108 Divya-deshams: Thiruvinnagar

BY: SUN STAFF - 26.4 2024

Rajagopuram of Oppiliappan Temple, Thiruvinnagar

 

A tour of the 108 Divya-desams, the divine abodes of Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi.

Oppiliappan Temple, also known by its old toponym, Thiruvinnagar, is located near Thirunageswaram, a village on the outskirts of Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu. It is counted as the 60th of the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Lord Vishnu, who is worshiped here as Oppiliappan with His consort Bhudevi. The temple is also one of the Pancha Kshethram, where Lakshmi was born as Bhargavi, daughter of the sage Bhrigu.

Elephant and mahout walking through the pillared hall.

Oppiliappan appeared for Bhudevi, Brahma, Shiva, and sage Markandeya. The legend of the temple is mentioned in Brahmanda Purana. Tulasi Devi once did penance to attain closeness to Lord Vishnu, who responded that Lakshmi Devi would appear under Tulasi's lap in Tiruvinnagaram. Tulasi appeared as a plant in the place where the temple is located. This is mentioned in the 53rd verse of Nammazhwaar in Thiruviruththam. The sage Markandeya worshipped Vishnu and desired to have Lakshmi as his daughter and Vishnu as his son-in-law. Once Markandeya was on a holy trip and after reaching Thiruvinnagaram, he felt it was the right place to get his desire fulfilled. Markandeya started a severe penance for a thousand years, seeking Lakshmi's blessings. Lakshmi appeared as a baby under the Tulasi plant. Markandeya recognized the baby as Lakshmi and raised her. When the young girl reached adolescence, on the panguni month of Shravana, Vishnu appeared as an old man and proposed marriage to her. Markandeya replied, "You are very ripe and old, my daughter is too young and she does not even know how to cook with proper salt contents", to which the old man replied, "If your daughter must cook without salt, then I will still take it as my best food, but I will not leave from here without marrying her". Markandeya sought Vishnu's help and then realised using benefit of his penance that the old man was Vishnu himself. When he opened his eyes, Vishnu appeared in his true celestial form. Markandeya married his daughter to Vishnu. Accordingly, the temple's Neyvethiyam (bhoga) is always prepared without salt. The name Oppiliappan is derived from this legend.

View of the shrine from the temple tank

There is another story, regarding the temple tank. Once a King had consummated with the daughter of a saint, hence the saint cursed him to become a bird. The king lived as a bird and one night during a storm, the branch of the tree the bird was sleeping on broke and fell into the water of the tank. The bird regained its original form as the King and since then this is known as the only theertham where one can do theerth thaadanam even in the night. Since this tank has such healing power in the day as well as night, it is called Ahoraathra Pushkarani.

The place is known by various other names, including Agasa Nagaram, Vaikunda Nagaram, Thiruvinnagar, Oppiliappan Sannithi and Uppiliappan Sannithi. The presiding deity is likewise known as Venkatachalapathy, Thiruvinnagarappan, Oppilaappan, Thanoppillaappan, Uppiliappan and Srinivasan.

Temple elephant

Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is believed to be of significant antiquity, initiated by the Medieval Cholas of the late 8th Century, with later contributions at different times from Thanjavur Nayaks. The temple has two inscriptions dating from the Chola period, but it is not clear from the inscriptions and records when the temple was actually initiated.

The temple has a five-tiered rajagopuram and a granite wall surrounding the temple complex, which contains several shrines and water bodies. The tradition of many ancient temples in Tamil Nadu, the original image of the presiding deity is made of wood and was replaced later with stone.

The Sahasradhari plate and pot (kudam) are made of gold for performing Thirumanjanam (ablution) to the presiding deity. The temple also maintains a golden sword, diamond crown and gold arm guard for the image of Hanuman. The shrine over the sanctum is plated with gold.

Temple tank

 

The main shrine houses the deity of Oppiliappan, in standing posture, along with Bhoomidevi and an image of sage Markendeya. The vimana is called Suddhananda, meaning "pure happiness". The Desika shrine is located near the sancturn sanctorum. On the sides of the first precinct, the shrine of Anjaneya is located on the southern side; Alvars and Rama on the northern; and Ramanuja on the eastern sides. The shrine for Maniappan is located in the second precinct in the southern side, while the shrines of Ennappan and the holy birth spot of Bhoomidevi are located in the northern side. Garuda's shrine is located right opposite the sanctum and right behind the temple mast. A image of dancing Krishna is located on the southern side of the main entrance.

A marble hall is located on the western side in the inner precinct acts as the resting hall for the festival deities during festivals. Dolotsavam festival is celebrated in another marble hall in the northern side of the temple. Adjoining the hall, there is a shrine where the images of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and Hanuman are housed.

The sacred bed chamber, called Tiruppalliarai, is covered with mirrors. A Yaga sala for performing religious rituals is present in the temple. The temple has a hall for housing festival vehicles, a library, and a hall with eight carved pillars on the banks of the temple tank, where the annual float-festival is celebrated. The Kodimandapa, located to the south of the Garuda shrine, is used for several day-to-day religious practices.

Oppiliappan is considered to be the elder brother of the presiding deity of Tirupathi Venkateshwara Temple. The temple itself is considered the southern counterpart of Thirupathi temple, hence devotees perform their marriages and vows here as they do in Thirupathi.