Dr. G. Balaji

This set of nine temples dedicated to Vishnu are located in ancient Pandyanadu, now known as southern Tamilnadu. These beautiful shrines were built on the banks of the Tamaraparani river in Tirunelveli. These temples were classified among the 108 Divyadesams praised by the Alvars or Tamil Vaishnava saints. The hymns of the Alvars not only described the sanctity of the shrines but also the geographical location of the shrines.

According to the sthalapuranas, the antiquity of these temples goes back to time unknown. But the present structures and the epigraphical evidence place these temples between the 6th and 16th centuries CE. These temples are not only important for their religious sanctity but are also centres of aesthetic interest. The massive temple complexes house beautiful sculptures, paintings and bronze idols of gods and goddesses. The inscriptions and literary sources establish the historicity of these temples.


The following is the list of the 9 temples

  • Sri Venkatavanan Perumal (Mayakoothar) Temple – Thirukkulandhai, Perunkulam Sani (Satrun) sthalam
  • Makara Nedunkuzhai Kadnan (Mughil Vannan) Temple, Then Thirupperai Sukra (Venus) sthalam
  • Devapiran Temple – Rettai Tirupathi, Tholaivillimangalam Rahu sthalam
  • Aravinda Lochanan Temple – Rettai Tirupathi, Tholaivillimangalam Kethu sthalam
  • Vaithamanidhi Perumal Temple Thirukolur Sevvai (Mars) sthalam
  • Adhinaathar Temple Thirukkurugur (Azhwar Thirunagari) Guru (Jupiter) sthalam
  • Kaisinavendhan (Boomi Palar) Temple Thiruppulinkudi Budha (Mercury) sthalam
  • Vijayaasanar Temple – Thiru Varagunamangai (Natham) Chandra (Moon) sthalam
  • Sri Vaikuntanatha (Kallapiran) Temple – Sri Vaikuntam Surya (Sun) sthalam

All these nine temples are situated within a radius of 10 15 km. They can be visited within a day if you rush through, but if you want to enjoy the architectural and sculptural details of these temples you have to spend a minimum of three days.

During the Madurai Nayak period, all these temples were renovated and enjoyed royal patronage. The mythology and literature of these temples were well executed as sculptures and paintings on the walls. Inscriptions on the walls speak about the donations and we can even see the statuea of the donors.

Now let us start out on our journey of these temples.

This temple is situated on the northern bank of the Tambaraparani river. The main deity Vishnu known as Vengatavanan is seen in a standing posture and the utsavar (processional deity) is Mayakoothan. The Goddesses are known as Alarmelvalli and Kulandaivalli.

The sthalapurana of this temple says that at Thataka vanam, near Thulai villi mangalam there lived a couple named Vedasaran and Kumudavalli. Since they did not have a child for a long time they prayed to Vishnu sincerely and were blessed with a girl child whom they named Kamalavathi. The child was highly devoted towards Vishnu and wanted to marry the Lord. She started doing severe penances at the age of five. Vishnu appeared before her and to fulfill her desire, he placed her in his chest. From then onwards this place came to be known as Thiru Kulandhai (place of the sacred child) or Balika vanam (young girl’s forest).

There is another story which explains that the Lord rescued and protected the people of this place. A demon residing in the Himalayas had vowed to marry 1000 women. He took away Kumudavalli, wife of Vedasaran who lived in this forest. Vedasaran offered prayers to Lord Vishnu and requested him to restore his wife. Vishnu started out immediately on his vehicle Garuda, rescued Kumudavalli and came back to Balika vanam. Knowing this, the demon followed the Lord and came to Balika vanam and started a fight with the Lord. The Lord killed the demon by squeezing his head with his legs as he did Kaliya. The people of Balika vanam were astonished at seeing this and they praised the Lord as Mayakoothan (magical dancer). Since Garuda helped the Lord in his venture, he was given a special status as the utsavar.

Namalavar (Tiruvaymoli: 8-2-4) refers to him as a wonderful dancer, riding on Garuda in the west, in southern Kulanthai. His reference to groves and big mansions indicates that this was a prosperous location in centuries gone by. He says that desiring to see the beauty of the Lord, he went all the way only to lose himself completely on seeing the handsome Lord Mayakoothan.

This place is also well known as a place sacred to Sani (Saturn) Bhagavan.

Thiruvenkatavan, the Prime Deity, stands majestically facing east under the Ananda Nilayam vimanam. Both his consorts Sridevi (Kamalaavalli) and Niladevi are seen seated beside him in the sanctum. The utsavar or processional deity is called as Maayakoothan in Tamil or Choranathan in Sanskrit. The interesting feature is that Garuda, who is usually installed opposite to the moolavar, dwells as utsavar in the sanctum itself.

This temple complex was renovated and extended during the Madurai Nayaka period (16th c. CE). Long corridors with ornamental pillars and pillared mandapas (hall) for conducting various rituals and sculptures depicting the gods and goddesses in various forms are well executed on the walls and pillars of the temple. The typical Nayak feature of placing huge yalis and statues of donors in the pillars as an attachment is found in this temple too.

Dancing girls with garlands and musicians sculpted on either side of the doorways depict the ceremonial dance and festivals held in the temple. The representation of a bearded warrior with sword and shield on the walls gives us the clue that this construction was executed by the Nayak kings. Inscriptions found on the walls describe various land and cattle donations made to the temple.


 Moolavar Vengatavanan with his consort Sridevi

Main entrance and Gopuram

Portrait of a doner

Relief sculptures of dancing Girls and musicians

Nayak warrior and dancing girls

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