Sri Varadharaja Swami temple, which is one of the Divya Desam in the city of Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu. This temple along with Ekambareswarar Temple and Kamakshi Amman Temple in Kanchipuram is popularly known as Mumurtivasam (abode of trio). Sri Varadharaja Swami temple is one of the main temples that every Vishnu devotee would like to visit during his life time. The temple is also known for the “Athi Varadhar” the deity replica of Sri Varadharaja Swamy carved in fig wood, which is taken out of the temple tank every forty years for a period of forty eight days and worshiped.
The temple had received patronisation of all dynasties. Many kings of various dynasties like Chola, Pandya, Kandavarayas, Cheras, Kakatiya, Sambuvaraya, Hoysala and Vijayanagara had made many contribution and various donations to the temple during their time.
The temple is very huge in area and has many sannidhis for various deities. Many scenes from Srimath Ramayanam and Mahabaratham had been depicted in mandapams and walls of the sannidhis enhancing the beauty of the temple.
The temple is also famous for the Brahmotsavam conducted during the Tamil month of Vaigasi [May/June]. The devotees participate in this festival which is celebrated with enchantment and gaiety. During this ten day festival the processional deity is taken out in different direction on different vehicles. These processional vehicles are known as vahanam. Sri Perumal is taken out in Hamsa Vahanam, Suryaprabai, Hanumath Vahanam, Sesha Vahanam, Chandraprabai, Golden palanquin, Yali Vahanam, Golden chariot, Elephant Vahanam, Thotithirumanjam, Horse Vahanam, Aalmel palanquin and the great Car on the designated days. And during these festival days huge umbrellas are used when the Lord is taken out on procession.
On the ninth day of the Brahmotsavam of Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple, Sri Perarulalan [The processional deity is named thus] is taken out in Aalmel Pallakku [palanquin]. The palanquin gets this name “Aalmel pallakku”, since the palanquin has been designed as if the palanquin itself is being carried by four people.
On this day the Lord comes out in procession in Aalmel pallakku from the temple in the morning and visits Gangai Kondan Mandapam near Sri Shankara Mutt. At Gangai Kondan Mandapam, Lord accepts Poochatru sevai. He returns to temple for Theeerthavari at Anantha Saras. Lords visit to Gangai Kondan Mandapam is spectacular event since Lord is visiting to Kanchipuram from Vishnu Kanchi.
Rajendra chozan son of Great Rajaraja Chozan went out on expedition to expand his kingdom. In 1019 CE, his forces marched through Kalinga towards the river Ganga. In Kalinga the Chola forces defeated Indraratha the ruler of the Somavamsi Dynasty. Rajendra Chola took help of the Paramaras and the Kalachuris with whom Indraratha had a bitter enmity and Rajendra Chola took advantage of this situation. Indraratha was defeated against the combined armies. He had brought water from River Ganga to south for the Shiva temple he was planning to build. Thus he is also known as Gangai Konda Cholan.
The Ganga water thus brought from there was kept in sanctified places on the way. Mandapam was built at a chosen place and after sanctification the holy water was kept there before moving further. Such mandaps built for the purpose of keeping the holy water by the king was named as “Gangaikondan Mandapam”. Locally it is called “Gangana mandapam”. After the movement of Ganga water from such mandapam, the place was put to use under the local temple, so as to keep the sanctity of the place intact.
One such Gangaikondan mandapam in Kanchipuram is located just opposite to Sri Shankara Mutt.
The Gangaikonda mandapam is located on the south-east corner of Mangala Teertham and just opposite to the Sri Kamakoti Sri Shankara Mutt in Big Kanchipuram. The mandapam has highly decorative and ornamentally carved sixteen pillars. From the architect of the pillars it is assumed that the mandapam had been redone during Vijayanagara period. As Lord Sri Varadaraja visits this place only during the festivals, the mandapam is put to use by the artisans who are skilled in preparing umbrella for the festival of the temple. These artisans who are traditionally making the umbrella for the temple festivals use this mandapam as their work space. Today it is a heritage building, housing a deity of Sri Hanuman and used as work space for artisans who work on Temple umbrella and flower vendors.
There are two idols of Sri Hanuman which are housed adjacent to the northern wall in the center of the mandapam. One can have dharshan of the Lord right from the front door itself.
The first idol on to the left is embossed type known as ardha shila type where in the second idol on the right is a fully carved type and huge in size. From the style of carving and pose of the Lord taken for worship makes it clear that both idols are of Vijayanagara period. The smaller idol older of the two could be from Madhva School of worship and the second one could be from the school of Nayak’s period.
This place has a unique place in the belief that the sanctity of the place had been vouched by many great saints. In the recent times Sri Seshatri Swamigal and Sri Mahaperiyava of Kanchi Kamakoti mutt used to visit this mandapam regularly.
The idol is made of granite in ardha shila type and about five feet tall and facing south. Deity is seen facing east. In His both feet He is wearing nupur and thandai. He is wearing Dhothi in kacham style which is held on to His hip with a decorative waist belt. His left hand is holding the sowganthika flower, seen near His shoulder. His bosom is adorned with two malas; His right hand is raised and showing abhaya mudra and blessing devotees. His face is expressing compassion through the glowing eyes. His long ears are adorning kundalam. His tail is seen just above the head. The disc and conch [chakra and sanku] are shown above the deity.
The idol is made of granite and about seven and half feet which is kept on a raised platform adjacent to the first idol . The idol is facing south, and the Deity is seen facing the devotees directly. The idol is seen with thruvachi [decorative arch behind the deity – known as prabhai in Sanskrit] made of the same stone. This style of making the deity with prabhai in the same stone is unique art style of Vijayanagara Nayaks.
The description of the Lord is same as Sri Hanuman I, expect that here Lord is seen giving dharshan to the devotee and blesses the devotee with direct “kataksham”.
The place sanctified by Ganga water is kept sanctified by the Lords of this kshetra. Dharshan of these two Lords at the same place is sure to take away the ill felling we may carry, and sanctify our thoughts thus making us feel healthy.
Ed: July 2021
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SRI HANUMAN THINKS DIFFERENTLY, THINKS FAST, THINKS AHEAD AND ACTS FOR SURE.
Our salutations to this Hanuman who always brings subham - everything that is good - for His devotees and eliminates the bad and the evil. He removes even the traces of bad thoughts and deeds from His devotees. i.e He makes them pure in words, thought and deed.