Mayiladuthurai is a historic place and the part of it known as Thiru Indalur, is home to the Parimala Ranganatha (Vishnu) temple. This place is traditionally known as Suganda Vana (forest of sweet-smelling trees) and this deity is also called Sugandha Vana Natha (God of Sugantha Vana). The Samskrit word Parimala also means ‘sweet-smelling’. This temple is one of the 108 Divya Desams or places sacred to Vishnu sung in praise of by the Azhvars (important devotees of this deity).
Thirumangai Azhvar has composed ten pasurams (Tamil verses) in praise of Parimal Ranganatha. It is said that even after this, Azhvar sang the first four pasurams, the doors of the main sanctum remained closed and thus the disgruntled devotee went to another part of this town and stayed there. He dug a tank there which till today is called Azhvar Kulam. It was only after Thirumangai Azhvar sang the eight pasurams did the God give him darshan.
This temple is one among the five Pancha Ranga Kshetrams (temples wherein Vishnu as is seen in a recumbent pose), the other four shrines being in Srirangapatna (Karnataka), Srirangam, Koyiladi and Kumbakonam. Parimala Ranganatha, of a greenish stone, is a huge deity, about twelve feet long. He is in a reclining posture with four hands with Brahma emanating from the navel. Images of River Goddesses Ganga and Kaveri, and also Surya and Chandra are seen near Parimala Ranganatha.
Goddess Lakshmi is known as Parimala Ranganayaki and Pundarikavalli. It is believed that Chandra (Moon God) was released from a curse after bathing in River Kaveri and worshipping in this temple. Hence, this Goddess is also known as Chandra-shapa Vimochani (She who liberated Chandra from a curse). The month of Tula (mid-October to mid-November) is special here and Ranganatha on the Garuda vahanam proceeds to River Kaveri to give darshan to this river goddess on several days of this month. Muthuswami Dikshitar, the famous music composer has sung in praise of this deity.
A few inscriptions have been discovered on the walls of this temple
Know your city
Mayiladuthurai is about 39 km from Kumbakonam
Coordinates: 11.10o N, 79.65o E
The writer is a historian who focuses on temple architecture