Legend goes that Thirumangai Azhvaar did visit the temple of Rajagopalaswamy in Mannargudi. He came up to the entrance, lifted the dwajastambam (flag post) that was lying on the floor and went away, leaving the Lord unsung!! Consecration of the temple is taking place on August 22.

Seven prakarams, 16 towers including the 11-tier 154-ft tall Rajagopuram, 18 vimanas, seven mantapas, 24 shrines on a 33-acre area with an equal space for the temple tank (previously the sacred Harithra River), festivals all through the year just like Srirangam, all pujas performed in a traditional way, a belief that staying here for just a night earns the merit of having gifted a 1,000 cows and a story that dates back to the Krishna Avatar – all this makes the ancient Rajagopalaswamy temple in Mannargudi a perfect Vaishnavite temple.

Except that the Azhvaars did not perform Mangalasaasanam here. The legend goes that Thirumangai Azhvaar did visit the temple. He came up to the entrance, lifted the dwajastambam (flag post) that was lying on the floor and went away, leaving the Lord unsung!!

There is also the belief that Nammazhvaar in Thiruvoimozhi Paasuram ‘Unniththu Matroru Deivam Thozhaal... Maraivaananai Vanduvaraapathi Mannanai Eththumin Eththuthalum Thozhathaadumey’ may have actually directed his praise at the Mannargudi Lord but the reality is that this temple remains an Abhimana Sthalam (favourite spot) and does not figure as a Divya Desam.

It is intriguing that the Azhvaars who visited and sang the praise of Lord Vishnu (and performed Mangalasaasanam) at Thiru Kannapuram (40 km north-east), Thiru Kannangudi (35 km east), Thiru Cherai, Nachiyar Koil, Oppiliappan and Sarangapani (within 35 km north) and Thanjai Maa Mani (35 km west) Divya Desams missed the towering presence of Rajagopala at Mannargudi.

The Story-Dakshina Dwaraka

Two sages - Gopila and Gopralaya (children of Rishi Vahnimugar) -were eager to have darshan of the Krishna Avatar. While on their way to Dwaraka, they were saddened to hear the news that Krishna Avatar had ended and were directed by Sage Narada to undertake penance at Mannargudi. Pleased with their penance, Lord Narayana displayed his Krishna Avatar to the two rishis. Hence, this temple is referred to as Dakshina Dwaraka.

Also, on the banks of River Harithra, he provided darshan to the two rishis in 32 different forms, the first as Para Vasudevan (Moolavar here) and the last as Rajagopalan who is the utsava deity. All these 32 forms are displayed in a colourful sketch around the main shrine.

The Lord and his beautiful posture

While the moolavar Para Vasudevan is seen with a conch, maze and discus in a majestic East facing standing posture, Rajagopalan, the Utsavar, is at his alluring best, seen in a single vastram just like a cowboy, with his right hand wielding a golden rod with a whip that has three dents and his left hand slightly leaning on the cow just behind him and two beautiful calves (in silver) in front of him on either side.

Rajagopalan sports two different ear rings

The story goes that Krishna and the Gopikas once had an argument as to who would bathe the quickest and get back into their correct clothes. In his eagerness to win, Krishna ran back in a hurry and wore his Kundalam in one ear and, by mistake, the ‘Thadangam’ (Gopiyar’s ear ring) in the other. To this day, we see this rather unusual display of Rajagopalan – a different ornament on each ear.

The aradhana mantra of the Lord - Om Namo Vasudevaya, the ‘Dwa Dashakshara’ mantra - is said to be very sacred.

Chola and Nayak Contribution-Architecture and Inscriptions

The huge temple tower, at a height of 154 feet is the fourth tallest Raja Gopuram among Vishnu temples in Tamil Nadu, after Srirangam, Srivilliputhur and Thiru Kudanthai Sarangapani Divya Desams. The Rajagopalaswamy temple, in its current form, is believed to have been built by Kulothunga Chola I in the 11-12 centuries.

The Nayak kings contributed in no small measure to the development of the temple architecture making significant improvements in the 17{+t}{+h} century AD. There are a number of inscriptions on the pillars and walls inside the temple. The stone sculptures that one finds on the pillars on either side of the pathway leading to the sanctum takes one back to the Nayak period and their style of architecture.

This place was once full of Shenbagam blossoms and hence this is also known as ‘Champakaaranya’ kshetram. With efforts from the temple authorities, the temple is now once again seeing the growth of Shenbagam, considered an auspicious development.

Festivals-Right through the year

There are festivals right through the year with the 18-day Panguni Brahmotsavam, the 10-day float festival in Aani and the Garuda Seva being the special highlights.

Thanks to the initiative of the temple authorities, a few deaf and mute men have been given rights to perform puja at the sannidhis. These priests are enthusiastic and take extra efforts in serving the devotees- quite a moving experience.

Maha Samprokshanam on 22nd August

After 15 years (the last one was in 1995), Maha Samprokshanam will take place on Sunday, August 22. Renovation has been done at a cost of Rs. 2.5 crores.

For other details contact: 94433 43363 or 04367 222276.

Quick Facts:

Moolavar: Para Vasudevan

Utsavar: Rajagopalan

Goddess: Shengamala Thaayar

Temple time: 6a.m.-12.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m.-9 p.m.

How to reach Mannargudi

From Chennai, one can take a train (Nagore Exp/Chozhan Exp/RockFort Exp) to Kumbakonam. Mannargudi is about 30 km from Kumbakonam via Needamangalam. There are a number of direct buses from Chennai to Mannargudi.

Special Features

Referred to as Dakshina Dwaraka

Krishna displayed 32 different forms to two rishis here

The Rajagopuram is the fourth tallest among Vishnu Temples

There is no record of mangalasaasanam by Azhvaars.