Perumaal temple, one of the celebrated Vaishnava Divya Desams, is located in Vishnu
Kanchi, or the little Kanchi. Its vast temple campus is an amalgamation of embellishments
over several centuries. This temple is also an important religious center, and is one of
the well visited temples in Tamilnadu.
The Divya Desams revered by the Alwars in Vishnu
Kanchi are Attigiri (the vast Varadaraja Perumal
temple), Ashtabuyakaram, Tiruttankaa,
Tiruvelukkai and Tiruvegkaa,
while those in Shiva Kanchi are Tiru Oorakam (Ulagalanda
Perumaal Koyil) , Tiru Neeragam, Tiruppaatakam,
Nilaattingal Tundam, Tirukkaaragam, Tirukkaarvaanam, Tirukkalvanur, Tiruppavalavannam and Parameswara
Vinnagaram. The vast Ekambreswarar
temple(Prithvi Stalam) revered by the Tevaram hymns, is located in
Periya (Shiva) Kanchi, as are the Kamakshiamman
and the Kumara Kottam temples.
Varadaraja Perumal temple is known as Hastigiri; it was originally known as Attiyuran.
Bhutattaalwar, one of the earliest of the Alwars, has sung of this temple. The name
Hastigiri is applied in the connotation of Gajendra moksham and from the legend that
Indras elephant Airavatam - in the form of a hill bears the image of Vishnu. The name
Attiyurar emerges from the tradition, that the original image of Varadaraja Perumaal
here was made from Attimaram. This ancient wooden image is worshipped for 10 days,
once in 40 years.
Legend has it that Bhrama worshipped Vishnu in Krita yugam, Gajendran
in Treta Yugam, Bhrihaspati in Dwapara Yugam and Adiseshan in Kaliyugam. The legend of
Vishnu lying across the river in spate, to prevent a deluge from wiping out Bhrama's
sacrifice also holds in this temple as in another Divyadesam Tiruvegkaa
Deities: The Moolavar here is Varadaraja Perumal in a standing posture
facing west. Perundevi Taayaar is housed in a separate temple within the complex. Other
shrines here include those to Kannan, the Alwars, and the Acharyas, Ramar, Kariamanikka
Perumaal, ,Andal, Varaaha Perumaal.
The temple: The first prakaram is on the Hastigiri hill. It houses the
sanctum, and the two co-axial walled mandapams. The sanctum houses the imposing image of
Varadaraja Perumaal. The vimanam here is known as the Punyakoti vimanam. The sanctum is
the womb of the fire, that is believed to hold the manifest universe whithin which the
standing Vishnu appeared.
History: In 1053, the Cholas rebuilt the base of the hill, on the east
west axis, to signifiy a cave in the hill, within which the icon of Narasimha sits as a
yogi facing west. Several inscriptions are seen in this shrine.They circled the hill with
a double storeyed cloistered veranda with colonnades of uniform pillars creating an opern
courtyrard with a chola style gateway on the east.
This temple was expanded vastly during the reign of Kulottunga Chola I, and his son
Vikrama Chola (1075 - 1135). It was during the same period that expansion work at the
temples at Chidambaram, Tiruvanaikka, Sirkazhi, Tiruvarur and Srirangam were carried out.
Other shrines built during the Chola period were those of Karimanikkapperumaal,
Anantalwar, Abhisheka Mandapam, and the Perundevi Taayar shrine. A separate shrine for
Perundevi was built on the south west, facing the sanctum, (rebuilt in 15th ent). By
14th century,the Cholas built another encircling wall including a tank etc with a gateway
and a 7 tiered tower.
There are now 5 courtyards. After the long period of Chola patronage, and the political
confusion following their decline, the Varadaraja Perumaal temple, came under the
patronage of the devout Vijayanagar rulers, who added the towering Eastern Gopuram, and
the beautiful Kalyana Mandapam, the Oonjal mandapam etc. Vijayanagar rulers embellished
this shrine in the 16th century with minute carvings, pillared verandahs for
circumambulation, a shrine for Andal, large hall for Navaratri, Unjal Mandapam, Kalyana
Mandapam, (575 sq meters in 2 meter high plinth with 96 monolithic pillars, geometric
designs, yalis, rampant horsemen, european soldiers). The east gopuram is 9 tiered rising
to a height of 180 feet while the western gopuram is 160 feet high. The temple occupies an
area of 20 acres. Stone chains adorn the hundred pillared halls.
Festivals: Four worship services are offered bere by priests who are
said to be descendents of Yagna Valkyar. The annual Bhramotsavam is celebrated in the
month of Vaikasi, while the Adhyayanotsavam is celebrated in the month of Margazhi. The
Garuda Sevai and the Chariot festival during the Bhramotsavam draw thousands of pilgrims.
During Chitra Pournami and Pongal, the deity is taken out to neighboring areas.