Varadharaja Perumal Temple
Varadharaja Perumal Temple or Hastagiri or Attiyuran is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu located in the holy city of Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, India. It is one of the Divya Desams, the 108 temples of Vishnu believed to have been visited by the 12 poet saints, or Alwars. It is located in a suburb of Kanchipuram known as the Vishnu Kanchi that is a home for many famous Vishnu temples. One of the greatest Hindu scholars of Vaishnava VisishtAdvaita philosophy, Ramanuja is believed to have resided in this temple. The temple along with Ekambareswarar Temple and Kamakshi Amman Temple in Kanchipuram is popularly known as Mumurtivasam (abode of trio), while Srirangam is referred to as ‘ The Koil’ (meaning: "temple") and Tirupathi as the ‘Malai’ (Meaning: "hill"). Among the Divya Desams, Kanchipuram Varadaraja Perumal temple is known as the ‘Perumal Koil’. This is one of the most sacred places for Vaishnavites. There is another famous temple of Varadarajaswamy in Kurmai, of Palamaner mandal in Chittor District of Andhra Pradesh, called the Kurma Varadaraja Swamy Temple.
There is a belief that the temple was first built by the Pallava king Nandivarman II. Varadharaja Perumal Temple was originally built by the Cholas in 1053 and it was expanded during the reigns of the great Chola kings Kulottunga Chola I and Vikrama Chola. In the 14th century another wall and a gopura was built by the later Chola kings. When a Mughul invasion was expected in 1688, the main image of the deity was sent to Udayarpalayam, now part of Tiruchirapalli District. It was brought back with greater difficulty after the involvement of local preceptor who enlisted the services of general Todarmal. Robert Clive, the British general during the colonial period visited the Garuda seva festival and presented a valuable necklace (now termed Clive Maharkandi), which is adorned during a special occasion every year.
The Temple is huge within a 23-acre (93,000 m2) complex and shows the architectural skills of ancient Vishwakarma Sthapathis in temple architecture and is famous for its holiness and ancient history. The temple has 3 outer precincts (prakarams) namely Azhwar Prakaram, Madai Palli Prakaram and Thiru Malai Prakaram. There are 32 shrines, 19 vimanams, 389 pillared halls (most having the lion type yali sculpture) and sacred tanks some of which located outside the complex.
The main sanctum faces west and can be entered through a 130 feet tall, 7-tiered rajagopuram (main gateway tower). The eastern gopuram is taller than the western gopuram, which is contrasting to large temples where the rajagopuram is the tallest one. One of the most famous architectural pieces in the temple is the huge stone chain sculpted in a single stone. There is a 100 pillared hall which has sculptures depicting Ramayana and Mahabaratha. It is a masterpiece of Vijayanagara architecture.
The shrine of Varadarajaswamy is on a small hillock 10m tall and a flight of 24 steps, termed "Hasthagiri". It has murals of the late Vijayanagara empire on the ceilingAnother significant features of the temple are beautifully carved lizards and gilded with gold, over the sanctumThe vimana over the sanctum of Varadaraja Swami is called Punyakoti Vimanam and the one over Perundevi Thayar shrine is called Kalyana Koti Vimanam.
Apart from the main stone idol, the temple has the wooden image of Varadarajaswamy preserved within a silver box from which water is pumped out every 40 yearsThere is a shrine of Narasimha on the hillock. The origin of the mask of Narasimha is mysterious and believed to possess inexplicable powers.
In the second precinct downstairs contains four shrines, of which the important one is of Malayala Nachiar (Kerala consort), presumably built during the Chera kings in the early 14th century.
The third precinct has the shrine of Goddess Perundevi Thayar - it is customary for devotees to visit the shrine first before visiting the main Perumal shrine. There are four small pillared halls, identical in structure, called Thulabara Mandapas built during the 1532 for a ceremony of Achutaraya of the Vijayanagara empire.
The image of Chakrathazwhar (Sudarsana) in the temple is depicted with six hands. There festival image of the temple has seven different images of Sudarshana depicted within the same Chakra.
The temple is famous for its huge umbrella used during festive occasions. During the bhramotsavam (major festival) in Vaigasi (May/June), thousands of people throng the temple and that increases at least by a two-fold during the garuda vahanam and ther festival (temple chariot).
On normal days the temple is generally free except for some locals and a few tourists.
The pooja has been taken up Ayyangar community and the administration is carried out by Hindu Religious and Endowment of the Government of Tamil Nadu.
The Thathacharyas are the custodians of the Kanchipuram Perarulalan Kovil popularly known as Varadaraja Perumal temple. They are the Pradhana Acharya Purushas in the protocol to receive and deliver the temple honours. In retrospection Tirumalai Nambi's son Tirukkurukai Piran Pillan was ordained by Ramanuja himself as the first and foremost among the 74 Peetadhipathis to propagate Visishtadwaita philosophy after him. Pillan was also chosen by Ramanuja as the competent person to write the commentary on ``Tiruvaimozhi. The annotation of Tiruvaimozhi thus brought out by Pillan under the behest of Ramanuja is called the famous `Araiyarpadi' the first gloss in Manipravala, an elegant mixture of Tamil and Sanskrit words, on the Divya Prabhandam. After Pillan, Tirumalai Srinivasacharya Thathacharya in the fifth generation of Thathacharyas was installed by Vedanta Desika as the Sri Kariyam of the Devaraja Swamy Kovil. Since then the office of Sri Kariyam is institutionalised in the diligence and devotion of the Thathacharyas to the Varadaraja Perumal temple in Kanchipuram. Lakshmi Kumara Thatha Desikan inherited this mantle from his ancestors and made epoch making contributions to the temple annals. He was the Sri Kariya Durandhara - a phrase connoting absolute dedication and authority - of the temple affairs. Simultaneously he was also the Raja Guru of the Vijayanagar king Venkatapathi Deva Maharaj. In Ayengarkulam, a village named after him near Kanchipuram, he built a tank and temple to Sri Rama and Hanuman But in present period the temple is administrated by the Tamil Nadu Government through the Ministry of Hindu Religion and Charitable Endowments having the Thathachariars as the Honorary Trustees. There is a verdict going on in the Courts to re-establish the right of Administration entirely with the Thathachariar families as it was existing before 1975 A.D