OCCASION The Rajagopalaswamy Kulasekara Perumal temple, Mannarkoil, is named after the Azhwar in recognition to his undying devotion for Lord Vishnu.

The historical Rajagopalaswamy Kulasekara Perumal temple in Mannarkoil, near Ambasamudram, wore a festive look on the occasion of the birthday celebrations of Kulasekara Azhwar, (on March 4), after whom the temple is named.

After almost 60 years, the temple had revived the float festival, celebrated from last year, to mark the birthday of Kulasekara Azhwar. This year, the festival was celebrated on a grand scale. In the morning, there was a special two-hour Thirumanjanam for utsavar deity, Rajagopalaswamy, and for Garuda, Andal as well as Kulasekara Azhwar at the main mandapam of the temple.

Later in the evening, unmindful of the constant drizzle, thousands of devotees from Mannarkoil and the neighbouring villages had gathered around the temple to witness the Theppotsavam. At around 7 p.m., Kulasekara Azhwar, on a Kedayam, along with Rajagopalaswamy, Garuda and Andal started on a procession from the main mandapam for the Theppotsavam.

Temple tank

The temple tank that was renovated just over a year ago was beautifully decorated and colourfully lit ahead of the evening’s celebrations (an early 13th century inscription indicates that the tank was gifted to the temple by the revenue sub-ordinates). After going round the tank 12 times, the four of them provided darshan to devotees who had lined up on either side of the Chariot Street before returning to the temple at 9 p.m.

This is possibly the only purana sthalam where Perumal and Azhwar jointly enter the temple tank for Theppotsavam.

Darshan in Three Postures

Sage Markandeya undertook penance at this place seeking darshan of Lord Vishnu in his three postures. Pleased with his prayers, Lord Veda Narayanan appeared in front of the sage – in an East-facing standing posture at the ground level, in a sitting posture in tier one and in a Sayana Kolam in tier two on the top floor under the Ashtanga Vimanam.

Kulasekara Azhwar, who was born in Thiruvanjikalam, went on to become a Chera King. During his early years, he defeated Chozha and Pandya kings. However, his devotion to Lord Vishnu made him renounce power and lead a path singing in praise of the Vaishnavite Lord. After trips to several Vishnu temples, Kulasekara Azhwar finally reached Mannarkoil, where he was taken in by the beauty of Vedanarayanan, in whom he saw Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam.

Like Srirangam, Mannarkoil too is surrounded by two rivers on either side – Thamiraparani on the Southern side and Karuna River on the Northern side.

Staying here at Mannarkoil for over 30 years, Kulasekara Azhwar performed daily puja for Lord Rama, who was his abhisheka deity, and finally attained moksham at this place. To this day, one finds the idol of this abhisheka deity at this temple. A speciality at this temple is that the Kulasekara Azhwar sannidhi too has a holy mast in recognition to his service for the Lord of Mannarkoil.

Shenbagam is said to be one of the eight favourite flowers of Lord Vishnu. In his praise of Lord Vishnu in the Naalayira Divya Prabandham, Kulasekara Azhwar refers only to Shenbagam flowers and hence the relevance of these flowers at this temple.

Narasimha Gopalan Bhattar’s determination to grow the Shenbagam flowers has borne significant results in the past five years with the Northern side of the temple now replete with Shenbagam trees. The number of Shenbagam flowers that one sees at the temple garden (a 13th century inscription dating back to the rule of Sundara Pandya I registers the sale of garden land to the Kulasekara Azhwar shrine) just next to the Azhwar Sannidhi is not seen in any other divyadesam, a testimony to the passionate service of Narasimha Gopalan.

Reference in inscriptions

On the temple walls, one finds several inscriptions relating to significant contributions made by rulers dating back to the Chola and Chera periods. Rajendra Chola made big contributions to this temple in the 11th century A.D. during which time this place was referred to as Rajendra Vinnagaram.

Rajasimhan donated several tracts of land to this temple. He also gifted cows and buffaloes to shepherds who were then required to supply specified quantities of ghee to light lamps that will burn perpetually at the temple.

In the 11th Century A.D., during the rule of Jatavarman Sundara Chola, land was given to six persons who had to supply 2,600 kalam of paddy annually to the temple.

This is the birth place of Vaadi Kesari Azhagiya Manavala Jeer who provided detailed explanation and description of Divya Prabandham known as ‘Panniraayira Padi.’

Brahmotsavam in the Tamil month ‘Chitrai’ and procession of Kulasekara Azhwar in palanquin during the Tamil month, ‘Thai,’ are the two special occasions that take place in the temple.

How to reach Mannarkoil

Mannarkoil is about five km. west of Ambasamudram off the Tenkasi – Courtallam Highway. Auto from Ambasamudram bus stand to Mannarkoil will cost Rs. 60. One can also reach the temple by local or mini bus from Ambai bus stand. Buses ply every 30 minutes from Tirunelveli. Cab from Tirunelveli to Mannarkoil and back will cost around Rs.700.

Quick Facts

Moolavar : Veda Narayana Perumal

Utsavar : Rajagopalaswamy with Garuda

Goddess : Vedavalli Thaayar and Bhuvanavalli Thaayar

Time to visit : 7am-12noon and 5pm-7pm

Contact: PS. Narasimha Gopalan Acharya @ 04634 252874

Special features

The three-tier central shrine under the Ashtanga Vimaana is similar to the Thiru Koodal divyadesam.

Kulasekara Azhwar spent his last 30 years here performing daily service to Lord Rajagopalaswamy before attaining Moksham.

The temple houses a sprawling garden for Shenbagam flowers, a favourite of Kulasekhara Azhwar.