CHENNAI : The Deepa Prakasha temple in Kanchipuram is one of the 108 Divya Desams or temples sanctified by the Tamil hymns of the Azhvars (important devotees of Vishnu). Nammazhvar and Tirumangai Azhvar have eulogised this deity in their verses. The main image of Vishnu is seen with four-arms in a standing posture with Sridevi and Bhudevi on either side. He is worshipped as Deepa Prakasha is Samskrit and Vilakkoli Perumal in Tamil.
According to the traditional lore of this temple, when Brahma started a yagna without Sarasvati, this Goddess enveloped the world in darkness. Vishnu, in answer to Brahma’s appeal for help, appeared as a bright light and removed the darkness. Subsequently, an asura (demon) was sent to swallow the fire of the sacrificial altar. Vishnu took the fire in his hand and gave more light to the sacrifice and thus the yagna went on uninterrupted.
The principal deity is thus worshipped as Deepa Prakasha (Deepa means light and Prakasha is effulgence) and Vilakkoli which has the same meaning in Tamil. This temple has two enclosures (prakarams).
The central sanctum belongs to the Chola style of the 11th-12th centuries ADwith a pillared corridor around it and a maha-mandapa in front. Goddess Lakshmi worshipped as Maragatavalli Thayar is enshrined in a separate sanctum facing east. There are also shrines for Lakshmi-Hayagriva, Andal, Azhvars and Garuda. There is a three-storeyed gopuram over the main entrance.
A few ancient inscriptions have been found in this temple, the earliest of which belongs to the reign of Rajaraja Chola III, dated 1223 AD. It mentions the donation of lands to the temples of Tiruttangavilakkoli Perumal (Deepa Prakasha Perumal) and the nearby Narasimha temple. Another inscription records the gift of a village for repairs to this temple while a Sanskrit inscription states that a Vaishnava preceptor named Alagiyamanavala Jiyar built certain prakaras and mandapas in this temple.