celebrated Vaishnava Divya Desam is located in the temple town of Kumbhakonam or Kudandai.
The Pancharanga Kshetrams along the course of the Kaveri are Srirangapatnam (Karnataka), Srirangam, Koyiladi (Anbil) and Kumbhakonam
and Indalur (Mayiladuturai).
located in Kumbhakonam are the Kumbheswarar temple,
the Nageswarar temple and the Kudandaikkaronam Shivastalams. Also in Kudandai is the
Ramaswamy temple, full of rich and elaborate sculptures, dating back to the seventeenth
Legend has it that there was a deluge after the Dwapara Yugam; a pot
of nectar and the seeds of creation were placed in a pot (kudam) and set adrift in the
deluge. The drifting pot settled at Kumbhakonam; and Shiva as Kiratamurthy, bearing a bow
pierced the pot with an arrow, and spilt the nectar which flowed all over. The bulk of it
flowed into what is now the Mahamagam tank. It is believed that all river Goddesses live
in this tank. It is believed that the remnants of the nectar were mixed with sand, and the
Shiva lingam representing Aadi Kumbheswarar was created out of it. The Mahamagam tank is a
scene of great festivity once in 12 years, in the month of Aquarius, when the moon and the
planet jupiter align themselves in the zodiac signs of Leo. Hundreds of thousands
congregate then to have a sacred bath, when the festival image of Shiva from the
Kumbheswarar temple is taken in procession to this tank on a silver rishabha vaahanam.
Legend also has it Bhrigu muni entered Vaikuntham; and out of
arrogance kicked Vishnu on his chest, at having not been recognized and welcomed. Lakshmi
left for the earth and settled on the banks of the Kumbhakonam tank. Bhrigu muni was
reborn as Hema Rishi, and offered penance; Lakshmi was reborn as his daughter, in the
Mahamagam lotus tank, and he offered her in marriage to Sarangapani. Vishnu, bears the
sarangam bow in his hand.
On the banks of the Mahamagam tank, are several mandapams built by Govinda Deekshitar
(a minister of the Nayaks of Madurai who is also credited with building the Ramaswamy
temple here at Kumbhakonam) , for the reception of deities during festivals.
The Temple: The Sarangapani temple is of great religious significance,
considered to be second only to the SriRangam
temple. The Vaideeka Vimanam of this temple is considered to be an offshoot of the
Sreerangam Pranava vimanam, and a replica of the vimanam presented to Vibhishana of Sri
Lanka by Rama. It, is conceived of, as a chariot with wheels drawn by horses and
elephants, in a scale grander than that of the Melakkadambur
temple built by Kulottunga I (early 12th century).
This vimanam has two gateways (as in Tiruvellarai),
the northern gate, or the Uttarayana vaasal, open on Makara Sankaranti, and the
Dakshinayana Vaayil, opened on Aadi perukku, the 18th day of the tamil month of Aadi. The
earliest of the Alwars Peyalwar and Bhutattalwar have sung of this temple. So have
Periyalwar, Andal and Tirumangai Alwar (8th century). Tirumazhisai Alwar spent his last
years and attained salvation here. Nammalwar has also sung of this temple. It is at this
temple that the Vaishnavite savant Nada Muni, was inspired to compile the works of the
Alwars, upon listening to the tamil hymn 'Aaravamude' composed by Nammalwar. Nadamuni
spent his last years at the Chola capital of Gangaikonda
Although the temple existed during the Pallava period, the current structure is
attributable to the period of Vikrama Chola (1121 onwards). Later Cholas built the
superstructure of the 11 tiered gopuram, and the tower was actually completed by the
Vijayanagar rulers. The tower is about 140 feet in height. There are sculptures depicting
the Bharata Natya karanas, as enunciated in the Natya Sastram - on the first tier of the
Gopuram, in contrast to other temples (such as Chidambaram)
where they are seen on walls.
Deities: The moolavar here is Pallikondaar, while the processional
deity is Sarangapani, with his consort Komalavalli.
Festivals: Six worship services are offered each day. The first day of
Uttarayanam witnesses the silver chariot procession. Bhramotsavam is celebrated in Thai
and Chittirai, and Vasantotsavam in Vaikasi. Also celebrated are the Pavitrotsavam in Ani,
Navaratri, Pankuni Uttiram, Maasi Magam, and the Dolotsavam in Margazhi. The grand float
festival is conducted in the Hema Pushkarini in front of the temple. There are colorful
festivals held here and at the Chakrapani temple in Kumbhakonam. The Chittiraitter
procession of the Sarangapani temple is of great significance.
Tirumazhisai Alwar refers to seven shrines featuring Vishnu in a reclining position - Tirukkudandai, Tiruvegkaa,
and Tirupparkadal in a paasuram.