Tirupparankundram Temple

Sri Subramanya Swamy Temple

Sri Subramanya Swamy Temple is in Tirupparankundram, 7km south-west of Madurai.  It is an ancient shrine, one of the six Aru Padai Veedugal (sacred abodes) of Lord Muruga.  It is said that Airavatam, the celestial elephant, was directed by Indra to take care of Amrita Valli, the divine child of Maha Vishnu.  Since she was brought up by Airavatam, she came to be known as Devayanai (Deva: celestial; yanai is elephant, in Tamil).  Around the time she attained the age of marriage, Lord Subramanya had vanquished the asura, Soorapadma, in Tiruchendur and arrived in Tirupparankundram.  Waiting for Him were the six sons of sage Parasara, who had been cursed to become fish in the Saravana Poigai pond here.  The Lord redeemed them for the curse and also had a beautiful abode built for Himself by the celestial architect, Viswakarama.  The Devas, led by Indra, requested Subramanya to wed Devayanai, as a token of their gratitude for vanquishing Soorapadma.  The Lord agreed, and the weedding was held in Tirupparankundram, with Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and their consorts among the guests.  The marriage of the Lord (Paramatma) with Devayanai (jeevatma) is said to represent the spiritual fusion of the divine with the human, leading to everlasting bliss.

The temple is at the foothill.  The ancient Tamil poet, Nakkeerar, places this cave temple at the top of the six padai veedus.  Nakkeerar is said to have composed his masterpiece, Thirumurugatrupadai, here.  The innermost prakaram (the main shrine) is carved out of a single solid rock, indicating that it is an ancient cave shrine.  The inner precincts were built 12,00 years ago by the Pandyas, while the rest of the structure (the outer portion) was constructed during the Nayak period.  Tirumala Nayak and later Rani Mangamma (late 17th century) contributed to making the shine what it is today.

The sanctum is a huge rectangular chamber that has been hewn out of the northern side of the hill.  There are two chambers, with reliefs on the facing walls.  To the west is a Lingam, with a Somaskanda panel in the background.  On the east is a relief of Vishnu.  In the centre is Durga, and, on either side of Her, Subramanya and Ganesha.

Interestingly, abishekam is performed to the Vel (trident), not to the moolavar.  Outside the sanctum are reliefs of Narasimha, Nataraja, etc., on either side.  Also on the hill are a number of small cave shrines.  The impressive Rajagopuram is preceded by the Asthana Mandapam, overlooking the street.  The mandapam is adorned with 20 exquisitely-carved pillars, 14.5m (48feet) tall that depict elephants, tiger hunt, etc. One of the pillars depicts the marriage of Sri Subramanya with Sri Devayanai. A flight of six steps leads to the Ardha mandapam, beyond which is the sanctum.  There are five theerthams here, of which the Saravana Poigai, believed to have been created by Subramanya's Vel, is the most important.

How to get there: 

Tirupparankundram is 7km south-west of Madurai.  Buses ply to and from the Junction bus terminal at frequent intervals.  The town is also on the railway map, on the Madurai-Virudunagar-Tirunelvel route.  A few passenger trains and the odd express stops here. Accommodation: Madurai.

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