Kumbakonam Temples

Sri Sarangapani temple, in Kumbakonam, is ranked third, after Srirangam and Tirumala-Tirupati, among the 108 Divya Desams.

The central shrine, housing the sanctum, was built in the Imperial Chola period, while the rest of this huge temple was built by the Vijayanagar emperors and their Nayak successors between the 14th and 17th centuries.  The 12-tiered Rajagopuram  one of the tallest in the south, staanding at 44 metres (146 feet).
The central shrine resembles a chariot on wheels, with elephants and horses pulling it.  Beyond the 100-pillared hallway is the sanctum, which was modified several times by rulers of many dynasties.  The inner court is guarded by huge images of Dwarapalakas, while between them stand carved, perforated stone screens.  The sanctum has tow entrances, one to be used during Uttarayan and the other for Dakshinayan.  The diving consort here is sri Komalavalli thayar, in a separate shrine on the northern side.

How She came here is an interesting story.  Sri Maha Lakshmi was upset with Sri Maha Vishnu for letting off lightly Brighu Mahirishi, who had the temerity to kick the Lord on the chest, Lakshmi's place of residence.  She left Him and came down to earth.  Vishnu who followed Her, married Sri Padmavathy.  Lakshmi's anger was rekindled when She heard this news.  To escape Her wrath, Srinivasa took asylum in Kumbakonam.  The Pathala Srinivasa shrine, in the basement here, commemorates the event.

Brighu, meanwhile, sought Lakshmi's pardon and requested that She be born as his daughter in his next life.  She be born as his daughter in his next life.  She did, as Sri Komalavalli.  Hema rishi was her father.  When she attained the marriageable age, Vishnu came to Kumbakonam from Srirangam, He is depicted here in the reclining posture of Sri Ranganatha, but is addressed as Sri Sarangapani. Sargam is the name of Sri Rama's bow.  Sri Rama is known for His strict adherance to the one man-one wife theory.  to assure Sri Komalavalli of His fidelity, the Lord came to be known as Sarangapani here, after Sri Rama's bow.  Sri Komalavalli thayar, in turn, vowed never to leave the Lord again.  She keeps the promise to this day, never venturing out of Her shrine.  She is thus known as "Padi thanda patni (the faithful wife who does not cross the threshold)."

The temple is closely associated with sage Nathamuni.  He is said to have meticulously pieced together the scattered portions of the Naalaayir Divya Prabhandham (Vaishnava legends), by invoking the blessings of Aaravamudhan, another name for Lord Sarangapani.  Kumbakonam is a temple town, with a legend of its own.  After the distribution of nectar among the devas, Lord Shiva broke the pot of nectar with an arrow.  A portion of it spilled and flowed into what is now called the Mahamakam tank, while the pieces of the pot and remnants of the nectar combined together to form Lord Kumbeswarar.  The place were the kumbam (pot) fell came to be known as Kumbakonam.  The Hema Pusharani separates Sri Adi Kumbeswarar temple from Sri sarangapani temple.  The pushkarani is named after the father of Goddess Komalavalli, Hema rishi, Brighu in his previous life.

Kumbakonam is famous for its Mahamaham festival, which takes place once in twelve years.  Sri Adi Kumbeswarar, Nageswarar and Sri Someswarar temples are the prominent shrines for Lord Shiva.  Sri Adi Kumbeswarar temple was built by the Cholas in the 7th century, when Kumakonam was their capital.  Besides Sri Sarangapani temple, the other prominent Vishnu shrines here are Sri Ramaswamy and Sri Chakrapani temples.  Achyutappa Nayak (1564-1614) constructed Sri Ramaswamy temple.

How to get there:  Kumbakonam is 40km from Thanjavur.  It is on the Chennai-Thanjavur main line, and is also connected by train to Mysore, Coimbatore, etc.  Buses connect it to all parts of Tamil Nadu. 
Accommodation:  Kumbakonam has good hotels and eating places.

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