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Architectural grandeur

T. A. SRINIVASAN

The temples of Andal-Rangamannar and Lord Vatapatrasayee, Srivilliputhur, are rich in sculptural beauty.



MAJESTIC: The Rajagopuram of Sri Nachiar (Andal) Temple, Srivilliputhur. The tower, incidentally, is the logo of the Government of Tamil Nadu. Photo: K. V. Srinivasan.

Srivilliputhur, with its twin temples, dedicated to the deities Vatapatrasayee and Andal-Rangamannar, is a place of high religious importance. The tall towers, massive car, huge tank, sculpted pillars, ancient Ramayana frescoes and modern wall paintings depicting the Lords of 108 Divyadesams, numerous inscriptions dating back to the rule of Pandya kings, fine rectangular hall with a wooden roof and above all its unique "Thiruppavai Vimanam" speak volumes of their rich architectural heritage.

The temple was especially busy from July 31 to August 11 as it was Brahmotsavam time in the Andal-Rangamannar Temple culminating in the car festival on the Thiruvaadipooram day (August 8). The other important events of the festival were the five Garuda Sevai, the unique "Sayana Thirukkolam," Araiyar sevai and the Pushpa yagam arranged by the Andal Seva Trust in the "Sukravara Kuradu" inside the temple.

Exquisite sculptures

There are over a dozen monolithic pillars with exquisite images in the Dwajasthamba (flagstaff) mandapam of the Andal temple. The first is that of Lord Venugopala who appears with His forehands playing the flute while the other two hands are holding the sacred disc or Sudarsana and Panchajanya or the conch. It is rather rare to find Krishna in this posture. Viswakarma or Mayan, the divine sculptor, with the hammer in his right hand and chisel in his left appears with four arms which according to scholars represents "Vishnu Amsam," version unique to this temple. The next pillar contains images of two dancers, old lady and a girl.

Another marvellous work is the figure of Jalandarasura (demon king to annihilate whom Lord Vishnu assumed his form).



Andal and Rangamannar.

Eye-catching images

The other images found are those of Mohini, , Sakthi, NruddhamukaVeerabhadra, Saraswathi, Sri Rama and Lakshmana. In the Ekadasi Mantapa, which is on the northern side of the Dwajasthambam, are pillars containing images of Manmatha (cupid), Rathidevi, Oordhvamuka Veerabhadra, Guha, Arjuna , Karna and Sathyaki, Lord Krishna's brother and charioteer. The mandapam at the entrance to the Andal temple, which Nachiyar in her pasuram describes as "Muthudai thamam niraithaazhntha panthal," is the place where Andal's marriage is celebrated on the Panguni Uthiram day every year. One can see frescoes depicting scenes from the Ramayana on its ceiling. Interestingly, in Sita Kalyanam the images depicted are those of Lord Rangamannar and Andal and not of Sri Rama and Sita.

Fine workmanship

The Manimandapam in front of the Mahamandapam is marked for its fine workmanship in stone and wood.

The statues of Thirumalai Nayak and his consorts in the "Sukkiravara kuradu," where the deities used to be worshipped every Friday in a decorated "Oonjal" (swing) are very attractive. On the walls one can find pictures from Andal's life as depicted in Her "Naachiyaar Thirumozhi" and "Thiruppavai." The "Thiruppavai Vimanam" over the sanctum sanctorum with the "Sudhai" images describing the scenes visualised in Her great work is unique as a similar structure is not found in any other holy place.

The stone "Palahanis" providing light and fresh air to the Mahamandapam and Manimandapam are not mere windows but fine works of art.

Ancient temple

The Vatapatrasayee Temple, believed to have existed even before Periyazhwar's time, is considered to be 2000-years-old. It is a "Maadakkovil" with a shrine for Sri Lakshmi Narasimha on the ground floor and one has to climb a few steps to worship Lord Vatapatrasayee.

The Lord's image is in "Sudhai" (brick and mortar) and no daily "Thirumanjanam"(sacred bath) is performed to Him. In front of the sanctum sanctorum is a rectangular hall known as "Gopala Vilasam" where araiyar sevai is performed during "Pagal Pathu" utsavam. History has it that the hall with a wooden roof or canopy over it was built with the remains of the temple's big car which was partially damaged in a fire nearly 200 years ago.

A new car was presented to the temple by the then Jeeyar Swami of the Nanguneri-Vaanamamalai Math over 150 years ago as an inscription found in one of the big rings with the words "Kollam year 1025, Sowmya year, Avani month, 14th day", corresponding to August 28, 1849, testifies. The wooden carvings in the roof contain scenes from Ramayana and other epics, such as slaying of Hiranyakasipu by Narasimha and Andal being carried in a palanquin to Srirangam.

Inscriptions

The two temples contain over 60 inscriptions in "Vattezhuthu" in the tower, Dwajasthambam, walls of the central shrines and mandapams.

They date back to the 10th century or even earlier during the reign of Pandya kings. Most of the inscriptions speak about the lands and other gifts made to the two temples. Srivilliputtur is mentioned as "Malli Valanadu" and they provide lot of information about the divisions and sub-divisions made by kings and administrators, the names of the deities and the rulers and chieftains.

The temple possesses numerous jewels and vast landed property, but the income that it gets from them is nil or negligible.

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