Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Sundararaja Perumal (Kallazhagar)||Ambal / Thayar:||Sundarvalli, Sridevi Bhoodevi|
|Vriksham:||Chandanam||Teertham:||Noopura Ganga Teertham|
|Timing:||6 to 12.30 & 3.30 to 8||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Divya Desam||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Alagarkovil||District:||Madurai|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Madurai (26 km)||Sivaganga (49 km)|
|Dindigul (50 km)||Virudhunagar (76 km)|
Azhagar Koil is located about 25km north of Madurai.
Sthala puranam and temple information
The city of Madurai is all about beauty. Not just is the city gorgeous by itself, but it is also enhanced by the beauty of the Gods – the beautiful, fish-eyed Meenakshi, the handsome Sundareswarar, and the resplendent Vishnu as Kallazhagar (outside the city) and Koodal Azhagar (in the heart of the city), and not to mention the ever-youthful and handsome Murugan at Alagar Malai.
Popularly known as the Kallazhagar temple, the moolavar here is called Sundararaja Perumal, and the puranam here goes back to the time of King Malayadhwajan, whose daughter Meenakshi married Siva. Vishnu – being Parvati’s brother – had to come down to earth to give her away. Of course, this turned out to be for nothing. Lord Vishnu left His abode at Alagar Koil to attend the wedding, but his progress was slow, and by the time he reached the Vaigai river, he got news that the wedding was over. Furious, He decided to turn back, but Sundareswarar and Meenakshi came to the Vaigai river to pacify him. He then gave them the gifts he had carried, in a mandapam in the middle of Vaigai river. (Read this full feature on Siva-Parvati marriages, including the above story.)
At one time, there was no death on earth, since everyone lived honest lives. However, on one occasion, a man intended harm to a woman, and Yama immediately punished him. Realising that rules and a ruler to dispense the rules were needed, Siva deputed Yama for the role, and to make people afraid, gave Yama fangs. Yama was disappointed with this new look, but worshipped Lord Vishnu at this temple to ensure that at least his face remained as handsome as ever. Vishnu appeared before him and blessed him. Yama’s only other plea was that Vishnu should stay here for ever, and that he (Yama) should worship him at least once a day. This is believed to be the story of why Vishnu, as the handsome Sundararaja Perumal, came to Azhagar hills. It is believed that even today, the ardhajama puja (last puja of the day) is done by Yama.
Sage Sutapa was bathing in the Noopura Ganga and so missed paying obeisance to Sage Durvasa who came by. Due to the latter’s curse, Sage Sutapa turned into a frog and was called Manduka rishi. The sage started praying to Vishnu, who came from the foothills of Azhagar hills up to Nupura Ganga, to relieve the sage of his curse.
The Nupura Gangai, whose presiding deity is Rakayee Amman, is the temple Teertham. Rakayee Amman is the sister of Kallazhagar Perumal, and has a separate shrine, below which the Nupura Gangai flows. It is believed that Adiseshan guards Perumal during the day, while Rakayee Amman guards Him at night.
There are 18 steps at the eastern entrance of the temple, and there is a legend here. Once, 18 men made an attempt to rob the temple and the murti of Kallazhagar. But upon seeing Him, the men were so captivated by His beauty that they prayed to him and requested that they do not leave his sannidhi. It is believed that those men became the 18 steps.
The temple is substantially a Pandya period construction (mainly Jatavarman Sundarapandian), though the Nayaks of Madurai (particularly Tirumalai Nayakar) as well as the Vijayanagara Dynasty (and Krishnadeva Raya, in particular) have made significant contributions to this temple.
In the late 13th and early 14th century, during the siege of Madurai by Islamic forces led by Malik Kafur, the idol of Ranganathar from Srirangam made its way to several places, including this temple, as a hiding place, before eventually returning to Srirangam.
This temple finds mention in various places in literature, including the Divya Prabhandam of the Azhvars, other religious and spiritual texts, as well as the Sangam epic Silappatikaram.
The temple premises is constructed like a fort, and the temple lands go beyond these walled enclosures. Local farmers offer their first yield of crop to the temple, and these grains are processed, ground and made into a batter, from which are made the famous Azhagar Koil dosai prasadam.
There is a mottai / unfinished gopuram to the side of the Perumal temple, at the start of the road to the Murugan temple above. This was gopuram was meant for the Perumal temple, and construction was started by Krishna Deva Raya, but was left unfinished after his defeat.
Other information for your visit
Madurai has accommodation for all budgets, and is also well connected by air, road and rail, to the rest of the country. The airport also serves some international destinations.