Oppiliappan Kovil

Oppiliappan Kovil, the home of the temple of the same name, is 6km from Kumbakonam, and less than a kilometre from the famed Shiva shrine of Tirunageswaram.

According to the sthala purana, both Lakshmi and Tulsi Devi emerged from the Parkadal, on which rests Lord Vishnu on his snake couch.  While Lakshmi found a place in the Lord's heart, Tulsi was born in the vana(garden) of Markandeya Maharishi, who at a very young age outwitted Yama with his devotion for Shiva.Sage Markandeya was also a devotee of Vishnu.  Tulsi was born as Bhoomi Devi in the vana, and was brought up by the Maharishi with great affection.  One day, whie she was still young, Vishnu appeared in the ashram, disguised as an old man, an demanded Bhoomi Devi's hand in marriage.  It took a while for sage Markandeya to realize that the old man was none other than Vishnu.  He consented to give her in marriage.  However, as the marriage feast was about to be prepared, the maharishi became apprehensive of his adopted daughter's culinary skills, and asked the Lord to grant him three boons.  One was that she would not salt add to the dishes, but He should ensure that the food extra tasted delicious.  Secondly, He should always have Bhoomi Devi with Him.  Finally, the place should be named after the Lord.

The Lord agreed to all three conditions.  Accordingly, the prasad served here is without salt.  Bhoomi Devi is the Tulsi garland on the Lord's neck, and the place is known as Uppiliyappan Kovil.  The prasad does not contain salt (uppu), and, hence, the name Uppiliyappan.  No, says another school of thought.  He is actually Oppillaappan: One without an equal.

The temple has modest five-tiered Rajagopuram.  The Moolavar sannidhi faces the entrance.  Uppiliyappan/Oppiliyappan stands nearly 2.5m (8 feet) tall,  Near Him is Bhoomi Devi, in a kneeling posture, while Sage Markandeya is ready to give away his daughter (Kannikadhaanam).  Also flanking Him are Garuda and Goddess Cauvery.  The Lord's left hand is laced with diamnds, with the Sanskrit words, "Maam Ekam Saranam Vrija," inscribed on it.  It is from the Bhagavad Gita and enjoins noble souls to surrender at the feet of the Lord.  The presiding deity is considered to be the elder brother of Lord Venkateswara of Tirumala-Tirupati.  There is also a separate shrine for Sri Bhoomi Devi.

How to get there:  Uppiliyappan Kovil is near Tirunageswaram, and is only 6km from Kumbakonam. Buses ply frequently.  The Tirunageswaram railway station on the Mayiladuthurai-Trichy route, is a km away.
Accommodation: tirunageswaram or Kumbakonam.

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