CHENNAI: Tiruninravur, situated in Tiruvallur district in Tamil Nadu, about 30 km from Chennai is home to the Bhaktavatsala Perumal temple, praised by the Vaishnava saint Tirumangai Azhvar in his Tamil hymns. It is one of the hundred and eight divya desams or important Vishnu temples. The main sanctum enshrines the imposing idol of Bhaktavasala Perumal in a standing posture under the Srinivasa vimana.
The temple has two circumambulatory passages (prakaram). It is in the second prakaram that many of the sub-shrines are situated. The sanctum of the god’s consort, known here as Ennai Petra Thayar and also Sudhavalli is located to the right of the prinicpal shrine, while to its left is the sanctum for Andal. The idol of Sudarsana (Chakrattazhvar) is a rare one as the icon of Yoga Narasimha usually found on the rear of most Sudarsana icons is not seen here.
There is a beautiful temple chariot (ther), the base of which is studded with innumerable intricately wrought wooden sculptures depicting the numerous incarnations of Vishnu and also episodes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the puranas.
The earliest epigraphs discovered here are dated to the 9th century AD and belong to the reign of the Pallava ruler Nripatungavarman. There are some Chola inscriptions of Rajendra II, Virarajendra, and Rajaraja III belonging to the 11th and 12th centuries AD.
The Pallava records mention the name of this place as Ninravur situated in Puzhar-kottam while the Chola epigraphs state that Ninravur, also known as Virudarajabhayankara-chaturvedimangalam, was located in Ambar-nadu a subdivision of Puzhar-kottam.
(The writer is a historian who focuses on temple architecture)