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Vaishnava Kshetrams of South India, that are of low Note but high Divinity

– Abhijith R. Shastry,
shastry.abhi@live.com

It is evident that many of us are Staunch followers of Vaishnavism and are highly interested in visiting holy abodes of Lord Vishnu. When it comes to Vaishnava Kshetrams, what comes first to our minds are the holy places – Tirupathi, Udupi, Guruvayur, Trivandrum, Saligrama, Pandarapura, Puri, Badrinath, Naimisharanya, Ayodhya, Mathura, Gaya, Haridwar, Srirangam, Srirangapattana, Ghatikachalam and Ahobilam. Many of us would have visited these places too. Indeed these places stand ahead of the places of worship of Lord Vishnu. However, there are many other places of low note and high divinity.

Lord Vishnu’s Abodes are categorized as –

1. Pancha Ranga Kshethrams (Sri Rangam, Srirangapattanam, Parimala Ranganathaswamy – Indalur, Sri Sarangapani – Kumbakonam, Appakkudathaan Perumal – Thrichy)

2. Divya Deshams (108 in number, identified by Srivaishnava Saints called Alwars)

I’ve made an attempt of enlisting a few ‘Must Visit‘ centers of worship of Lord Vishnu in South India, covering our neighboring states – Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. I’ve taken a few references from the Wikipedia and provided links appropriate to each temple for detailed information on each temple. I insist each of us visit these ‘Punya Kshetrams‘ with family, at least once in lifetime.

 

Uppiliappan Temple Thirunageswaram

Uppiliappan Temple, Thirunageswaram

1. Uppiliappan Temple, Thirunageswaram

Deity: Lord Srinivasa and Goddess Thaayar

The temple is known be next to Tirupathi and is one of the 108 Divya Desham’s of Lord Vishnu, enlisted by Sri Ramanujacharya and the Alvars of Tamil literature. The speciality of this temple is the strict non-usage of salt as an ingredient in any of the temple’s food offerings to the lord and the devotees.

The Sthalapuraanam of this temple is discussed in the Brahmanda Purana, one of the 18 Mahapuranas. The significance and the Purana behind the ‘Tulasi Mala‘ is closely associated with this deity. It is believed that Lord Srinivasa promised Goddesss Tulasi, that he shall wear the Mala first and then install Lakshmi in his chest.

Major Connecting Town: Kumbakonam

State: Tamil Nadu

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uppiliappan_Temple

 

Sri Vatapathrasayee, Sri Andal and Sri Periyalwar Temples

Sri Vatapathrasayee, Sri Andal and Sri Periyalwar Temples

2. Sri Vatapathrasayee, Sri Andal and Sri Periyalwar Temples, Srivilliputtur

Deity: Lord Srimannarayana and Sri Bhoovaraha

This place is believed to be the place of incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Varaha, to save the Boomandala (Earth) from the demon, Hiranyaaksha. The temple is very huge and dates back to 2500 years regarding the construction. As in Puranas, Bhagavan Sriman Narayanan, during his Varaha Avataram, slayed an asuran called Kalinemi and took rest under the foot of a banyan tree, with his consorts Sri Mahalakshmi and Sri Bhoodevi in a place called Champakaranyam (old name of this place).

Major Connecting Town: Virudunagar/Madurai

State: Tamil Nadu

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srivilliputhur_Divya_Desam

 

Mahavishnu Temple, Thirunelli

Mahavishnu Temple, Thirunelli

3. Mahavishnu Temple, Thirunelli

Deity: Maha Vishnu and Lakshmi

Thirunelli Temple (also Tirunelli) is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu on the side of Brahmagiri hill in Kerala. The temple is at an altitude of about 900m in north Wayanad in a valley surrounded by mountains and beautiful forests. The temple is said to be built by Parabrahma himself to mimic the presence of Vaikunta on Earth.

Thirunelli is one of the places where devotees can perform Kshetra Kriya and Shraadha

Major Connecting Town: Mananthawady
State: Kerala
References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirunelli_Temple

 

4. Srivallabha Temple, Thiruvalla

Srivallabha Temple, Thiruvalla

Srivallabha Temple, Thiruvalla

Deity: Lord Srivallabha and Lord Sudarshana Murthy

This temple can be considered as the oldest place of temple worship/idol worship in Kaliyuga. The idol of Srivallabha was created by Vishwakarma and has been installed here by Vedavyaasa and Durvasa Saints. This temple is one of the most sacred places of Vaishnavites as it bears its culture deep in the orgin and flourishment of Vaishnavism cult in the planet. It is believed that the Srivallabha Idol was the first of its kind to descend to earth from the hands of the Devathas.

The temple protocols were set by the great Durvasa Muni, and are completely different from those of other holy temples.

Major Connecting Town: Pattanamthitta
State: Kerala
References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Vallabha_Temple

 

Narasimhaswamy Temple, Simhachalam

Narasimhaswamy Temple, Simhachalam

5. Narasimhaswamy Temple, Simhachalam

Deity: Lord Narasimha

This is the place where Lord Vishnu saved young Prahlada from the punishment given by his father Hiranyakashipu, who pushed him from a hillock to execute him. Simhachalam temple is located in a picturesque location, and can be admired for its natural beauty. The idol of Lord Vishnu has its feet submerged in ground, to signify the event of leaping from the sky onto this very place, in-order to save Prahlada.

Major Connecting Town: Vishakapattanam

State: Andhra Pradesh

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simhachalam

 

 

Sri Sundararaja Perumal (Kallazhagar) Temple, Pazhamudircholai - Azhagar Koil

Sri Sundararaja Perumal (Kallazhagar) Temple

6. Sri Sundararaja Perumal (Kallazhagar) Temple, Pazhamudircholai – Azhagar Koil

Deity: Lord Kallazhagar (The rock beauty)

The deity is the one who gave his sister’s(Meenakshi) hand to Lord Shiva. Considered as the rock beauty incarnation of Lord Vishnu – Kallazhagar, he had descended to this beautiful scenic hillock to redeem the curse on Maharishi Mandooka given by Lord Sundararaja.

Near to this temple is another pilgrim spot, dedicated to Lord Subrahmanya – Pazhamudircholai (One of the 6 abodes of Lord Shanmuka)

Major Connecting Town: Madurai

State: Tamil Nadu

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azhagar_temple

 

 

Pundarikaaksha Temple, Thiruvellarai

Pundarikaaksha Temple, Thiruvellarai

7. Pundarikaaksha Temple, Thiruvellarai

Deity: Sri Pundarikaaksha

The only form of Vishnu as Pundarikaaksha worshipped here. It is one of the 108 Divyadesam dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Pundarikakshan and his consort Lakshmi as Pankajavalli.

The temple is believed to have been built by the Pallavas of the late 8th century AD.

Major Connecting Town: Thrichi

State: Tamil Nadu

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiruvellarai

 

Varadaraja Temple, Kanchipuram

Varadaraja Temple, Kanchipuram

8. Varadaraja Temple, Kanchipuram

Deity: Sri Varadaraja Perumal

This temple is one of the 108 Divya Desham’s of Lord Vishnu. One of the greatest Hindu scholars of Vaishnava VisishtAdvaita philosophy, Ramanujacharya is believed to have resided in this temple. The temple ws built by Pallava kings 1300 years ago and then patronised by Cholas. It is believed that when Parabrahma was performing Yajna,  Vishnu emerged with brilliance of thousand Suns as Devarajaswamy and stayed here permananently.

Major Connecting Town: Kanchipuram
State: Tamil Nadu
References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varadaraja_Perumal_Temple

 

Kalamegha Perumal Temple, Thirumoohur

Kalamegha Perumal Temple, Thirumoohur

9. Kalamegha Perumal Temple, Thirumoohur

Deity: Sri Kalamegha Perumal

The temple is one of the 108 divya desham’s, and is located 12 km north-east of Madurai. It is also known as Mohanapuram and Mohanakshetra. The temple is more than 2000 years old.The Prathanasayana appearance of the main deity is not found anywhere in 108 divya desam temples. Also, the Sudarshana Chakra of deity is famous.

Major Connecting Town: Melur, Madurai
State: Tamil Nadu
References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirumohoor_Kalamegaperumal_Temple

 

Bhakthavatsala Temple, Thirunindravur

Bhakthavatsala Temple, Thirunindravur

10. Bhakthavatsala Temple, Thirunindravur

Deity: Sri Bhakthavatsala and Mahalakshmi

This temple is built during the Pallava era, and is estimated to be 1500 years old. It has a 5 tier gopuram at the entrance. The statue of the deity is about 10 feet.

As per legends, Lord Vishnu was worshipped by Varuna in this place.

Major Connecting Town: Chennai

State: Tamil Nadu

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhaktavatsala_Perumal_Temple,_Thirunindravur

 

Vaikuntanatha Perumal Temple Srivaikuntam

Vaikuntanatha Perumal Temple, Srivaikuntam

11. Vaikuntanatha Perumal Temple, Srivaikuntam

Deity: Sri Vaikuntanatha

This temple is one of the 108 Divya Desham’s of Lord Vishnu and one of the ‘Nava Tirupathi’ Temples on the banks of Thamarabharani river near Thirunalveli. This temple also has a shrine for Lord Kailasanatha(Shiva) in the form of Nataraja. It is known for the intricate carvings all over its walls and the Gopuram.

Major Connecting Town: Thirunalveli

State: Tamil Nadu

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srivaikuntanathan_Permual_Temple

 

Poornathrayesha Temple, Tripunithura

Poornathrayesha Temple, Tripunithura

12. Poornathrayesha Temple, Tripunithura

Deity: Sri Santhana Gopalaswamy

This temple is the place that hosts the world famous Elephant festival in Kerala. It is well believed that childless couples will be blessed with children on praying Poornathrayesha. This temple is believed to have existed since Dwapara Yuga, however, it was rebuilt in 1921.

The temple is considered among the greatest temples in Kerala, for its annual Utsavam – Vrishchikotsavam (The Elephant Festival)

Major Connecting Town: Cochin

State: Kerala

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sree_Poornathrayeesa_Temple

 

Janardhana Temple, Varkala

Janardhana Temple, Varkala

13. Janardhana Temple, Varkala

Deity: Lord Janaardhanaswamy

This is a shore temple often referred to as Dakshina Kashi. The main deity of this sthalam is Sri Janarthana Swami. The deity is found in standing position facing his face towards the east. His right hand is position as if he is performing “Aachamanam”. His right hand is raised towards his mouth and legends say that if his hand goes nearer to his mouth, the world will come to an end. It is believed to happen at the end of the Kali Yuga.

Major Connecting Town: Thiruvananthapuram

State: Kerala

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varkala_Sree_Janardhanaswamy_Temple

 

Paarthasarathy Temple, Aranmula

Paarthasarathy Temple, Aranmula

14. Paarthasarathy Temple, Aranmula

Deity: Sri Paarthasarathy

This temple hosts the annual snake-boat race, renowned all over the world. It is one of the 108 Divya Desham’s of Lord Vishnu.

The temple is dedicated to Parthasarathy, Lord Krishna’s role as Arjuna’s Charioteer in the Mahabharatha war. The temple is on the left bank of the Pampa River. The sacred jewels of Ayyappan are taken in procession to Sabarimalai each year from Pandalam, and Aranmula Temple is one of the stops on the way.

Major Connecting Town: Pattanamthitta

State: Kerala

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aranmula_Parthasarathy_Temple

 

Navamukunda Temple, Thirunavaya

Navamukunda Temple, Thirunavaya

15. Navamukunda Temple, Thirunavaya

Deity: Sri Navamukunda Gopalakrishna

According to the local legends, goddess Lakshmi and Gajendra, the king of the elephants, worshiped god Vishnu here with lotus flowers from a lake nearby; with the two devotees using flowers from the same source, its supply dwindled, and Gajendra appealed to Vishnu, who took Lakshmi by his side on the same throne and accepted worship offered by Gajendra. It is interesting that the image of Nava Mukundan is portrayed only from above the knee, the rest of the image being concealed within the ground.

Major Connecting Town: Malappuram

State: Kerala

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirunavaya_Temple

 

Lakshmanaperumal Temple, Thirumoozhikkulam(Moozhikkulam)

Lakshmanaperumal Temple, Thirumoozhikkulam(Moozhikkulam)

16. Lakshmanaperumal Temple, Thirumoozhikkulam

Deity: Lakshmana Swamy

The mythology behind the name of this place is Hareetha Maharshi did penance and meditation on the banks of river Poorna(Chalakudy River). Lord Mahavishnu got impressed by the dedication of the Maharshi and appeared before him on the beginning of the Kali yuga. Lord Vishnu gave some advices to Hareetha Maharshi to overcome the difficulties in Kali yuga. These advices are called “Thiru Mozhi” meaning ‘Sacred Words’. And thereafter this place got its name as “Thirumozhi kalam” – kalam means place.

Major Connecting Town: Ernakulam

State: Kerala

References:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirumoozhikkulam_Lakshmana_Perumal_Temple

 

Sri Vamana Temple, Thrikkakara

Sri Vamana Temple, Thrikkakara

17. Sri Vamana Temple, Thrikkakara

Deity: Vamana Perumal

Avathara Sthalam on Lord Vamana and kingdom of Bali Chakravarthy. It is also the birthplace of Onam festival. Thrikkakara Temple is one of the few temples in India dedicated to Lord Vamana.  The temple houses lithic records of historic significance, and it finds mention in many of the hymns sung by the Tamil Vaishnavite Alwars, particularly Nammalvar of the 7th-9th century CE. It is also one of the 108 Divya Desams.

Major Connecting Town: Cochin

State: Kerala

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrikkakara_Temple

 

Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam

Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam

18. Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam

Deity: Sri Chakraraja

Sudarshana Chakra roopa of Lord Vishnu. Rare of its kind. Like Shiva, Lord Chakrapani(Chakraraja) has a third eye on His forehead. The temple is one of the most prominent temples in Kumbakonam. The main deity here, is seen as Lord Vishnu with numerous arms each holding a different weapon, and arranged together in the shape of ‘Chakra’.

Lord Brahma, who impressed on the might of Sudarshana Chakra  installed the image of Sudarshana in the place where the temple is now located.

Major Connecting Town: Kumbakonam

State: Kerala

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakrapani_Temple,_Kumbakonam

 

19. Kodanda Rama Temple, Bhadrachalam

Kodanda Rama Temple, Bhadrachalam

Kodanda Rama Temple, Bhadrachalam

Deity: Sri Lakshmana Sametha Seeta Ramachandra Swamy, Bhadrachalam

Bhadrachalam is considered as a sacred place and the second famous Rama Kshetra after Ayodhya in India. It is the most visited pilgrim center in Andhra Pradesh after Tirupathi. The main Deity (moolaviraat) of Lord Rama has distinctive features here. He is in the Padmasana pose with four hands, holding the bow and arrow in the front two hands, and Conch(Shankam) and Wheel(Chakram) in the rear hands. As per Puranas, Lord Rama along with wife, Seetha and brother Lakshmana, and the countless ‘Vaanara’s were invited back to his Holy Land by Bharatha and Shatrughna, from this very place.

Bhadrachala Ramadasu, was a 17th century Indian devotee of Rama and a composer of Carnatic music. He lived in the village near Bhadrachalam, during the 17th century and is renowned for constructing this temple. His devotional lyrics to Rama are famous in South Indian classical music as His devotional lyrics to Rama are famous in South Indian classical music as Ramadaasu Keertanalu.

Major Connecting Town: Khammam

State: Andhra Pradesh

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhadrachalam

 

Paarthasarathy Temple, Thiruvallikeni

Paarthasarathy Temple, Thiruvallikeni

20. Paarthasarathy Temple, Thiruvallikeni (Triplicane)

Deity: Sri Krishna

This temple is an 8th century Hindu Vaishnavite temple dedicated to the god Krishna, located at Triplicane, Chennai. Built by the Pallavas during 800 AD, it was then patronized by the Cholas. Legend has it that the parents of the Sri Vaishnava saint, Ramanuja came to the temple and prayed to the Lord for a son and eventually the saint was born. It is also believed that the Ramanuja is none other than Parthasarathy himself who was born to revive Vishishtadvaita. Parthasarathy Temple is also considered one of the 108 Divya Deshams of Lord Vishnu.

Major Connecting Town: Chennai

State: Tamil Nadu

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthasarathy_Temple

 

Ananthapura Lake Temple

Ananthapura Lake Temple

21. Ananthapura Lake Temple, Ananthapura

Deity: Sri Ananthapadmanabhaswamy

This is the only lake temple in Kerala and is believed to be the original seat (Moolasthana) of Ananthapadmanabha Swami (Padmanabhaswamy temple), Thiruvananthapuram. Legend has it that this is the original site where Ananthapadmanabha settled down. The temple’s lake is also home to a crocodile named Babiya, which is supposed to be the guard of the temple. When one dies, another mysteriously takes its place.

Major Connecting Town: Kasaragod

State: Kerala

References: http://shivallibrahmins.com/tulunaadu-temples/kasaragod-taluk/ananathapura-lake-temple/

 

22. Cheluva Narayana Temple, Melkote

Cheluvanarayana Temple

Cheluvanarayana Temple

Deity: Cheluvanarayana Swamy, Yoga Narasimha

Melukote or Melkote in Pandavapura taluk of Mandya district, Karnataka, is one of the sacred Vaishnava Kshetrams in Karnataka. The place is also known as Thirunarayanapuram. It is built on rocky hills known as Yadavagiri or Yadugiri overlooking the Cauvery valley and about 51 km from Mysore.

Early in twelfth century, the great Srivaishnava saint Sri Ramanujacharya took up his residence and lived here for about 14 years (said so). It thus became a prominent centre of the Srivaishnava sect of Brahmins, who obtained from the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana, who had become a follower of the Acharya, an assignment of the fertile tracts of land in the neighbourhood, especially of the Ashta Gramas, on either bank of the Cauvery. On the top of the hill is an impressive temple of Yoga Narasimha. This place is renowned for the Vairamudi Utsava held every year.

The town is also home to the Academy of Sanskrit Research, an institution that was founded in 1977, by the Government of Karnataka. There is also a library that houses 11,000 manuscripts and 35,000 books in Sanskrit.

Major Connecting Town: Mandya

State: Karnataka

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melukote

 

23. Parimala Ranganatha Temple, Indalur

Parimala Ranganatha Perumal

Deity: Parimala Ranganatha and Parimala Ranganayaki

Parmila Ranganatha Temple is a Pancha Ranga Kshetra on the banks of river Kaveri and one of most celebrated Divya Desham of Lord Vishnu. Legend has it that the demons Madhu and Kaitabha stole the Vedas, and disappeared into the sea; Vishnu came down in the form of Matsya avataram and restored the vedas, and restored their fragrance, hence the name Sugandhaaranyam, and Parimala Ranganathar and Parimala Ranganayaki. The temple premises attracts the devotees by the pleasant fragrance of the countless flowers on the idol Ranganatha, which is 12 foot in length in a Sleeping Posture, and made of green-stone.

Legend also has it that Chandra (the moon) was cured of an affliction after bathing in the Kaveri and offering worship here. The history of the temple speaks the greatness of Ekadashi Vrata/fasting, that is the devotee committed to this prayer, should spend the whole day only with thoughts of Lord without consuming even a drop of water.

Major Connecting Town(s): Mayiladuthurai, Kumbakonam

State: Tamil Nadu

Reference: http://indianmandirs.blogspot.in/2013/11/parimala-ranganatha-perumal-temple-in.html

 

 

|| Oṃ tad viṣṇoḥ paramam padam sadā paśyanti sūrayaḥ: ||

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