A Glimpse of our Hindu Temples: Today’s temple round-up: Uppiliappan Temple, Tamilnadu
Tamilnadu April 18, 2014: Uppiliappan Temple, also known as Thiruvinnagar of Venkatachalapathy Temple is a temple dedicated to Hindu god Vishnu, located near Thirunageswaram, a village in the outskirts of the Kumbakonam in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Constructed in 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 counted as the 60th among the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu. Vishnu is worshiped as Uppiliappan and his consort Lakshmi as Bhumi Devi.
The temple is believed to be of significant antiquity and is believed to be initiated by the Medieval Cholas of the late 8th century AD, with later contributions at different times from Thanjavur Nayaks. The temple has two inscriptions dating from the Chola period. The temple has a five-tiered rajagopuram (gateway tower) and enshrined within a granite wall. The complex contains all the shrines and water bodies associated with it.
Uppiliappan is believed to have appeared for sage Markandeya and Hindu gods Bhoomadevi, Brahma and Shiva. The temple observes six daily rituals and three yearly festivals. The chariot festival, celebrated during the Tamil month of Chittirai (March–April), is the most prominent festival of the temple. The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.
The history of the temple is mentioned in the Brahmanda Purana, one of the eighteen famed Hindu scriptures. As per Hindu legend, once Tulasi did penance to attain closeness to Vishnu. Vishnu gave a boon to the plant that his consort Lakshmi would appear under her lap in Tiruvinnagaram. Tulasi appeared in the place where the temple is located. This is mentioned in the 53rd verse of Nammazhwaar in Thiruviruththam. Mrikandu Maharishi's son, Markandeyaworshiped Vishnu and desired for the boon that Lakshmi should appear as his daughter and Vishnu himself should become his son-in-law. Once Markandeya was on a holy trip and after reaching Thiruvinnagaram, he felt that it was the right place for getting his desire fulfilled. Markandeya started a severe penance for thousand years seeking Lakshmi's blessings. Lakshmi appeared as a baby under the already incarnated tulasi plant. Markandeya felt the presence of Lakshmi as the incarnation in the form of the baby and realised that a part of his desire had been fulfilled. He took possession of the baby and raised her. When the young girl reached adolescent age, on the panguni month of Shravana, Vishnu appeared as an old man and asked for the hand of Markandeya's daughter in marriage. Markandeya replied that, "You are very ripe and old, my daughter is too young and she does not even know how to cook with proper salt contents" to which the old man replied, "If your daughter must cook without salt, then I will still take it as my best food, but I will not leave from here without marrying her". Markandeya sought the help of Vishnu and then realised using his penance that the old man was none other than Vishnu himself. When he opened his eyes, Vishnu appeared in front of him with conch and chakram as in Vaikundam. Markandeya offered his daughter's hand in marriage. As per the legend, the temple Neyvethiyam (food offering in the temple) is always prepared without salt in the food.
The name Oppiliappan is as result of this legend. There is also a story behind the tank in this temple. Once a King had consummated with a daughter of a saint and hence the saint cursed him to become a bird. The king lived as a bird and one night when there was a storm and the branch of the tree the bird was sleeping on broke and fell into the water of this tank. The bird which got dipped by this accident in the tank regained its original form as the King and since then this is known as the only theerththam that one can do theerth thaadanam even in the night. Since this tank has such a healing power in the day as well as night, it is called "Ahoraathra Pushkarani".