than Kallazhagar temple which is dedicated to lord Vishnu. This temple is in Azhagar Kovil, a small town 18 km away from Madurai city.
|Kallazhagar temple. alagarkovil.org|
|Kalyana Mandapam, Kallazhagar temple en.wikipedia.org|
|The gateway towers of the temple. en.wikipedia.org|
This temple, as many other Hindu temples, has an interesting legend according to which a sage by the name of Suthapas was living here. When he was attending his morning ablution and later taking bath in Nupura Ganga at Azhagar hill, he did not notice the arrival of Sage Durvasa who was quite well known for his highly intemperate nature (despite his erudition and spiritual mastery). The sage felt offended that sage Suthapas did not pay obeisance to him as it was customary in those days. The furious Durvasa cursed Suthapas to become a frog until he was relieved of of his curse by Sundararaja Perumal (Kallazhagar).
|Azhagarkovil location map. Travel India|
Suthapas Maharishi, later came to be called ‘Manduka Maharishi’ because of his frog form, and did penance on the banks of river Vaigai, also known as Vegavathi, at Thenur.
Kallazhagar, responding to Manduka Maharishi's mediation on him, came to Thenur all the way from Azhagarkovil via Malaipatti, Alanganallur and Vayalur and removed the curse on Manduka sage cast by Durvasa and later left for his abode in the hill. In the Chithirai Thirivizha every year, the episode of Kallazhagar redeeming Manduka Rishi of his curse is reenacted in Madurai.
During the reign of Thirumalai Nayak (1623 to 1659 AD), in 1653 the ritual of Manduka Maharishi getting rid of his curse was shifted to Vandiyur village. Here the religious event is performed at Thennur Mandapam, built by Thirumalai Nayak himself. The lord stayed in the hill as requested by the god of death Yama. Later a temple was built with the help from Viswakarma.
Built on a plot of two acres of land with a seven-tiered tower (entrance gopuram), the main deity Kallazhagar and his consorts Sridevi and Bhomidevi are in the garbagraha and lord Vishnu is in a reclining posture (Anathasayanam) on the recoiled giant serpent Aadishesha. An interesting feature is there are separate shrines for Sundaravalli Nachiyar, Andal, Sudarshana and Yoga Narasimhar around the garbagraha - sanctum. The life-size stone images of Narashimha an avatar of Vishnu, are quite interesting. One of them is holding the demon Hiranya and the other slaying the demon.
For unknown reasons, the main tower entrance called Mukya Gopuram always remains closed, with the shrine of Karupana Swami. The steps behind the closed door is worshiped as Patinettaam padi Karuppan - the black deity who occupies the eighteen steps . Even during festival times, this gopuram is not open. This practice has been in force for a pretty long time. It is a temple of great antiquity. Once, it is believed that it was a Jain temple as Jain inscriptions and caves were found by the ASI. However, the famous Tamil literary work Sillapthaikaram of Sangam age (third century) made a mention of this temple. So were the Vaishnava saints' (4th and 6th centuries) works in Tamil. The temple is enclosed by a granite wall and is surrounded by a large fort, part of which is in ruins.
This temple celebrates many yearly festivals among which the float festival during the Tamil month of Masi (February–March) and Vaikunta Ekadasi during Margazhi (December–January) are worth mentioning.
Every year during the Tamil month of Chithirai (April-May), Chithirai Thiruvizha is celebrated in Madurai. Kallazhagar visits Madurai for three reasons to attend his sister's wedding Meenakshi with Sundareswarar (Shiva), to accept Andal as his consort and finally to redeem Manduga Rishi of his curse - to get his human form from frog. Kallazhagar getting into the river Vaigai is the highlight of Madurai Chithiraivizha which is held with devotion and religious fervor. Roughly one Million people gather in Madurai to witness this event. While Kallazhagar enters the river, he comes to know that his sister's marriage is already over, so,