Srivilliputhur Temple

Sri Vadapathrasayi temple, popularly known as Sri Andal temple, is in Srivilliputhur, Virudunagar district.  It is Diviya Desam, and one of the most sacred of Vaishnava Srines. The majestic Rajagopuram is the symbol of the Tamil Nadu Government.  At 58.1 metres (192 feet), this 11 tiered gopuram was the tallest, until the Srirangam rajagopuram was built in the 1980s.  The presiding deity of Sri Andal/Vadapatrasayi temple is Sri Vadapatrasayi or Rangamannar.

According to the sthala purana, tow princess, Villiand Puthan, had gone on a tiger hunt in this area, which was then part of the Shenbagaranyam forest.  Puthan was killed by a tiger, while Villi, overcome with grief, fell unconscious.  In that state, Villi was told by the Lord that, during the Varaha avatar, He had taken rest under a banyan tree with His divine consorts, Sri Mahalakshmi and Sri Bhoomi Devi, after killing Kalinemi, an asura.  Villi was further told that he could find an idol of the Lord, in the reclining posture, at the foot of the banyan tree.  There was also a treasure hoard, which he could use for building a temple.  Villi awoke to find his dead brother alive, as the Lord had assured him.  He also found the idol and the hoard.  A small temple for Sri Vadapathrasayi was built, and the place came to be known as Villiputhur.

The story of Andal dates back to more than 2,000 years, during the Early Pandya period.  Vishnuchitthar or Periyalwar was born here.  A great devotee of Vishnu, he would pluck flowers from the Tulsivanam every day, make a garland, and adorn it on Lord Vadapathrasayi.  It was here, in this gaden, that Periyalwar found Sri Andal, or Goda Devi, as She is called, as an infant.  He brought Her up as his daughter.  She then took over the task of plucking flowers and weaving them into a garland, which she would hand over to Her father.  One day, Periyalwar found Her wearing the garland, before it could be offered to the Lord.  He was furious and warned Her not to repeat the act.  However, e was told in a dream, by the Lord, that He would wear only the garland that was first worn by Goda Devi.  The Lord further told him that He would soon reciprocate Goda Devi's love for Him, and that She would merge (marry, in common parlance) in Him.  The promise was fulfilled shortly thereafter, and Andal/Goda Devi merged in the Lord, literally, when she was only 14, in Srirangam.  Another school maintains that the incident happened here, in Villiputhur.  Villiputhur then became Srivilliputhur, the "Sri" standing for Andal.

The temple consists of the Anal shrine and the double-storied garbagriha (sanctum) of Lord Vadapatrasayi/Rangamannar.  The Tulsivanam (basil garden), where Periyalwar is believed to have found the baby Andal, lies between the garbagriha and the Andal shrine.  The first shrine is the one for Sri Narasimha.  Behind the shrine are sculpted pillars.  A flight of stairs leads to the first floor, the sanctum, the abode of Sri Vadapatrasayi.  Here He is in the reclining posture, Sri Devi and Bhooma Devi at His feet.  He gets His name from the leaf of the banyan tree, Vadapatram, on which He rest His head.  The impressive personages around Him include sage Bhrigu (who, reportedly, had his ashram here), and the brothers, Villi and Puthan.  This shrine is the oldest in the temple complex.  Epigraphs dating from the 10th century have been found here.  "Bopala Villam," a hall in front of the sanctum obviously a Nayak period addition is lavishly embellished with wood on the sides and ceiling.  Carvings in teak depict the Dasavataram.  Tirumala Nayak, whose favorite temple this was, and his sister, were instrumental in the massive reconstruction of the temple in the 17th century.

In the middle is a shrine for Sri Andal, amidst a garden, where Goda Devi was found as a baby.  Flanking it is the main Andal sannidhi, the biggest and most popular shrine in the complex. There is a long corridor, after which are a series of mandapams, including the Kalyana mandapam, that leads to the sanctum.  The moolavar, Sri Rangamannar, is in His marriage attire, flanked by Sri Andal and Garuda.  Outside the sanctum is a well, which was used by Sri Andal as a sort of mirror to look at herself with the garland on.  The Andal shrine was later addition.  Tradition has it the Periyalwar himself built it, in the place where his residence stood.  The garland tradition continues till date.  Every year garlands are sent from the Andal temple to Tirumala-Tirupati) (during the Brahmotsavam in Purattasi: September-October) and to Azhagar Kovil ( on Chitra Pournami day).  Similarly, a garland is sent to the Andal temple from Tirupati during Her Kalyanotsavam in Panguni Uthiram.

Sri Andal's everlasting road to fame is the Tirupavai She composed, which is sung every morning in Vaishnava temples, during the Tamil month of Margazhi (December-January).  It is a collection of thirty poems, recounting Her mystic experiences.

How to get there:  Srivilliputhur is 78km from Madurai, and is easily accessible by bus and train.  It is just 11km from Rajapalayam, 50km from Virudhunagar, and 82km from Tirunelveli.  It is on the Madurai-Virudhunagar-Sengottai train route, mainly serviced by passenger trains.  The Chennai Egmore-Sengottai, "Pothigai Express,"  stops here.  Accommodation: Both Srivilliputhur and Rajapalayam have lodges and eating houses.

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