Mannar Rajagopalaswamy Temple, Palayamkottai – The Temple
This temple is devoted to Lord Vishnu and is worshipped as Gopalaswami and Vedanarayana Perumal. This place was earlier called Thirumangai Nagar. The temple is referred to as a ‘Thuvi Sthalam’- with the two tier structure below the Ashtanga Vimanam (similar to Thiru Koshtiyur/Uthira Merur/Koodal Azhagar) - the Varna Kala (idol) Veda Narayanan seen in a grand sitting posture with four hands flanked by Veda Valli and Kumudavalli Thaayar. With one hand, Veda Narayanan seems to be inviting the devotees to come to him, with the other he is seen blessing those who come to offer their prayers. He is seen with a Conch and Chakra in his other two hands.
There is no abishekam for this Varna Kala Moolavar. Also, in the Sannidhi are Bhrigu and Markandeya Rishis, who undertook penance at this place and had darshan of Veda Narayanan. Urvasi and Thilothama idols are also seen inside the Sannidhi alongside Veda Narayanan. Azhagiya Mannar is in Standing Posture with Bhoo and Sri Devi (with exquisite paintings on all the four walls). The Lord graces from the sanctum sanctorum as Vedanarayana Perumal with Mothers Sridevi and Bhoodevi. In the inner mandapam, the Lord graces with Mothers Vedavalli and Kumudavalli. On the tower, he graces as Azhagiya Mannar Rajagopalaswamy with Mothers Sridevi and Bhoodevi.
The temple is built with a blend of Tamil architecture and that of the Mathura Sri Krishna temple. Inside the Maha Mandapam on the walls, one finds exquisite mooligai paintings sketching the Ramayana story. Inside this mandapam, one sees fish shaped sculptures on most of the pillars, another indication of the construction of the temple during the Pandya rule. The Utsava Murthy (the procession deity) of this temple is called as ‘Sri Rajagopala Swamy’ also known as ‘Mannar’. In Tamil, a King is referred to as ‘Mannar’. Mother Goddess or Thayar of this temple is Sridevi, Bhama, Bhoodevi and Rukmini.
The temple of Sri Vedanarayana is huge with spacious inner and outer prakarams. There is a Mukha Mandapam facing in the east where devotees can see Dwajasthambam, Bali peetam and Garuda. There is a separate sannidhi for Garuda. The Garuda is known as ‘Moolai Garudan (Corner Garuda) in this temple. There is a separate sannidhi for the Lord Hanuman. There are separate shrines for Goddess Sri Sridevi and Sri Bhudevi here named as ‘Vedavalli’ and ‘Kumudavalli’ respectively behind Sri Vedanarayana Sanctum in the first prakaram.
An interesting feature at this temple is that the madapalli has a gopuram. There are no Andal and Nammazhvar Sannidhis in this temple. There are shrines for Shenbaga Vinayaka, Dasavathara of Sri Vishnu, 12 celebrated Alwars, Paramapatha Nathar, Lakshminarayana, Lord Aadi Varaha with his consort Sri Bhudevi and Anjaneya in the temple. 50 feet high Kodi Maram (temple flag) along with the 5 tier Raja Gopuram can be seen from the Thirunelveli Bye Pass road gives this temple a majestic look. The Raja Gopuram also has sculptures relating to Vishnu and Shiva Puranam.