Monday, March 19, 2018

Koodal Azhagar Temple, Madurai

Koodal Azhagar Temple, Madurai
Koodal Azhagar Temple is a Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu located in Madurai City in Madurai District of Tamilnadu. Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil canon of the Azhwar saints from the 6th–9th centuries AD. It is one of the 108 Divyadesam dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Koodal Azhagar and his consort Lakshmi as Mathuravalli. A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all its shrines. The temple has a five-tiered Rajagopuram, the gateway tower. The temple is originally believed to be built by the Pandyas, with later additions by the Vijayanagar and Madurai Nayak kings who commissioned pillared halls and major shrines of the temple during the 16th century.

There are total of 108 Divya Desam or Vaishnavite Shrines in the country. But in only two of these shrines can one witness Lord Vishnu in all three postures – standing, sitting and reclining. The Koodal Alagar Temple is one of those two temples to have this unique feature. This temple is very important as the Tiruppallaandu, the first 12 verses of the 4000 Divyapprabhandhams, was sung by Periyalwar here in this temple praising the splendor of Azhagar. The temple is an ancient one and situated near the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple. The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.

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The Temple
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Temple Opening Time
The temple remains open from 5.30 am to 12.30 noon (and up to 1:00 pm on Saturdays) and 4:00 pm to 9.00 pm.
Pooja Timings

S. No
Pooja Name
Pooja Timings
Viswa Roopa Darshnam
06.00 AM.
Kaala Santhi
08.00 AM.
Upa Santhi
10.00 AM.
12.00 PM.
05.00 PM.
Raathiri Upa Santhi
07.00 PM.
09.00 PM.
Religious Practices & Festivals
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Religious Significance
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Literary Mention
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Koodal Azhagar Temple,
Perumal Koil Sannathi Street,
Madurai – 625 001,
Madurai District
Phone: +91 452 2338542 / 2334015
Mobile: +91 94877 19898 / 96885 88474 / 94873 53461
Mobile: +91 9344113169 / 94420 28447
Koodal Azhagar Temple is situated in the heart of the city. The Temple is located at about 450 meters from Complex Bus Stand, 1 Km from Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple, 400 meters from Periyar Bus Stand, 7 Kms from Mattuthavani Integrated Bus Terminus, 7 Kms from Thiruparankundram, 1 Km from Madurai Railway Junction, 20 Kms from Thirumangalam and 10 Kms from Madurai International Airport. It is very easy to reach the temple as it is situated very near to both the bus stand and the railway station. This temple is located near the junction of West Masi Street and South Masi street.

Koodal Azhagar Temple – Literary Mention

Koodal Azhagar Temple – Literary Mention
Historians are of the opinion that Koodal Azhagar temple finds mention in Sangam literature (3 century BCE - 3 century AD) in works like Madurai Kanchi by Mangudi Marudan, Paripadal, Kaliththokai and Silapathikaram. Madurai Kanchi details the Thiruvonam festival celebrated in the temple. Koodal Azhagar temple is revered in Nalayira Divya Prabhandham, the 7th - 9th century Vaishnava canon, by PeriazhwarThirumalisai Alvar and Thirumangai Azhwar. The temple is classified as a Divyadesam, one of the 108 Vishnu temples that are mentioned in the book. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the temple finds mention in several works like 108 Tirupathi Anthathi by Divya Kavi Pillai Perumal Aiyangar and Koodal Sthala Purana.
Koodal Purana details the origin of Vaigai river flowing through Madurai. It is believed that Vishnu stood up as Trivikrama, with one of his foot rising to the skies and the foot reached Brahmaloka, the abode of Brahma. Brahma was pleased to perform ablution to the raised foot and the water is believed to have emerged as a rivulet called Krithamala. A large number of banana trees sprang up in the place and it came to be known as Kadhalivana, a forest of banana trees. Satyavrata, a ruler of Madurai was a staunch devotee of Vishnu. It is believed that once Vishnu came out of the river Krithamala as a fish (Matsya avatar, one of the avatars of Vishnu) to teach Vedas to the ruler. From then on, the Pandyas started having fish as the symbol of the kingdom.
This temple is very important as the Tiruppallaandu, the first 12 verses of the 4000 Divyapprabhandhams, was sung by Periyalwar praising the splendor of Azhagar. The Lord was pleased and gave darshan as ‘Koodal Azhagar’. Tirumangai Alwar mentions Kozhi (Uraiyur) and Koodal in a verse while Tirumazhisai Alwar mentions Koodal along with Tiruvenkatam in a verse. Periyalwar is said to have sung Pallandu at Koodal. Kallazhagar is enshrined at Azhagar Koyil, and Srivilliputtur enshrines Kattazhagar, while Madurai enshrines Koodal Azhagar.
Pandya king Pururavan contributed a lot for the Koodal Lord. His grandson conquered the North and came back prompting Periazhwar to sing:
பருபதுக்கு கயல் பொறித்த பாண்ட்யர் குலபதிபோல்
திரு பொழிந்த சேவடி
என் சென்னியின் மேல் பொறித்தாய் மறு போசிதாய்
என்றென்றும் வாசகமே
உரு பொழிந்த நாவிநேனை உணகுரிதாகினையே

Koodal Azhagar Temple – Religious Significance

Koodal Azhagar Temple – Religious Significance
Periazhwar obtained the name as he is believed to be an ardent worshipper of Vishnu. While coming out of Madurai, he was taken out in procession to Srivilliputhur and he got the divine vision of Vishnu at the instance. He started reciting his composition, Periya Thirumozhi, which was compiled in Nalayira Divya Prabhandham by Manavala Mamunigal. Manavala decreed that the verses of Periazhwar starting with Tiruppallaandu should be the first and last verse while reciting Prabhandham in any sacred occasion in Vishnu temples. Ramanuja, a proponent during the 10th century, believes that Tiruppallaandu originated at Madurai. Thus, Koodal Azhagar temple finds an indomitable position in Vaishnavite belief.
During Maha Pralaya, the great disaster, the devotees sought the abode of Vishnu in Madurai. It is believed that Vishnu stood as a bulwark against the impending disaster, giving him the name of the city as Naanmadakoodal or Koodal Nagar ('Koodal' in Tamil is bulwark). The place is mentioned to be significant during four ages namely, Satya YugaTretha YugaDwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. The temple has Navagrahas, the nine planetary deities, which are otherwise found only in Shiva temples. It indicates the co-existence of Shaivite and Vaishnavite cultures during the medieval period.
Koodal Azhagar temple one among the 108 Vaishnavite shrines, is unique as Alwars had performed Mangalasasanam for this temple. Also, Periyalwar had praised this temple in his literary work “Tiruppallaandu”. Ashtanga Vimana considered the foremost among the 94 vimanas is found over the sanctum sanctorum of this temple. It is rare to see Ashtanga vimana in temples, which adds to the uniqueness of Sri Koodal Azhagar temple. It is believed that by coming around the Ashtanga vimana, 12 times for continuous 45 days, one’s wish will be satisfied.

Koodal Azhagar Temple – Religious Practices & Festivals

Koodal Azhagar Temple – Religious Practices & Festivals
The temple follows the traditions of the Thenkalai sect of Vaishnavite tradition and follows Vaikasana Aagama. In modern times, the temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. As at other Vishnu temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Vaishnavite community, a Brahmin sub-caste. Seven poojas or services are performed every day. Each ritual has three steps: alangaram (decoration), neivethanam (food offering) and deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for both Koodal Azhagar and Maragathavalli.
During the last step of worship, nagaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument) are played, religious instructions in the Vedas (sacred text) are recited by priests, and worshippers prostrate themselves in front of the temple mast. There are weekly, monthly and fortnightly rituals performed in the temple. The temple celebrates festivals on 253 days of the year. The fourteen-day annual Brahmotsavam during the Tamil month of Vaikasi (May - June) is the most prominent festival of the temple. The festive images of the temple are brought in chariot round the streets of the temple in various mounts during all the fourteen days. The Dasavatharam, the ten reincarnation stories are enacted.
The Maasi (February – March) 10 days float Teppa Utsavam on Makam Star in the temple tank, Aadi Pooram (July – August), Krishna Jayanthi – Birthday of Lord Krishna, Purattasi (September – October) Garuda Sevai for the eagle vehicle of Vishnu, Navaratri – the ten-day Dussehra festival, Karthikai (the Full Moon day in November- December), Sayana Seva, Three fruits decoration, Pavithra Utsavam, Five Garuda Seva, The hunting festival, Adhyayana Utsavam, The Birth star Festivals of Alwar and Acharyas, Gajendra Moksham, The New Year Day, Celestial Wedding Festival, Vasantha Utsava and Vaikuntha Ekadasi (the special eleventh day of the waxing moon) are other famous festivals in this temple.
Ten days are celebrated as Karthikai Utsavam (festivities in the month of Karthika), in honour of Thirumangai Alwar, who performed the Mangala Sasanam (or sang the poems in praise of the Lord) of the temple. The Vaikunta Vaasal, the symbolic gateway to the spiritual world, is kept open every year on the 24th morning of the month of Karthikai. “Ra Paththu” is a ten-day celebration that begins on the night of Ekadashi, when a hundred of the four thousand Pasurams (verses of poems composed by Alwars) are sung, every night. Two hundred Pasurams are sung every day for the next ten days and this is known as Pagal Paththu, the rest of the thousand songs are sung on the final day of the celebration. Female energy is harnessed on this night, as the Lord is adorned in the Nachiyar Thirukolam. (Where the Lord puts on the attire of Mahalakshmi). Another unique festival is the Vedu Pari Utsavam during which accounts of the temple are submitted to the Lord Himself.

Koodal Azhagar Temple – Legends

Koodal Azhagar Temple – Legends
Thiru Pallandu:
As per Hindu legend, Pandya king Vallabhadeva wanted to know the Lord with the power to show the way to Paramapatha, the heavenly abode. The King hung a Golden Parrot with the announcement that the parrot would automatically fall, once someone informs him of the right Lord to Paramapatha. Several came and went back without success. It is believed that the Koodal Lord appeared in the dreams of Vallabhadeva’s priest Selva Nambi and suggested the name of Periazhwar of Srivilliputhur. Accordingly, Periazhwar was brought to the court of the Pandya King in Madurai.
With several examples from vedic scriptures as well as historical references, Periazhwar showcased to the Pandya King that Lord Vishnu was the Lord who could take one to the heavenly abode. And to every one’s surprise the parrot fell down. The Azhvaar taken on a Street procession in Koodal. A delighted Pandya king praised Periazhwar and took him on an elephant procession through the streets of Madurai. Legend has it that Koodal Azhagar himself came to see this sight on his Garuda Vahanam.
Delighted at the sight of the Koodal Lord, Periazhwar showered praises with his Pallaandu. Hence, Koodal Azhagar is credited with origination of Thiru Pallaandu, which now has come to be sung as the first 12 songs of the Divya Prabhandham. Being the place where Periazhwar sang the now famous Pallaandu, this place is considered equivalent to Paramapatham.
“Pallandu Pallaandu Pallayirathaandu, Palakodi Nooraayiram
Mallanda Thinthol Manivanna Un Sevadi Seppu Thirukkappu”
It is said that architect of the Devas (gods), Vishwakarma designed and constructed Koodal Azhagar Koil in Kritha Yugam (Sathya or age of truth), the first of the four epochs in Vedic history. The other three are Tretha Yugam, Dwapara Yugam and the current one called Kali Yugam.
Koodal is the ancient name for Madurai. Azhagar means the beautiful one (male form) in Tamil.
Legend has it that all the Gods and Goddesses got together at the Koodal Azhagar Temple, for Meenakshi Amman’s wedding to Lord Sundareswarar. Hence this place is called as Koodal.
The name Koodal stems from the legend that at the behest of Vishnu, four clouds gathered at Madurai in the form of tall buildings, and prevented a deluge from overpowering the city. 
The legend says that 49 Tamil poets joined their hands to form an academy under the order of Pandya king to promote the growth of Tamil language. The academy which was formed by them stood as a center for the welfare of Tamil language for several centuries making numerous valuable works for the growth of Tamil. The academy stands as a monument for today.
It is said that four buildings are joined together to form a fort to prevent the place from intense deluge. Even this was served as a reason for the name “Koodal”, as four building joined to form a fort at this place.
The other mythology was that four clouds are sent by Lord Indra, the god of rain, because of the worship made by a Pandya king pleasing for rain. As a result, the four clouds sent by Lord Indra joined at this place causing rain. Hence, the four clouds joined at this place, it is called as “Koodal”, where Koodal means joining.
Reference in Maduraikkanchi:
In praise of Sri Koodal Azhagar, the Avani Onam festival was celebrated by Pandyan rulers for seven days. This festival is described in Maduraikkanchi, one of the ten epic poems called Pathupattu of the Sangam period.
Reference in Silapathikaram:
Illangovadigal (the Tamil poet who wrote the epic ‘Silapathikaram’) praises Lord Koodal Azhagar as ‘Needu Neer-Vaigai Nedumal’, meaning the Lord who covered the Universe by taking three strides, and then settled down at the bank of the River Vaigai in this temple. 
Reference in Brahmanda Purana:
Brahmanda Purana vividly describes this Kshetra in seven chapters.
The Pandya Symbol:
A Pandiyan king by named Sathyaviradhan, devoted to this Koodal Azhagar and had a great belief towards him. One day, when he went to worship Koodal Azhagar. But before going into the temple, he washed his hands in the Kirutha Maala river, where a fish was found in his hand. He thought that the fish might be the Lord Vishnu. Since fish was one of the Avathars of Sri Vishnu. This is stated to be the reason for the Pandyas to have ‘Fish’ as their symbol in their flags.
Vaigai And Kritha Mala:
At Sathya Logam, Brahmma washed the legs of Lord Vishnu, after his Trivikrama Avatharam, the sacred water drops of which fell on Madurai. These sacred drops spread as two rivers, Vaigai and Krithumala. Koodal Azhagar temple is on the banks of Krithumala river.
People worshipped Lord Vishnu here:
Legendary Kings Prithu and Malayadwaja Pandya Koodal Alagar, who bestowed them with prosperity and attainment of moksha at the end.

Koodal Azhagar Temple – History

Koodal Azhagar Temple – History
This temple hails from the earliest Age of Sangam period. There are references of this temple in Paripadal and Silapathikaram. The presiding deity was praised and worshipped by the Sangam Tamil Poets as the president and guardian deity of the Sangam and called him by the name "Thuvarikoman" (the King who ruled over from Dwaraka) and Koodal Alagar. Koodal refers to the assembly of Poets and scholars. The Ancient Pandya rulers celebrated Avani Onam festival in praise of Sri Koodal Alagar for a period of seven days. This festival is vividly described in Maduraikkanchi, on the ten lengthy poems called Pathupattu of the Sangam period.
Illangovadigal praises the Lord as "Needu Neer-Vaigai Nedumal" meaning the Lord who spanned the universe by taking three strides. (Thiruvikrama) who is now seated at the bank of the river Vaigai in Archa form. The inscriptions in the temple refers to the presiding deity as Koodal Azhagiya Perumal. There are inscriptions in the temple indicating generous gifts and endowments in the form of land, houses and gold to maintain and administer the temple. An inscription from the 8th century indicates the donation of granite stones for the construction of Ardha Mandapa.
The temple was expanded during the rule of Madurai Nayaks in the 16th century. The Dwajasthambam mandapam (flag staff) and mandapam before the Hema Pushkarani were constructed by the Nayaks. The temple was renovated by Alagappa Chettiar in 1920. In modern times, the temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.

Koodal Azhagar Temple – The Temple

Koodal Azhagar Temple – The Temple
Koodal Azhagar temple covers an area of about 2 acres (0.81 hectares) and has a five-tiered gopuram (gateway tower) raising to a height of 125 ft (38 m). In the Rajagopuram, one sees the story of the Ramayana and Mahabharata depicted through sculpture in different tiers of the tower. These sculptures can be closely seen from Tier 1 of the temple and are not to be missed. This is a beautiful temple, with interesting stone grills and sculptures and two prakarams.

The temple in enclosed in a rectangular enclosure with huge granite walls. The pillars in the halls leading to the sanctum have small sculptures. The central shrine has an elevated structure and houses the images of the presiding deity, Koodal Azhagar, in three forms, namely sitting, standing and reclining postures. At the bottom level the deity is represented in the Veetrirundha Kolam, sitting under Adhiseshan, the snake. He is also called ‘Viyooga Soundararajan’ and this icon is the Utsava Moorthy of this temple.

In the middle level the deity is in the sleeping position ‘Anthara Vaanathu Empiraan’ – Lord of the limitless skies. At the uppermost level, the icon is represented standing resplendent as the Sun God Soorya Narayanan in Nindra Thirukolam (standing posture). Convenient steps have been provided to reach all levels without any difficulty. The stone walls on the 3 sides of the Athistanam are full of artistic works. Sun’s rays reach the sanctum sanctorum through the 7 windows in this wall.

The vimana, the shrine over the sanctum is Ashtanga, with eight sides that represents the eight-syllable Astakshara Manthra of Lord Vishnu, ‘Om Namo Narayana’, in architecture, which has eight parts, namely, Adhishtana (base), three Padas(struct), Prashthana (limb), Griva (leading struct), Shikara (cylindrical holder) and Stupi (top portion). The temple tower is a beautiful structure and unlike a typical pyramid structure, has a slightly more circular dome-like structure that adds to the beauty.

The outer parts of the vimana has stucco images of sages, Dasavathara, Bhu Varaha, Lakshmi Narasimha, Lakshmi Narayana and Narayana Moorthy. The vimana is believed to be the work of Vishwakarma, the divine architect. The shadow of the vimana does not fall on the ground. The Ashtanga Vimana is found in Mannar Koil, Ambasamudram, Uthiramerur, Thirukoshtiyur and Cheranmadevi temples. The inner walls of the sanctum have paintings of Ashtadikpalakas.

Devotees can climb up the Sanctum Tower for a small fee and it offers a breath-taking view of the Madurai City. Devotees can have a closer look at the richly decorated superstructure, the Ashtanga Vimanam over the sanctum. Intricate woodcarvings, especially of the coronation of Lord Rama, are wonderfully detailed. The decorative windows, with delicately designed wooden panes, are a remarkable feature of the Koodal Alagar Temple. The deities in the gopuram are not well maintained.

The shadow of the Vimanam (gopuram) never falls on the ground. It is one of the few temples in the country built in tiers. Mother is called as Mathuravalli / Maragatha Valli / Vagulavalli. The shrine of the consort of Koodal Azhagar, Mathuravalli, is located to the south of the main shrine in the first prakaram. The shrines of Garuda, Anjaneya, RamanujaVedanta Desika and Azhwars are found in the second precinct.

There are smaller shrines of Lakshmi Narasimha, Rama, Lakshmi Narayana and Krishna located close to the sanctum. The shrines of Narasimha and Manavala Mamunigal are found in separate shrines around the first precinct. There is a shrine for Andal Naachiyaar, the poetess devotee of Lord Vishnu in the northern side of the first precinct. The shrine of Andal has painting depicting puranic stories and inscriptions detailing devotional literature.

The Navagraha Sannidhi, the shrine to the nine planets is not usually found in Vishnu’s temples. They are usually associated with Lord Shiva’s temples. However, in this temple, a separate sannidhi for Navagrahas can be seen. The prakarams have representations of the presiding gods of all the 108 Divya Desams of the Vaishnavas. Sthala Vriksham is Kadhali.

The other impressive features of the Koodal Alagar Temple, Madurai include the ornamental windows. They are elegantly carved and reflective of the exceptional skills of the stone masons. The intricately carved wooden panels are simply spectacular. There is an oonjal mandapam (swinging mandapam) full of artistic wooden works. Large Monolithic sculptures of Yalis and musical pillars can be found in this temple. This temple is endowed with a beautiful wooden Car.

The Pushkaranis for the temple are Hema Pushkarani, Vaigai River, Chakkara Theertham and Kirutha Maala River. The Hema Pushkarani (pond) was formed from the waters of the Kirutha Maala River, which once ran through Madurai. Hema Pushkarani is located outside the temple premises. It has a centre hall made of granite. The temple was renovated in 2006 using special natural vegetable dyes and paint made from medicinal herbs in Kerala.