Rajagopala Swamy Temple, Mannarkoil – The Temple
The east facing temple has single entrance and two prakarams, an Ardhamandapam, Mahamandapam, connecting Mandapam surrounded by a cloister mandapa around the main sanctum. The temple is situated in between the Tamirabarani river in south and Kadana river in north. Presiding deity Lord Vedanarayana Perumal’s idol is made of Sudha type with herbals. He blesses the devotees from the sanctum sanctorum in a standing posture holding the conch (sankha) and discus (chakra) in his upper hands.
The lower right hand is in abhaya hasta mudra and lower left hand resting on his hip and flanked by Ubhaya Nachiyar (Sri Devi and Bhu Devi). The two sages Markandeya and Bhrigu also appear with folded hands. He appears in sitting posture in the first stage of the Ashtanga Vimana and in reclining posture in the stage still above – thus Perumal graces devotees in three postures – standing, sitting and reclining. The place is named Vedapuri as the sound of Vedas is always heard here.
Opposite the Sitting Perumal, there is a small hole called Pillai Thondu – Thondu means way in Tamil. Women seeking child boon pass through this hole to realize their wish. On the roof of the wooden Mandapa opposite the Reclining Perumal, all the 12 zodiac signs are sculpted so realistically. The temple is built with lime mortar mixed with palm sugar – Karuppatti in Tamil. Around the Sitting Perumal is the prakara called Yanai Thondu (broad elephant path) and a small path called Poonai Thondu (narrow cat path) around reclining Perumal.
The Rajagopalaswamy, the bronze processional deity appears along with goddess Andal and Garuda in the main sanctum. Also there are bronze icons of Sri Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman found in this sanctum. A small and cute Garuda idol is located before the main sanctum. Also there are flagstaff and Balipeeta before the sanctum. There are separate shrines for goddesses Vedhavalli and Bhuvanavalli in the circumambulatory path. The circumambulatory path also has separate shrines for Lord Narasimha and Visvakshena.
The stucco images of both the goddesses appear seated. Vaishnava saint Kulasekara Azhvar (stucco image) is enshrined in a separate shrine in the northern prakara with separate flagstaff and Balipeeta before the sanctum. The sanctums of two Vaishnava Acharyas Ramanuja and Manavala Mamunigal are located in two separate Mandapams. This elaborately decorated structure exhibits typical of the Nayaka architectural style with exquisitely carved composite pillars. Sthala Vriksham is Jack tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus). Theertham of this temple are Tamirabarani river, Ghatana river, Bhrigu Theertham.
There are life size statues of Lord Rama and other gods, kings with folded hands forming part of the monolithic pillars. Just above the foundation inscriptions at regular intervals are little squares of about 5" x 5", which have scenes of Ramayana sculpted on them, like Gopurapatti. A few other scenes were are present. The yali row was indeed exquisite. Some of them had riders on them. In their midst were some elephants as well.
Ashtanga Vimana (Eight limbs or organs) architecture, one of the very ancient styles of temple construction, is radically distinctive vimana style of this temple. It is structural different from Sashtanga (six limbs or organs) vimana. Both the vimana and koshtam has Dhakshinamoorthi (a form of Lord Shiva). Vali worshiping Shivalingam and a dancing Ganesha sculpture are a masterpiece here.