Devi's Corner - Temples in Tamilnadu - Kallazhagar Temple, Madurai
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Kallazhagar Temple, Madurai

     This is a Vishnu temple dedicated to Soundararaja Perumal or Azhagar. Located 21 kms (12 miles) northwest of Madurai. One has to walk a minimum distance of 2 miles from the foot of the hill to reach the temple on the hill. The temple faces east. The southern side is bounded by a hill running from east to west, 10 miles in length and 1000 feet in height.

     The main deity of this temple is called Paramaswamy and the processional idol is called Alagar and also Sundararajan. This beautiful idol is made of pure gold and is a fine example of craftsmanship of the ancient period. The shrine of Kalyana Sundaravalli, the divine consort of Alagar, is in the southern enclosure. There is another shrine in the north dedicated to Andal who is said to have visited this place with Periyalwar from Srivilliputtur. Other important shrines are those of Sudarshanar and Yoga Narasimha. There is a separate sanctum sanctorum for Vinayaka. The trunk of the Lord is swirled to the right, unlike in other temples. He is known as the Valampuri Vinayaka.

     Here 'Vishnu' presides as Meenakshi's brother 'Azhgar'. During the Chitrai festival in April/May, when the celestial marriage of Meenakshi to Sundareswarar is celebrated, Azhagar travels to Madurai. A gold processional icon called the Sundararajar is carried by devotees in procession from Azhagar Kovil to Madurai for wedding ritual.

     Palamudhirsolai, one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya is on the same hill, about 4 kms. above. A natural spring called Nuburagangai where pilgrims bath, is located here.

     The temple has a long history. Legend has it that Yama, the lord of death, once undertook a pilgrimage. While he was visiting all the holy shrines, he was attracted by the serenity and beauty of Azhagar Malai and sat down for meditation here. Lord Vishnu appeared before him and asked Yama what he wanted. Yama requested that the Lord be pleased to reside in the beautiful surroundings for the benefit of the people. The Lord then ordered Viswakarma, the architect of the celestials - Devas - to construct a temple for him there and it was constructed and consecrated immediately. The Lord resides there with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi to bless the people. Because Yama worshipped the Lord in the form of Vrisha, this shrine is also known as Vrishapatri. This legend is found in the Vrishapatri Mahatmiyam, narrated by Suta Muni to the rishis of Naimisaranya.

     The temple is built on an extensive area in a very picturesque spot, surrounded by the ruins of a historic fort. The impressive main tower at the entrance, believed to have been built by the Pandyan Kings, has some beautiful sculptures depicting scenes from the epics. According to historical records, Malayadhwaja Pandyan, son of Kulasekhara Pandyan, who is said to have established the Pandyan kingdom, appears to be the earliest known monarch who patronised this temple. Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan, who reigned during the period 1251-1270 A.D., beautified the 'vimana' of the 'sanctum sanctorum' with gold plates. Later, during the reign of the Vijayanagar king Krishnadeva Raya, the temple was endowed with revenues from two villages for conducting regular festivals.

     After the end of Pandya rule in Madurai, the Nayaka kings became the chief patrons of this deity. The famous Nayaka king Vishwanatha, who ruled in Madurai during 1558-1563 A.D., made magnificent donations to this temple.

     Karuppannaswamy, the God of Kallars and the finely carved eighteen steps, are held in great reverence by the devotees. It is claimed that nobody will dare tell a lie at this spot. The hill by the side of the temple is about 300 metres high. There is a small rivulet running on the western side of the temple, known as Silambar River. There is a story behind the origin of this river. When the celestials sought the protection of Lord Vishnu from Mahabali, he took the Vamana (dwarf) avatar and went to Mahabali, asking for land measuring three steps, by his feet. Mahabali agreed to it. The Vamana Murthi then took his Trivikrama swarupa and measured the entire earth by one step, all the skies by the next and did not have any place left for his third step. Mahabali gladly knelt before Him and showed his head, for placing his foot there. When the Lord raised His foot, Brahma washed it with water from his kamandalu. The water that dripped from His foot is believed to be running as the Silambar River.

     The Kalyana Mandapa of the temple has beautiful sculptures on its pillars which are fine specimens of Nayaka art. In addition to the life-size sculptures of the kings who ruled over this place, there are many delicately carved idols relating to the epics. They are magnificent in concept and yet jewel-like in the delicacy of the chisel. Some of them surpass the workmanship found in similar pillars of the famous Meenakshi temple of Madurai. The notable ones are those of Narasimha, Krishna, Rathi seated on the parrot, Manmatha and Vishnu on Garuda and a few others. Apart from these the idol of Tirumala Nayaka found on a pillar is claimed to be the best when compared with similar figures found elsewhere. Some of them date back to the glorious reign of Ashoka. It is believed that the renowned Jaina teacher Ajjanandi and his disciples were staying on the caves of this hillock.

     The shrine has the special distinction of being sung by all the 12 Alwars. The Nalayira Dhivyaprabandham has 123 verses in praise of the Lord of this temple.

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