Koodal Azhagar

Sri Koodal Azhagar temple is a Divya Desam shrine in the heart of Madurai, near the Junction bus terminal. The temple dates back to the Sangam period, and there are references to it in the great Tamil classic, Sillapadikkaram.  Ilango Adigal, its author, refers to the deity as the Lord who had spanned the universe with three strides.  It is a regerence to the Vamana avatar.  The Sangam poets refer to the presiding deity as both Koodal Alagar and as Thuvarikoman, the King of Dwaraka.  The Patthupaattu of the Sangam period describes vividly a week-long festival celebrated by the ancient Pandya rulers in honor of the deity.  The legendary ruler of Madurai, Malayadwaja Pandya, the father of Goddess Meenakshi, is said  to have attained moksha (salvation) by worshipping here.

Lord Vishnu is in three different poses in this shrine.  In the sanctum is Sri Koodal Alagar, the presiding deity, sitting.  At the second level He is Sri Ranganatha, the Lord in the reclining form and, over it, He is Sri Surya Narayana Perumal, in the standing form. 

Koodal, in Tamil, means congregation.  Here it pertains to the congregation of gods and saints who had come to witness the celestial wedding of SriMeenakshi and Sri Sundareswarar.  In esoteric terms, it was the merger of jnana (knowledge) with shakti (power).  Vishnu, as Koodal Azhagar, was instrumental in the coming together of the divine forces.  It is said that Sri Andal's father, Vishnuchittha, won an argument asserting the supremacy of Vishnu. Koodal Alagar graced the function here to honor Vishnuchittha.  Vishnuchittha then composed the Thirupallandu in praise of Koodal Azhagar, for which he was conferred the title "Periyalwar: the greatest among the Vaishnava saints.  "The Pallandu is sung as the premier invocation in all Vaishnava shrines till date.

At the entrance is an impressive five-tiered Rajagopuram.  In the first prakaram is the shrine for the divine consort, Sri Maduravalli Nachiyaar. She is also known as Maragadha valli, in honor of Goddess Meenakshi, whose idol is made of a stone called Maragatham.  There is a shrine for Andal to the north. In the sanctum is Sri Koodal Azhagar, the moolavar, in the seated form.  Here he is giving darshan to Maharishis Bhrigu and Sownaka, and Periyalwar.  The utsavar is Sri Viyooga Soundararajan.  The two other levels have to be accessed through a flight of stairs.  Surprisingly, for a Vaishnava temple, there is a sannidhi here for the Navagrahas.

How to get there: Very close to the Madurai Junction bus terminal.
Accommodation: Madurai

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