here. 

Whenever the Lord is carried out for procession, the first respects are paid to Sri Anjaneyar before the God is taken out. Also Sri Anjaneyar is said to be very powerful here in reducing the burden of one’s debts.

People worship Lord Anjaneyar here to come out of their heavy debts. Also peculiarly, Anjaneyar is not offered ‘Vadai Malai’ here like other temples. Instead, he is offered the garland made of ‘Thenkuzhal’ (a kind of Murukku snack). People pray Lord Anjaneyar to come out of their debts and once their debts are settled, they come here and offer ‘Thenkuzhal Maalai’ to him.

From epigraphs it is learned that the Lord was also invoked with different names such as Vishnu Bhatara (Pallava period);  Thirumukkudal-Azhwar and Mahavishnu (Chola period) and Venkateswara swami (later period). Also there are shrines for Garudazhavar and Anjaneya. The Azhwars, the Vaishnavite saints also appear in the circumambulatory path.

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