Rajagopala Swamy Temple, Mannarkoil – Legends
Kulasekara Azhvaar who was born in Thiruvanjikalam went on to become a Chera King. During his early years, he defeated Chozha and Pandya kings and was a dominant force. However, his devotion to Lord Vishnu led him to renounce power and to a path singing praise of the Vaishnavite Lord. After trips around several Vishnu temples, Kulasekara Azhvaar finally reached Mannar Koil, where he was taken in by the beauty of Vedanarayana, in whom he saw the Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam. Like Srirangam, Mannar Koil too is surrounded by two rivers on either side -Thamarai Barani on the Southern side and Karuna River on the Northern side.
Staying here at Mannar Koil for over 30 years, Kulasekara Azhvaar undertook daily pooja of Lord Rama, who was his abisheka deity, and finally attained Moksham at this place. To this day, one finds the idols of this Abisheka moorthy at this temple. In recognition of his efforts here at Mannar Koil, this temple has come to be known as Kulasekara Perumal Koil, the only historical Perumal Koil to be directly named as an Azhvaar Perumal Koil.
His shrine is unusually provided with flag post and Bali peetam. Surprisingly Pandya country is known for many 'Thiruvarasus' of Azhwars: Nammazhvar Thiruvarasu at Azhvar Thirunagari (Tamarind Tree), Periazhwar Thiruvarasu at Alagarkoil; Tirumangaiazhvar Thiruvarasu at Thirukkurungudi (Malaimel Nambi). Incidentally, Vibheeshana had also been drawn in to Lord Vedanarayana of Mannar Koil.
This place is also referred to as Veda Puri (after Veda Narayana Perumal) and Rajendra Vinnagaram (the great Chozha king who built/renovated this temple).
Sacred Shenbaga Flowers:
In his praise of Lord Vishnu in the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham, Kulasekara Azhvaar refers only to Shenbaga flowers and hence this flower is said to be very sacred.
People worshipped Lord Vishnu here:
The present temple region was once dense with Jack trees. Sages Bhrigu and Markandeya visited many Perumal temples and came to this place for penance. Pleased with their penance, Lord Perumal granted darshan. The sages wished that Perumal should be equally merciful to all devotees visiting this place and bless them with family happiness and prosperity. Responding to their wishes Perumal consented to stay here as Lord Veda Narayana. Later, Chera, Chola and Pandya kings improved the temple. Vibishana too worshipped Lord Vedanarayana here.
Avathara Sthalam of Azhagiya Manavala Jeer:
Mannarkoil is the birth of Vaadhi Kesari Azhagiya Manavala Jeer who provided detailed vyakyaanam (explanation/description) of Divya Prabhandham known as ‘Panniraayira Padi’.