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Of tilting pillars

The three-tier gopuram of Sri Karikrishna Perumal temple in Thiruayarpadi.

IN ONE of his pasurams on Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam, Tirumangai Azhwar describes the Lord as "aypadi valarnda nambi..." The aypadi he is referring to is Gokul in Uttar Pradesh, a place associated with Krishna avatar. But there is a village called Tiruayarpadi, three km from Ponneri, which has an ancient temple in which the deity is called Karikrishna Perumal. To reach Ponneri one has to drive down the Grand Trunk Road that links Chennai with Kolkata. Karikrishna Perumal is in a standing posture, facing North, with a whip in His right hand, His left hand resting on His hip, balancing an Amrita Kalasam on His head.

The idol was discovered in a termite hill. When the villagers began to demolish the termite hill, they noticed the head of the idol. When they began to dig at the base of the termite hill to dislodge the idol, Lord Krishna is believed to have lifted His right leg and moved to one side to avoid being struck by the crowbar. Even today He is seen with His right leg slightly tilted to one side. The moolavar does not rest on a peetam, but on the ground. Sage Bharadwaja is believed to have worshiped this idol. It is also a prarthana sthalam where childless couples worship and are blessed with children.

The sthala vriksham is magizham and the tank is called Santhana pushkarani. The Arani flows in front of the temple. Brahmotsavam is celebrated for 10 days beginning with Chitra Pournami. There is a separate sannidhi for Soundaryavalli Thayar, seen standing. Outside the temple is a mandapam with 16 stone pillars, all slanting in different directions. It is an architectural marvel that the ceiling is firmly in place in spite of these slanting pillars. The temple has a beautiful wooden chariot, which lies abandoned in the village bazaar. The top portions of the wooden chariot have been completely vandalised. The lower portions, which are relatively unspoilt, have exquisite carvings. These represent scenes from the life of Krishna. There is also a piece that shows Karikrishna Perumal emerging from the termite hill with His slightly tilted leg.

According to the priest, the temple was built by the Chola king Karikala II, and that is why the deity has the prefix Kari before His name. Quite likely because in Karikala's time, Tondai Nadu, of which Ponneri was a part, was under Chola rule. Karikalan divided Tondai Nadu into 24 kottams and settled many Vellala Mudaliars in them.

The present temple with its carved stone pillars must have been built much later than Karikal Peruvalathan's time. Maybe the temple built by Karikala crumbled in the course of time and was later replaced with the present one by one of his descendants. The temple is well maintained, but the HR&CE must repair the wooden chariot with its beautiful carvings and restore it to its past glory. It would also be useful if a sthalapuranam is brought out.


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