Sri Lakshmi Narayana temple is a significant temple located in the core of Nirvalur. The small village of Sri Lakshmi Narayana is located a few kilometers off the Chennai-Bangalore national highway. More specifically it is between the holy and historic towns of Kanchipuram and Sriperumbudur is situated the small village of Nirvalur, once venerated as a prosperous Srivaishnava settlement and home to a Vishnu temple dedicated to Sri Lakshmi Narayana Perumal. The presiding deity enshrined in the temple is also known as Veetrirunda Perumal. This village was once known as Bhashyapuram or Sri Bhashyapuram after the name of illustrious preceptor, Sri Ramanuja, reverentially referred to as Bhashyakarar. This small shrine was founded in 1503 by Sri Shashtha Parankusa Yatindra Maha Desikan, the sixth pontiff (Jeeyar) of the Ahobila Mutt who also lived in this place for a few years. Hence the small village of Nirvalur is venerated as a sacrosanct and the temple of Lord Sri Lakshmi Narayana has attached sanctity to the traditional place.
The legends attached an added grandeur to the antiquity of Sri Lakshmi Narayana Perumal temple. The legendary stories also point to the majestic grandeur of the temple. It is believed that when Avvaiyar once visited this village, she felt thirsty, but the ruler of this area refused to give her water to quench her thirst. As a result of her curse, this area become extremely dry and this village came to be known as Nirvarti-ur (waterless area).
According to a legend connected with this place, Sriman Narayana (Vishnu) gave darshan to numerous deities after killing a powerful demon, but unfortunately the vigraham of this deity was lost in the course of time. Sri Bhashyakarar (Sri Ramanujar) later in a divine command told the sixth Jeeyar Srimath Shashta Parankusa Yatheendra Mahadesikan in his dream to go to a village near Kanchi and to find this vigraham which was buried there. When the Jeeyar visited this place, the king, believing in the divine command, donated one thousand four hundred acres of land to him. The pontiff performed certain propitiatory rites with potent mantras and miraculously the waterless land turned into a fertile place. As a result the king began to believe in the Divine power and came to realise his own mistake. The village subsequently came to be popularly known as Nirvalur. It is believed that a pond which was dug at that time is named after the Jeeyar and has never dried up over the centuries. Subsequently, when the pontiff was teaching his disciples the Sri Bhashya (commentary on the Brahma Sutras), a snake appeared before them. The Jeeyar, immediately realising that this was Sri Ramanuja in his form as Adisesha, followed the snake and was led to a certain spot where, with the help of his students, he unearthed and recovered the precious vigraham and installed it in this temple. In this way that precious vigraham became the presiding deity of Sri Lakshmi Narayana Perumal Temple.
When this preceptor was making the necessary preparations for constructing this temple to consecrate this deity, he was asked by the then emperor of Vijayanagara to cure his daughter who was very ill. The preceptor started on this journey on an assurance from the ruler that the king that would undertake the construction of this temple. He left behind instructions regarding the exact measurements, architecture and other details regarding the construction. After curing the child, the Jiyar went for a long pilgrimage and when he came back, found that the temple had been completed.
Apart from the above mentioned stories several other legendary stories are also associated with it. Another legend connected with this temple states the story of a king of Bengal who worshipped here and was blessed with a child. Consequently, he promised to build the main tower of this temple, in order to offer his veneration to Lord. But unfortunately he failed to keep his promise, even after many years. His son fell very ill, and by the time they reached Nirvalur, the boy passed away. However, the twenty-fifth pontiff of the Ahobila Mutt brought the boy back to life and considered to be the gift of God. Right from that time, Lord Lakshmi Narayana is worshipped as the presiding deity and is provided with due veneration.
Architecture of Sri Lakshmi Narayana temple, Nirvalur, South India
The architectural design gives the temple a grand splendor. The structural design and the artistic design on the temple walls clearly testify the excellent artistry of the contemporary era. The principal image (moolavar) of Sri Lakshmi Narayana Perumal enshrined in the sanctum is in a sitting posture, facing east, flanked by Sri Devi and Bhu Devi in a seated posture is the principal architectural specimen of the period. The deity holds the conch (sankha) and discus (chakra) in His upper left and right hands respectively while His lower right hand is in abhaya hasta, assuring protection to His worshippers and lower left palm rests on a mace (gada). The posture of the deity is immensely captivating and is the chief attraction about the temple. The utsava murti in this sanctum is Srinivasa Perumal is no less fascinating. It is placed in a standing posture in the boon conferring pose (varada hasta), which is flanked by His two consorts or Ubhaya Nachiyar. The unique and awe-inspiring bronze image of Ugra Narasimha tearing the demon Hiranyakashipu placed on his lap seen in this shrine evokes the legendary significance of the Temple. This vigraham of Lord Srinivasa Perumal was also installed by this preceptor. The other bronze vigrahams here are the images of Andal, Selvar and Kalinga Narthana Krishna. There are also vigrahams of the ancient preceptors and lords like Nammazhvar, Ramanuja, Vedanta Desika and Adivan Sathakopa (the first pontiff of the Ahobila Mutt) in this temple. The vimana above the main shrine is called the Jayakoti Vimanam, which is highly venerated by the devotees.
The structure of the temple is highly fascinating. The striking architectural feature of Sri Lakshmi Narayana Perumal temple is that this single-prakara temple does not have a separate shrine for Goddess Lakshmi. However there is a legendary story behind this. According to that story, a devotee who wished to build a shrine for Goddess Lakshmi in this temple-complex in 1895 was prevented from doing so by a divine command. Hence there is no separate shrine for goddess Lakshmi even till date. The entrance to the temple is through the east doorway where there is an unfinished gopura. The unfinished gopura is considered also an architectural Specimen.
However the architectural design on the temple wall and the structure of the sanctum along with the vigrahams enshrined in it points to a stately dignity of Sri Lakshmi Narayana Temple.
Festivals of Sri Lakshmi Narayana Perumal temple, Nirvalur, South India
The festivals, which are observed in Sri Lakshmi Narayana Temple, conform to the legend of the Temple. A few important festivals like Tiru Adi Puram and the Sri Rama Navami Utsavam are celebrated in this tiny temple, which follows the Pancharatra mode of worship. The main festival of this temple is the Tiru Avatara Utsavam, which is in the Tamil month of Thai (January-February) and coincides with the original date of the installation of this deity. During the festival, a number of deities flocked around the Temple precincts, to offer their worship to the Temple. The 8th Day utsavam of Lakshmi Narayana Perumal is the Kainkaryam by the family of Nirvalur Desikachari/ Narsimhachari Vagayera, which is now currently being performed by Nirvalur N.D. Kannan and family.
The unique and awe-inspiring bronze vigrahaam of Ugra Narasimha tearing the demon Hiranyakashipu placed on his lap seen in this shrine evokes the legendary significance of the Temple.
Atreya gotrAmbudhi pUrNacandraiH
AcAraSIlairabhito varishThaiH |
nArAyaNo bhAti sahaiva lakshmyA ||
SrI LakshmI nArAyaNan resides in the SrI grAmam of ArasANipAlai eulogized by the MahAns (varishThA-s) with immense Parabhakti for You and they are like the Full Moon rising out of the milky ocean of Atreya gotram (Atreya gotrAmbhudhi pUrNa candrAiH). They are great guNaSAlIs known for their AcAram and anushThAnams.
varishThaH means the best among all and the most distinguished ones for their Parabhakti and Vedic scholarship as AcArya PurushAs. AcAram and anushThAnam are the two wings of these great AcAryAs. Oh LakshmI nArAyaNa! You shine resplendent with the mangaLASAsanams of such great devotees hailing from your agrahAram.
Write-up and photography by Sri NK Balaji & Smt Bharani Sundararajan