Thursday, November 1, 2018

Bairagi Madam Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal Temple, Sowcarpet, George Town – The Temple

Bairagi Madam Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal Temple, Sowcarpet, George Town – The Temple
The temple has three sections. The Mutt which enshrines the North Indian style white marble idols is the first structure. It has an east facing entrance. The magnificent temple of Tiruvengamudaiyan Venkatesa Perumal is the second structure. It has three entrances in the east, north and south directions. Within this temple complex, near the temple tank, a small separate North Indian style temple is located. It has its own small entrance. In Sanskrit ‘Bairagi’ means ‘Sanyasi’.  Since Perumal appeared before a Sanyasi, this holy place is known as ‘Bairagi Venkatesa Perumal Koil’. The Temple is administered by lesser known Bairagi sect.

Bairagi Mutt:
The mutt has east facing entrance. The sanctum enshrines very beautiful marble idols. The white marble idols of Ram with Lakshman on his right side and Sita on his left side is enshrined in the sanctum. (It should be noted that Ram has Lakshman instead of Sita on his true right side, which is not usual). Behind the idols of Ram Parivar, the black marble stone idols of Vishnu and his three consorts are found. Vishnu is normally found with his two consorts, namely Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi. However, in this sanctum, his third consort Neela Devi is also found.
Vishnu has two arms and holds conch and discus. He is found in the standing posture. All his three Devis are found seated. Each of them hold a kid on her lap, which is unusual. An idol of Krishna keeping his two arms in stylish way on his hip is also found in this sanctum. It is made of black marble. Few bronze idols of Krishna in various postures are also kept in the same sanctum.
The Tulsi Madam (the holy altar with the Tulsi plant) that is found in this mutt is one of the oldest surviving Tulsi Madams of Chennai city. The red colored idols of Hanuman and Ganesh are found in the prakara. A big red colored relief image of Hanuman found on the wall of this mutt is very interesting.
Temple Towers:
Adjoining to the Bairagi mutt, the main entrance of Tirvengadamudaiyan temple is located. It faces the east direction. Five-tiered tower with lot of interesting stucco figures is found at this entrance. The south facing entrance has three-tiered tower. There is another entrance at the north direction.
Mukha Mandapam:
The Mukha Mandapam is very long and wide. It is designed like a chariot. The pillars are full of figures of elephants, horses, Yazhis, lions and soldiers. The sculptures in this mandapam appear like late Vijayanagara or Nayaka style.

Tirvengadamudaiyan Temple:
Presiding Deity is called as Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal / Tirvengadamudaiyan. The Vimaanam of this temple is known as Padma Vimanam. The east facing sanctum enshrines the gigantic seven feet image of Tirvengadamudaiyan. He is found in the standing posture and has four arms holding conch and discus in his two upper arms. He resembles similar to Tirupati Balaji. The Utsava idols of Tirvengadamudaiyan called Venkatesa Perumal and his two consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi are also found in the sanctum. There is no flag staff in this temple. Instead, a Deepa sthamba is found.
Garuda is found in Maha Mandapam area, facing towards the sanctum. Here the poojas are performed as per the regulations opted at the Tirupati temple. In the sanctum sanctorum there are five Perumals called ‘Pancha Perars’.  The Lord wears on his chest a chain engraved with 108 Lakshmi figures.  On the Saturdays of the Purattasi month, special pooja is performed by adorning the Lord with medicated camphor.  At the front mandapam appears Lord Ranganatha. On the first day of the Purattasi Brahmotsavam, Sri Ramanuja and Chakkarathalwar go for the Flag-hoisting function. This is quite significant.  
On the fifth day of the festival, the ceremony of the Lord garlanding Thaayar with the Lakshmi-engraved chain is conducted.  At that time the doors of the sanctum are closed and the devotees cannot have the darshan of the Lord.  This is done on the basis that the Lord should be worshipped along with Thaayar only.  That night ‘Garuda Seva’ is performed. On the Panguni Uthiram day, the Lord appears along with Sridevi, Bhudevi, Alamelumangai Thaayar and Andal.
Alarmel Mangai Shrine:
Mother is called as Alarmel Mangai. Her beautiful and big image is enshrined in a separate shrine in the south-western corner of the prakara. Her bronze idol is found in the same shrine. She is donned with the garland worn by the Lord and is beautified.  Generally, in the Vishnu temples the Lord alone appears in the Garuda Seva.  But, in this temple, Thayar appears in Garuda Seva.  During the Karthigai month, the Theertha Utsavam for nine days is performed for the Thayar.  At that time, she alights on the Garuda carrier and goes around the prakaram. There is a separate female-Garuda carrier for this purpose.
Utsavar is Venkatesa Perumal. There is an interesting legend behind the Utsavar. Laldas was worshipping the Lord after building the temple. Once the Lord appeared in his dream and indicated that he was lying as an image in the nearby garden. Laldas recovered the image and installed here. During the Purattasi Brahmotsavam, the Utsavar is taken to that place from where he was retrieved. At that time, he is called as the ‘Lord who goes to his birthplace’ – ‘Pirappitam Chellum Perumal’. Special poojas are performed there.
Special poojas are conducted to ‘Sayanaperar’ for three days during Vaikasi.  When this pooja is performed, without anybody seeing it, the Lord is veiled with seven curtains. After all the poojas are completed the Lord is placed near the Utsava moorthy and worshipped by offering him seven types of fruits. During that time only, we can worship Him.
Ranganathar Shrine:
In Ardha Mandapam, there is a separate south facing shrine of Ranganathar. He is found in the reclining posture. Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi are found along with him. Brahma is found seated on lotus that emerges out of his navel.
Lakshmi Narasimhar Shrine:
Lord Lakshmi Narasimhar is in separate sanctum facing west. Under His feet is the ‘Narsimha Yantra’. Generally, in the temples the abishekam water will be given to the devotees in their hands. But in this sanctum, the water is sprinkled on the devotees. The belief is that the water will cure diseases. 
Tirumangai Alvar Shrine:
There is a separate shrine for Tirumangai Alvar with his wife, Kumudavalli in the temple.
Mandapams and other Shrines:
There are three important mandapams found in this temple. The mandapam located in the south-western corner has three shrines namely Alarmel Mangai, Lord with Mother Sita and Lakshman and Varadarajar with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi. There is another mandapam located in the north-western corner has three shrines namely Andal, small images of Nardana Krishna with his consorts Rukmini and Bhama and Varaha in the standing posture.
The third mandapam is located in the north-eastern corner of the temple. There are three shrines situated here. They are Manavala Mamuni, Lakshmi Narasimha and Puri Jagannath. In Puri Jagannath shrine, the small images of Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra are found, similar to Puri Temple. Narasimha Yantra is found in Lakshmi Narasimha shrine. All the sub-shrines enshrine the stone as well as the bronze images of the deities.
The mandapams are full of pillars with so many beautiful and interesting sculptures. Apart from these mandapams, the pillars with carvings are found all over the temple. Paramapatha Vasal (entrance) is located between the first two mandaps, which is painted beautifully in vibrant colors. Anjaneya is found in a separate shrine near the first mandapam.
Vahanas (Vehicles):
The Vahanas that carry the bronze images of the deities during the festivals and processions are very big and impressive. For example, the elephant vahana is almost in the size of an elephant calf. Garuda Seva is about Garuda carrying Vishnu during the procession. In this temple, unusually Alarmel Mangai is carried by Garuda during the procession. Interestingly, Garuda vahana which carries the Goddess is in the female form. 
Vaishnavite Saints Shrines:
There are many sub-shrines in the Mukha Mandapam and in the prakara for Vaishnavite saints that include Alavandan, Pillai Lokacharya, Koorathalwan, Ramanuja, Mudaliyandan, Tiruvarangaththu Amudanar, Tirumangai Alwar, Kumudavalli, Madura Kavi Alwar, Nammalvar, Nathamuni, Bhutat Alwar, Periyalvar, Periya Nambikal, Senai Mudaliyar, Pei Alwar, Poigai Alwar, Thirupaan Alwar, Tirukkatchi Nambi, Araiyar, Tirukoshtiyur Nambi, Empaar Bhattar, Tirumalai Nadan, Nampillai, Periyachan, Nanjeeyar, Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai, Tirvai Mozhi and Manavala Mamuni. All the sub-shrines enshrine the stone images as well as the respective bronze images of the Vaishnavite saints. Not many Vishnu temples in Chennai enshrine such a large number of Vaishnava saints. This should also be considered as one of the highlights of this temple.
Mural Paintings:
There are many beautiful mural paintings found on the walls across the entire temple. The painting of Paramapadanathan with Sri Devi, Bhoo Devi and Neela Devi as well as the one that depicts Ram in Pattabhishekam ceremony are notable paintings.
North Indian Temple:
The holy temple tank, called as Varaha Pushkarani, is located on the north side of the temple. On the banks of this tank, a small North Indian type temple is found. It is constructed probably in the 20th century CE. The images of Shiva Linga, Hanuman, Sapta Matas, Kartikeya, Ganesha and Ambika are enshrined here. It is called as Hanuman temple and Shiva temple.

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