108 Divya-deshams: Tirupavalavannam

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BY: SUN STAFF - 13.5 2024

Pavalavanam Temple, Tirupavalavannam

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

Tirupavalavannam or Pavalavanam temple, located in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, is a Divya Desham dedicated to the worship of Lord Visnu as Pavalavannar Perumal with His consort Pavalavalli (Lakshmi). Pavalavannar is believed to have appeared to sage Naimisaranya at this place.

According to regional temple legend, Lord Vishnu assumed various colours during various eras according to the nature of the living beings and their behaviour. During Satya Yuga, people were well-behaved (satvaguna) and Vishnu was white (svetavarna) in colour. During Treta Yuga He assumed the colour of pavalam (emerald) and was known as Pavalavannar or Pralavannar. In the Dvapara Yuga the Lord assumed a green colour (pachai). In the current Kali Yuga, he assumed blue tint called syamalavarna and it is believed that people will not be influenced by the form Vishnu appears in.

Lord Narasimhadev

Lord Vishnu is believed to have appeared at this place as Pavalavannar for the Ashvini twins, thus the modern place name.

Sage Bhrigu was once doing penance here and wanted to find out who among the trio of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva would be the most accommodating when their patience was tested. Out of the three, he found Vishnu to be the most accommodating because in spite of the sage kicking him, He went on to massage his legs for pain relief. The sage felt ashamed of his act, but Vishnu asked him to go to Kanchipuram to complete his penance. Vishnu appeared as Pavalavannar to the sage. The image of the sage is seen in the sanctum in worshiping posture inside the sanctum.

Lord Narasimhadev

According to another legend, Saraswati wanted to stop the penance of her husband Brahma, and she sent an army of demons to attack him. Vishnu stood up to save his devotee Brahma and was smeared with blood red colour. He was called Pravalesa and Pavalvannan, the colour of emerald in Tamil. There is another temple named Pachaivannan, which is located axially across the road and these two twin temples are mentioned together.

Temple Shrines

Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is believed to have been built by the Cholas, with later contributions from Medieval Cholas and Vijayanagara kings. The temple has three inscriptions on its walls, two dating from the period of Kulothunga Chola I (1070–1120 CE) and one to that of Rajadhiraja Chola (1018-54 CE).

A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all the shrines and two bodies of water. There is a seven-tiered rajagopuram. The temple faces the west. The central shrine of the temple has an image of the presiding Deity, Pavalavannar in standing posture. The festive image of the presiding deity and that of Santhana-gopala Krishna are located inside the sanctum.

The West facing sanctum is approached through the flagstaff, pillared halls, namely Mahamandapam and the Ardhamandapam. The roof of the sanctum is called Vedasara Vimana and it has five kalasams and stucco images of various legend. The temple has separate shrines for Alvars located to the North of the flagstaff.

The pillars in the hall are sculpted with images of various avatars and pastimes of Vishnu. There are other shrines of Rama along with Sita and Hanuman and Garuda. The shrine of Pavalavalli, the consort of Pavalavannar, is located facing the central shrine on the eastern side of the temple.

Temple Tank

The temple has two precincts with the second precinct enclosed by granite walls pierced by the five tiered rajagopuram, which is studded with stucco images of various legends, with the notable among them being the representation of Narasimha slaying the demon Hiranya. The temple tank, Chakra Theertham, is located northeast of the entrance.

Among the 12 Sri Vaishnava Alvars, Peyalvar, Thirumalisai Alvar and Thirumangai Alvar have sung on the different forms of God in this temple. Many acharyas have also written songs on the Lord's various forms here.