Azhagar Koil, Madurai

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Location : 21-km Northwest Of Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Deity Worshipped: Lord Vishnu As Azhagar
Also Known As: South Tirupati
Festival Celebrated: Chitrai Festival In April-May

Located 21-km northwest of Madurai is a Vishnu temple located on a picturesque wooded hill. Here Lord Vishnu presides as Meenakshi's brother 'Azhagar'.

History Of The Temple
The Pandya kings and later the Naick kings of Madurai were ardent devotees of Azhagar and spent huge amounts for proper maintenance of the temple and for constructing many Gopurams and Mandapams and conducting many festivals. The temple suffered a lot in the middle of the 18th century when it was looted and partly demolished by Hyder Ali and thus lost all its wealth donated by kings and rich patrons of the past.

All the twelve Alwars, the Vaishnavite Saints, who visited this place, have sung in praise of Azhagar and the beautiful hills. All these verses numbering 123 may be seen in the Nalayira Divya Prabandam (4000 holy verses), which is claimed to be the Tamil Veda of the Vaishnavites. The place is also known as "South Tirupati".

About The Temple
It is one of the few temples in the country built in tiers. The tower consists of 3 tiers depicting Lord Vishnu in 3 postures, sitting, standing and reclining. The shadow of the Vimanam never falls on the ground.

On entering the temple, one can see the life-size sculptures carved in the stone Mandapam built by Tirumalai Naicken. These are similar to those found in Madurai temple. The deity is known as "Kalazhagar" as he is the household deity of the Kallas, a low caste people.

The Picturesque Surroundings Of The Temple
The temple is situated amidst picturesque surroundings. The temple faces east. The southern side is bounded by a hill running from east to west, 10 miles in length and 1,000 feet in height. It is full of green vegetation. That being the background of the temple, it gives a panoramic view.

From the western side of the temple there is a passage leading to the beautiful garden with fragrant flowers, coconut trees, etc and the passage leads to the tank where many mendicants take shelter during mid-day.

Beyond that, to a distance of about three miles the mountain is very green and there are fountains. Water from these fountains flows very near the temple precincts. The pilgrims use the water, which flows into a tank, for drinking and other purposes. In front of the temple also, towards east, there is another big tank for the pilgrims to take purificatory bath before getting into the temple.

Around the ancient temple there are ruins of an old fortified town. For going to the temple, one has to cross through the gateways of the ruined town. The famous Naicken King, Tirumalai Naicken, had a palace here generally known as "Azhagapuri", his favourite place of residence.

The Sthalapuranam
As the history of the temple is obscure, details of the temple given in Varahapuranam, Brahmandapuranam, Vamanapuranam and Agnipuranam were gathered and the sthalapuranam compiled.

Legend narrated to the Rishis of Naimisaranyam by Sutamuni, a student of Vedavyasa, on the importance of this place, which is known as "Vrishapatri Mahatmyam", is as follows: -

Once upon a time Yama, the Lord of Death, while going on pilgrimage to all the sacred places on earth, was attracted by the beautiful panoramic view of this place and immediately sat down for meditation. He was in the form of Dharma Swarupa, Vrisha, and hence this place is known as "Vrishapatri".

Sri Narayana was pleased with the prayers of Yama and appeared before him and blessed him with salvation. Yama was not pleased with his getting moksham alone; he wanted that place also to prosper. Hence he requested Narayana to stay there and to bless the people, to which Narayana agreed.

By that time Yama noticed that a halo of the moor was spreading around the place and he ordered Viswakarma, the divine architect, to construct a Vimanam at that spot in the shape of a moon. Viswakarma executed it in no time. Narayana stayed in that Vimanam with Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi to bless humanity.

The Festival Celebrated At The Temple
During the Chitrai festival in April-May, when the celestial marriage of Meenakshi to Sundareswara is celebrated, Azhagar travels to Madurai. Devotees in procession from Azhagar Kovil to Madurai for the wedding ritual carry a gold processional icon called the "Sundararaja".

HOW TO GET THERE

Air: Madurai is the nearest airport.
Rail:Madurai is the nearest railway junction. It is an important railway junction on the metre gauge of Southern railway.
Road: From Madurai town buses, suburban buses, taxis, auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are available to reach the temple.

WHERE TO STAY

Accommodation is available at the star, moderate class and small budgeted hotels, lodges and devasthanam cottages in Madurai.



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