In a remote village called Vittalapuram, away from traffic and noise and amidst green paddy fields, 15 km east of Tirunelveli is the 500-year old Panduranga Vittaleswarar temple. This is one of the two ancient Panduranga temples in India and is referred to as Dakshina Pandaripuram. With his handsome looks and ‘hands on hips’ posture, Panduranga, seen here with Rukmini and Satyabhama, steals the heart of every devotee who visits this temple.
The story goes that Lord Panduranga of Pandaripuram (Maharashtra) appeared in the dream of Vittalaraya, Vijayanagara chieftain who had camped near Tirunelveli on his way to a battle against the Travancore king. The deity expressed His desire to provide darshan in the South of India as well and is said to have given directions as well.
Vittalaraya came to this village and found the Pandaripuram idol buried on the banks of the Porunai (Tamaraibarani). He installed the Panduranga idol and built this temple, west of the river, and named it Vittalapuram (previously called Nattarkulam).
Victory without a battle
Having obtained the blessings of Lord Panduranga, Vittalaraya resumed his journey with his battalion and reached Suchindrum, near Kanyakumari. In a sudden turn of events and much to his delight, the Travancore ruler agreed for a favourable settlement without entering the battle field. Happy at this quick and positive end to his campaign, and as a thanking gesture, Vittalaraya returned to the Panduranga temple in Vittalapuram. He put in place a process and the finances for a daily six time puja as well as the conduct of festivals round the year.
Though one does not find exquisite sculptures here like the ones inside the Krishnapuram Venkatachalapathy temple (another Vijayanagara period temple renovated) located 2 km from here, there are several inscriptions relating to contributions made as well as festivities undertaken during different periods of time. A temple that for centuries witnessed grand celebrations including 10-day festivals and processions now wears a deserted look. With major contribution coming in from the Sringeri Math and support from local people, the Kumbabhishekam was held in July last.
However, much remains to be done to get the temple back to its glory days. Renovation is mot complete yet. This includes the construction of compound walls. The temple does not have a permanent Bhattar. With financial support from a few local families, puja is done twice with the help of a temporary Bhattar who comes from the nearby Alukudi Village. Only Vaikunta Ekadasi, Thiru Karthigai and Margazhi festival are celebrated. There are not sufficient funds to even purchase flowers for the Lord.
Those interested in offering contribution can contact R. Pakshi Rajan at 04630 263157/94421 63590 or can send their contributions to him at 1/38 Middle Street Vittalapuram via Seydunganallur Post (Tuticorin District) - 628 809.
Moolavar : Vittaleswarar Perumal, East-facing standing posture
Thaayar: Rukmini and Satyabhama (separate shrines)
Temple Time: 7 a.m.-12 noon and 5p.m.-8 p.m.
How to reach Vittalapuram
Buses every half hour between Tirunelveli and Vittalapuram temple (Route Nos. 11A, 23B and 3G). One can also take the Tiruchendur bound express bus and get down at Seydunganallur and reach the temple (3km north) in an auto (Rs. 30). Or take the Tuticorin bound bus and get down at Vasavapuram and reach the temple (3 km South) in an auto (Rs.30).