On my recent visit to temples around Kumbakonam and Trichy, I was fortunate enough to visit this temple. I was on my bike and set out from Srirangam for Thirupainjeli. I missed a left turn and realised it too late. On enquiry I came to know that Thiruvellarai was just a couple of kilometres away. Just the previous day my friend had told me about this Pundarikaasha Perumal Temple at Thiruvellarai. I had decided to visit it only if time permits an was low on priority. Luckily I missed that left turn to Thirupainjeli. The temple entrance is astonishingly huge and beautiful. There isn’t too many people visiting the temple and hence the atmosphere inside the temple is very calm. This sprawling temple has very tall compound walls to match its vastness. I could not spend as much time as I would have liked to. I would love to visit this temple again. You too would, if you visit it once.
Thiruvellarai near Trichy is one of the 108 Divya Desams. This temple which is even older than the Srirangam temple is considered to be the oldest among the Vaishnavite temples of the South. It is believed that this temple was built by Sibhi Chakravarthy, a forefather of Lord Rama seven generations before Him. It is believed that 64 Chaturyugas has passed since this temple was first consecrated. For your understanding, each Chaturyuga cycle comprises of four Yugas namely, Satya Yuga for 1728000 years, Treta Yuga for 1296000 years, Dwapara Yuga for 864000 years and Kali Yuga for 432000 years. Thus one Chaturyuga cycle which comprises of the four Yugas has 4320000 years. This is divided between the four Yugas in the ratio 4:3:2:1, in their chronological order.
The main Deity is Pundarikaasha Perumal who is in a standing position facing East. His Consort is Shenbagavalli Thayar also known as Periya Pirattiyar Lakshmi Devi, has a separate sannadhi. The Utsavar Thayar is known as Pangajavalli. In the Mulavar sannadhi the deities present are Pundarikakshan, Bhoomi Piratti, Periya piratti, Suriya and Chandiran and Aadisheshan. There are also shrines for Lord Krishna, Vishwaksenar, Manavala Muni, Ramanujar apart from Nammazhwar, Chakarathazhwar, Nadhamunigal, Kulasekara Azhwar, Thondarippodi Azhwar and Andal.
As in Nachiyal Koil at Thirunaraiyur near Kumbakonam and Andal in Srivilliputhur, Thayar is given the first honour. The Palanquin carrying Thayar is brought first on festivals. She is given the precedence in other rituals too at this temple.
Here is the etymology of the name Thiruvellarai. Thiru is holy, Vellai is white and arai is rock in tamil. Since this temple was built on a small white hillock, this place is known as Thiruvellarai. The Sanskrit name for this place is Shwethagiri, shwetha means white and giri means hill/hillock.
According to the legends Garudan, Markandeya and Lakshmi worshipped the Lord here. Markandeya who was save by Lord Shiva from Yama, the Lord of death, at Thirukkadaiyur was guided to Thiruvellarai when he prayed to Lord Shiva for Moksham. Here he had the darshan of Lord Vishnu and also attained moksham.
According to a legend, Sibhi Chakravarthy – Lord Rama’s forefather was passing through this place on his way to wage a war over the Asura King Ravana. As his army neared Thiruvellarai, a white boar was continually obstructing them. An angry Sibhi Chakravarthy chased the white boar which disappeared into a ant hill. Markandeya was in a penance nearby and sibhi Chakravarthy told him about his chase of the white boar. Markandeya asked Sibhi to perform abhishegam to the ant hill as the white boar was none other than Lord Vishnu Himself. Accordingly, the king performed the abhishegam. Lord Vishnu immediately appeared to both of them and blessed them. He also asked Sibhi Chakravarthy not to go in pursuit of Ravana as he was destined to die only at the hands of the Lord Himself. Lord Vishnu told him that Ravana would be killed by Him in his later Avatar as Lord Rama. He also asked Sibhi Chakravarthy to build a temple here and said that Thayar should be given prominence here as it was Her wish. Hence this place is also known as Shwetha Varaha Kshetram. It is said that Sibhi Chakravarthi brought about 3700 Vaishnavite families from his kingdom to build the temple here. Over a period of time many of these families left for places all over south, including Karnataka, and took up the responsibilities of performing daily pujas at various temples. It is said that all the temple priests of the Vaishnavite temples of South India have their roots in Thiruvellarai. It is no wonder that this place is considered very sacred. It is said that one must visit Thiruvellarai at least once in his lifetime and have a darshan of the Lord here. “Thiruvellarai Kandeero, Kandaen Ayya”
The childless are blessed with progeny by bathing in the temple tanks here and then praying to him here. All wishes are fulfilled if it submitted to the Lord by applying turmeric at the Balipeetam.
There is a Swastik shaped tank behind this temple. This is also known as Mamiyar Mattupen theertham (Mamiyar is mother-in-law and mattupen is daughter-in-law). The shape of the Swatik Kulam facilitates some sort of privacy. If one is bathing in any one of the segments of the Swastik then they cannot be seen from elsewhere. The Swastik Tank is an ASI monument.
There are some more interesting facts that I was not aware of during my visit. Here they are
- There are 18 steps at the entrance of the temple signifying the 18 chapters of the Bhagwat Gita.
- Just before the Bali Peetam there are four steps signifying the four Vedas.
- There are five steps leading the Sanctum Sanctorum of Perumal. These five steps signify the Pancha Boothas or the five natural elements namely, Fire, Water, Space, Earth and Air.
- There are two gates near the Perumal sannadhi which are used alternately during the Dakshinaayana (period between the Winter Solstice and Summer Solstice) and the Uttaraayana(period between Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice)
- You have to climb a further 8 steps which signfy the Ashtaaksharam.
- Thereafter there are 24 steps that signify the Gayatri Mantram which comprises of 24 syllables.
You can read about this temple in greater detail at Mr. Raju’s blog here.
Location of Pundarikaasha Perumal Temple at Thiruvellarai:
Thiruvellarai is located about 20 kms from Tituchirapalli towards Thuraiyur. As you come North from Srirangam/Thiruvanaikaval take a left turn at Toll Gate. After you cross Bitchandar Kovil, a right turn will take you to Mannachanallur. At Mannachanallur take the road towards Thuraiyur. Thiruvellarai is about 7 kms from there. A left turn at Mannachanallur would take you to Thirupainjeli which is approximately 7.5 kms away.
Other Temples near Pundarikaasha Perumal Temple at Thiruvellarai :
Samayapuram Mariamman temple
Sri Pundarikaashan Temple,
Thiruvellarai 621 009.
Temple Phone Numbers: +91- 431-256 2243, +91-93451-18817
Temple Timings: 7 AM to 1 PM & 3.30 PM to 8.30 PM