Housed on a huge 33acre area, the RajaGopalan temple at Mannargudi (till a few centuries ago, this was called MannarKoil), is all what a Vaishnavite temple should be. Except that the Azhvaars did not perform Mangalasaasanam here, something that one finds difficult to come to terms with. Hence this is not a Divya Desam and remains only an ‘Abhimaana’ Sthalam.
Its quite a mystery actually that the Azhvaars who visited and sang praise of the Lord(and performed Mangalasaasanam) at ThiruKannapuram (50kms North East), ThiruKannangudi(50kms East), Thirucherrai, Nachiyar Koil, Thiruvinnagar-Oppiliappan, Kumbakonam Sarangapani(around 35kms North) and Thanjai Maa Mani (35kms West) missed the towering presence of RajaGopalan.
Temple Tower – 154 ft high
The huge temple tower, at a height of 154 ft. is fourth tallest among vishnu temples and can be seen from 5-10 kms away as one drives into Mannargudi. This place is also called Dakshina Dwaraka (South Dwaraka).
As one enters the temple, a vast open garden in the outer most prakaram with greenery all around serves as a warm welcome for the devotees. With nice benches, this makes it a nice evening sit out for one to admire this remarkable temple.
And then one walks through a long path alongside huge pillars and mandapams to reach the RajaGopalan Sannidhi.
The temple is believed to have been built by the Chola rulers, Kulathunga Chola I and II, during the period 1072 – 1150AD. And later developed and improved by the Nayak kings in the 16th and 17th century AD. This place is also known as Champakaaranya Kshetram.
It is said that the Lord here gave darshan to Brahmma in Kritha Yugam, to Brugu Rishi and Goddess Mahalakshmi in Tretha Yugam, to Agni, Gopila and Gopralaya Rishi(children of Rishi Vahnimugar) in Dwaapara Yugam and to King Rajasekhar in Kali Yugam.
7 prakarams, 16 temple towers, 18 Vimaanams, 24 Sannidhis, temple housed in 33 acre area with an equal area(33 acres) for the temple tank, festivals throughout the year just like Srirangam, a most handsome and majestic looking Vasudevan and a beautiful and alluring RajaGopalaswamy, with dangling Kundalam in one ear and an earring(Gopiyar’s) in the other ear- a sight to behold make it a terrific Vaishnavite temple. With such a towering presence, one has to wonder as to how the Azhvaars did not fall in love with this Lord. What is it that they saw (or did not see) that made the Azhvaars stay away from this temple.
It is said that ThiruMangai Azhvaar did visit this place. He came up to the entrance of the temple, lifted the DwajasThambam(Flag Post) at the entrance of the temple that was lying on the floor and went away.
All poojas in traditional Vaishnavite way
The daily temple poojas are performed in a very systematic and traditional manner right from Vishroopam at 5am, with the temple elephant and the cow showing their devotion to the Lord. One is a witness to the temple elephant going down on its knees to pray before Lord RajaGopalan and then lifting its trunk to shower water on the Lord- a beautiful sight to watch so early in the morning. And this is possibly the only Vaishnavite temple in Tamil Nadu that opens at 5am and has the Vishwaroopa Darshan in a formal way like it once used to be in all the temples.
Significance of the place- Staying here for a Night
In the Mahabharata, Pulastya tells Bheeshma that anyone staying for a night at MannarKoil earns the merit of having gifted a 1000 cows, such is the significance of this place.
Gopila and Gopralaya Rishi (children of Rishi Vahnimugar) wanted Moksham and prayed to Lord Narayana, who asked them to go to Dwaraka to seek the blessings of Lord Krishna(Kannan). By the time they reached Dwaraka, Krishna Avataaram had ended. Narada asked these two rishis to go to ‘South Dwaraka’ and they came here to Mannarkoil.
Here they asked Lord Narayana to give them darshan as Krishna and to show them all the playful things that Krishna had done at Dwaraka. Answering their prayers, Lord Narayana appeared before them as Krishna and enacted, on the banks of Harithra river, all that Kannan had played on the banks of Yamuna river in Dwaraka.
The Lord and his beautiful posture
The Lord here is seen in a single vastram(garment) just like a cowboy, with his right hand yielding a golden rod with a whip that has 3 dents and his left hand slightly leaning on the cow just behind him. One can also see 2 beautiful calves (in silver) in front of him on either side. The Lord is also called RajaMannar and Gopalan.
The moolavar Para Vasudevan can be seen with a conch, maze and discus in a majestic standing posture facing the East with a complete set of silver ornaments all over his body.
The story of two different ear rings
Once, Krishna and Gopiyars had an argument/bet as to who would bathe the quickest. In his eagerness to win, Krishna ran back and in a hurry, wore his kundalam in one ear and Gopiyar’s ear ring in the other.
To this day, we can see this rather unusual display of RajaGopalan at this temple- that of two different ear rings- one ear with his Kundalam and the other where he adorns Gopiyar’s ear ring.
32 Photographs around the Main Sannidhi
It is believed that the Lord gave darshan in 32 different forms to the 2 Rishis here. The first of that was ParaVasudevan(Moolavar here) and the last was RajaGopalan(Utsavar). These 32 forms are displayed in a colourful form around the main Sannidhi at this temple.
Temple Elephant and the 10km walk every morning
The temple elephant Shengamalam takes a 10km walk every day to keep herself fit. With 32 villages around this temple, the elephant walks to one village every day. Interestingly, Shenbagammal does not eat plantains like other temple elephants. She has a special liking for biscuits.
Near the Utsava Moorthy, one also finds SanthaanaGopalan. It is believed that those who pray to the SanthaanaGopalan will be blessed with a child, a case in point is a SriLankan couple who prayed to the Lord here and were blessed with a child immediately.
Priests with Audible impairements
There are a couple of men with audible impairements (from birth) at this temple. Thanks to the initiative of the temple authorities, these men have been given rights to perform pooja at a couple of sannidhis, thus boosting their confidence. These priests are enthusiastic, perform their duty with sincerity and take extra efforts in serving the devotees- quite a moving experience.
Vishwaroopam 6am, Thiruvananthal 7am, Kaalai Santhi Poojai-9am, Uchi Kalam-12noon
Thirumalai Purapadu- 6pm, SayaRakshai-7pm, Irandam Kalam Poojai-8pm, Artha Jamam-830pm
Milk/Fruits/Pongal for Vishwaroopam
Dudhyonam(Curd Rice)- 7am pooja
Tamarind rice – 9am pooja
Thenkuzhal – 11am pooja
Curd Rice- 7pm
Samba Rice-8pm pooja
Chakkarai Pongal, Mothagam- 9pm pooja
Archanai on Special occasions
Poosam -Thirumanjanam for Shengamala Thaayar
Sravanam- Thirumanjanam for Perumal Utsavar
Every Friday-Thirumanjanam for Utsavar Thaayar
Every month- Pancha Parvatham- Perumal Utsavar and Shengamala Thaayar Purapadu
Thiruvadi Thirumanjanam for Perumal Utsavar is done on special request.
For bookings, call : 94423 99820 or 04367 225738
Moolavar : ParaVasudevan (Moolavar)– East Facing, Standing Posture
Utsavar : Rajagopalan
Goddess : Shengamala Thaayar
Temple timing : 5am –12.30pm and 430pm-9pm
Also contact : Mahalingam, Manager on 94423 99820 /04367 222276
Festivals-Right through the year
18 day Panguni Brahmmotsavam – 10 day Float Festival in Aani – 20 day Adyaana Festival in Margazhi- The Garuda Seva at Mannargudi is specially famous
Location : 27Kms South West of Thiruvarur, 30kms SouthEast of Thanjavur and about 30kms South of Kumbakonam
Bus : Well connected from Thiruvarur, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur and Pattukottai
Courtesy: S Prabhu