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Sri Kamala Varadaraja Perumal Temple, Arasar Kovil

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Life is a dream
Staff member
River Palar, once the lifeline of the vast region of Tondaimandalam, had a number of villages, towns and cities which flourished on its banks, the best known being Kanchipuram. Many of these villages and towns still in existence retain vestiges of their ancient grandeur via the temples that still survive, although many are in a dilapidated state.

One such temple, which stands as mute testimony to the greatness of the eras bygone is the Sri Kamala Varadaraja Perumal temple in the small village called Arasar Kovil, near Chengalpattu.

Interestingly, there are a number of temples dedicated to Lord Varadaraja located near the Palar. The best known among them is the Sri Varadaraja Swami Temple in Kanchipuram. The Kalyana Varadaraja Swami temple in the village of Attur is also by this river and the Kamala Varadaraja Perumal temple at Arasar Kovil, is picturesquely situated close to the River Palar.

According to the temple legend, Lord Brahma performed penance under the peepal tree and prayed to Lord Narayana to appear before him. In response, Perumal appeard before him with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhu Devi.

According to another legend, when Lord Brahma collected earth from River Palar to make the sacrificial altar at Kanchipuram the images of Kamala Varadaja Perumal and his consorts were unearthed, and he kept them in this temple and worshipped them.

The temple, as well as the main shrine, faces west. There is a large pillared mandapam in front of the principal sanctum-sanctorum. The main mage of Sri Kamala Varadaraja Perumal is believed to be of Salagrama. Sri Kamala Varadaraja Perumal is seen in a standing pose and holds a lotus in his right hand which is rare. The processional image of this temple is also called Sri Kamala Varadaraja Perumal and is in a standing posture with four arms. His upper arms bear the conch and discus, while his lower right hand holds a lotus and the lower left hand rests on a mace.

Since perumal is seen holding a lotus in this temple, he is revered as Sri Kamala Varadaraja Perumal. A shrine for garuda is situated opposite the sanctum for Perumal.

This temple is well-known for the image of Goddess Lakshmi, in a separate shrine which faces east. She is called Perundevi Thayar here just as in the Sri Varadaraja Swami Temple, Kanchipuram. She is also called Sundara Mahalakshmi. Like all images of Goddess Lakshmi, this image of Perundevi Thayar has four arms. In the upper two arms she holds two lotuses while her lower right hand is in the attitude of assuring protection to her devotees and lower left hand is in boon-giving posture.

However, this image of Perundevi Thayar in Arasar Kovil, seated in the padmasana pose, is unique as she has six toes in her right foot. The tradition in this temple is that Thayar should be worshipped first and then the devotee should visit the perumal shrine.

The shrine for Thayar is also rather unique. It is fashioned like a separate temple with a small but beautiful mandapam in front. This mandapam is of great artistic merit and has pillars made of resonant stone which are called musical pillars as they emit musical notes when tapped. The corbels of these pillars bear the plantain flower motif very characteristic of the architectural style of the Vijayanagara Empire. At the top of the pillars, there is a hole and a thin stick when passed through it, comes out cut into four pieces. Unfortunately this mandapam and the pillars are in a state of neglect and disrepair now.

There is also a garbha-griha for Sri Andal in this temple complex. There are images of Vishvaksena and the Srivaishnava preceptors Sri Vedanta Desika and Sri Manavala Mamuni in this temple. In front of the Kamala Varadaraja Perumal temple, is a shrine for Sri Anjaneya.

There are a number of inscriptions etched on the walls of the temple. The earliest datable to the Chola times of the 13[SUP]th[/SUP] Century A.D. This epigraph, dated 24[SUP]th[/SUP] August, 1237 A.D. belonging to the reign of Rajaraja Chola III (1216 to 1250 A.D.), is etched on the north, west and south walls of the main shrine. It registers a sale of land to the temple. Another epigraph of the Chola times inscribed on the north wall of this shrine states that three cows and calves were gifted for a twilight lamp to the deity Tiruvarasur Emberuman in this temple by an individual. Yet another inscription of the tme of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya, one of the greatest monarchs of South India, dated 26[SUP]th[/SUP] February, 1259 A.D. found on the south wall registeres a gift of land. This Pandyan emperor is best remembered for his very generous donations to the Sri Ranganatha Swami temple in Srirangam found in a long epigraph there. Another Pandyan inscription is of the reign Sundara Pandyan II dated 18[SUP]th[/SUP] August, 1291 A.D. and records the sale of land to this temple. There are also several epigraphs of the Vijayanagara times.

The temple is open only for a short time in the mornings and evenings.
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