CHENNAI: The Srinivasa Perumal temple in Nachiyar Kovil is one of the one hundred and eight Divya Desams or places sacred to Vishnu eulogised in the Tamil verses (Pasuram) of the Azhvars or the important devotees of Vishnu.
This deity has been praised in the hymns of Thirumangai Azhvar. The principal image, worshipped as Srinivasa Perumal, and also as Para Vasudeva and Thiru Naraiyur Nambi, is in a standing pose with two hands instead of four as is usually seen. This temple has several unique features.
One such is that the main image Goddess Lakshmi, known as Vanjulavalli Thayar, is seen next to the main deity, Srinivasa Perumal and not in a separate sanctum. The images of Balarama, Pradhyumnya, Anirudha and Sambha are also in this same shrine, and together with Srinivasa Perumal are known as the Pancha Vira (five heroes). In the temples of Tamil Nadu, the processional deity (utsava-murti) of Vishnu has Goddess Sridevi (Goddess Lakshmi) and Goddess Bhudevi (Goddess of the Earth) on either side, but in this temple, only Vanjulavalli Thayar (utsava-murti) is next to Perumal.
Another rare feature is that there is no sanctum for Andal (one of the Azhvars), usually seen in the Vishnu temples in Tamil Nadu. Special importance is given to Goddess Vanjulavalli Thayar and hence the name Nachiyar Kovil (Nachiyar means Goddess in Tamil). The food offerings (neivedyam) is first offered to this Goddess and it is Thayar who goes out first during the processions, and then comes Perumal.
The stone image of Garuda (Kal Garudan in Tamil), worshipped in a separate sanctum, is however, also the vahanam (mount) on whom Srinivasa Perumal is carried in procession twice a year. It is avered that four people carry Kal Garudan out of the sanctum, but as the procession moves with Perumal on Garuda, the weight increases and eight, sixteen and finally sixty-four people are needed to carry the deities.
Nachiyar Kovil was known as Thirunaraiyur
Predominance given to Goddess
Vanjulavalli Thayar is given special importance
The stone image of Garuda is also the vahana
Chithra Madhavan firstname.lastname@example.org
The writer is a historian who focuses on temple architecture