Nava Tirupathi 12 temples around Tirunelveli
Saint poets, Azhvaars (there were 12 of them including Andaal) were ardent devotees of Lord Vishnu. These saint poets composed verses in Tamil and revitalized the religious spirit sparking off a renewal of devotional worship, referred to as the Bhakti movement. The Azhvaars visited temples and sung praises in the name of Vishnu. Such temples have come to be known as Divya Desams. The compilation of the verses (known as Paasurams) is the revered Naalayira Divya Prabandham(4000 verses). There are 108 Divya Desams in all, around 20 are in the Pandya region(Madurai-Tirunelveli belt). In each of these temples, Vishnu can be seen in one of the following forms- Reclining, Seated or Standing posture ( and even a walking posture!!!).
(also check www.prtraveller.blogspot.in - I moved to this in 2007)
In this Divya Desam series, we take you on a trip to cover 12 temples around Tirunelveli, including Nava Tirupathi (9 temples on either side of the river Tamaraibarani)
How to reach Tirunelveli
From Chennai, one can take Kanniyakumari Exp (430am arrival), Ananthapuri Exp(730am arrival) or Nellai Exp(835am arrival).
Where to Stay
The Railway Retiring room is a good and safe place to stay. Also, there are several budget and deluxe hotels near the railway station.
Not to Miss when in Tirunelveli
Ø “Iruttu Kadai Halwa”(Dark Shop Halwa) opposite Nellaiappar temple is the best Halwa you can taste in Tamil Nadu
Ø The famous Courtallam waterfalls is just over an hour’s drive from Tirunelveli
Ø Sea Shore Temple at Tiruchendur- 60 kms East of Tirunelveli
Nava Tirupathi Temples
These are 9 Vishnu temples on either side of Tamaraibarani river. These temples hold a special place in the 108 Divya Desams. While Irattai Tirupathi features as two temples in the Nava Tirupathi list, it is counted as one divya desam only. Nammazhvar, the only Azhvaar to have sung at the Nava Tirupathi temples, refers to certain temples in great detail, while some get only a passing mention. With extensive renovation work being funded by the TVS Group, these temples now have a mark of freshness about them. At each of these nine temples, one can find a display board with temple timings and route map.
One can start the Nava Tirupathi trip from SriVaikuntam and end with Azhvaar Tirunagari. From SriVaikuntam, one can take an auto/taxi to go around the other 8 temples. This will cost around Rs. 250-300 and will take about 5 hours.One can also begin the Nava Tirupathi journey at Azhvaar Tirunagari and end with SriVaikuntam.
1. Sri Vaikuntam
SriVaikuntam is about 30 kms from Tirunelveli on the Tiruchendur road. Buses ply every 10 minutes on this route from Tirunelveli’s new bus stand. Also, there are daily local trains on the Tirunelveli-Tiruchendur route, though less frequent. One can see the towering structure of Vaikuntanathan temple as one enters the Tamaraibarani bridge, off Tiruchendur highway. The story goes that the Lord, disguised as the thief, presented himself before the King to save the thief. Hence, the Lord here is also known as ‘KallarPiran’. In Vishnu temples, Adisesh, the Serpent God unfurls his hood over Vishnu in a reclining posture. A unique feature of the Lord here is that Adisesh has his hood above the Lord in standing posture, one of its kind in the 108 Divya Desams.
Another feature of the temple is that the Sun’s rays falls directly on Lord Vaikuntanathan on two days(April-May and October-November period) every year. It is believed that this temple was used as a fort in the fight between the legendary freedom fighter Veerapandiya Kattabomman and the British in the 1800s. Surprisingly though, Nammazhvar only makes a passing mention of this temple in his Paasurams.
Temple timing: 7am-12noon and 5pm-8pm
Contact: A.K. Vaikunta Natha Bhattar @ 98656 28681
This temple is about 2 kms East of SriVaikuntam and is known to many as the Vishnu temple at Natham. True to his name, Lord Vijayaasanar is seen to be sitting majestically like a victorious king on the throne. It is believed that a visit to this temple will help one attain moksha. This place is said to be a ‘Chandran’ Kshetram.
Temple timing: 8am-12noon and 1pm-6pm
Contact: Narasimha Bhattar @ 04630 256476
1 km from Natham is the Lord KaasinaVenthar temple at Thirupulingkudi. The East facing Lord is seen in a reclining posture with a lotus stalk from his navel terminating in a flower on Brahma’s image on the wall of the sanctum. The story goes that Vishnu, along with Goddess Sridevi, came down to visit this place. Angered at being ignored for the trip, Goddess Bhoodevi hid herself in the netherworld. After Vishnu pacified her, it is believed that the two Goddesses came back together and gave darshan here with the Lord. An interesting feature of the temple is that Vishnu’s feet can be viewed through a small window in the passage.
Temple timing: 8am-12noon and 1pm-6pm
Contact: Gopalan Bhattar@ 04630 256476
4 &5. Irettai Tirupathi
These are two temples within a 100 yards of each other in the middle of a jungle and are counted as one for the purpose of the 108 Divya Desams. One has to cross a small canal to reach this temple. The road leading up to this temple is very narrow. The first of the two temples has Lord Devapiran in a standing posture facing East.
Sage Suprabhar who performed a yagna at this place relieved a man and a woman from Kubera’s curse, which had turned them into a measuring scale (Tulai) and a bow (Villi). Hence this place is called Tulai Villi Mangalam. At the second temple one finds Lord Aravindalochanar in a seated posture facing East.
Legend has it that Lord Vishnu was impressed with Sage Suprabhar’s daily Lotus pooja and gave darshan to the sage on the Northern banks of Tamaraibarani. Hence, it is believed that one who does special ‘Lotus Flower’ pooja at this temple will be relieved of all sins.
Temple timing: 8.30am-1pm and 230pm-530pm
Contact: Seshamani Bhattar@04630 256372
The Maayakoothan temple at Thirukuzhandhai is about 10 kms East of SriVaikuntam and near Eral. This place is now known as Perungulam. Legend has it that Vishnu went on his Garuda Vaahan to rescue Goddess Lakshmi from an Asura. Hence, one finds Garuda as the Utsav deity here. In the battle that ensued, Vishnu is said to have performed his victory dance standing on Asura’s body and hence the name MaayaKoothan.
Temple timing: 730am-1230pm and 430pm-730pm
Contact: MaayaKoothar Bhattar @ 04630 256372
Back across the bridge and on to the South bank of Tamaraibarani, one finds the big Nigaril Mugilvannan temple at ThenThiruperai where the Lord is seen in a seated posture facing East.
Legend has it that Goddess Bhoodevi found two fish shaped ear rings while performing a penance, on the banks of Tamaraibarani, to relieve herself of Sage Durvasa’s curse and offered it to the Lord. The Lord who wore this came to be known as ‘Makara Nedun Kuzhaikathan’.
Another story is that Varuna (the Rain God) performed a penance here to be relieved of his curse. As a mark of this, it is believed that Varuna, visits this temple, every year, on the full moon day in the month of Panguni and worships Vishnu.
Temple timing: 730am-12noon and 5pm-830pm
Contact:Anantha Padmanabha Bhattar @ 04639 273902
8. ThiruKolur – The birth place of MaduraKaviAzhvaar
3 kms South West of Thiruperai is the Vaitha Maa Nidhi temple at Thiru Kolur, where the Lord is in a reclining posture facing East.
This is the birth place of MaduraKaviAzhvaar, the ardent devotee of Nammazhvaar. Legend has it that Kubera attained salvation from Goddess Parvati’s curse at this place and it was here that his Nava Nidhis were restored.
It is said that a visit to this temple will help one recover lost wealth. The Lord here is said to help his devotees in distress.
Temple timing: 730am-12noon and 1pm-8pm
Contact: Srinivasa Bhattar @ 04630 291634
9. Azhvaar Tirunagari-The birth place of Nammazhvaar
The last halt at the Nava Tirupathi temples is the AadiNaathan temple at Azhvaar Tirunagari (Kurugur). It is said that AadiNathan emerged on his own from the earth, though this does not figure among the only 8 temples where the Lord is believed to have emerged on his own.
Granting the prayers of a childless couple, Lord Nambi of Thirukkurungkudi is believed to have been born here as Nammazhvaar. When born, Nammazhvaar is said to have not opened his eyes or cried and he was taken to the tamarind tree within the temple.
Here, Nammazhvaar resided for 16 years till ThiruKolur’s Madurakavi (who was to later become his
disciple) came and posed some interesting questions about life and that is when Nammazhvaar is said to have spoken for the first time.
So impressed was MaduraKavi (Azhvaar) with Nammazhvaar’s answers, that he said ‘ I do not need God, Nammazhvaar is enough’. Though Nammazhvaar died young, while in his 30s, his contribution to the Bhakti Movement is immense as can be seen from the fact that he sung praises of the Lord in one-third of the 108 Divya Desams. When Vaishnavites say Azhvaar, it means they are referring to Nammazhvaar, such is the reverence for him. There is a separate sannidhi for Nammazhvaar at this temple. He is the only one to have sung praise of Vishnu at the Nava Tirupathi temples. The centuries old tamarind tree at the temple neither bears fruit nor closes its leaves at dusk.
An important festival at this temple is the Vaikasi Utsav, when the deities from all the Nava Tirupathi temples congregate here at Azhvaar Tirunagari to listen to the Paasurams with Nammazhvaar seated on the Hamsa Vaahan. During Margazhi, one is a witness to ‘Thiru Mudi’ Sevai, the only one of its kind in Divya Desams. This is one of the three Divya Desams in TN where Araiyar Sevai, the visual song and dance enactment of the ‘Paasurams is still being performed. There is a stone nadaswaram at this temple, which is played out on special occasions. Most of the inscriptions here date back almost a 1000 years.
Temple timing: 7am-12noon and 5pm-8pm
Contact: Appu Sadagopachari 04639 273984
Situated about 30kms from Tirunelveli off the Nagercoil NH7 is the Lord Vaanamaalai Thothadri Nathar temple at Nanguneri. Out of the 108 Divya Desams, there are only 8 that have Lord’s Idol emerging on its own from the earth and this is one of the eight.
A speciality of this Divya Desam is that an oil pooja is performed daily for the main deity and this oil is deposited in the 25 feet open well within the temple. The oil is said to have medicinal values and is believed to cure both internal and external illness including ulcer and skin diseases.
The 600 years old Vaanamaamalai mutt(Jeers) are the hereditary trustees of the temple. Most of the main festivals at this temple are celebrated in a unique way, not found in any other Divya Desams.
The main deity (Lord Deivanayakan) and Goddess are brought to the Mutt and the entire pooja festivities of the divine couple is performed at the Mutt.
Temple timing: 8am-12noon and 5pm-9pm
Contact: Nambi Srinivasa Bhattar 04365 250119
To reach Nanguneri : 45 minute bus trip from Tirunelveli New Bus stand. Buses every 5 minutes. Kanniyakumari Exp and Ananthapuri Express from Chennai stop at Nanguneri station.
11. Thirukkurungkudi Nambi
Known as the ‘South Badri’, Azhagiya Nambi temple at Thirukkurungkudi is about 15 kms from Nanguneri. While the Lord lectures Ramanuja at (North) Badri, it is said that, here at Thirukkurungkudi, the Lord took the role of a disciple and obtained Vaishnava Initiation from Ramanuja and hence the Lord here is also called Vaishnava Nambi.
Chola, Pandya and Naayak Kings are said to have played a significant role in the construction of this temple. Culverts show that this temple in its current form and structure is at least 700 years old.
Under half a km from the main temple is the Thirupaarkadal Nambi temple and about 8 kms from here on the Western Ghats is the Thirumalai Nambi temple, where it is believed that Lord Hanuman took the leap to Lanka from here. Also, it is said that Lord Rama made his plans for the construction of the bridge to Lanka from here and then went over to Thirupallani. The Lord here has 39 different names including Kurungkudi Nambi, Vaishnava Nambi, Tirupparkadal Nambi and Malai Mel Nambi. Lord Nambi himself is believed to have been born as Nammazhvaar at Azhvaar Thirunagari.
The famed Araiyar Sevai originated from Thirukkurungkudi. Legend has it that the Lord used to listen to Araiyar’s Abhinayam hiding behind a wall in Bashyam Street(South Mada St). In recognition of this significant event, even today, one can see the name of this street in Tirunelveli’s Gazette. It is believed that ‘Vaikuntam’(the ultimate destination for Vaishnavites) is in ‘calling distance’ from this place. Thirumangai Azhvaar composed the last of his Paasurams here at this temple and is believed to have attained moksham from here.
Thirukkurungkudi is said to be the home to the Vaishnava tradition of ‘Kaisika Ekadesi’. On this day, the employees of the temple perform a Kaisika Natakam(drama)-worship of the Lord through dance, music and drama. This special event at the Thirukkurungudi temple dates back several hundred years. This year the Kaisika Natakam will take place at 10pm on 1st December.
Timings: 8am-12noon and 5pm-9pm
Contact: Murali Bhattar@ 94432 05739
How to reach Kurungkudi: Frequent buses from Valliyoor. One can also take a bus from Nanguneri.
Srivilliputhur, the birthplace of Andal, is considered to be among the holiest of the 108 Divya Desams because it is the birthplace of not one but two Azhvaars and a father-daughter one at that- Periazhvaar and Andal.. Legend has it that this town was built by two hunters Villi and Puttan and hence the name Villiputhur. The temple dates back to 1st Century AD.
The 196 ft high temple tower is 2nd only to Srirangam’s Rajagopuram. The temple tower is the one that is featured on the TN Government logo. The 9 tier temple chariot is said to be the biggest in Tamil Nadu. One finds Lord Garuda, the charioteer of Lord Vishnu, along side the main deities.
In all other temples, you would find Garuda standing opposite the main deity. It is believed that Garuda, brought Lord Ranganathan of Srirangam, to Srivilliputhur, faster than expected and hence he was accorded the special status here. A unique tradition followed to this day at this temple, not seen in any other Divya Desam, is that Lord Vadapatrasayi adorns the garland worn the previous evening by Andal (the Goddess).
Andal’s Thiruppavai (30 verses in praise of Lord) is one of the most beautifully composed songs among the 4000 Paasurams. It is believed that singing these 30 verses will bring peace and prosperity as well as God’s grace. Periazhvaar composed a total of 473 Paasurams, the first 12 is the famous Thirupallandu. It is said that Periazhvaar sang this first, in a debate on how best to serve the Lord, in front of the Pandya King in Madurai using Elephant’s bells as the beats for the song. A big attraction at the temple is the Araiyar Sevai, the song and dance enactment of the Paasurams. Vaikunta Ekadesi festival(Dec-Jan) attracts devotees from all over.
Temple timing: 630am-12noon and 4pm-9pm
Contact: Bala Mukunda Araiyar @ 94438 67345
Frequent buses from Tirunelveli via Sankaran Koil-Rajapalayam (2 hours). There is a direct train thrice a week (Podhigai Express) from Chennai
Labels: Nava Tirupathi Divya Desam