Srivilliputtur Divya Desam is a popular Hindu temple and one of the 108 Divya Desams, the most important abodes of Lord Vishnu and is the birthplace of two of the most important Alvars (saints) in the Vaishnavite tradition, Periyazhvar and Andal. The temple is located in the town of Srivilliputtur, about 74 km from Madurai, India. It is significant that the temple tower is used in the Tamilnadu government’s official seal.

 

History

Bhagavan Sriman Narayanan during his Varaha Avataram slayed an asuran called Kalinemi and took rest under the foot of a Banyan tree, along with his consorts Sri Mahalakshmi and Sri Bhooma Devi in a place called Shenbagaranyam (meaning beautiful forest, in Tamil). Shenbagaranyam was a small part of large kingdom ruled by a queen Malli whose sons Villi and Puttan were hunters and used to hunt animals in shenbagaranyam. One day these two hunters Villi and Puttan went to the forest for hunting and spotted a tiger. They tried to kill the tiger with Puttan vigorously chasing it while villi lost track of his brother. However after some time the tiger managed to kill Puttan by hiding behind a tree and pouncing on him at an opportune time. Villi came searching for Puttan and on seeing his dead body was overcome with grief. After some time he fell asleep.

During his sleep he had a dream. Sriman Narayanan along with his consort appeared in his dream and said “O villi do not grieve. We will get back your brother’s life.” He then mentioned about his previous appearance as vatapatrasayi in sayana thirukolam under the foot of the banyan tree and said that there was a cave near a huge banyan tree where his moorthy(statue) had been lying for a long time.There were also lots of gold coins and jewels near that place.He then instructed villi to use the money in deforesting the place and building a village with a temple after installing the statue in the temple.

Villi woke up to find his brother Puttan also alive and narrated his dream to Puttan. He then built a small town and a temple by installing the statue of the lord and thus the vatapatrasayi temple was built. As a forest full of snake mounds was converted into a town by villi it came to be known as Villiputhoor. Later with the advent of Sri Andal it got the name Srivilliputtur (the prefix “Sri” being a sobriquet for a holy place).

 

Deities

Within the temple’s sanctum sanctorum is an image of the Lord in a reclining posture; His consorts, Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi, are shown attending to him at His feet. Sage Bhrgu stands near His head and Markandeya is near His feet. The banyan tree whose leaf is known as Vatapatram, on which the Lord is said to rest in the form of a baby during deluge—is at His head, behind Sage Bhrgu. Images of Panchamurtis, Thumburu, Narada, Sanatkumara, Kinnara Mithuna, the Sun and the Moon are shown all around Rangamannar as well as representations of Villi and Puttan, who stand reverently at His feet. The sanctum sanctorum has three doorways from which the Lord can be seen in His reclining posture. A flight of stairs leads to the sanctum sanctorum; below them is a large, impressive hall with detailed wooden carvings depicting various incidents from the Puranas. These carvings support as well as decorate the ceiling.

Srivilliputtur (Shenbagaranyakshetram) finds mention in the Brahmakaivatsapuranam and the varaha puranam.The Varaha puranam foretells the existence of srivilliputtur and the consequent visit of bhagavan during the varaha avataram.The brahmakaivatsa puranam mentions the location of vatapatrasayi temple in Srivilliputtur.

The Srivilliputtur divya desam has the unique distinction among all other divya desams of being the birthplace of 2 important azhwars among the twelve azhwars,sri periyazhwar, who became the father in law of the lord ranganatha himself and sri andal who was the incaranation of bhoomadevi and attained union with the lord Ranganathan at srirangam. It is one of the few divyadesams where all the Srivaishnava temple traditions and festivals are followed regularly every year.The town which wakes up to the sounds of Thiruppavai pervades with the sublime atmosphere throughout the day. Srivilliputtur is also known by Various other names such as Varaha kshetram, Thenpuduvai,Vadeswarapuram,Vadamahadamapuram,Shenbagaranya kshetram, vikrama chola chaturvedhi mangalam and sridhanvipuri.

 

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