Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Pundarikaksha Perumal||Ambal / Thayar:||Shenbagavalli|
|Vriksham:||Vilvam||Teertham:||Kusa, Manikarnika, Chakra, Pushkala, Varaha Gandha, Padma teerthams|
|Timing:||7 to 1.15 & 3.30 to 8||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Divya Desam||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Tiruvellarai||District:||Tiruchirappalli|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Tiruchirappalli (22 km)||Perambalur (48 km)|
|Ariyalur (61 km)||Thanjavur (69 km)|
Tiruvellarai is located about 22 km from Trichy, past Mannachanallur, on the road to Thuraiyur.
Sthala puranam and temple information
Vellarai (Vellai-arai or white rock) is situated on a small hillock of white granite, giving it its name. This temple is considered the oldest of Vaishnavite shrines – older than even the Srirangam Ranganatha Perumal temple (it is considered that Srirangam was built around the time of Lord Rama, since there is an associated puranam coinciding with this timeline, and the Tiruvellarai temple was built at the time of Sibi Chakravarti, considered a forefather of Rama). Another reference to the temple’s age and the name of the place, could be it being called the Sveta Varaha Kshetram (per Hindu cosmology, we are currently in the 51st Kalpa, called the Sveta Varaha Kalpam, each kalpa being 4.32 billion years long; sveta = white in Sanskrit).
Perumal here is in Nindra Kolam, and is also established as Surya Narayanan, showering his benevolence on all living beings (as they all require sunlight), and causing rainfall to happen. This association with Suryan is manifested in the entrance to the main prakaram, which has different entry paths for the Uttarayanam (winter to summer) and Dakshinayanam (summer to winter) phases of the Sun. The Dakshinayanam phase is generally not preferred for starting auspicious activities, but it is believed that with the blessings of Surya Narayanan, such activities can be started even during that time. (The concept of two entrances for Uttarayanam and Dakshinayanam is generally prevalent in many Vishnu temples, but is of relevance here due to Lord Vishnu’s presence here as Surya Narayanan.)
Sibi Chakravarti stayed here with his warriors. One day, a white boar led him to a hole in the ground. Sage Markandeya advised the king to fill up the hole with milk, upon doing which, Lord Vishnu emerged. The king then brought thousands of people from all over the country, to build the temple. During the construction, one of them died, upon which Lord Vishnu himself took up human form and helped in the construction!
Tiruppagneeli is located not very far from here. It is considered that as part of his atonement for having cut off one of Brahma’s heads, Lord Siva prayed to Lord Vishnu here (also see story on Bhikshatanar).
Lakshmi (enshrined here as Pankajavalli Thayar) undertook severe penance and prayed to Lord Vishnu. He appeared to bless her here, as Pundarikakshan (the lotus-eyed one). It is believed that Vishnu appeared here to Garuda (who is worshipped here as Periya Tiruvadi), Sibi Chakarvarti, Bhoodevi, Sage Markandeyar, Brahma and Rudra (aspect of Lord Siva).
Near the dhwajasthambam is a hall where sound echoes. It is believed that some of the paasurams of the Divya Prabhandam are needed to be repeated twice or thrice, because that is how it sounded when they were first recited at this temple!
The main temple is a Pallava temple built in the time of Nandivarman II and Dantivarman, ie in the 8th century CE, with gopurams being built or removed by the Hoysalas in the 13th century. This includes the partly-constructed north-facing Gopuram, which is being reconstructed/renovation. This work is being undertaken by an individual known to us, with some limited external funding, using the technical guidance and support of IIT Madras.
The southern part of the temple complex has two rock cut cave temples – one from from the time of Nandivarman II and Dantivarman; and another from the time of Raja Raja Chola I. These also contain inscriptions from that time, as well as pictorial representation of the Narasimhar and Varaha avatarams. One of the caves also has shrines for Sage Markandeya and Bhoodevi. Elsewhere in the temple complex, are also inscriptions from the Vijayanagara period.
The temple tank, located outside the temple walls on the south-west, is shaped like a swastika. While there is a central well, the arms of the swastika have the steps leading up to the well. This design is done with the purpose that nobody in any arm of the swastika can see people on any of the other arms – essentially, for privacy reasons. For this reason, the tank is colloquially referred to as the mamiyaar-marumagal kulam (mother-in-law, daughter-in-law tank)! In the time of the Pallavas, this tank was called Marpidugu Kinaru (Marpidugu being one of the royal titles of Dantivarma Pallavan). Constructed in 805 AD by Kamban Araiyan, the tank was removed in the 13th century CE under Hoysala rule.
Tiruvellarai is the birthplace of Uyyakonda Bhaktar, after whom Uyyakondan malai inside Trichy is named, and which houses the Ujjeevanathar Paadal Petra Sthalam Siva temple.
Other information for your visit
Close to this temple, or on the way from Trichy, are the Gneeli Vaneswarar temple at Tiruppaigneeli (Paadal Petra Sthalam) which has been referred to above, Uttamar Koil Perumal temple, and the Bhoominathar temple at Mannachanallur. The Maatruraivaradeeswarar temple (Paadal Petra Sthalam) at Tiruvasi is a small diversion from Uttamar Koil.
Trichy is the nearest major city, and is served by an international airport. Being in roughly the geographical centre of Tamil Nadu, Trichy is well connected by trains to the rest of the state and with other destinations as well.
There are several accommodation options in Trichy across all budgets.