Tirukkachi Nambi, revered as one of the early Srivaishnavas Acharyas, was an elder contemporary of Ramanujacharya, the famous Srivaishnava preceptor, and was also the latter’s preceptor (guru). He lived in Poondamallee (near Chennai) and was a great devotee of Varadaraja Perumal of Kanchipuram in praise of which deity he composed the Samskrit poem Devarajashtakam. He is believed to have taken flowers to Kanchi every day to worship Varadaraja Perumal. Tirukkachi Nambi is known for performing the ‘alavatta kainkarya’ or fanning service to God Varadaraja.
He initially refused to accept Ramanuja as his disciple, as he himself was not well-versed in the Sastras, but Ramanuja insisted on becoming his student on account of his great devotion to Vishnu. It was at Nambi’s request that Ramanuja brought water every day from a well in Sevelimedu near Kanchi for worshipping Varadaraja Perumal. According to Vaishnava lore, Varadaraja Svami chose Tirukkachi Nambi as his medium to convey to Ramanujacharya the six famous tenets of Visishtadvaita which served as the guideline for Ramanujacharya’s teachings.
In Kanchipuram, where he most part of his life, there is a small shrine Tirukkachi Nambi wherein his image faces the direction of the Varadaraja Perumal temple. The main image (moolavar) of Tirukkachi Nambi is in a seated posture with his hands in anjali mudra. The utsava murti (processional deity) is in a standing pose with his hands also in anjali. A fan rests on the arm of both the main and processional images.
The birth-star of Tirukkachi Nambi is Mrigasirsha in the Tamil month of Masi (Feburary-March). On this day every year, the utsava-murti of Varadaraja Svami comes to this shrine where He is received at the entrance by the processional image of Tirukkachi Nambi. After due honours and prayers are completed, God Varadaraja goes back to His temple accompanied by the image of Tirukkachi Nambi who later returns to his shrine. There is also a small sanctum for Ramanujacharya inside the Tirukkachi Nambi temple. A few inscriptions are found etched on the steps leading to this temple.
The Tirukkachi Nambi temple was probably built or rebuilt during the Vijayanagara period. An inscription dated 1535 A.D. found in the Varadaraja Perumal temple mentions that a person gave 530 gold coins to the temple and stipulated that the interest from this amount was to be used for various festivals for the Azhwars and offerings to Varadaraja Perumal when His processional image stopped in front of the Tirukkachi Nambi temple.
The writer is a historian who focuses on temple architecture