- May 28, 2021
🛕 Sowmya Narayana Perumal Temple in Thirukoshtiyur, a village in the South Indian state of Tamilnadu, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil canon of the Azhwar saints from the 6th–9th centuries AD. It is one of the 108 Divyadesam dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Sowmya Narayana Perumal and his consort Lakshmi as Thirumamagal.
🛕 The temple is known as the place where Ramanuja, the expounder of Vaishnavadatta philosophy preached the holy Ashtakshara “Ohm Namo Narayana” to all people irrespective of their caste. A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all its shrines. The temple has a five-tiered Rajagopuram, the gateway tower and the Ashtanga Vimana, which is taller than the gopuram. The temple tank is located opposite to the temple, outside the main entrance. Sowmya Narayana Perumal is believed to have appeared as Narasimha avatar to the Devas, the celestial deities.
🛕 The temple follows Thenkalai tradition of worship. Six daily rituals and many yearly festivals are held at the temple, of which the float festival during the Tamil month of Masi (February – March), Navarathri during September – October and Vaikunta Ekadasi during Margazhi (December – January) being the most prominent. The temple is maintained and administered by Sivaganga Devasthanam.
🛕 The place and temple occupy a great place of importance in the history of Vaishnavism. It is located 8 kms South West of Tiruppattur on the Sivaganga Highway. This temple that finds a reference in the Brahmanda Purana. Lord Sheerabdhi Nathan, who had come here from Thiru Parkadal on the request of the Devas, is seen in a Bhujanga Sayana Posture at this temple.
🛕 Thirukoshtiyur, derived from its native name Thirukotiyur. During Kritha yuga, Rishis, devas and people were tortured, anguished by the Asura Hiranyakashipu as the vengeance for Hiranyaksha’s death in hands of Lord Vishnu in the form of Varaha Avatar. Devas, Rishis approached Brahma and Shiva for the solution.
🛕 In response Brahma, Shiva, all devas, Saptha Rishis decided to meet at one place to discuss regarding. Finally all chose Thirukotiyur as the spot. Together they came like a group and so the name came as Thirukoshtiyur, koshti means in group or as a team.
🛕 Thirukoshtiyur is known for its great temple, Sowmya Narayana Perumal temple (Thirukovil means temple). It is one of the 108 Divya Desams in India. Divya Desams are shrines of Vaishnava worship that have been glorified by the Azhwars. Periazhwar in his work Periazhwar Thirumozhi visualizes Thirukoshtiyur as the birthplace of Sri Krishna.
🛕 Asura Hiranyakashipu prayed to Brahmma for a boon that he would not be killed by Devas, human race, animals or by weapons. Having secured the boon, he went on a rampage harassing everyone and forcing them to utter ‘Namo Hiranyaya Namaha’. Worried at his increasing power and anxious at what his next action would be, Devas sought Shiva’s help, who directed them to Brahmma, who further directed them to Vishnu as the only one who could pin down Hiranyakashipu.
🛕 The Devas went to Thiru Paarkadal only to be told by Lord Narayana that Hiranya’s powers had spread around the world and they had to go and find a place in the world where his name was still being chanted. They managed to find Kadamba Rishi’s ashram as the one place where Lord Narayana’s name was still being uttered. The Rishi was undertaking severe penance in his quest to have darshan of the Lord as Sheerabdhi Nathan.
🛕 The Devas and Tri Murthis went to Kadamba Rishi’s ashram to discuss the plan to kill Hiranya. While everyone remained there, Lord Narayana went back to Thiru Paarkadal where, he asked Sanghu Karna to be born as Hiranyakashipu’s son Prahalada who would utter Namo Narayana all the time, much to his father’s shock. The Devas pleaded with Vishnu to show the form before he could take it. Vishnu showed them the avatar, but not pleased with the vision, the Devas and sages pleaded him to show it again.
🛕 Vishnu appeared in three forms of standing, sitting and resting posture at Thirukoshtiyur. Since Vishnu showed his form after hardship (called Thirukkai in Tamil) of Devas, the place came to be known as Thirukoshtiyur.
🛕 After Hiranya Samhara, Kadamba Rishi requested Brahmma to give him a model of Lord Narayana killing Hiranya. It was Brahmma who directed Vishwakarma to construct a 3 tier structure at this place – one with Om, another with Namo and the third with Narayana with the Southern side of the tower depicting ‘Lord ‘Narasimha catching Hiranyan’. He asked Mayan to construct the Northern side of the tower depicting ‘Narasimha killing Hiranyan’. Indra, who had stayed back here till the Hiranya Samhara, presented to Kadamba Rishi the silver plated idols of Sowmiya Narayana along with Sri, Bhoo and Neela Devi.
🛕 When Pururavan, the son of Budhan (Mercury) flew above Thiru Koshtiyur on his way for a bath in the Ganges, he was brought down to this place through the powers of the Ashtanga Vimana. Having had a darshan of the Thiru Koshtiyur Lord and lured by his presence, Pururavan built the town where people could stay and have darshan of Sheerabdhi Nathan.
🛕 Thirukoshtiyur is the birth place of Thirukoshtiyur Nambi, who is also named as “Selva Nambi”. He was the guru of Ramanujar, who was preached with the “Ashtakshara Mantram”. But the way he was taught the Ashtakshara Mantram was one of main issue that has to be explained. Selva Nambi ordered Ramanujar to do the fasting in this sthalam. Having crossed the age of 60, to get the Mantram, he followed the order of Selva Nambi. He took only water as his food and one fine day, he was preached with the Ashtakshara Mantram for which he was waiting for. But, he was ordered by Selva Nambi that the Mantram should not be published to any one and it should be kept secret.
🛕 But on hearing the Mantram, he thought it is not only a secret thing that is helpful and useful for him only, but it should be made public to all and it should be useful for all the other people. As a result of his thought, he went straight to the temple of Sowmiya Narayana perumal and stood on the huge walls of it and all of the village people to gather. And once all the people gathered, he loudly pronounced the Ashtakshara Mantram, which is said to sacred and explained it to all. He also asked them to repeat it.
🛕 On hearing this, Selva Nambi got angry on Ramanujar since he has not obeyed his words and has broken the promise that he had given to him. Then, he called up Ramanujar and said that having broken the promise, he will have to pay for the mistake, and as a result, he will be going to the hell. But before that, Thirukoshtiyur Nambi (Selva Nambi) wanted to know the reason why he made the Ashtakshara Mantram so public. But Ramanujar answered that in this world, all the things belongs to Sriman Naarayanan and no other thing should be kept secret (or) themselves but it should be used to others.
🛕 As the same way, on explaining the Mantram to all, it might help them from many things and because of this reason only, he answered that he publicized the Mantram. On hearing this from Sri Ramanujar, Selva Nambi realised how his mind was narrowed and felt for it. But, at the same time he was attracted by the thinking of Ramanujar towards humanity and Vaishnavism. As a result of it, Selva Nambi called Ramanujar as his Emperumaanar. We can find two separate statues that are made of bronze for Thirukoshtiyur Nambi and Ramanujar in this temple.
🛕 In Periazhwar Thirumozhi, a Vaishnava canon contributed by Periazhwar (one of the twelve azhwar saints of South India), predicts Thirukoshtiyur as the birth place of Lord Krishna.
🛕 As the Devas came here in Groups (Ghosti) requesting Lord Narayana to kill Asura Hiranyakashipu, this place is called Koshtiyur. The belief is that a visit to this place will remove one’s sins as can be seen from the name – Thiruku (Sin) – Otiyur (removed).
🛕 Belief is that visiting Thiru Koshtiyur provides one the fruits of visiting Naimisaranyam Divya Desam, a bath in the Ganges and a visit to Kurukshetra. It is said that a Vaishnavite who does not visit Thiru Koshtiyur will become a monkey in the next birth.
🛕 Besides consorts Mothers Sridevi and Bhoodevi, Lord Sowmya Narayana Perumal graces the devotees with Madhu, Kaidaba, and Indira, emperor Pururuva, Kadamba Maharshi, Brahmma, Mothers Saraswathi and Savithri. Lord Santhanakrishna (Perumal who grants child boon) is in a cradle. He is also praised as Prarthana Kannan. Those seeking child boon pray here lighting lamps.
🛕 Indira was staying in this place till Lord killed Hiranya, gave the Sowmya Narayana Vigraha to Kadamba Maharshi. He was worshipping Perumal in his Indraloka earlier. This Vigraha-idol is the procession deity of this temple. In his Mangalasasanam, Periazhwar had included this procession Perumal too. The place and temple has the reputation of Mangalasasanam of five Azhwars, Periazhwar, Thirumangai Azhwar, Thirumazhisai Azhwar, Bhoothathazhwar and Peyazhwar.
🛕 It is noteworthy that divine sculptor Vishwakarma and demon sculptor Mayan had jointly worked in the design and construction of the Ashtanga Vimana. The Vimana has three petals representing the three syllables Ohm, Namo, Narayanaya. Perumal blesses the devotees in four forms from the Vimana – as Nardana Krishna (Bhooloka Perumal) from the base petal, as Sowmya Narayana Perumal (Tiruparkadal-Milk Ocean-Perumal) from the first tier in reclining form, as Upendra Narayana (Devaloka Perumal) in the second tier, as Paramapada Nathar (Vaikunda Perumal) in a sitting form in the third tier.
🛕 Mother Tiru Mamagal has her own shrine, also praised as Nila Mamagal and Kulama Magal. Prayer with lamp is an important prayer here. Devotees buy a lamp, place it at the feet of Lord, take it back home, place a coin and Tulsi leaf, keep it in a box and cover it. They believe that Lord and Mother had come to their home in the form of Tulsi and coin. Realizing their wishes, they take this lamp along with another one lit with ghee on the Masi (February-March) float festival day for worship. New devotees coming there take this lamp for their worship.
🛕 While Emperor Pururupa was carrying out renovation of this temple, the great Mahamaga festival of Kumbakonam also coincided. The emperor wished to have Perumal darshan in this place. Responding to his prayer, Holy Ganga sprang up in the well at the northeast side and Perumal gave darshan to the emperor from this well. The well is thus named Mahamaga Kinaru. Well means Kinaru in Tamil. This festival occurs once in 12 years when Lord grants darshan sitting on his Garuda Vahana.
🛕 Thirukoshtiyur Nambi living in Thirukoshtiyur was a great scholar in scriptures. Ramanuja approached him for initiation in Mantras. He called Nambi standing outside. Nambi asked who the caller was. Ramanuja said “I am Ramanujan. (I in English mean Naan in Tamil, an expression of disobedience or arrogance in spiritual terms) Nambi simply asked Ramanuja to go back and return after the death of Naan. Ramanuja did not understand what Nambi meant. Yet, he came to Nambi 17 times and returned back with the same answer.
🛕 When Ramanuja came finally, he told Nambi that ‘Adiyen (meaning the humble disciple) has come. Nambi called Ramanuja and taught the Mantra ‘Ohm Namo Narayanaya’ on condition that this should not be disclosed to anybody and if he violated the condition, he (Ramanuja) would be pushed into the hell. But compassionate Ramanuja wanted this Mantra made available to one and all so that all would receive the choice grace of Lord Perumal. He climbed the Vimana, called the masses and taught them the great Maha Mantra. Angry Nambi appeared there and condemned Ramanuja’s disobedience.
🛕 Ramanuja politely told Nambi that though as an individual, he was to get the hell for displeasing his Guru; millions would be blessed with the benefits of chanting Lord’s Mantra. Startled Nambi embraced Ramanuja saying that he was greater than him (Nambi). Ramanuja appears on the Vimana from where he preached the Narayana Mantra to all. Nambi’s house is just opposite this vimana known as Kal Maligai. There are separate shrines for Nambi and Sri Ramanuja in the temple.
🛕 Sowmya Narayana Perumal temple covers an area of about 2 acres (0.81 hectares) and has a five-tiered gopuram (gateway tower). The temple in enclosed in a rectangular enclosure with huge granite walls. The central shrine houses the image of the presiding deity, Uragamellayan Perumal in reclining posture on a snake bed similar to that of Srirangam Ranganatha Swamy Temple.
🛕 The images of Sridevi and Bhudevi are also housed in the sanctum. There two life size images of Narasimha, the avatar of Vishnu. One of them is shown holding the demon Hiranyakashipu and other slaying him. Though it is a Vishnu temple, the temple has image of Shiva in the form of Lingam, Vinayaka and Subramanya.
🛕 The festival deity is named Sowmya Narayana Perumal made of panchaloha. The vimana, the shrine over the sanctum is Ashtanga in architecture, which has eight parts, namely, Adhistanam (base), three Padas (structure), Prashthana (limb), Griva (leading structure), Shikara (cylindrical holder) and Stupi (top portion). The outer parts of the vimana have various stucco images of Narasimha, sages, Dasavatara and other mythical stories.
🛕 The Ashtanga Vimana is found in only three places, namely, the Uthiramerur, Koodal Azhagar Temple and Cheranmadevi temples. The Ashtanga vimana rising to a height of 25 m (82 ft.) is taller than the gopuram of the temple, which is not a common feature in Dravidian temples.
🛕 The shrine of the consort of Sowmya Narayana Perumal, Thirumamagal, is located to the south of the main shrine. There are smaller shrines of Lakshmi Narasimha, Rama, Lakshmi Narayana and Krishna located close to the sanctum. The shrines of Andal, Narasimha and Manavala Mamunigal are found in separate shrines around the first precinct.
🛕 The shrines of Garuda, Anjaneya, Ramanuja, Vedanta Desika and Azhwars are found in the second precinct. The Ranganatha temples in South India built during the 9th and 10th centuries have a systematic arrangement of subsidiary deities as seen in this temple along with the Appakkudathaan Perumal Temple at Koviladi, Veeraraghava Perumal temple at Thiruvallur, Rajagopalaswamy Temple at Mannargudi and Ranganatha temple at Srirangapatna.
🛕 The inner infrastructure, mainly sannidhis (separate shrines) are unlike other temples. Inside the temple complex, the shrine for Narayana is constructed in form of three stages, similar to that of three floors in a building. This interprets as Boologam (earth), Tiruparkadal and Vaikundam. Narayana appears in three stages in three forms. In Ground floor as Krishna in dancing posture. Next level he is Sayana Thiru Kolam (Sayana = reclining, Thirukkolam = posture), a posture resting on Adisesha.
🛕 And top most level in standing posture as Sri Sowmya Narayana Perumal. This form of appearances of Narayana has been poetically described as Nindran (means Standing posture), Kidandhaan (means sleeping posture), Aadinan (means dancing posture) by Alwars.
🛕 In the upper tier, we can find Moolavar, “Thiru Paarkadal Nathan” also named as “Uraga Mellanayaan” (or) Sthiti Narayanan is found in Veetrirundha Thirukkolam and on the either side of him is Periya and Bhoomi Piratti is found. It is said that Utsavar, Sowmya Narayana perumal and other 3 pirattiyaar’s idols are given by Indiran to Kadamba Maharishi. On the south side of Ashtanga vimanam, a separate Sannadhi for Thirumaa Magal Naachiyaar and on the North side, there is a separate Sannadhi for Sri Aandal is found.
🛕 In the middle thalam (or) tier, we can see Nindra Narayanan along with Periya Piratti and Bhoomi Piratti in Nindra Kolam and he is also named as “Upendran”. Here, we can find lots of various architectural works pertaining to the Indra Loka scenes and Saptha Rishis. Lots of Painting and artistic works like Dasavatharam, devas, Munis and Suriyan and Alwars are found.
🛕 On the outer praharam on the North side, there are two sculptures of Narasimhar is found, which explains the Hiranya Vadham (Killing of Hiranyan). But, initially one of the statues is kept in Narasimhar Sannadhi in the first tier and another one is Sri Ramar Sannadhi. But, it is said that on seeing the statues of Ugraha Narasimhar, people are frightened, so later these two statues are kept close to the Paramapadha vaasal (entrance). Udayavar, Emperumaanar Sri Ramanujar statue is found on the top of the Vimaanam facing the village and this sthalam is so called as “Dhvayam (two) Vilaintha Thirupathy”.
🛕 On entering the temple is the mandapam named “Thiru Maamani Mandapam”, where Lord Shiva gives his Seva as “Sarabeswarar”. He originated on his own (Suyambu) and as a result of not caring properly; it was in the damaged condition. On the south direction of the Mandapam, a separate Sannadhi for Lord Narasimhar and on the North side, a separate Sannadhi for Sri Ramar are found. It is said that in front of this Narasimhar Sannadhi only, Sri Ramanujar was taught the “Ashtakshara Mantram” from Selva Nambi. It is a different feature here that planets Rahu and Ketu are nearby to him.
🛕 The Moolavar of this sthalam is Sri Uraga Mellanayaan. He gave his prathyaksham for Kadamba Maharishi and Indiran. Moolavar in Kidantha (sleeping) Thirukkolam and in Bhujanga Sayanam facing his thirumugham along the east direction.
🛕 The Thaayar of the sthalam is Thirumagal Naachiyaar and has her own separate Sannadhi.
🛕 The Utsavar of this temple is Sri Sowmya Narayana Perumal and he is also named as “Madhavan”. Utsavar is found in Nindra Thirukkolam and giving his Seva to the devotees.
🛕 Ashtaanga vimanam. This kind of vimanam is a rare one that is found only in few Sthalams like Koodal Azhagar temple in Madurai, Vaikunda perumal koil in Kanchipuram and in Thiruporur. Ashta means Eight and 8 vimanams are found on 4 sides (2 each) of the temple.
Perumal in three tiers
Nardhana Krishna with Rukmini and Sathyabama
Lakshmi Narasimhar and Ugra Narasimhar in the praharam
🛕 Ramanuja & Thirukoshtiyur are inextricably connected in Vaishnava lore. Ramanuja was advised by Thirukkachi Nambigal to visit Thirukoshtiyur and learn the Sacred 8 letter hymn, Ashtakshara manthra from Thirukoshtiyur Nambigal. Accordingly, Ramanuja travelled 18 times all the way from Srirangam to Thirukoshtiyur for learning the “Ashtakshara Manthram” (“Om Namo Narayanaya!!”) from the Thirukoshtiyur Nambigal.
🛕 Each time Ramanuja tried to meet the Nambigal but was ultimately rejected by Nambigal. This continued for 17 times and at last 18th time when Ramanuja arrived and knocked the doors of Nambigal ashram saying “Adiyen Ramanujan vanthurukiren..!” (Means “Beloved student Sri Ramanuja has arrived!!”). On which he was allowed to enter. The reason why Ramanuja was denied 17 times and allowed during his 18th time is that, Ramanuja introduced himself as “Adiyen Ramanujan” (means Beloved student Ramanuja) in 18th time unlike his past visits in which he introduced himself as “I, Ramanuja have arrived”.
🛕 The word “I’m”, which indicates his egocentrism, led Thirukachi Nambi to reject him. When his ego vanished in word and deed during this 18th visit, he was considered eligible for learning the Ashtakshara manthram. Thirukoshtiyur Nambigal blessed Ramanuja with the ‘Sacred 8 letter hymn’ Ashtakshara manthram (“Ohm Namo Narayanaya!!”) and told him not to preach to anyone.
🛕 Nambigal also warns that if Ramanuja disobeys the order, Ramanuja will attain hell. Ramanuja climbing to the top of temple summoned the whole village people and delivered the Ashtakshara manthram. The act enkindled Nambigal and he started questioning, for which Ramanuja replied “Because of the manthram many will attain moksha for which I am glad to go to hell”. Nambigal was overwhelmed with kindness showed by Ramanuja and he bestowed the name “Emperumanar” on Ramanuja, which is used to this day by those of the Srivaishanva sect.
🛕 It is said the event happened in front of Sri Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy Sannidhi, small shrine present on the way towards the Sowmya Narayana Perumal Sannidhi. Ramanuja and Nambi have separate Sannidhis at this temple. Outside the Nambi Sannidhi is a board that contains the list of 18 Thiru Mandhiram. On the third tier, on the Southern side, there is a beautifully sculpted statue of Ramanuja in a sitting posture to mark the ‘Thirumandiram’ pronunciation to the world.
🛕 The temple follows the traditions of the Thenkalai sect of Vaishnavite tradition and follows Vaikasana Aagama. In modern times, the temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. As at other Vishnu temples of Tamilnadu, the priests belong to the Vaishnavaite community, a Brahmin sub-caste.
🛕 Six daily rituals are held at various times of the day and many yearly festivals are held at the temple, of which the float festival during the Tamil month of Masi (February – March), Navarathri during September – October and Vaikunta Ekadasi during Margazhi (December – January) being the most prominent. There are weekly, monthly and fortnightly rituals performed in the temple.
🛕 This is one of the temples where devotees seek relief from delays in marriage proposals. They also pray for prosperity in family. Devotees light ghee lamps expressing their gratitude to Lord.
🛕 Thirukoshtiyur is a village located near Tirupathur (on Tirupathur-Sivaganga road) on the way to Sivaganga, Tamil Nadu. It is located at a distance of 9 kms from Tirupatthur, 25 Kms from Sivaganga, 30 Kms from Karaikudi and 62 Kms from Madurai.
🛕 The State Transport Corporation runs long-distance buses to Coimbatore, Chennai from Sivagangai bus-stand. Buses ply every 5-10 minutes between Tiruppattur and Sivaganga. Auto will charge anything Rs.80-100 for a one way drop from Tiruppattur to Thirukoshtiyur
Sri Sowmya Narayana Perumal Temple,
Thirukoshtiyur – 630 211
Sivaganga District, Tamilnadu
Phone: +91- 4577 – 261 122 / +91 – 4577 261248
Mobile: +91- 94862 – 32362 / 94433 41163 / 98654 85886.