Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Vaiyam Katha Perumal||Ambal / Thayar:||Padmasana Thayar|
|Deity:||Perumal||Historical name:||Sangamapuri, Darbharanyam|
|Vriksham:||Pala||Teertham:||Chakra Teertham, Indra Teertham|
|Agamam:||Age (years):||Timing:||7.30 to 12.30 & 4 to 7.30||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Divya Desam||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Tirukudalur||District:||Thanjavur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Thanjavur (22 km)||Kumbakonam (26 km)|
|Ariyalur (34 km)||Tiruvarur (61 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
This Divya Desam temple is located very close to Vada Kurangaduthurai, the site of a Paadal Petra Sthalam temple for Siva as Dayanidheswarar, on the route from Kumbakonam to Tiruvaiyaru. The temple belongs to the lesser-known list of Kumbakonam Vaishnava Navagraham temples, a set of temples dedicated to Vishnu but relating to each of the Navagraham deities – this temple is the Ketu sthalam of that list. The temple is also referenced in the Brahmanda Puranam as well as Padma Puranam.
The temple is connected to the Varaha avataram of Vishnu. Hiranyaksha the demon had taken Bhudevi – Mother earth Herself – to the depths of the sea. The devas all gathered here to worship the Lord, before He took the Varaha avataram and rescued Bhudevi. Vishnu protected and rescued Bhudevi, and thereby the entire world. He is therefore named Jagat Rakshaka Perumal (which is Vaiyam Katha Perumal in Tamil). Tirumangaiazhvar has done mangalasasanam at this temple, and in his pasuram, refers to this place as Pugundha Oor, ie the place where Vishnu entered patala loka to retrieve Bhudevi.
The king Ambarisha was extremely pious and devout, to the extent that he lost a war and his kingdom because he would not forsake his devotion. He continued his service to Vishnu even after this. Once, he was in deep meditation, when sage Durvasa happened to come by to meet him. The king did not notice the sage, and the latter, who was given to anger easily, was about to curse the sage, when Vishnu sent forth His discus threateningly at the sage. Realising his folly, Durvasa sought succour and apologised for having been quick to react. The thankful king built this temple here as a mark of his gratitude to Perumal. The moolavar of this temple is also called Ambarisha Varadar, for this reason.
A parrot used to live in the hole in a tree in the temple. Every day, it would fetch a jamun fruit (naval pazham) and offer it at the feet of Perumal. Through this process, the bird would chant “Hari Hari”. One day, as it was picking up the fruit, a hunter shot his arrow at it. But even as the bird was hit and was falling down to the ground, it was chanting the Lord’s name. Vishnu appeared to the parrot and blessed it with salvation, explaining that in its previous birth, the bird had been a great devotee, and was born as a parrot only because of a curse. This is a reminder to all of us to keep thinking of the Lord at all times.
Since all the devas came together here prior to the Varaha avataram, this place is called Tirukoodalur (Koodal meaning to congregate); at least this is one of the stories for the name of the place. In ancient literature, the place is also called Sangama Kshetram. According to another story, Sage Nandaka and his fellow sages gathered here to worship Vishnu, and the Lord appeared in front of them. This gathering / congregation is the other reason given for the name of the place. The third story is about a sage whose daughter worshipped Vishnu by offering flowers. A Chola king fell in love with her, and they got married. But due to the various reactions of the public, the king had to separate from the girl. However, they both constantly prayed to Vishnu, and were able to come back together due to the grace of the Lord. The story of their reuniting (koodal) is therefore explained as the etymology of Tirukudalur.
The sthala vriksham of the temple is the jackfruit tree located behind the garbhagriham. On the tree is the outline impression of a conch that is said to have formed naturally, and is therefore revered by all. Praying to this conch itself is said to bring immense relief to devotees.
Perumal in the garbhagriham is in nindra kolam (standing) and is depicted with the prayoga chakram ready for use to protect His devotees. The gap between Perumal’s feet is regarded as the centre of the world, and the place from which He entered the ground as a boar, in the Varaha avataram.
People bathed (and still do) in the river Kaveri to cleanse themselves of their sins. This resulted in the river becoming polluted with the accumulated sins of humans. So Kaveri went to Brahma to cleanse herself, and was directed to worship Vishnu here.
Several centuries after the temple was built, floods in the river Kaveri damaged a large portion of the temple. Rani Mangammal was a queen regent of Madurai during the Nayak period, in the 17th century CE. Vishnu is believed to have appeared in the queen’s dream, ordering her to renovate this temple. The queen undertook the renovation, and even recovered idols that had been washed away in the river’s waters. This renovation also included the construction of the temple chariot – the Ambarisha Ratham – which was used till the 1940s. As a mark of reverence to this great queen, the temple has images of Rani Mangammal and her ministers who were involved in the restoration efforts.
The traditional dating of Tirumangaiazhvar’s time around 2700 BCE. However, some of his hymns appear to refer to the Pallava dynasty, and so based on modern research, he is placed around the late 8th century (modern dating, making him a contemporary of the Pallava king Nandivarman II).
The structural temple is dated to the medieval Cholas, perhaps to the late 8th century, before the Cholas emerged as a regional superpower. Later renovations by the Vijayanagara dynasty and Madurai Nayaks were also carried out, including the construction of a bulwark around the temple to prevent flood waters of the Kaveri river from entering.
Other information for your visit
The temple was undergoing renovation during our visit in December 2021.
Venkatesa Bhattar: 93452-67501; 93443-03803