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Sri Pachaivannar and Sri Pavalavannar
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  Chitragupta Temple
 The Sacred Shrine of Sri Varadaraja
  Location and Description:

 

    The sacred shrine of Sri varadaraja is in the eastern end of Kancheepuram. Sri Varadaraja's temple is considered to be the third important sacred place of the 108 Sri Vaishnavite Divyadesams eulogised by the Vaishnavite Saints known as Alwars. It is one of the important temples located in the Little Kancheepuram attracting thousands of pilgrims everyday. Sri Varadaraja Temple The tall towers and majestic walled enclosures of this temple catch the eye of the pilgrims even from a distance. Lord Vishnu sanctifies this place under the Punyakoti Vimana on the sacred hillock called Hasthigiri. The word 'Hasti' in Sankskrit means an elephant and giri means hillock. Hasthigiri is a hillock in the shape of an elephant. It is said in the puranas that Devendra did penance here and got restored to his original form from that of an elephant, caused by the curse of Goddess Saraswathi. Lord Vishnu who is worshippped here is referred to as Hasthigirinatha or Athiooran meaning the Lord of Hasthigiri. He is also called Devaraja or Devadiraja meaning the Lord of Devas and the master of the Chief of the Devas. Great Vaishnavite Acharyas have sung in His praise as Perarulalanthe Most merciful, Pranatharthiharan-the saviour of the distressed, and Varadaraja-the munificent bestower of boons on the deovtees.

Puranic Origin:

     Lord Brahma once desired to have the darshan of the omniscient Sri Vishnu in the shape of an Archavathara moorthi i.e., in the magnificent figure with chathurbhuja, four arms bedecked with the celestial conch, chakra, cub and Abhayahastha. Brahma performed penance to get his desire fulfilled. Sri Varadaraja Temple As a result, Sriman Narayana appeared before Brahma in theertha roopa, i.e., in the form of sacred water. That holy place is worshipped even today as pushkaram. This did not satify Brahma who wanted to worship Vishnu in His Superhuman form. So he performed penance once again. This time, Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of a forest symbolising the Earth. This place has later been worshiped as 'Naimisaranya'. When Brahma wanted to continue his penance to accomplish his desire he heared the words from the atmosphere asking him to perform one hundred Aswamethayagas for the fulfilment of his desire. Considering the time involved in performing so many yagas Brahma prayed to the Lord to show kindness and give darshan quickly. Lord Vishnu took pity on Brahma and told him that performing one yagna in Kanchi, the Sathyavrathakshetra would fetch the fruits equal to one hundred yagnas as the austerities performed in this sacred city are many times more efficacious.

    In persuance of this divine suggestion, Brahma performed the Aswamedha yaga on the Hasthigiri. During this sacrifice, Lord Vishnu emerged from the sacrificial fire and gave dharshan as an Archavatharamoorthi to the desire of Brahma. The Lord is threfore called 'Hasthigirinath'. The burn-marks caused by the flames could be seen even to-day in the refulgent face of the Utsavamoorthy, the processional deity.

Perumdevi - The Consort of Sri Varadaraja :

     The consort of Lord Varadaraja, Goddess Perumdevi is the incarnation of Mahalakshmi. The Utsavamoorthi of this Mother Goddess is never taken in procession through the streets, it being the hallmark of a chaste woman par excellance. There is a sacred tank called 'Ananthasaras' within the temple prakara itself and a float festival is celebrated when Goddess Perumdevi also adorns the float, and is therefore, called 'Mother Perumdevi's Float Festival'. Goddess Perumdevi is famous for the abundance of Her kindness and for Her grace in bestowing boons on the devotees.

The Illustrious Recipients of the Lord's Grace:

     A number of devotees worshipped Lord Varadaraja and Sri Perumdevi and have become illustrious by their deep devotion and by receiving the grace of Sri Varadaraja and Godess Sri Perumdevi. One among them is Sri Thirukachchinambigal Sri Varadaraja Temple Kullamwho was born in Poovirundhavalli near Kancheepuram situated on the Madras - Kancheepuram trunk road. He has dedicated his life to the service of Lord Varadharaja. He grew a flower garden in Poovirundhavlli meant for pushpa kainkarya to Sri Varadharaja of Kanchi. He used to collect flowers from the garden everyday, make garlands and used to tread the entire distance upto Kancheepuram and offer the garlands to Lord Sri Varadharaja. As he grew in age, Sri Thirukanchchinambi stayed in Kancheepuram and used to fan the Lord to provide soothing cool breeze. Sri Thirukachchinambi was seen always carrying a fan in his hand and spent his time in fanning the Lord. As Sri Nambi dedicated himself in the Aalavatta kainkarya i.e., Service of fanning-he came to be known as Thiru Aalavatta Thirukachchinambi. Sri Thirukachi Nambi was blessed with the rare privilege of conversing with Lord Sri Varadaraja while performing the service to the Lord.

     Srimad Ramanuja had his tutorage under Sri Yadavaprakasa in Kancheepuram in his younger days. In those days Sri Ramanuja used to give interpretations to Upanishads quite different from that of Sri Yadavaprakasa. This annoyed the master and he started disliking Sri Ramanuja. This dislike developed into a sort of hatred towards Sri Ramanuja. Sri Yadavaprakasa plotted to put an end to the life of Sri Ramanuja, hit upon a plan of undertaking a pilgrimage to Benaras and exterminating Sri Ramanuja on the way.

     The most merciful Lord Sri Varadaraja took compassion on Sri Ramanuja and helped him out by revealing to him the plot through another student studying along with Sri Ramanuja in the camp of Sri Yadavaprakasa. Sri Ramanuja escaped into a forest when Sri Varadaraja appeared before Sri Ramanuja in the guise of a hunter and escorted him to Kancheepuram. Spellbound by the kindness of Sri Varadaraja and His consort, Sri Ramanuja wanted to dedicate himself to the service of the Lord On the advice of Sri Thirukachchinambigal, Sri Ramanuja took up 'Theerthakainkaryam', the service of offering holy waters for the Lords ablution.

     Sri Varadaraja inside the templeThereafter Sri Ramanuja went to Srirangam with the ambition of becoming a disciple of Sri Alavandar the great Vaishnavite Acharya but could not.

     When Sri Ramanuja reached Srirangam, Sri Alavandar had shed his mortal coils. After returning to Kanchi, Sri Ramanuja formed certain opinions and had certain ideas according to which he wanted to chart out his future plans. But he wanted to check up the validity of his thoughts and requested Sri Tirukachchi Nambigal to verify the same with Lord Sri Varradharaja Himself. In response to Thirukachi Nambigal's prayers, Lord Sri Varadaraja Himself came out with a revelation of six sayings to sustain and strengthen Vaishnavism to Srimad Ramanujacharya and through him to the world.

These famous six sayings disclose the Supremacy of Bhagawan Sriman Narayan.

     Another great devote was Shri Doddachariar who lived in Ghatikachalam also known as Sholanghir. He ws a regular visitor to the Brahmostsavam of Sri Varadharaja. Once, he could not come to Kanchi due to old age. He was feeling sorry for his inability to go all the way to Kancheepuram to have the dharshan of Sri Varadaraja's Gurudaseva. Sensing the mental disposition of Sri Doddachariar, the most merciful Lord made the priests hold the milky-white umbrellas in a slanting position for a while to give dardhan to Sri Doddachariar who was standing on the banks of Thakkankulam, thus making the greatness of the devotee Sri Doddachariar known to the world. Even now, during Brahmotsavam the custom of holding the unbrella in a slanted position just near the entrance to the tower of the temple is followed to commemorate this soulstirring incident. Once, when Robert Clive visited Kanchi, he had an opportunity to witness the Garudaseva of Sri Varadharaja. As was so overwhelmed to seeing the Lord on Garudavahana, that he took the necklace of his spouse and presented it to the Lord as an offering to adorn the deity. It is a custom to this day that this necklace presented by Robert Clive popularly known as 'Clive Maharakandi' is used to decorate Sri Varadharaja only on the Garudotsavam day.

Other Sannidhis in the Temple:

    The sanctum of Sri Varadharaja is on the sacred Hill 'Hasthigiri'. There is a cave temple in the Hasthirigi, just at the feet of the hillock, sanctified by Sri Guhanarashimhar or Azhagiasingar. Pilgrims have the darshan of Sri Azhagiasingar before going to have the darshan of Sri Varadaraja on the Hasthigiri. It was by the grace of this deity Sri Guhanarasimha, that Devendra got released from the curse of Goddess Saraswathi and at that time, there were two lizards as witnesses. These two lizards also later got released from their curse by the grace of Sri Varadaraja. Later, Devendra made a gold lizard and sil ver lizard and consecrated them in the inner Prakara of Lord Varadaraja's sanctum. It is said that the evil effects caused by the falling of lizards on human beings do not affect those who dwell in Kancheepuram and those who have a dharshan of the two lizards installed in the temple of Sri Varadaraja.

Some Salient Features of the Temple:

     The sanctum of Sri Varadaraja is situated within five prakaras. On entering the Rajagopuram, the tower at the entrance of the temple, there is a tank on the north side called Anandasaras Pushkarani. There is a hundred pillar mantapam on the bank of this tank. The mandapam is full of sculptures exhibiting excellent workmanship in architecrure. Around the tank, there are the sanctums of Sri Ranganatha, Sri Rama and Sri Chakrathazhwar and in the Prakara there are the sanctums of Sri Nammazhwar, Sri Madhurakavi, Sri Nadamuni, Sriman Manavalaamaamunigal, and Srimad Ramanuja. Then follows the sannidhi of Sri Tathachriar, a great devotee of the Lord in the Vahanamandapam.

     Sri Varadaraja Temple In the second Prakara, called Sri Alavandar Prakara, we find the sanidhis of Thiruvananthazhwar and Sri Kariamanicka Varadar. While corning round the third Prakara, we come across the sannidhis of Sri Andal, Sri Rama, Vishvaksena, Malayala Nachiyar, Mother Goddess Sri Perumdevi, Sri Guhanarsimha, Sri Dhanvanthari and Valampuri Vinayaka. After climbing the twenty four steps we reach Hasthigiri, the sacred hillock on which Lord Sri Varadharaja is in a standing posture under the Punaykoti Vimana .

     Under the divine orders of Brahma, Viswakarma, the Chief Architect of the Devas made a wooden idol of Lord Vardharaja which was consecrated by Brahma as the presiding Deity where as the one that emerged from Brahma's sacrificial altar is worshipped as the processional deity. The wooden idol which was consecrated by Brahma as Moolavar in the beginning as 'Adi Hasthigirinathar' was later immersed in the Anandasaras Pushkarani and a granite idol was installed in its place. The original wooden idol was taken out of the sacred tank once in every sixty years in earlier days and once in forty years at present, to enable the devotees to have darshan atleast once in their life time. The wooden idol is kept in the Vasantha Mandapam for one mandalam i.e. for a period of 45 to 48 days for Public darshan and then again placed under the sacred water of Anandasaras tank. Such a rare festival was celebrated recently in 1979.

    It was Lord Brahma who for the first time celebrated a festival in this temple by taking the processional deity decorated splendidly with precious ornaments into the city so that the devotees get a golden opportunity to have the darshan of the Lord on various vahanas. Hence this festival came to be known as Brahmotsavam. The Brahmotsavam of Lord Varadharaja is celebrated in Tamil month of Vaikasi or Vaisakh, with theerthavari on Thiruvonam the day on which the star Sravanam occurs. The most famous Garudotsavam is celebrated very grandly in the morning of the third day, full moon day, usually coinciding with the easterism Visaka', the birth star of Sri Nammazhvar. Nammazhvar satumurai is celebrated on this day on a very grand scale.

    Garudotsavam is celebrated in this temple three times a year. The first one is during the Brahmotsavam. The second one is celebrated in the month of Ani on the day with asterism 'Swathi' the birth star of Periyazhwar. The third one known as Gajendramoksha Garudaseva is celebrated on the fullmoon day of the month Adi. The car festival of Sri Varadaraja is also very famous and at times it takes more than a day for the sacred car to come back to its normal place.

    This temple was developed by a number of Pallava and Chola Kings and the rulers of Vijayanagara empire and Raja Thodarmal. Thereafter, a number of devotees have rendered several Kainkaryas to the temple of Lord Sri Varadharaja. This temple is now maintained by the department for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (H.R.& C.E) of the Government of Tamilnadu.

    Pilgrims from all parts of the country come to Kancheepuram everyday, visit this ancient temple of Sri Varadaraja and worship the Lord to get their desires cherished. Blessed are those who visit this temple and worship Sri Varadaraja as they are bestowed with peace and prosperity by the grace of Lord Shri Varadaraja and Goddess Sri Perumdevi.

Mangalam Vedasovedi Medini Gruhamedine
Varadaya dayadhamne Dheerodharaya Mangalam
Sri Varadaraja Parabrahmane Namaha