Govindaraja Perumal, Chidambaram, Cuddalore


Basic information about the temple

Moolavar:Govindaraja PerumalAmbal / Thayar:Pundarikavalli
Deity:PerumalHistorical name:Tiruchitrakootam
Vriksham:Teertham:Pundareeka Pushkarini & 12 more teerthams
Agamam:

Vaikhanasa

Age (years):

1000-2000

Timing:6.30 to 12 & 5 to 10Parikaram:

Temple group:Divya Desam
Sung by:

Temple set:

Navagraham:

Nakshatram:

City / town:ChidambaramDistrict:Cuddalore
Maps from (click): Current location Mayiladuthurai (43 km)Cuddalore (49 km)

Kumbakonam (74 km)Viluppuram (79 km)

Location

Sthala puranam and temple information

This Divya Desam temple is located inside the Chidambaram Thillai Natarajar temple, adjacent to the south-facing Tirumulanathar shrine. Perumal here faces east. This is one of only three Divya Desam temples that are inside another temple (Nilathunda Perumal Divya Desam inside the Kanchipuram Ekambareswarar temple, and Kalva Perumal Divya Desam inside the Kanchi Kamakshi Amman temple).

The puranam of the Natarajar temple starts with Adiseshan feeling Vishnu getting heavier, while lying on him in Tiruparkadal. Adiseshan asked Vishnu the reason for this, and the Lord replied that the heaviness was from the satisfaction of recalling Siva’s Ananda tandavam that he had witnessed (said to be at Tiruvenkadu, also called Aadi Chidambaram). Adiseshan wished to see this as well, and so he came to Bhulokam as Patanjali, and was able to witness the tandavam together with Vyaghrapada, at Thillai. Since the origin of all this was Vishnu, He has a separate temple which is located inside the Natarajar temple complex. It is also believed that after the dance duel between Siva and Kali at the Chitsabhai, which Siva won, He requested Vishnu to remain here. Brahma acted as the arbiter for the duel, and so he too has a murti in the Perumal shrine. From a particular point in the mandapam, one can see the trinity at one go.

This particular shrine has its own name – Chitakootam, and Vishnu here is worshipped as Govindaraja Perumal as well as Chitrakootathaan.

Thilli, a demon, worshipped Vishnu so she could live in a forest but also be able to worship Him. He directed her to this place, which forest came to be called Thillai, and He Himself stayed here at her request. Her footsteps can be seen in the sannidhi, and it is believed that she is praying to Vishnu to provide mukti to devotees.

The river Kaveri gets is name from Kaveran, who along with his wife, used to bathe in the river. Once, Sage Agastyar’s wife Lopamudra came there, and Kaveran asked her the way to attain mukti. She advised him to go to Thillai and worship Vishnu, which he did, and eventually attained salvation.

This Perumal shrine itself has Vishnu in all three of nindra, amarndha, and kidantha kolams – standing as Chitrakootathaan, seated as the utsavar Parthasarathi, and Govindaraja Perumal in sayanam.

While the Natarajar shrine predates the Perumal shrine here, the latter was installed in the mid-to-late 8th century by the Pallava king Nandivarman. Subsequently, several renovations and additions have been made by the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras and the Vijayanagara dynasty. However, the present-day temple is largely the same as how it stood in the 13th century, because subsequent changes have largely stuck to the original style.

It is believed that the pancha boothas became the five kalasas of Chitrakootam, the Vedas became the four gopurams, the 36 smritis became entrances to the temple, and the 1000 names of Mahavishnu became the 1000 pillared mandapam. In the garbhagriham, Adiseshan is seen sporting seven heads, and Perumal wears a Salagrama garland. Vishwakarma is believed to have built the temple originally, and also established the 12 teerthams for the temple – Pundareeka Saras, Amudha Kupam, Sesha Teertham, Tiruparkadal, Kaveri Teertham, Garuda Pushkarini, Sweta Pushkarini, Iyambaga Seshana Teertham, Indra Pushkarini, Agni Teertham, Sama Teertham and Nirjara Pushkarini.

In the Ramayanam, Rama and Sita worshipped here during their exile. It is said that the name Chitrakootam was given to this place by them, as it reminded them of Chitrakoot in the north.

This temple has seen more than its fair share of conflict. Until the time of Kulothunga Chola, the Siva and Vishnu temples co-existed peacefully amongst devotees, although most of the rulers till then were largely of the Saivite denomination, and so spent more on the upkeep of the Siva temple. However, Kulothunga Chola II is said to have had the murti of Govindaraja Perumal removed from the shrine and thrown into the sea. It is believed that Ramanujar fled to Tirupati with the utsava murti in the 12th century, and it was only in the middle of the 16th century, in the time of the king Krishnappa Nayak, did the murtis come back and were re-installed here, despite stiff opposition from the Saivite devotees of the region.

In his pasurams, Kulasekara Azhvar sang about Perumal imagining him as Rama, since he equated Tiruchitrakootam with the Chitrakoot of Ramayanam. Tirumangaiazhvar was astounded by the peaceful image of Perumal absorbing Natarajar’s Ananda tandavam, and so the first 10 of the 32 pasurams he sang, are composed in Siva’s favourite ragam – Shankarabharanam.

Interestingly, it is said that in the time of the azhvars, puja for Perumal was performed by the Deekshitars of Chidambaram, and only after Krishnadevaraya’s brother Achutharaya employed Vaishnava Bhattars, did worship resume here under the auspices of the Vaikhanasa agamam. (Interestingly, Vishnu temples that follow the Vaikhanasa agamam have some connection, often – but not always – have a shrine for Siva within the temple complex. Vishnu temples following other agamams do not have this uniqueness.)

Other information for your visit

Contact

Chakravartii Bhattar: 9566931905

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