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The Majestic Splendor of Srivilliputhur Andal Temple: A Testament to Tamil Nadu’s Rich Cultural Heritage

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Srivilliputhur Andal Temple in Srivilliputhur, a town in Virudhunagar district in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu.

It is located 80 km from Madurai. Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval  Tamil canon of the Alvar saints from the 6th–9th centuries CE.

Andal

It is one of the 108 Divyadesam dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Vatapatrasayi and his consort Lakshmi as Andal.

It is believed to be the birthplace of two of the Alvars, namely Periyalvar and his foster daughter Andal.

The temple is associated with the life of Andal, who was found under a Tulsi plant in the garden inside the temple by Periyalvar. She is believed to have worn the garland before dedicating it to the presiding deity of the temple.

Periyalvar, who later found it, was highly upset and stopped the practice. It is believed Vishnu appeared in his dream and asked him to dedicate the garland worn by Andal to him daily, which is a practice followed during the modern times.

It is also believed that Ranganatha of Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple  married Andal, who later merged with him.

The temple has two divisions – the one of Andal located on the Southwest and the second one of Vatapatrasayi on the Northeast direction.

A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all its shrines, the garden where Andal is believed to have been born and two of its three bodies of water.

The Vijayanagar and Nayak kings commissioned paintings on the walls of the shrine of temple, some of which are still present.

Samprokshanam of the Andal temple was performed on 20 January 2016 by Tamil Nadu Government.

Vatapatrasayi is believed to have appeared to Andal, Periyalvar and sages  Markandeya and Bhrigu

The temple follows Thenkalai tradition of worship. Six daily rituals and three yearly festivals are held at the temple, of which the Aadipooram festival, the birthday of Andal, celebrated during the Tamil month of Adi (July – August), is the most prominent.

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

Etymolgy

As per Hindu legend, the land around Srivilliputhur was under the rule of Queen Malli.

Mural Art in Srivilliputhur Andal Temple

The queen had two sons called Villi and Kandan. While the two were hunting in a forest, a tiger killed Kandan. Unaware of this, Villi searched for his brother, got tired and fell asleep.

Mural Art in Srivilliputhur Andal Temple

In his dream, divinity narrated to him what happened to his brother. By divine orders, Villi founded a city. The city is originally named after its founder, Villi forming the word Sri-Villi-Puthur.

Mural Art in Srivilliputhur Andal Temple

Srivilliputtur is known by other names such as Varaha kshetram, Thenpuduvai, Vadeswarapuram, Vadamahadamapuram, Shenbagaranya kshetram, Vikrama chola chaturvedhi mangalam, and Sridhanvipuri.

Mural Art in Srivilliputhur Andal Temple

Legend

As per the ancient scriptures, the place was referred as Varaha Kshetra. It was a dense forest named Champaka where the sages Bhrgu and Markandeya were doing penance and had their hermitages in the place.

Mural Art in Srivilliputhur Andal Temple

A demon named Kalanerai was troubling the sages and they prayed to Vishnu to relieve them from the demon. Vishnu was pleased by their devotion and appeared in the place to slay the demon.

He is believed to have taken the abode in the forest reclining on Adisesha, his serpent bed, on the leaf of a banyan tree. The place thus came to be known as Vadaveshwarapuram.

Periyalvar (originally called Vishnuchittar) was an ardent devotee of Vishnu and he used to string garland to Vishnu every day. He was childless and he prayed to Vishnu to save him from the longing.

One day, he found a girl child under a Tulsi plant in a garden inside the temple. He and his wife named the child as Kothai, who grew up as a devotee of Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu.

She is believed to have worn the garland before dedicating it to the presiding deity of the temple. Periyalvar, who later found it, was highly upset and remonstrated her.

Vishnu appeared in his dream and asked him to dedicate only the garland worn by Andal to him. The girl Kothai was thus named Andal and was referred as Chudikodutha Sudarkodi (lady who gave her garland to Vishnu).

The practise is followed during modern times when the garland of Andal is sent to Azhagar Koyil on Chitra Pournami day where the presiding deity Lord Kallazhagar entering into River Vaigai with the garland worn by Goddess Andal and Tirumala Venkateswara Temple during [Garudostavam during the Tamil month of Puratasi (September – October)]. 

It is also believed that Ranganatha of Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple married Andal, who later merged with the idol. Andal was taken in a palanquin from Srivilliputhur to Srirangam before the marriage. 

Since Andal married Ranganatha, who came as a king (called Raja), the presiding deity is called Rangamannar.

History

Srivilliputhur Andal Temple is indeed believed to have ancient origins and has a rich history associated with it. However, the exact timeline and details of its early history are not well-documented, leading to some variations in the accounts.

According to local legends and traditional accounts, the Srivilliputhur Andal Temple is said to have been in existence for several centuries. It is believed to have been established during the reign of the Pandya dynasty, which ruled the region during different periods of time in history. The Pandya rulers were known for their patronage of arts, culture, and religion, and they contributed to the growth and development of many temples in the region, including the Srivilliputhur Andal Temple.

The temple gained prominence due to its association with Andal, who is revered as a divine incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and an important figure in the Vaishnavite tradition. Andal was a 9th-century poet-saint and one of the 12 Alvars, who composed devotional hymns in praise of Lord Vishnu. Her works, known as the Tiruppavai and the Nachiyar Tirumozhi, are highly regarded in Tamil literature and are an integral part of the temple’s traditions.

Over the centuries, the temple underwent various renovations and expansions under the patronage of different rulers and dynasties. The Vijayanagara Empire and the Nayak rulers of Madurai made significant contributions to the temple’s architecture and religious activities. The Marathas and later the British also provided support and patronage to the temple.

Today, the Srivilliputhur Andal Temple stands as a magnificent example of Dravidian temple architecture and continues to be a center of devotion and pilgrimage. Its historical significance, architectural splendor, and association with Andal make it an important religious and cultural landmark in Tamil Nadu.

Architecture

The architecture of the Srivilliputhur Andal Temple showcases the Dravidian style of temple architecture, which is characteristic of South India.

Here are some key features of the temple’s architecture:

Gopurams:

The temple complex is known for its impressive gopurams (towered gateways) that adorn the entrance from all four cardinal directions. The eastern gopuram, called Rajagopuram, is the tallest and stands at a height of about 192 feet (58.5 meters). It consists of 11 levels, each adorned with intricate sculptures and carvings.

Mandapams:

The temple has several mandapams (pillared halls) that serve as assembly and gathering spaces for devotees during religious ceremonies and festivals. The Alvar Mandapam is a notable mandapam within the temple premises.

Sanctum Sanctorum:

The main shrine of the temple houses the deity of Goddess Andal. The sanctum sanctorum is designed in a square shape and features exquisite stone carvings and sculptures.

Vimana:

The temple’s vimana (tower above the sanctum sanctorum) is a prominent architectural element. It is a multi-tiered structure with intricate carvings and sculptures depicting various deities and mythological scenes.

Pillars and Sculptures:

The temple is renowned for its intricately carved pillars and sculptures that adorn the various halls and corridors. These sculptures depict various gods, goddesses, celestial beings, and mythological stories.

Courtyards and Tanks:

The temple complex encompasses spacious courtyards and sacred tanks, providing a serene and peaceful ambiance for devotees. These areas often serve as spaces for rituals and religious activities.

The Srivilliputhur Andal Temple is an architectural marvel that exemplifies the rich heritage and craftsmanship of Tamil Nadu. Its stunning sculptures, intricate carvings, and towering gopurams attract devotees and visitors from all over the world.

There are a set of carvings that decorate the ceiling. The temple houses some rare Vijayanagara sculptures similar to the ones present in Soundararajaperumal Temple, ThadikombuKrishnapuram Venkatachalapathy templeAlagar Koyil and Jalakandeswarar Temple, Vellore

The composite columns of Virabhadra holding sword and horn are found be additions of the Vijayanayagara kings during the early 1500s.

Similar columns of Virabhadra are found in Adikesava Perumal Temple at Thiruvattaru, Meenakshi Temple at MaduraiNellaiappar Temple at  TirunelveliKasi Viswanathar temple at TenkasiKrishnapuram Venkatachalapathy templeRamanathaswamy Temple at  RameswaramSoundararajaperumal temple at ThadikombuSrivaikuntanathan Permual temple at SrivaikuntamAvudayarkovilVaishnava Nambi and Thirukurungudivalli Nachiar temple at Thirukkurungudi.

Religious significance

Srivilliputtur finds mention in Brahmakaivatsapuranam and Varaha puranam. Varaha puranam foretells the existence of Srivilliputtur and the consequent visit of Vishnu during the Varaha Avataram. Brahmakaivatsa Puranam mentions the location of Vatapatrasayi Temple in Srivilliputtur.

Srivilliputhur has a significant place in Vaishnava philosophy and worship practices.

The Srivilliputtur divya desam has the unique distinction among all other divya desams of being the birthplace of two important alvars among the twelve alvars, sri periyalvar, who became the father-in-law of the Ranganatha himself and Andal who was the incarnation of Bhoomadevi and attained union with the Ranganathan at Srirangam. 

Andal is the only female Alvar saint of the 12 Alvar saints of South India. She is credited with the Tamil works of Thirupavai and Nachiar Tirumozhi that are still recited by devotees during the Winter festival season of Margazhi.

The town wakes up to the sounds of Thiruppavai is believed to lead to a sublime atmosphere throughout the day.

Andal is known for her unwavering devotion to god Vishnu, the God of the Srivaishnavas. Adopted by her father, Periyalvar, Andal avoided earthly marriage, the normal and expected path for women of her culture, to marry Vishnu. In many places in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, Andal is treated more than a saint and as a form of god herself and a shrine for Andal is dedicated in most Vishnu temples.

Festivals and religious practises

The temple is renowned for its festivals and religious practices that attract a large number of devotees from all over.

Here are some of the notable festivals and religious practices observed at Srivilliputhur Andal Temple:

Panguni Uthiram:

Panguni Uthiram is a major festival celebrated in the Tamil month of Panguni (March-April) when the star Uthiram coincides with the full moon. It commemorates the divine marriage of Goddess Andal with Lord Ranganatha (a form of Lord Vishnu). The festival spans ten days and includes various rituals, processions, music, and dance performances.

Adi Pooram:

Adi Pooram is celebrated during the Tamil month of Adi (July-August) to honor Goddess Andal. The highlight of this festival is the grand procession of the deity in a beautifully decorated chariot. Devotees throng the temple premises to witness this procession and seek the blessings of Goddess Andal.

Margazhi Month Celebrations:

Margazhi (December-January) is considered a sacred month for devotion and spirituality in Tamil Nadu. During this period, special rituals and prayers are held at Srivilliputhur Andal Temple. Devotees gather early in the morning to sing Tiruppavai, the devotional hymns composed by Andal.

Andal Neerattu Utsavam:

Neerattu Utsavam is a unique festival held at Srivilliputhur Andal Temple, where devotees pour water over the idol of Goddess Andal. This ritual is believed to signify the shower of divine blessings and is performed during the Tamil month of Aadi (July-August).

Daily Pujas and Archanas: The temple follows a daily schedule of pujas (ritual worship) and archanas (offering prayers). Devotees can witness the priests performing various rituals and offer their prayers to the deity during these daily ceremonies.

Apart from these specific festivals and practices, Srivilliputhur Andal Temple remains a place of worship throughout the year. Devotees visit the temple to seek blessings, offer prayers, and participate in religious activities. The temple’s architecture, rich history, and spiritual ambiance make it a significant cultural landmark in Tamil Nadu.

Contact Information

To contact the Srivilliputhur Andal Temple for any pooja services or donations, you can use the following details:

Temple Address: Srivilliputhur Andal Temple
Srivilliputhur, Tamil Nadu, 626125
India

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