Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Madanagopala Swami||Ambal / Thayar:||Madanavalli Thayar, Rukmini, Satyabhama|
|Timing:||7 to 12 & 5 to 9||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Madurai||District:||Madurai|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Madurai (1 km)||Sivaganga (8 km)|
|Virudhunagar (50 km)||Dindigul (63 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
After Siva – as Sundareswarar – married Meenakshi, the daughter of King Malayadhwajan of Madurai, he took over as the king of the region. Prior to His coronation, Sundareswarar worshipped the Siva Lingam (essentially, Siva worshipped Himself!) at the nearby Immayilum Nanmai Tharuvar temple. However, the celestials in attendance found the heat and energy emitted from that puja to be unbearable. They approached Vishnu for help.
On His part, Vishnu took the form of Gopala, the cowherd, and started playing the flute. The melody reached Siva’s ears, and the heat and radiation from the proceedings started to simmer down. Very pleased with the outcome, Siva requested Vishnu to stay nearby and continue to play the flute at all times. Vishnu readily obliged, and is enshrined here as a result.
According to one version, Andal, one of the 12 azhvars in the Vaishnavite bhakti tradition, set out from Srivilliputhur, to be married to Vishnu as Ranganathar at Srirangam. She was accompanied by her father, Periyazhvar, and they both visited this temple on their way.
While the core temple is believed to be from the Pandya period, there is no significant evidence to support this. The structural temple is dated to the 15th or 16th century CE. There are some inscriptions inside the temple, but research shows that many of these are on stones that do not pertain to this temple. One inscription, however, is dated to the late 16th century, and refers to Andal as Kothai.
Given its connection with the Siva temple nearby, and being of more recent construction and installation, there are several elements here that are typical of Siva temples, but unusual or rarely seen in Vishnu temples. These include Vinayakar seated under a banyan tree, to the left, once we enter the temple, and a separate shrine for Sarpa Raja (Naagar) under a Peepul tree, which in classic iconographic fashion, has an embedded image of a Siva Lingam on it.
There is also a separate Navagraham shrine in the north-eastern direction of the complex (which is unusual as Vishnu temples go generally, but can often be seen in Vishnu temples in the Madurai region).
The moolavar – Madanagopala Swami – looks radiant and bewitchingly handsome, stands about five feet tall, and is in the garbhagriham along with Rukmini and Satyabhama. Also here are the utsavar – Daivika Vasudevan – and a separate shrine for Madanavalli Thayar. In addition, there are the usual shrines as seen in Vishnu temples, including for Andal, Chakarathazhvar, Narasimhar, Rama, Vishwaksena, other azhvars, etc. Hanuman here is seen as Pancha-Mukha Anjaneyar, with five faces. There is also a shrine for Gaja Lakshmi – something unusual in Vishnu temples – located in the western prakaram.
The temple’s walls feature extraordinary architectural elements, including carvings, bas reliefs, and pillar and wall sculptures. The temple is also a prarthana sthalam for relief from Sarpa Dosham.
The mandapam we see today in front of the garbhagriham, is a reconstruction. The original can be found at – of all places – the Philadelphia Museum of Art. How did this come about?
In the early 20th century, the elements of the mukha mandapam – comprising about 60 pieces of granite slabs and pillars – were dismantled and lying on the ground. In 1912, Adeline Pepper Gibson of Philadelphia came visiting, and believed (claimed?) these were lying as rubble, and had these exported to Philadelphia. They are arranged and displayed at the museum there. The architecture on these pillars – which depict various deities, celestial beings and animals, and scenes from the Ramayanam and Mahabharatam – is simply astounding!
Other information for your visit
The temple is located two streets away from the Immayilum Nanmai Tharuvar temple for Siva. There is also a temple for Navaneeta Krishnan, called the Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal temple, nearby, which is run by the Saurashtran community.
Phone: 0452 234 9363
Contact: 94431 81793, 94871 80207