Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Agasteeswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||Swarnambigai|
|Deity:||Siva||Historical name:||Vilvaranyam, Vilvavanam|
|Timing:||6 to 12 & 4 to 8.30||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Vaippu Sthalam||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Villivakkam||District:||Chennai|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Chennai (8 km)||Tiruvallur (41 km)|
|Kanchipuram (78 km)||Vellore (148 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
During the wedding of Siva and Parvati, the celestials gathered in Kailasam, making the continent tilt. So, Siva requested Agastyar to go down south, to balance the world. This is one of the places Agastyar worshipped at, and also received the divine vision of the celestial wedding.
While he was here, the sage encountered two demons named Ilvala (or Vilvala) and Vatapi, who took pleasure in killing and eating sages. Their modus operandi was that Vatapi (who had a boon that would bring him back to life) would take the form of a goat, which would be served to the sages (apparently in those days, sages ate meat). But before the food could be digested, Ilvala would call for Vatapi to come out, and the latter would do so by rending the stomach of the sages, thereby killing them. They attempted the same approach with Agastyar, but with his foresight, the sage ensured that Vatapi (as a goat) was digested before Ilvala could call out for him. Unable to bear the loss of Vatapi, Ilavla also died from grief.
As the two demons were born to a sage, they were also, by causing their death, Agastyar was afflicted by Brahmahathi dosham, and so he prayed to Siva for relief. In addition to ridding the sage of the dosham – which explains the name of the moolavar – the Lord also deputed Veerabhadrar to protect the sage at all times, and so Veerabhadrar has a separate shrine here. Also, because he faces north, which is associated with the north and also with wealth, Veerabhadrar is called Aiswarya Veerabhadrar here.
When Siva blessed the sage, He appeared with Parvati who was wearing gold ornaments at the time, and so She is named Swarnambigai. The temple’s sthala puranam is also connected to that of the Sowmya Damodara Perumal temple nearby.
There are two stories as to the etymology of Villivakkam. One is that it is a corruption of Vilva-vanam, which was the ancient name of this place, as it was a forest of vilvam trees. The other takes its name from Ilvala from the temple’s sthala puranam. Also, etymologically significant is the place Konnur, located very close to the temple, which is named for the killing (konru, in Tamil) of the demons.
Sevvaai (Mars), one of the Navagraham, was suffering from a curse, and worshipped Siva here. Siva blessed him and relieved him of the curse, and out of gratitude, Sevvaai by creating a Teertham for Siva (which is the temple’s tank today, called the Angaraka Teertham). This temple is one of the Navagraham temples in and around Chennai, this one dedicated to Sevvaai (Mars). There is a separate shrine for Sevvaai between the temple and its large tank. This is a prarthana sthalam for devotees who seek to remove the obstacles caused by Sevvaai dosham, in getting married.
Based on some of the architecture, the structural temple here appears to be from the Chola period, dated to the 10th or 11th century. However, unusual for Chola temples is the fact that the vimanam over the garbhagriham is a Gajaprishtha vimanam (shaped like the back of a resting elephant), which is more associated with the Pallavas. The architecture here is nuanced, and the various murtis here are finely chiselled. In particular, one should not miss the Adhikara Nandi – the one with the human face – in a niche by the eastern door.
Although the moolavar faces east, and there is a gate on the eastern wall, the main entrance to the temple is via a mottai (flat) gopuram on the south. One enters the maha mandapam through the next entrance – also facing south, which leads straight to the Amman shrine.
Other Information for your visit