A mere mention of the hallowed abodes of Emperuman would, by itself, ensure that none goes to Hell , indeed, if everyone were to just say the name of a divyadesam once, it would render the hellish worlds uninhabited and desolate, says Azhwar in the following pasuram—
- KANCHIPURAM, popularly known as “ Temple town” is situated 70 kms to the southwest of Chennai -30 kms from Arakkonam and about 25 kms from Sriperumbudur-the birth place of Swamy Ramanujar. It takes about 2 hours to reach this place from Guindy, Chennai (subject to traffic) and about 1 hour from Arakkonam .
Plenty of buses ply from Chennai at frequent intervals to this place. It takes about one and half hours by car from Chennai Airport. Cab charges from Arakonam to Kanchi is fixed as RS.1,200/-. whereas from Chennai Airport it is about Rs.1000/-app.
As Brahma (KA) worshipped Vishnu in this place, it is known as KANCHI.
Kancheepuram is the only mukti kshetram located in South India out of the seven mukthi kshetrams, the others being Ayodhya, Mathura , Maya, Kasi, Avanthi, Dwaraka which are located in the NOrthern India.
SRIRANGA MANGALA NIDHIM KARUNA NIVAASAM
SRI VENKATADRI SHIKARALAYA KALAMEGHAM
SRI HASTHISAILA SIKORAJWALA PARIJATHAM
SRISAN NAMAAMI YADHUSAILA DEEPAM
The above famous sloka refers to the four most important Vishnu shrines-namely Srirangam(also known as “Bhoga Mandapam”),
Venkatadri(Tirumala)( “Pushpa Mandapam”),
Srihasthisailam(Kanchi)(“Thyaga mandapam”) and
Yadhusailam(Melkote) (known as “Jnana Mandapam”).
The above Perumals were worshipped by famous devotees in the four yugas.
Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam (known as “Kovil”) was worshipped by Lord Rama who later presented HIM to Vibhishana in Treta yuga
Lord Thirunarayanan of Melkote was worshipped by Lord Krishna in Dwapara yuga,
Lord Venkateswara of Tirupati (known as “Malai”) is being worshipped by Adisesha and us in Kali yuga whereas
Lord Varadarajar in Kanchipuram (Perumal kovil) is being worshipped in all the four yugas-
by Brahma in Satya yuga,
by Mahashaantan Maharishi who asssumed the form of Gajendran in TReta yuga
by Devaguru Brihaspathi in Dwapara yuga
by Ananatazhwan(Adisesha) in Kali yuga
The sthalavaralaaru mentions that Adisesha (the serpent on which Lord Vishnu eternally resides) emerged from Patala to worship the Lord. This place is now known as “Ananta saras” pushkarini where Lord Athi Varadar resides in water. There is a snake pit(putru) near Nammazhwar sannidhi in the temple premises which is considered to be Adiseshan’s dwelling place.
Ananta saras is the only temple pushkarini in the world which has association with Lord always as HE dwells in the sacred waters of the pushkarini. In all other temples, LOrd visits the pushkarini only for theerthavari and in most of the cases it is the Sudarshana chakram which has holy dip in theerthams.
Brahma-the lotus born who emerged from Lord Vishnu’s naval at the time of creation desired to have darshan of Lord Vishnu and undertook penance. Lord appeared in the form of water at Pushkar in Rajasthan and later in the form of forest at Naimisaranyam near Lucknow. He wished to have darshan of the Lord with chathurbhujam and was advised by an asareeri to perform 100 Aswamedha yagams. AS he felt he was incompetent to perform 100 yagams, he was advised to perform one aswamedha yagam at Sathyavratha kshetram as any act done at this holy place would reap 100 times benefit.
Brahma brought athi (“Dhaaru”-a rare type of wood) known as “DHEVA UDUMBARAM” from DEvalokam on an elephant and Viswakarma -the divine architect carved out Vishnu murthi holding sankhu , chakram, gadam and right hand in abhaya hastham. He installed this murthi and started Aswamedha yagam. The speciality of this wood is it gains lustre when in contact with water unlike normal wood which gets spoilt quickly when kept in water. By placing a piece of wood in a tree trunk, the tree would start growing. This tree can be found only in two places -Athiyur(kanchi) and Gaya. (There are very few temples like Thirukovalur, Thiruvellarai, Puri and Kanchi where the Lord made of wood is worshipped which adheres to agama sastras)
This place came to be known as “Kanchi” as “KA”(Brahma) worshipped Vishnu here. He begun the yagna alone with the help of SAvitri and Gayatri (his other consorts), without his main consort Sri Saraswati.(It may be recalled that in Pushkar also, Brahma did penance without Saraswati’s presence. this can be observed in the Brahma temple. )
Angered by this negligence, Saraswati decided to stop the yaga ( A divine play by LORD) . First, she put the entire world in darkness. The Lord out of abundant compassion to Brahma appeared as Sri Deepaprakasa on Chitra Revati ( Now glorified as DeepaPraksha temple ) . Darkness was driven out. On the auspicious day in the month of Chitra(Apr- May) on Revati star day which is considered as the appearance day of Lord Deepaprakasar , Perumal along with Swami Vedanta Desikar visit Varadaraja temple .
Again when Brahma wanted to start the yagna, Saraswati sent a demon with bird and beast features to stop the yagna. Immediately, the Lord appeared with Eight arms –Sri Ashtabuja Perumal This place is in another separate Kshetram within Kanchipuram. This happened in Chitra Rohini . The demon was driven away and lord Brahma restarted the yagna . Not to rely on others to stop the yagna, then Saraswati decided to stop the yagna herself and took the form of a rushing river – Vegavati .
The Lord now took the reclining pose and as a bridge stopped the flow of the river. This happened in Vekkha and thus the Lord is Sri Yatothkari . This wonderful incident happened on Chitra Punarvasu day . Thus the Lord appeared in Three forms in the month of Chitra in Revati, Rohini and Punarvasu as Sri Deepaprakasa, Sri Ashtabuja Perumal and Sri Yatoktakari. ( One must have darshan of the Lordships in these temples which is very near to Main temple ) .
At conclusion of yaga, Lord Varadarajan emerged out of the scared fire pleased with Brahma’s devotion, in Punyakoti vimanam on the northern banks of River Vegavati.
As Perumal ( Utsava Moorthy ) appeared from fire, the marks on caused due to heat in the form of many small dots can be seen on utsavar’s Thirumugam ( divine face ) . Perumal gave darshan with chathurbhujam holding sankhu, chakram, gadam with HIS lower left hand and lower right hand in .abhaya hastam on Chithirai month chathurdashi thithi on Hastham star. “Ka” – means Brahma and “Anjitham” – means who was worshipped.
As Perumal granted all the boons of Devas, He is known as “Varadar” meaning “giver of boons”. As He is very compassionate, He is known as “Perarulalan.
As He is the master of Devas, He is Devadirajan,
as he resides at Attiyur (this place was once surrounded by Athi maram),
He is known as Attiyuran,
Hastagirinathan as He resides in Hastagiri. Airavatam-the celestial elephant on which Brahma brought the diety assumed the form of a hill to shelter the Lord. Hence , the hillock is known as Hastagiri. (Indra who was cursed by Mahalakshmi to become an elephant prayed at this place and was redeemed from curse.
As the Lord is bestower of boons to , HE is known as “Varadan“
Athivaradar carved out and worshipped by Brahma was the presiding diety whom Azhwars and Acharyars have glorified. The deity of Lord Varadarajar glorified as Athiyuran was the main deity in the Garbagraha of this temple until 15th Century. But as per the stone inscriptions in Thayar sannidhi, in 1487 , the murthi was replaced with shila murthi by Virupakshanayakan (a local king) under the rule of Narasinarayar of Vijayanagar empire.
During the Muslim invasion, in 1687 A.D.,the main deity (Lord Varadarajan) is said to have been under threat by the invaders. The mughals eyed on temples to plunder the abundant wealth kept in the temples . In order to preserve the deity and to avoid desecration of the Lordships, the elders constructed a mandapam inside the tank and placed Athivaradan (moolavar diety) secretly in a silver casket and immersed in the temple tank- Anantha saras . (As per Dr.M.A.Venkatakrishnan, the deity is placed in the tank without silver casket. ). To protect the deity from floating, statues of eight naagas considered to be Adisesha swaroopam were installed around the diety for protection.
The utsava murthi of LOrd Varadarajan and Perundevi Thayar were shifted to Udayarpalayam near Trichy. The temple was in a deserted condition for 22 years. After peace was restored, an advanced devotee named Sri. Aathan Jeeyar who was the guru for Thodamal-the army chief of Arcot king (whose statue can be seen inside Tirumala temple) arranged to restore the utsava murthis in 1711 . AS they could not trace the whereabouts about Moolavar as most of the elders had migrated from Kanchi or left the world, there was none to reveal the whereabouts . It was decided to install a new Moolavirat from a rock in Pazhaya seevaram (a small hillock)-about 15 kms from Kanchipuram. . A replica of Athivaradar was thus carved out and consecrated as per vedic injunctions which we worship today. To mark this incident , every year during Thai maasam(Jan-Feb) , the utsava murthi Varadarajan visits Pazhaya seevaram. The newly consecrated idol was being worshipped along with the utsava murthis.
(After 40 years, due to divine will , when the temple tank Ananta saras got dried up (either due to drought or for cleaning purpose), the Lord revealed HIMSELF in the pushkarini. The Lord was placed in a nearby mantapam for worship as there was already a moolavar inside the temple.
(As per stone inscriptions in the temple, Athivaradar was found in the temple tank in 1781 on July 30th on saturday dasami thithi . )
Later, Lord appeared in a temple priest’s dream commanding him to put back the Lord in the cool waters of Ananta saras as HE was still experiencing the heat generated during Brahma’s yagam. Lord conceded to the devotees’ request to give darshan once in 40 years for a period of 48 days. Thus the practice of taking out the Lord from Ananta saras approximately once in 40 years for a period of 48 days begun. (As per records, it was taken out in 1892,then after 45 years in 1937, later after 42 years in 1979 and now after 40 years in 2019.)
Lord is placed in two postures -lying posture and standing posture . (As per Dr.Venkatakrishnan, the water from the puskarini is completely drained out and on an auspicious day during JUly-Aug when there are not many utsavams, the Lord is taken out carefully from Anantasaras, given holy bath and decorated .NO preservatives are used for protecting the divine form of the Lord. The Lord is placed only to have darshan, six times pooja as per Pancharatra agamasastras are not performed.
Ananta saras is the most sacred temple tank in the whole world because of its association with the LOrd of Universe always. Sprinkling holy water from this pushkarini redeems us of all the innumerable accumulated sins . In all other temples, either the utsava murthi of Perumal or ” sataari ” is dipped in the temple puskarini during culmination of brahmotsavam usually once in a year whereas in Ananta saras, the Lord dwells eternally.
It was Lord Varadar in the form of hunter couple who saved Ilayazzhwan(Swamy Ramanujar) from Yadavaprakasa who had planned to kill him. The most compassionate Lord VAradar along with HIS consort Perundevi Thayar disguised as hunter couple accompanied Ramanujar on the dark night in the forests near Vindhya mountains when Ilayazwan had lost way. Overnight, he was transported to Kanchipuram. When Ilayazhwan went to fetch water to quench the hunter-lady;s thirst, the Lord disappeared .When the perplexed Ilayazwan enquired about the whereabouts , he was pointed towards “Punyakoti vimanam”. Ilayazhwan realized that it was Lord Varadarajan who escorted him to this place and continued to stay here doing theertha kainkaryam. Also, Swamy Ramanujan embraced Sanyasam as per the Lord;s instructions by having a holy dip in the Ananta saras and was given orange robes by the Lord HIMSELF. Swamy Ramanujar did theertha kainkaryam to the Lord until he was ordered to shift to Srirangam to fulfill Thiruvaranga araiyar’s boon bestowed by Lord Varadar who was immensely pleased with Araiyar sevai performed by him.
Another interesting incident:-when Ramanujar ordered Kooratazhwan who became blind while trying to save him ordered him to prayto Varadar, Kooratazhwan composed VAradaraja stavam comprising of 102 slokas in praise of this Lord. When Lord asked him for a boon, he prayed that he should be given vision to see the holy form of the Lord and his acharyar only. He didn’t want to see the material world.
Like Puri Rathyatra performed 10 days prior to Aashada Ekadasi, the Annual Garuda seva performed on the third day during Vaigasi Brahmotsavam (May-June) especially attracts huge crowds from near and far. The streets are very wide like in Puri.
Another similarity between Puri and Kanchi temples is the dieties are made of wood . IN Puri Jaganath temple, once in 12 years, the moolavar dieties of Lord Jagannath, Subhadra and Baladeva are replaced whereas in Kanchi Varadar temple, Athivaradar-the Lord carved out from athi wood by Brahma is preserved inside the temple tank and is taken out for worship once in 40 years.
This town is sanctified with many Acharayas -Sri Thirukachinambigal, Sri Ramanujar, Sri Desikar, Sri Sankaracharyar to name a few. Also , this is the headquarters for many religious peetams like Kanchi Kamakoti peetam, Sri Mudaliandan swamy Thirumaligai, Sri Appan Swamy Thirumaligai and other associate maaligas of Sri Ramanujar’s sishyas. One of the shatberams(6 utsava murthis) was given by the LOrd HIMSELF to our acharyar-Sri Mudaliandan Thirumaligai.
VAradaraja Sthavam by Kooratazhwan, Varadaraja Panchasat by VEdanta Desikar, Devaraja Ashtakam by Thirukachi nambigal are few famous renderings on this Lord. Thyagaraja has also composed a beautiful kirtan on this Lord.
Our poorvacharyars attribute the word “amararukku athipathi ” of the first pasuram in Nammazhwar Thiruvaimozhi to this Perumal.
|MOOLAVAR||SRI VARADARAJAR, PERARULALAN, DEVADIRAJAN, DEVAPPERUMAL, ATTIYURAN|
|THEERTHAM||VEGAVATHI RIVER , ANANTH SARAS, SESHA THEERTHAM , VARAHA THEERTHAM, BRAHMA THEERTHAM|
|MANGALASAASANAM||THIRUMANGAI AZHWAR 4 PASURAMS,
BHOODATHAZHWAR 2 PASURAMS,
PEYAZHWAR 1 PASURAM
|PRATHYEKSHAM||BRAHMA, BRIGU RISHI, NARADAR|
This temple town is dotted with many temples of which there are 14 important shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu and 13 temples for Parama Shivan. The sthalapuranam for all the Vishnu temples is inter connected with Brahma’s penance. Brahma who started Aswamedha yaga without his wife SAraswathi had to face many hurdles and everytime Lord Vishnu appeared in various forms to encounter SAraswati’s obstacles until Brahma successfully completed the yaga.
The temples are located in Little Kanchi and Big Kanchi. Out of 22 divya desams in Thondai naadu, 14 are in Kanchipuram itself and another at Thiruputkuzhi, the details of which are briefly given:-
- Sri Nilathingal thundathan Perumal, (in Ekambareswarar temple)
- Sri Ulagalandha Perumal , Ooragham
- Sri Jagadeeswara Perumal, Neeragam in Ulagalandha Perumal temple prakaram
- Sri Karunakara Perumal, Kaaragam in Ulagalandha Perumal temple prakaram
- Sri Kaarvannan (Kalva) Perumal, Thirukaarvanam in Ulagalandha Perumal temple prakaram(all these temples are in Ulagalandha Perumal kovil itself)
- Sri Aadivaraha Perumal, Thirukalvanur (in Kamakshi temple)
- Sri Vaikuntanatha Perumal, Thiruparameswara vinnagaram
- Sri Pandava dhootha Perumal, Thirupadagam
- Sri Pavalavannan Perumal, Thirupavazhavannam(also,Perumal gives darshan as Pachaivarnan beside this temple)
- Sri Varadaraja Swamy temple, Thirukachi
- Sri Ashtabuja Perumal, Thiruattabuyakaram
- Sri Deepaprakasa temple, Thiruthanka
- Sri Azhagia Singar temple, ThiruVelukkai
- Sri Yathothkari temple, Thiruvekha
With Kanchipuram as base town , devotees can also have darshan of Thiruputkuzhi Divya desam (1 hour drive from Kanchi). If you start early, you can finish visiting Kanchi temples by noon. Thiruputkuzhi, Sriperumbudur, Kooram can be visited in the second half of the day.
Check out the divine pastime in the appended blog post. Click the link
Of these, Sri Varadarajar temple with its imposing towers , Sri Kamakshi temple, Sri Ekambareswar temples attract many pilgrims including foreign tourists daily.
The famous Lord Varadarajar temple wears festive look daily .
Around 280 Utsavams happen in this temple all around the year
Lord Devaraja has captivating beauty and it is said that Swami Ramanuja was totally attracted by His shoulders
Perundevi Thayar, the consort of Devadirajan does not come out of the garbagriham like SriRanganayaki. Even the utsava murthi of the Thayar is not taken out for procession beyond the four walls of the temple. Whenever Perumal is taken out in procession inside the temple, HE is accompanied by Perundevi Thayar .
The Theppam (float festival) is celebrated in Anantasaras tank. The temple pond known as Anantha Saras /Amrutha saras never dries up , the Vimanam is known as Punyakoti Vimanam.
Every Friday , Thayar comes in a procession within the 4 walls of the temple. Almost 280 utsavams are performed to Lord whole year . Brahma in Kreta Yuga, Gajendran, the elephant in Tretha yuga, Brihaspathi in Dwarpara yuga and Adiseshan in Kaliyuga offered their prayers to Lord here .
The wonderful temple is located on a 23-acre complex and has 3 outer precincts (prakaram) namely Azhwar Prakaram, Madai Palli Prakaram and Thiru Malai Prakaram. The main sanctum faces west and can be entered through a 130 feet tall, 7-tiered rajagopuram (main gateway tower).
The eastern gopuram is taller than the western gopuram, which is contrasting to large temples where the rajagopuram is the tallest one. There is a 100 pillared hall has sculptures depicting Ramayana and Mahabaratha .The main shrine of Varadarajaswamy is on a small hillock 10m tall and a fleet of 24 steps, termed “Hasthagiri..
The temple has 5 prakarams. The first prakara which is on the Hastagiri hill houses the garbagriha and the pradakshinam path. The garbagriham is known as “Vayya maligai” – earthly mansion of the Lord(Leela Vibhuti) .
A flight of steps from the lower hill, known as Varanagiri which houses Narasimhar, leads us to the garbagriha where we can have darshan the Lord in His pristine glory.
The second prakaram is known as Thirumalai pradakshinam as it runs round the hill.
The third prakara known as Madapalli prakaram/ Alavandar prakaram houses the temple kitchen, numerous shrines and mantapams for Garuda, Adisesha, Perundevi Thayar, the abhsiheka mantapam where the utsava murthis are given abhishekam, pavitrotsava mantapam where the Lord’s vaahanams are kept, the unjal mandapam etc.
The fourth prakaram known as Azhwar Thiruveedi houses the vigrahams of all Azhwars , Acharyars, Krishna, Varaha, Sri Ranganathar etc and the Anantasaras tank.
The fifth prakaram is known as “Mada veethi “ and it was here that Sri Alavandar first saw Sri Ramanujar and blessed him that he would be the foremost for propagating Vaishnavism by declaring “Aam invan mudhalvan” meaning yes, he is the foremost.
As mentioned earlier, the Garbagriham is located on top of Hastagiri hill with enclosures on all sides. However on one particular day after 15 days from Chithira Pournami, the sunrays fall directly on Moolavar’s Thirumugam . (Similarly in Vaikunta Perumal kovil(popularly known as Kallapiran) in Pandya naadu, the sunrays fall on the moolavar’s thirumugam twice in a year)
Even the stones on the compound wall are 24. The pushkarini also has 24 steps. Gayatri mantra has 24 syllables. Therefore, it is no wonder that the Lord, Who has Gayatri as His body, has everything, around number 24. Apart from this, according to Visishtadvaita philosophy, achit entities are 24. That is inanimate entities are 24. When we cross the 24 steps we land on the top floor and that is the 25th entity, Jeevatman. From this floor we have to climb some more steps to reach the garbha gruham of Lord Devaraja Perumal. We come to the corridor on the floor and we go round that. One end of the corridor is famous for two things.
One of the ancestors of Lord Rama named Asmanjhan and his wife who were cursed to become lizards were redeemed from their curse at this place by the Lord. Hence, it is believed that touching the golden and silver lizards would cure us of all ailments. Crowds throng to touch these lizards for getting rid from material ailments forgetting that the Lord of the UNiverse standing as Varadarajan saves us from this “Samsaram” and gives “MOKSHAM”
Another adjoining mandapam, Kachhikku vaithan mandapam follows the corridor . Every evening the Lord would arrives at this mandapam, and Swami Thirukacchi Nambi would start his fanning service Thirukachi nambigal, the great Vaishnavite saint had the bhaagyam of conversing with this Perumal while fanning the Lord(Alavatta kainkaryam). This is beside the “lizard mantapam”
It is believed that Brahma comes here once a year on the full moon day in the Tamil month of Chitrai (April-May) around mid night, for a darshan of Lord Varadarajan. On this day, it is the practice for the priests to place food inside the sanctum and to wait outside for 24 minutes. At the end of this, the food is said to smell sweeter.
It was thus decided by Elders that LORD has to be taken out from the temple tank once in 40 years and various pooja shall be performed for 48 days and then kept in the bed of the Pushkarini for the next 40 years.
The 96th Pasuram of Irandam thiruvanthathi glorifies LORD as
aththiyUrAn puLLai UrvAn * aNimaNiyin
thuththi sEr * nAgaththin mEl thuyilvAn ** –
muththI maRaiyAvAn * mAkadal nanjchuNdAn thanakkum *
iRaiyAvAn engkaL pirAn
Bhoodathazhwar addresses the Lord as “athiyooran” who is fond of garuda seva(pullai oorvan -pul =bird. Kanchi Garuda seva is world famous.
Thus Lord Athi Varadhar gives His darshan to the devotees only once in 40 years and that too for a period of 48 days.
The Rising of Athi Varadhar” happened in the years 1739, 1779, 1819, 1859, 1939, 1979 and Now in the year 2019 and fortunate are those who are having darshan .
Athi Varadar thus graces the devotees once in 40 years . Lord arrives from the Anantha saras and alights outside for public worship for a period of 48 days. This event took place last in 1979 and now in 2019 darshan has already commenced now . Lord gives darshan in reclining posture during the first 24 days and later gives darshan in standing posture for the remaining 24 days.
Vendittrellaam tarum vallal Manivannan” is how our Nammazhwar describes the Lord. Whatever we ask, the Lord is ready to give us the same and much more, however exalted be the boon we seek.
Check out the url links below on abundant mercy of the Lord of the Lords ..
He endows us with whatever we need during our mundane sojourn and once we perform Prapatti,
He takes us to his own eternal abode, never to return to the quagmire of Samsara.
And this, only Emperuman can do, say the Shastras-
”Moksham icchet, Janaardanaat”.
srIranga mangaLa nidhim karuNA nivAsam* (Srirangam for South)
*srI vEnkatAdhri sikarAlaya kALa mEkam* (Tirupathi for North)
*srI hasthisaila sikarOjvala pArijAtham* (Varadharaja perumal temple for East)
*srIsam namAmi sirasA yadhusaila dhIpam* (Melkote temple for West)
Adiyen Ramanuja dasan
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