108 Divya-deshams: Thirunagai


BY: SUN STAFF - 7.5 2024

Soundararajaperumal Temple, Thirunagai


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

The Soundararajaperumal Temple is located in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu. This Divya Desham is dedicated to the worship of Lord Vishnu as Soundararaja Perumal with His consort Soundaravalli (Lakshmi). Soundararaja Perumal appeared at this place for Sage Markandeya, Dhruva, Saleesan, and the goddess Bhudevi.

The present day Nagapattinam is believed to have been a forest, historically named Sundararinyam. During Treta Yuga a prince, Dhruva, heard about the importance of the forest and began a penance there, wishing to see Vishnu. Pleased by this penance, Vishnu appeared to him. Following his example, Markendaya Maharishi did penance and attained the vision of Vishnu during Satya Yuga, and Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu, during Treta Yuga as did king Saleesa Chola during Kali Yuga.

Temple Vimana

Lord Brahma worshipped Vishnu at the temple tank, Sarapushkarani. The Lord appeared in that spot on the auspicious day of Masi Maham. On account of the glow emanating from Masi Maham, Vishnu was called Aḻagiyan. Because He had glittering skin, he was called Soundara Rajan, meaning the most beautiful and his consort was called Soundaravalli. Because the king of Nagas, Adisesha worshipped Vishnu at this place, the place is also known as Nagar Pattinam, the place of Nagas. It is believed that two eunuchs, Kandan and Sukandan, attained physical fitness after having a holy dip in Sara Pushkarani, the temple tank.

Temple tank

A tributary of the river Kaveri, Odambokki, passes close to the temple, and the river is also called Virutha Kaveri. This is connected to one of the names of the presiding deity, Kaveri Thuraivan.

Constructed in Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is believed to have been built 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.

Shrines inside the temple walls

Soundararajaperumal Temple has a 90 ft. tall five-tiered rajagopuram. The temple complex is surrounded by a granite wall that contains all the shrines and water bodies associated with it. The main entrance of the temple faces east and at the entrance of the temple there is a four-pillared open hall.

There is a smaller temple tower on the western side. The walls of the temple are surrounded by large streets, through which the temple chariot passes during festivals. The southern street accommodates the station of the temple chariot and Sarapushkarani, the temple tank.

Shrines inside the temple walls

A rare image of Lord Narasimha with eight hands, one blessing Prahlada, another showing the abhaya mudra and the others involved in the killing of Hiranyakashipu, is present in the temple. There is a four-pillared hall in front of the shrine of Soundarvalli shrine that has beautiful architectural treatment. The hall has the images of the architects who designed it. The Nayaka hall is built like a chariot with wheels outside it. That hall, which has entrance to the temple, has two eight ft. sculptures of the guardian deities, Sumba and Nigumba.

The temple finds mention in Brahmanda Purana, in the Utharkanda Gyana Yoga section, and is revered in Nalayira Divya Prabandham.