Vestiges of bygone eras seen in this Vishnu temple in Tamil Nadu

The Jayanti of Akkur Andavan is celebrated in Utthiratadi nakshatram in Purattasi.
Vestiges of bygone eras seen in this Vishnu temple in Tamil Nadu
Photo |Chithra Madhavan

CHENNAI: Akkur, a tiny village situated enroute from Kanchipuram to Vanavasi, is home to a Vishnu temple where the deity is worshipped as Lakshminarayana Perumal. The small east-facing temple has an unfinished modern gopuram in front. This opens into a wide enclosure (prakaram) which has a monolithic deepa-stambham and bali-pitham. The deepa-stambham, as seen in many other Vishnu temples of Tamil Nadu, has the images of the Sankha (Vishnu’s conch called Panchajanya), Chakra (Vishnu’s discus called Sudarsana), Garuda and Hanuman on its four sides at the base. A single granite balustrade is seen closeby, which, along with the deepa-stambham, are a few of the vestiges of antiquity in this much-modernised temple.

The entrance to the garbha-griha (main sanctum) is through a mandapam whose entrance is on the south. This mandapa has two small shrines — one for Goddess Lakshmi, worshipped in this temple as Ambhujavalli Thayar, and another for Andal, both facing east on either side of the doorway while going to the central sanctum. Enshrined in front of Andal, are images of Lakshmi Narasimha, Lakshmi Varaha and the famous Srivaishnava Acharya (preceptor) Vedanta Desika, who was born in Tupil, an area in Kanchipuram. The same mandapa also has images of Vishvaksena (the leader of the army of Vishnu), Bashyakarar (Ramanujacharya, the illustrious Srivaishnava Acharya) and Akkur Andavan, a great scholar, born in Akkur, who became the Pontiff (Andavan) of the Srirangam Srimad Andavan Ashramam. Small sanctums for Garuda, facing the main shrine, and also for Hanuman are also there.

The presiding deity of this temple, Lakshminarayana Perumal faces east. He is seated with one leg on the ground and one leg bent at the knee and placed on the pitham (pedestal), with Lakshmi seated on His left lap. Perumal holds the Sankha and Chakra in the upper arms; the lower right hand is in abhaya hasta, blessing devotees and lower left hand is around the waist of Goddess Lakshmi.

The utsava-murti (processional deity) of this temple is worshipped as Srinivasa Perumal. He stands with Goddesses Sridevi (Lakshmi) and Bhudevi (Goddess of the Earth) on either side, holding the Sankha and Chakra in the upper hands while the lower right hand is in varada hasta (boon-giving pose) and lower left hand is in uru-hasta (resting on the thigh).

A unique feature of this temple is that the shatari (a crown with padukas (footwear) on top, placed on the heads of devotees in Vishnu temples), has the padukas of Vedanta Desika atop it unlike most other temples which have those of Nammazhvar (one among the twelve Azhvars of important devotees of Vishnu) on top of the shatari. Some inscriptions have been etched at the base of the outer walls of the main sanctum, but unfortunately cannot be seen clearly.

A number of festivals are celebrated in the Lakshminarayana Perumal temple such as Panguni Uttiram; Tamil New Year (Varushapirappu) in Chittirai; Sri Rama Navami in Chittirai; Sri Jayanti in Purattasi and Vaikunta Ekadasi in Margazhi. The Jayanti of Akkur Andavan is celebrated in Utthiratadi nakshatram in Purattasi.

Know your city

Akkur

Akkur is situated about 20 km from Kanchipuram on the Kanchipuram-Vandavasi road. It is about 24 km from Uttiramerur.

Chithra Madhavan

cityexpresschn@gmail.com

The writer is a historian who focuses on temple architecture

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