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Sri Parthasarathy Temple, Chennai

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The Parthasarathy Temple is a 6th-century Hindu Vaishnavite temple dedicated to Vishnu, located at Thiruvallikeni, Chennai.

The temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Alvar saints from the 6th to 9th centuries CE and is classified as among the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu.

The name ‘Parthasarathy’ means the ‘charioteer of Arjuna‘, referring to Krishna’s role as a charioteer to Arjuna in the epic Mahabaratha.

It was originally built by the Pallavas in the 6th century by king  Narasimhavarman I.

The temple has icons of five forms of Vishnu: Yoga NarasimhaRamaGajendra VaradarajaRanganatha and Krishna as Parthasarathy. 

The temple is one of the oldest structures in Chennai. There are shrines for Vedavalli Thayar, Ranganatha, Rama, Gajendra Varadar, Narasimha,  AndalHanuman, Alvars, Ramanuja, Swami Manavala Mamunigal and  Vedanthachariar.

The temple subscribes to Vaikhanasa agama and follows Thenkalai tradition. There are separate entrances and Dwajastambhas for the Parthasarathy and Yoga Narasimha temples.

The Gopuram (towers) and Mandapas (pillars) are decorated with elaborate carvings, a standard feature of South Indian Temple Architecture.

Legend

As per Hindu legend, Saptarishis, the seven sages worshipped five deities Panchaveeras, namely, Venkata Krishnaswamy, Rukmini, Satyaki, Balarama, Pradyumna and Aniruddha.

As per Mahabharatha, Vishnu, in his Avatar as Krishna was acting as charioteer for Arjuna, the Pandava prince during the war with Kauravas.

Krishna did not take any weapons during the war. During the fight between Arjuna and Bhishma, Krishna was injured by the arrow from Bhishma. The mark in the image in the temple is believed to follow the legend. 

The place is called Allikeni, meaning a pond of lily as it is believed that historically the place was full of lily ponds. The place is the only place where the presiding deity is sported with a mustache. 

As per another legend, the place was once a Tulsi forest. A Chola king named Sumati wanted to see Vishnu in the form of Parthasarathi and prayed at Srinivasa temple in Tirupathi.

Srinivasa directed the king to visit the temple here built by sage Atreya and worshipped with another sage called Sumati.

History

The temple was originally built by the Pallavas in the 8th century, subsequently expanded by Cholas and later by the Vijayanagara kings in the 15th century.

The temple has several inscriptions dating from the 8th century in  Tamil presumably from the period of Dantivarman, who was a Vishnu devotee.

Thirumangai Alvar, the 9th-century Alvar also attributes the building of temple to the Pallava king. 

From the internal references of the temple, it appears that the temple was restored during 1564 CE when new shrines were built. 

In later years, endowments of villages and gardens have enriched the temple. The temple also has inscriptions about the Pallava king, Nandivarman of the 8th Century.

The temple was extensively built during the Chola period and a lot of inscriptions dating back to the same period are found here.

The outer most Mandapam is replete with sculptures of various forms of Vishnu, especially the Avatars. One can also see inscriptions of Dantivarma Pallava of the 8th century, Chola and Vijayanagara in the temple.

The first architectural expansion of the temple took place during the reign of the Pallavas (Tondaiyar Kon) as vividly described by Tirumangai Azhwar. Reminiscent of this is the inscription of the Pallava King Dantivarman (796–847 CE), which is preserved in the temple.

The temple witnessed a major expansion during the rule of the Vijayanagar kings like Sadasiva Raya, Sriranga Raya and Venkatapati Raya II (16th century). Many subshrines and pillared pavilions (mandapas) like the Tiruvaimozhi Mandapa were added.

A Pallava king built the present temple in the eighth century. The gopuram was also built by a Pallava king – Tondaiman Chakravarthy.

There are inscriptions that record the contributions of the Chola kings Raja Raja and Kulottunga III, Pandya King Maravarman and many rulers of the Vijayanagar dynasty including Ramaraja Venkatapathiraja and Vira Venkatapathy.

For a while the East India Company administered the temple.

The pushkarani is called Kairavani and five sacred teerthams are believed to surround the tank – Indra, Soma, Agni, Meena and Vishnu. Seven rishis – BhriguAtriMarichiMarkandeyaSumati, Saptaroma and Jabali – performed penance here.

All five deities in the temple have been extolled by Tirumangai Azhvar. There is also a separate shrine for Andal, one of the 12 Alvars who is also considered as a consort to the presiding deity.

It is one of the very few shrines in the country dedicated to Krishna as Parthasarathy, charioteer of Arjuna and to contains idols of three avatars of Vishnu: Narasimha, Rama, and Krishna.

Unusually, he is depicted with a prominent moustache and carries a conch in his hand. Also unusual is the iconographical combination found in the sanctum.

Here, Krishna is seen standing with consort Rukmini, elder brother Balarama, son Pradyumna, grandson Aniruddha and Satyaki.

Because of the association of the temple with Krishna, Tiruvallikeni came to be regarded as the Southern Vrindavana. He also mentioned about the Telliya Singar shrine within the temple.

The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu.

Darshan, Sevas and Festivals

The temple is administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu. The temple follows the traditions of the Thenkalai sect of Vaishnavite tradition and follows vaikanasa aagama.

The temple has grand Brahmotsavams (big festival) for Sri Parthasarathy swami during the Tamil month of Chittirai (April–May), on the same month Udayavar uthsavam is also celebrated.

In the month of Vaigasi, Sri Varadarajar uthsavam, Sri Nammalwar uthsavam (vaigasi-visagam) and Vasanthothsavam are celebrated. 

Sri Azhagiyasingar (Lord Narashimha) during the Tamil month of Aani (June–July). So uniquely two Bhrammotsavams are performed here annually.

There are also festivals for Ramanuja (April–May) and Manavalamamunigal (Oct-Nov) besides festivals for Alvars and Acharyas. Vaikunta Ekadesi and during the Tamil month of Margazhi (December–January) draws lot of pilgrims.

Utsavams

Utsavams take place around the year in Parthasarathy temple. Urchavams (or utsavams), as these are termed, take place for a particular god at a particular period of time in the year.

It is a religious practise to carry the different gods of the temple through the mada veethis of triplicane during some of these festivals.

The Gods will move in different religiously built temple vehicles (vaghanams, as these are termed in Tamil), like Elephant, Garuda, Horse, Yaali (a mythical animal), Hamsa (Swan), Hanuman, temple chariot.

The temple is administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu. The temple follows the traditions of the Thenkalai sect of Vaishnavite tradition and follows Vaikanasa Aagama.

The temple has grand Brahmotsavams (big festival) for Sri Parthasarathy swami during the Tamil month of Chittirai (April–May), on the same month Udayavar Uthsavam is also celebrated.

There are various festivals or utsavams in Sri Parthasarathy temple in different parts of the Tamil Calendar year. During festival days the place is given a new look and accompanied by various traditional rites. Click here to read more


Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage

By Mala Chandrashekhar

Though academically trained in modern Western Sciences, Blogger Mala Chandrashekhar is a crazy maniac of India's ageless, timeless ethnic arts, crafts & textiles. The rich & glorious cultural & spiritual heritage of India is a subject extremely dear to her heart, and the whole of this Blog has been dedicated to spreading the immortal glories of ancient India worldwide, to every nook & corner of the globe, through these simple Blog-posts. Any constructive criticisms & suggestions in this regard for improvement of the Blog 'MOST WELCOME'. Also, High-Quality Guest Blog-posts 'MOST WELCOME". LinkedIn Profile : https://in.linkedin.com/in/mala-chandrashekhar-04095917a

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