Temple-town of Kumbakonam:Sharngapani Perumal


One of the most famous temples in the temple-town of Kumbakonam is the one for Sharngapani Perumal, dedicated to Vishnu. The name Sharngapani comes from two Samskrit words ‘sharnga’ which means bow and ‘pani’ meaning hand. This shrine is one of the one hundred and eight Divya Desams or sacred places praised in the Tamil verses of the Azhvars or the important devotees of Vishnu. Seven Azhvars have sung about the glory of this deity. They are Peyazhvar, Bhuddatazhvar, Nammazhvar, Thirumazhisai Azhvar, Periazhvar, Andal and Thirumangai Azhvar.

According to the traditional story of this temple, Goddess Lakshmi (worshipped as Komalavalli Thayar here) daughter of Hema Maharshi performed penance and married God Vishnu. This place is known as Kalyanapuram because of the marriage of God Sharngapani with Goddess Komalavalli here.

The main deity worshipped as Aravamudhan (unsatiating nectar), is seen reclining on Adisesha with the left hand below the head and shoulders slightly raised. This pose is called Utthana Sayana. It is said that Thirumazhisai Azhvar, asked the deity if His feet were paining after the long walk in the forests during his incarnation as Rama and the deity got up and obediently answered the query of the Azhvar. The processional image (utsava-murti) is worshipped as Sharngapani Perumal.

The principal sanctum is shaped like a chariot (ratha) and belongs to the Chola times, although the temple itself belongs to a much earlier period. There are two entrances to this sanctum called Dakshinayana vasal and Uthirayana vasal. The former is open from the Tamil month of Adi to Margazhi (July to January), and the latter is open from Thai to Ani (January to July). 
Thirumangai Alvar composed the Ratha Bandham poem here. This is a type of compostition which contains seven graded portions and when written, looks like a chariot. The stately gopuram of the Sarngapani temple is about 147 feet high and was constructed due to the untiring efforts of a devotee named Lakshmi Narayana. There are several inscriptions here, many belonging to the Vijayanagara era.

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