Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Rajagopala Perumal||Ambal / Thayar:||Rukmini, Satyabhama|
|Timing:||7 to 11 & 4 to 7||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Nallicheri||District:||Thanjavur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Thanjavur (14 km)||Kumbakonam (31 km)|
|Ariyalur (39 km)||Tiruvarur (62 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
Devaki, Krishna’s mother, once lamented that she was unable to witness Krishna’s childhood and His leelas when He was growing up. So, He arranged for her, and also Yasoda and others from Gokulam, to visit various places. At each of these places, He would turn into a younger version of Himself – of a different age in each of the places – and indulge in the various activities and mischief He engaged in as a child, so as to please Devaki. This is regarded as one of the places they visited, when Krishna showed them His form as a young boy, and the experiences he had in his Guru Sandipani’s gurukulam, when he mastered the 64 arts in 64 days.
In order to welcome Krishna here, Shakhambari Devi (Sakti) created 64 varieties of sacred trees, herbal plants, flowers, etc, here, which Krishna blessed to be imbued with the power of Vedas. The gooseberry was one of those, and so this place was called Nellicheri (Nelli = gooseberry in Tamil), which over time has become Nallicheri. It could also be that the name comes from the sthala puranam of the nearby Jambunathar temple.
King Vijayaraghava Nayak was ruling Thanjavur and would go to Mannargudi to worship at the Rajagopalaswami temple there every evening, for the ardha-jama puja. One day, as he was traveling, a terrible cyclonic storm started, which prevented the king from proceeding. So, he stopped here to rest. In the night, he heard a celestial voice telling him to build a temple for Krishna. The following morning, upon completing his bath, he witnessed an eagle almost beckoning him to follow it. He did so, and the eagle stopped at a particular spot. Understanding that this was Garuda telling him the location of the temple, he built the temple here.
The moolavar here is depicted as Krishna, and so does not have the usual conch and discus associated with Vishnu; instead, He is depicted with the whisk used by cowherds.
While several places have Siva and Vishnu temples in them, Nallichery is one of the very few places that is, in ancient literature, referred to as a Hari-Hara Punya Bhoomi, due to the presence of this temple and the nearby Jambukeswarar temple for Siva. As a result, this is regarded as a place of peace, and this is reinforced by the ancient name of this place – Shantapuri. Other names of Nallicheri in the puranams and stories, are Adityanagaram, Teerthapuram and Vedasindhoori.
It is said that various rishis and siddhars have undertaken Vishnupati worship at this temple (which is one of the few temples mentioned in the puranams where such worship has taken place).
The incidents in the sthala puranam involving the Nayak king, are said to have taken place about 1000 years ago. But that does not match with the historical timelines of when the Nayaks ruled from Thanjavur. One would have to assume that the temple was built in the 16th or 17th century, during the time of the Thanjavur Nayaks.
The king mentioned in the sthala puranam – Vijayaraghava Nayak – authored a tome called Raghunathadbhyudayam, valorising the deeds of Raghunatha Nayak, possibly the best known and most powerful of the Nayak kings.
The temple itself is very simple but nicely constructed, with the entire set of shrines at a slightly raised level from the ground. At the entrance, Garuda faces the Lord. The maha mandapam has a vavvaal-nethi mandapam (which is unusual for Perumal temples), inside which the various shrines are housed. There is also a statue here for Vijayaraghava Nayak, from the temple’s sthala puranam.
Although in the garbhagriham, Krishna as Rajagopala Perumal is with Rukmini and Satyabhama, there is also a separate shrine for Sengamala Thayar, since the temple was built as an alternate to the Mannargudi temple. There is also a separate shrine for Vishnu as Jagat Rakshaka Perumal. The prakaram is simple but the 3-tier vimanam over the garbhagriham is exquisitely worked on with plaster images and stone carvings.
Other information for your visit
The temple bhattar lives a couple of houses down the street from the temple gopuram. He is very friendly and was able to open the temple for us even though it was shut.
Srinivasan Bhattar: 85085 22280