Repair work is under way at Sri Lakshmi Narayana Perumal Temple, Kaliapettai, Chingleput.

The Chingleput area, once part of the ancient territorial subdivision known as Tondaimandalam and Tondainadu, is dotted with many small towns and villages which are home to numerous temples belonging to the ancient and medieval times. One among these is a shrine, approximately 500-years-old, dedicated to Lakshmi Narayana Perumal in a historic village called Kaliapettai.

According to tradition, the founding of this village and the construction of the Vishnu temple are associated with Doddacharya, also called Mahacharya (whose hometown was Sholingur - famous for its Narasimha temple). Once, while travelling from Sholingur to Chidambaram, he stayed at Chingelput . Ranganatha, the ruler of this region, who was also the student of Doddacharya, for some reason did not come to honour his preceptor. Soon, realising his mistake, Ranganatha apologised to Doddacharya and founded a village in his name called Doddacharya Agraharam near Kshiranadi (River Palar), which is the present Kaliapettai. He also ordered the construction of a temple for Lakshmi Narayana Perumal here, laid streets around the temple, built houses for the Vaishnava scholars to live there. Further, he donated bronze images, lamps and a temple-garden to this shrine and also arranged for the celebration of many festivals. This village and temple have been visited by great scholars and saints.

This small temple has an open-pillared mandapam in front, which leads to a larger mandapam inside and the sanctums. The main deity is a small stone image of Narayana seated with Lakshmi on His left lap. He holds the Sankha and Chakra in His upper hands and has His left hand around Goddess Lakshmi and His right in abhaya hasta. The processional image (utsavamurti) of the deity, worshipped as Karvanattullan, is flanked by His consorts, Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi. On either side of the main shrine are the sanctums for Lakshmi, known here as Senbagavalli Thayar, and Andal.

Bronze images

The other bronze images in this temple include those of Sudarsanar, Andal and azhwars such as Nammazhwar and Tirumangai azhwar, and preceptors (acharyas) such as Ramanuja and Manavala Mamunigal. An unique feature of the image of Tirumangai azhwar is that it is very similar to the one at his birthplace Tiruvali (Tirunagari). A separate niche for Sri Anjaneya facing the main shrine is now under construction.

The image of Venugopala (Krishna), with His consorts Rukmini and Satyabhama, is indeed unique and exquisite. Usually Venugopala is seen holding the flute in both his hands. Here, the deity is seen with four hands, with His upper hands holding the Sankha and Chakra and the lower hands holding the flute. This is typical of many images of Venugopala of the Vijayanagara times. Another rare feature of this captivating bronze image is that there are five bends in Venugopala’s stance of standing, whereas in most other images only two bends or at the most three can be seen.

This temple was a flourishing socio-economic and cultural centre till 1983, with the people of the village contributing to its upkeep and maintenance. Subsequently, the Lakshmi Narayana Perumal temple came to be neglected due to the fact that many who were closely associated with the everyday administration of the temple have migrated to faraway places in search of education and employment.

The temple, with its simple and aesthetic architecture became dilapidated and overgrown with weeds. However, people from this village have returned with a genuine commitment to save this historic temple and to restore its former glory. Renovation has begun in right earnest.

Devotees who wish to contribute to this noble cause may send donations to: Sri Venugopala Svami Kainkarya Sabha, Kaliapettai, Main Road, Vijayanagar, Velachery, Chennai – 600 042. SB Account No. 129601000018838; IFS Code: IOBA0001296.