Vishnu temple in an ancient Chola capital

The Goddess is worshipped as Uraiyur Nachchiyar (also called Uraiyurvalli and Kamalavalli Thayar).
Photo: Chithra Madhavan
Photo: Chithra Madhavan

Uraiyur (Woraiyur), also known as Thirukkozhi, now part of Thiruchirappali, was once the capital of the early Cholas referred to in Sangam literature before they moved their headquarters to Thanjavur. It is home of the Azhagiya Manavalan Perumal temple, which is one of the 108 Divya Desams or temples for Vishnu praised in the Tamil verses (pasurams) of the Azhvars. Kulasekhara Azhvar and Thirumangai Azhvar have sung about the greatness of the deity here. The Goddess is worshipped as Uraiyur Nachchiyar (also called Uraiyurvalli and Kamalavalli Thayar).

The Sthala Puranam of this temple states that a childless king named Nanda Chola prayed to God Vishnu for progeny. Vishnu blessed the king that Lakshmi, His consort, would be born to him and at appropriate age, He, the God Himself, would marry his daughter. Nanda Chola found the child in a lotus (kamala) tank in a forest and named her Kamalavalli. She grew into a beautiful girl and once, while with her friends, she saw a handsome young man, who was none other than God Ranganatha (Vishnu) of Srirangam, and fell in love with Him. When Nanda Chola came to know of this, he immediately got them married.

He built a temple in Uraiyur for Kamalavalli and Azhagiya Manavalan (meaning ‘the handsome bridegroom’). This is why the temple in Uraiyur is known as the Azhagiya Manavalan temple. Interestingly, there is no utsavar (procession deity) here in this sanctum, since the utsavar (Azhagiya Manavalan) of theSrirangam temple is said to be the processional deity for the Uraiyur temple too. The main image (moolavar) alone is found in the Uraiyur temple. He is in a standing posture, facing North. Kamalavalli Nachiyar is seen by the side of the main image in a seated posture, ready to get married and faces North, looking at the Srirangam Ranganatha temple.

he famous Serthi Sevai festival of the Uraiyur temple, which is the coming together of Azhagiya Manavalan of the Srirangam temple and Kamalavalli Nachiyar of Uraiyur, is celebrated every year. An inscription of the 16th century AD mentions that Chennaya Balayadeva, an officer of the Vijayanagara Emperor, Krishnadeva Raya, installed a processional image of Uraiyurvalli Nachiyar in the Srirangam temple and provided for its worship and offerings.


Uraiyur is part of Thiruchirapalli

Coordinates: 10°49 N 78°40 E

Birthplace of Azhvar
Woraiyur was the birthplace of Thiruppan Azhvar

Sthala Vriksham
The sacred tree is the punnai


The writer is a historian who focuses on temple architecture

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