Tamil Nadu is a southern state in India which is an abode to many famous temples. And one of the most famous shrines can be referred to the Kalyana Varadharaja Perumal Temple. This is also known as Hastigiri and its original name refers to as Attiyuran. The actual image of the Perumal was developed from the Attimaram or the fig tree and it is worshipped for 10 days once in every 40 years. Being dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this popular shrine is located at Kanchipuram. This holy shrine is considered to be one of the ‘Divya Desams’ temples, the 108 Lord Vishnu temples are believed to have been visited by the 12 poet saints or Alwars. These people used to sing in praise of the Lord. It is located beside the Vedapureswarar Temple and is administered by the same Trust as well.
Varadharaja Temple History
Varadharaja Temple was built by the Cholas in 1053 which was later expanded by the great Chola kings Kulottunga Chola I and Vikrama Chola. During the 14th century, another wall and a gopuram were built by the later Chola kings. Kanchipuram is a home to many admired Lord Vishnu temples.
- Ramanuja, the great Hindu scholar is supposed to have whispered to reside in this temple.
- According to legends, Lord Brahma worshipped Lord Varadharaja Swamy in Krita Yuja, Gajendra in Treta Yuga, Brihaspati in Dvapara Yuga and Ananta Shesha in Kali Yuga. Airavata, the elephant of Indra in the form of a hill is believed to bear the image of the deity. The greatness of this holy place and Lord Sri Varadharaja is supposed to be present in many forms in the nearby temples of Kanchipuram. The holy text of ‘Sri Hastigiri Mahatmayam’ has all the elaborations about this temple.
- It is also said that Indra, the king of celestial deities after getting released from Goddess Saraswati’s curse established the silver and golden lizards as they were the witness of the ordeal. Lord Brahma did a yagna at this place which was about to be washed away by the fast flowing Vedavathi river. It is then that Lord Vishnu laid himself against the flow and the yagna was completed. Lord Vishnu appeared with as Devarajaswamy and looked radiant. He is then supposedly decided to stay here permanently.
- Sage Bringi had two sons who were also the disciples of Sage Gautama. They went to bring water for their mentor’s puja and did not notice that a lizard had fallen into it. Gautama was angry and cursed them to be lizards. When they begged for a relief, the sage said that it lies in Kanchipuram. It is here that the disciples begged Lord Perumal for salvation. Perumal said that although their soul would reach him, their mortal remains will be that of a lizard. People who worship the lizards are believed to be relieved from all adverse aspects till now. The Sun and the Moon stand as a witness to this boon.
Significance of Varadharaja Perumal Temple
- Varadharaja Perumal Temple is a huge one that had been built on a 23 acres complex and stands out among the popular pilgrimage destinations in India.
- The upper prakaram where Lord Varadharaja resides is beautiful. The 180 feet high tower is also wonderfully carved. Beneath the samadhi lies the shrine of Lord Narasimha. A separate shrine is present for Perundevi Thayaar.
- The architecture of this temple derives its inspiration from the Chola and the Vijayanagara kingdom. The stone chains of hundred pillared mandapam are carved out of a single rock and speak volumes about its structural design.
- To reach the Varadharaja Perumal’s and Perundevi Thayar samadhi one has to climb a fleet of steps. The sanctum consists of the idol of Varadharaja and on the exterior part of the inner sanctum lays the sculpted lizard images. These are covered with silver and gold sheets. The engravings of sun and moon are also visible.
- Pilgrims are allowed to touch these lizards which are believed to wash away their sins. This popular shrine is famous for its sculptures.
- There are many temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Vishnu, and hence, it is also called as Shivakanchi, Vishnukanchi. Ma Kamakshi temple is the Shakti-peeth of this place.
- The sanctum lies atop a hill which is encircled with double storied, covered verandahs with a terrace which takes the form of a beautiful courtyard around the auspicious shrine.
- The ancient Athi Varadharaja Perumal idol is 40 feet long in a reclining posture and once in 40 years it is open to the devotees for darshan.
- This temple as a protected monument is maintained and administered by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple Timings
- This temple opens its gates for devotees from 7 A.M. to 12 P.M.
- It again reopens at 3:30 P.M. and closes at 8:00 P.M.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple Food Timings
- Kanchipuram Idli is a special prasadam that is available in this temple. It is actually a big Idli which is added with various spices.
- Panagam, Buttermilk and Sundal are the popular prasadams that are prepared and distributed during the festive seasons for the devotees.
- A pilgrim can relish the unique taste of the Prasad after 12 P.M.
- Devotees also offer sweet pudding to the deity during special occasions.
Festivals celebrated at Varadharaja Perumal Temple
- One of the most popular festivals that are celebrated in Varadharaja Perumal Temple can be referred to the Vaikunta Ekadashi. A large number of devotees gather to take part in the festivity.
- Moreover, Aadi Velli, Navaratri & Deepavali calls for great days of celebration for Paruthiyur Mahalakshmi.
- Garuda Seva and Rath Yatra are also very famous festivals among the devotees. Adhyayana Utsavam during Margazhi is also popular.
- Purattasi Saturdays are celebrated for Paruthiyur Anjaneya.
- Rama Navami consists of a grand 10 day Utsavam in this temple premises. It celebrates the birthday of Lord Sri Ram.
- It is during the Chitra Pournami and Pongal that the holy being is taken out to the adjacent areas.
Poojas and Rituals at Varadharaja Perumal Temple
- Varadharaja Perumal Temple follows Vaikasana Agama tradition of worship.
- The priests in this temple offer four devotion services and are said to be descendants of Yagna Valkyar. The four temple rituals start with ‘Kalasanthi’at 8:00 a.m., ‘Uchikalam’ at 12:00 p.m., ‘Sayarakshai’ at 5:00 p.m., and ends with ‘Sayarakshai’ at 8:00 p.m.
- Each ritual has three steps: ‘alangaram’(decoration), ‘neivethanam’ (food offering) and ‘deepa aradanai’ (waving of lamps) for both Varadaraja Perumal and Perundevi.
- There are weekly, monthly and fortnightly rituals performed in Varadharaja Perumal Temple.
How to Reach: Road, Rail, and Air
- By Air- For all domestic and international tourists, Chennai is the nearest airport that one can find to reach Kanchipuram.
- By Train- Kanchipuram has its own railway station and has a good transport system that connects it from Chennai, Chengalpattu, Tirupati, and Bangalore.
- By Road- Kanchipuram is 75 km from Chennai and is well connected with major national and state highways. There are regular buses that travel between Chennai and Kanchipuram.
Hotels in Tamil Nadu: Where to stay
When on a visit to Kanchipuram, a traveler need not worry about accommodation. There are many affordable yet high-quality lodging services available in this place. Most of the hotels are situated near the city bus stand. There are some expensive guesthouses that provide both modern facilities and a peaceful environment to the pilgrims. From deluxe rooms to air-conditioned spaces, there’s every option presented to suit the needs of a devotee. In addition, the hotels in Kanchipuram are known for their traditional warmth and hospitality. The cost of the rooms varies as per to the services that a visitor opts for. Some of these hotels also offer complimentary breakfast option to all its visitors.
Where to eat
Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu offers a wide range of delicacies when it comes to fulfilling a traveler’s appetite. Each part of India stands unique for its own taste and flavor and this holds true when you come to Tamil Nadu as well. From traditional South Indian food like rice, sambhar, rasam to awesome breakfast options like poha, upma, dosa and vada, there are countless recipes worth trying. You can taste the same from local eateries or can opt for fine dining as well. And for those individuals who are looking to try out some international cuisines, this southern state will take you by surprise. From Chinese to Italian, Thai and Mexican, a food lover is surely spoilt for choices.
Along with the variety of food, the dishes are also moderately priced. Tourists are recommended to try the famous coffee that is prepared with fresh milk and simultaneously loved by every person who visits this place.
- Sri Yathothakaari Perumal Temple- It is located at a distance of only 1 km from the Varadharaja shrine. The deity refers to the YaaThotha Gaari Perumal and it is opened from 8 A.M. to 11 A.M. It again reopens at 5 P.M. and finally closes at 8 P.M.
- Sri Ulagalantha Perumal Temple- This is another popular shrine that is visited by pilgrims who visit the Varadharaja temple. This place of worship has three divyadesams namely; Neeragam, Karagam and Kaaravannam. The Vimanam and Pushkarani are found to be damaged.
- Sri Deepa Prakasar Perumal Temple- This sacred shrine is only ½ km Ashtabhujam temple in Kanchipuram. The Moolavar of this shrine is Sri Deepa Prakasar. He is also called as “Vilakkoli Perumal, Divya Pirakasar”. Moolavar can be viewed in a standing position and faces in the west direction. Additionally, this is a big temple with huge Vaagana Mandapam.
- Sri Azhagiya Singar Perumal Temple- This old temple is located near the Ashtabhujam shrine and is in a damaged condition. The name of the shrine distinctly points out that the Perumal is there to help the devotees. ‘Vel’ means wish and ‘Irukkai’ means staying there. Since the Perumal itself wished to stay there to help his followers, this place is known as ‘Vellukkai’.
- Sri Pavala Vannar Temple- In this temple, both the Pacchai and Pavala Vannan Perumal needs to be worshipped. It is located near the Railway station and stands close to the Sri Kamakshi Ammam temple.
- Sri Thirukkar Vannar Temple- This sacred place is located inside the Pragharam of Ooragathan Temple, Kanchipuram. While ‘Kaar’ means clouds and ‘Neer’ means rain (or) water, the God states that the water in this world is the resemblance of him and the Kaar.
- Sri Karunakara Perumal Temple- The Perumal here refers to Karunakara and he is providing seva by facing the southern direction. This path belongs to the cool breeze and he can be found along with Padmamani Naachiyaar clarifying to the world that he is the clouds that bring rains to enrich the wealth of the earth.
- Sri Vaikunda Perumal Temple- This is one among the temples that can be found in Big Kanchipuram. It is only ½ miles from the Kanchipuram Railway Station. This temple follows the three partition system of the Astaanga Vimana style.
- Sri Nilathingal Thundathan Temple- A visitor can find this placed as a small samadhi inside Ekambareshwarar temple in Big Kanchipuram. The Moolavar of this place refers to the Nilathingal Thundathan. He is also known as “Chandirra Chuda Perumal”. He can be found in a standing position and faces towards the west direction.