Celebrating the Azhwars and the Divya Desams of Lord Sriman Narayana!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

ThiruveLLarai Divya Desam

[Click here for pictures of this Divya Desam]

It is really my pleasure to describe this Divya Desam, which is one of my personal super-favourites.

ThiruveLLarai is a big, beautiful and serene temple that almost never gets crowded. Located 27 km from Trichy city in central Tamil Nadu, Thiru veLLarai is a small, laid back town.

Location and Access:

ThiruveLLarai is en route to Thuraiyur from Trichy city. From Trichy’s Chathram bus terminus, visitors can take a public transport bus directly to ThiruveLLarai. The distance is 27 km (one-way) and under normal traffic, this takes about 45 minutes. The journey takes us through a semi-rural route. If you are taking a bus, be sure to let the bus conductor know in advance that you wish to alight at Thiru veLLarai. It is not a major stopping and is easy to miss. The bus stop is near a welcome arch that directly shows the path to the temple. From the bus stop, the temple is about 10 minutes by walk along a straight path. This path and the temple itself are not very shady and can be uncomfortably hot in summer months. If you are visiting in summer, try to get to the temple early (around 9 AM at the latest). The temple campus is huge and can easily take you a couple of hours if you desire to explore it in leisurely detail. First time visitors will find it better to visit the temple during daytime so that they can get an idea of its magnitude and beauty. The temple also has a special beauty in the night..a visit in moonlight can be a sublime experience. However, getting to the temple at night can be a little difficult after sunset if travelling by public transport.

Another way to cover this Divya Desam is by combining it with a visit to other nearby Divya Desams – like Anbil, Uthamar Koil, Thiru uraiyur, kOviladi and Sri Rangam – which are all located in and around Trichy. You can hire a call-taxi to cover several of these Divya Desams. It is possible to cover Anbil, Uthamar Koil, Thiru uraiyur, kOviladi and ThiruveLLarai in half-a-day. However, this is a rather hurried way of covering the temples.

Legends and History:

It is fairly well established that ThiruveLLarai is an older temple compared to Sri Rangam – and this has given rise to the moniker “Adhi veLLarai”. According to legend, Lord Sriman Narayana blessed the emperor Sibi (one of the ancestors of Sri Rama) and Sri mArkandEya mahArishi at this Divya Desam several yugas ago.
The temple has been glorified by Sri PeriAzhwar and Sri Thirumangai Azhwar. Also, Swami Desikan has sung about this temple.

The name “veLLarai” literally means “white rock”. This name is due to the fact that the mountain is situated on top of a small hill (~100 feet in height) composed of supposedly-white rocks. The Sanskrit name for this place is Swetha-ketu.

The temple:

The temple has a couple of similarities with the Varadaraja temple in Kanchipuram. Like the latter, ThiruveLLarai is located on top a small hillock. Also, both temples are vast campuses with imposing structures. Both temples have two entrances to the main sanctum – the UthrAyaNa vAsal and the dakshinAyana vAsal – which are open during two different halves of the year. Visitors have to climb a set of steps to reach the main sannidhi.

The outermost gOpuram in ThiruveLLarai is an unfinished one (mottai gOpuram). The temple campus houses seven separate theerthams. A high wall encloses the temple campus completely. The temple also has an inner entrance called the “nAzhi kEttAn vAsal” where Sri thAyar demanded an explanation from PerumAL for coming home late ;-)

The temple has several separate sannidhis including those for Sri ChakrathAzhwar, Sri NammAzhwAr, Sri ANDAL and Sri Tondaradippodi AzhwAr.

The thAyAr here is Sri PankajavaLLi, who has a separate sannidhi. The name of Sri PerumAL here is Sri PundarIkAkshan (literally, the Lotus-Eyed One). Sri PeriAzhwar refers to Him as “azhagan”(the handsome one). PerumAL here is in a standing posture, towering resplendently with Adiseshan in a human form and GarudAzhwar standing beside Him. The sun and moon gods devotedly fan Sri Perumal from either side. Seated humbly before Sri PerumAL are Sri Bhoo devi and Sri mArkandEyar.

Sri PankajavaLLi thAyAr samEtha Sri PundarIkAksha PerumAL ThiruvadigaLae SaraNam
AzhwAr emperumAnAr jIyar ThiruvadigaLae SaraNam