SrI nammAzhwAr refers to this Divya dEsam as SrI vara mangala nagar. This is one of the 8 swayam vyaktha kshEthrams (where the idol of the Lord appeared by itself). This divya dEsam is also referred to as “vAnamAmalai” and “thOthAdri kshEthram”.
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Location and Access:
This divya dEsam is located about 25 km from TirunelvEli in south Tamil nAdu, on the way to nAgarkoil from TirunelvEli. A visit to this Divya dEsam may be combined with nearby Divya dEsams like Tirukkurungudi and the AzhwAr nava thirupathi-s near TirunelvEli. This divya dEsam is the headquarters of the vAnamAmalai Mutt. The pontiff of this Mutt is part of a direct lineage of AchAryAs that was established by Sri MaNavALa mAmunigaL.
nAngunEri by itself is a very small town with not much by way of lodging facilities. Pilgrims may, however stay at the vAnamAmalai mutt after making arrangements in advance. TirunelvEli, is a big town with ample lodging facilities. Buses and auto-rickshaws are available from TirunelvEli to nAngunEri.
As the name nAngunEri indicates, this place is home to a huge lake (Eri in Tamil). It is possible that, once upon a time, there were four lakes in this area (nangu = four in Tamil).
The temple is a fairly big one, and a leisurely walk through the temple covering all sannidhis will take about 1-2 hours. Personally, I feel you can spend half a day at this temple exploring the rich architecture and the numerous sannidhis.
The front of the temple is crowned with a 9-tiered rAja gOpuram, with a pandal mandapam in front of it. The temple corridors (prakArAs) are liberally adorned with beautiful sculptures. In one corner of the temple is a stone tank about 25 ft by 15 ft. This tank is used to store the oil with which abhishEkam for Sri PerumAL is done. This oil is believed to have wonderful curative properties.
The main sanctum sanctorum of the temple has Sri Perumal seated under the hood of Adi sEshan, flanked by Sri dEvi and bhU dEvi. The main deity (mUlavar) is goes by the name of thOthAdrinAthan, from which the Divya dEsam derives the name thOthAdri. The celestial damsels Urvasi and tilOttamA are seen fanning the Lord from either side. The uthsavar is Sri DeivanAyakan. The thAyAr here is SrI vara mangai thAyAr, from whom the divya dEsam derives its official name.
There are separate sannidhis for two thAyArs. There are also separate sannidhis for SrI Rama-sIta-Lakshmana, SrI chakrathAzhwAr, SrI lakshmi varAhar and SrI vishvaksEnar.
Legends and History:
- This temple has been glorified by SrI nammAzhwAr. There is no separate idol of nammAzhwAr anywhere in the temple, since the satAri of SrI perumAL has an image of nammAzhwAr engraved on it.
- Legend has it that the sages - SrI mArkandEya and SrI bhrigu, in addition to Brahma and indrA were blessed by the Lord at this divya dEsam.
- The king of Sindh was cursed by SrI kushAsana rishi and attained the form of a dog. Legend has it that he was relieved of the curse by bathing in the temple tank here.
- The pontiff of the vAnamAmalai mutt here belongs to a lineage of AchAryAs that was established by SrI maNavALa mAmuni. Once a year, the pontiff wears a ring that was once worn by the latter.
- According to this sthala purANam, when Lord SrI Vishnu killed the demons madhu and kaitabhA, Mother Earth got polluted, and sought purification from the Lord by worshipping Him here. She was blessed by Him and attained purification. Mother Earth also came to be known as mEdinI thenceforth.
[Note: The numbering convention for the pAsurams seems to differ in various Divya Prabandham books. In some Divya Prabandham books, the same pAsurams by nammAzhwAr are found between numbers 2590-2600]
A sample pAsuram:
நோற்ற நோன்பிலேன் நுண்ணறி விலேன்
ஆகிலும் இனி யுன்னைவிட்டு ஒன்றும்
ஆற்றகிற் கின்றிலேன் அரவினணை யம்மானே
சேற்றுத் தாமரை செந்நெ லூடுமலர் சிரீவரமங்கல நகர்
வீற்றிருந்த எந்தாய்! உனக்கு மிகையல்லேன் அங்கே
In this pAsuram, SrI nammAzhwAr calls out to the Lord as - O Lord reclining on the serpent! O Lord, O my mother, who is seated in SrI vara mangala nagar (replete with lotus ponds and paddy fields) ! AzhwAr humbly concedes to the Lord that he has not done any penance, and that he is of meagre intelligence. Yet, he cannot bear separation from Him.
SrI vara mangai thAyAr samEtha SrI thOthAdrinAthan thiruvadigaLae saraNam