Visit to Sri Margapandeswarar Temple at Virinchipuram
In the Chennai-Bangalore highway, after Vellore bypass, proceed for another 10 Km till a place called Sedhuvalai and turn right for Virinchipuram. The temple is about a km from the Sedhuvalai junction.
Chennai (Adayar) to Vellore bypass: 142 km
Vellore Bypass to Sedhuvalai junction: 12 km
Sedhuvalai to temple: 1 km
Main deity: Margabandheeswarar, east facing
Goddess: Maragathambihai, east facing
Sthala Vruksham: Palm
Theertham: Simha Theertham, Sooli Theertham and Brahma Theertham
Sung by: Appayya Dikshithar, Thirumoolar, Pattinathar, Appar, Sambhandhar, Arunagiri nadhar and many others
- 1300 years old temple – the oldest and the biggest temple of Vellore district
- Gowri Devi, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Sriharan had worshipped here
- The temple is famous for its prahara walls and the sculptures
- Aadhi Shankarar had done the Beejakshara Pradhishtai to the Simha theertham of the temple
- Arunachala Puranam, Siva Rahasiyam, Kanchi puranam and many other holy books have described this temple
- Lord Brahma was born as Shivasarma here in a priest family. When Shivsarma’s father died at his early days, Shivsarma was to undertake the pooja responsibilities as a small boy. Shivasarma’s relatives had planned to take away the priest’s rights and land from them and so they warned that his rights and land will be taken away, if he does not perform the pooja when his turn comes up. Shivasarma’s mother prayed to Margabandeeswar and He appeared in her dream. It was the last Saturday night of the Karthigai month. The next morning, Shivasarma took bath in the Brahma theertham and Lord Shiva came as an elderly person and conducted the Upanayanam, Brahmopadhesam and Shiva Dikshai to Shivasarma and disappeared as Mahalingam in the temple tank bund. The small boy was then paraded on an elephant with the holy water pot and the temple door opened automatically to everyone’s surprise. As if he was very experienced in the pooja procedures, he conducted the pooja activities to Swarna Ganapathy and while attempting to do the abhisheham for the Margabandheeswarar, as a small boy, he was unable to reach the head of the lingam. He then submitted his inability to Lord Shiva.
In another legend, once Brahma and Vishnu got into an ego battle and they set out to reach the head and foot of Lord Shiva but both failed. Brahma lied to Shiva that he had seen the head with Tazhampoo as a false witness but here Lord Brahma accepted his inability to reach the head of Lord Shiva and offered his failure to the Lord Himself. Lord Shiva, then bowed His head to accept the abhisheham and Brahma got his curse cleared off and attained salvation. So the Margabandheeswarar lingam can be seen in a slightly tilted position here.
- Dhanabalan, a Kundala desa pepper merchant lost his loads to thieves. He prayed to Lord Shiva and He came as a soldier on a horse and not only retrieved the pepper loads but also accompanied Dhanabalan till Kanchipuram. Due to this He is called ‘Vazhi Thunai Nathar’ in Tamil and Margabandu in Sanscrit (Marga meaning way and Bandhu meaning company)
- This temple is also known as ‘Baskara Kshetram’ because the Sun God is said to worship the linga when its rays fall on it in the month of Panguni; The name of the place as Virinchipuram came from the legend that the temple was worshipped by Brahma, i.e., Virinchi; The theertham of this temple is said to be produced by Gowri devi and so, this place is also known as Gowripuram; Vishnupuram and Margabandheeswaram are also the other names of the place.
- This is the birth place of Sri Appayya Dikshithar (1520-1593), the greatest interpreter of Advaitha Sidhantha after Adhi Sankara. His Margabandhu stotram on this Margabandheeswarar is for the protection of people while on journey. By reciting this one can have Lord Shiva with them as Marga-bandhu (protector during journey) along their jouney.
- Taking a dip at the Simha theertham here will remove the evil effects of bad omens
- The childless couples take dip in all the three theerthams of the temple, stay overnight with the wet cloth to receive the Lord in their dream and get the boon of a child.
- Since Lord Shiva of this temple protected the pepper merchant Dhanabalan, the business people can have this Lord Shiva as the protector for their business.
- Since Lord Shiva had conducted the Upanayanam and Dikshai to Lord Brahma here, this is a holy place to have Upanayanams, to get Dikshai and to start education
- The last sunday of the Karthigai month is considered very auspicious since on that day, Lord Shiva appeared as an elderly person and conducted Upanayanam for Lord Brahma as Shivasarma.
- By worshipping here, people get their marriage obstacles removed and get their marriages conducted here.
This beautiful temple is 1300 years old and is known for its impressive Rajagopurams and sculptures. The main shrine of the temple is said to have been built by Raja Raja Chola, Sambara Rayan, the viceroy of Klothunga Chola. Nandhi Vikrama Pallava, Rajendra Chola, Paranthaha Chola, Kobarakesari Varman and Vijayanagara kings – Narayana Sambuvarayar, Achutharayar, Devarayar have all contributed significantly to this temple
Let’s take a virtual tour of the temple now..
A 110 feet high, 7 stage, east facing Rajagopuram is the one that welcomes us first.
There are 5 praharams in the temple and the temple is famous for its huge and beautiful prahara walls. The saying “Thiruvarur Ther (Temple chariot) Azhagu (beautiful), Virinchipuram Madhil (wall) Azhagu” is very popular (In the same way, Mannargudi is also famous for its prahara walls and “Mannargudi Madhil Azhagu” is also a popular saying). The temple walls, the Rajagopuram and the big mada streets all add up to a beautiful view and set the tone for what is in store inside.
This is the first mandapam we see as soon as we enter the temple and it houses the Dwajasthambam, Bali peetam and Nandhi. As a rare sight, there are two Dwajasthambams in this temple, one for the main shrine and another, exclusive for the Amman shrine as well.
Let’s do a pradhakshanam in the outer praharam now.
The first one we see when we step out in the outer praharam is a small Sakthi Mandapam and a 14 pillar mandapam. Adjacent to them is the Simha theertha well with a lion faced sculpture entrance and foot steps inside. By looking at the water, I am not sure whether people still take bath or just sprinkle the holy water on their head or it is being cleaned periodically.
There are Rajagopura entrances on two sides of the temple but on the other two (Southern and Northern) sides, miniature Rajagopurams are present on the temple wall itself. Firstly, if a small Rajagopuram itself can be built on the temple wall, you can imagine the grandeur of the temple wall. Secondly, this southern entrance has a sacred significance that the Siddhars, Sages and Celestial Gods are believed to come here for worship during the nights through this exclusive entrance for them where the normal humans can not enter.
There are very big Mandapams on the three corners of the outer praharam – two Kalyana Mandapams at two corners and another mandapam at the third corner. All the Mandapams have enormous pillars and sculptures that have been intrinsically and artistically carved out.
On the north-west corner is present the 1008 Maha linga shrine. 1008 small lingams are enshrined in a single Maha lingam. In the same way, there is a 108 Mahalinga shrine in the north-east middle praharam but we missed out to see it.
By the side of the 1008 Mahalinga shrine, the 2nd Kalyana mandapam is present in the corner.
Near the Kalyana Mandapam is present a stone called ‘Kaalam Kaatum Kal’ (stone indicating the time). Once this stone might have been used for knowing the time of the day with its shadow but now it has lost all its markings and stands as a mute testimony of the past.
There is long alankara mandapam running through the entire northern prahara wall.
Like the Southern Praharam, there is a miniature Rajagopuram on the Northern side temple wall also.
After completing the outer praharam, we enter the middle praharam and the sanctum sanctorum. There is a dance hall in the front and two big & beautiful dwarabalahas welcome everyone. Margabandeeswar is present as a big Swayambu lingam with the top portion tilted a bit towards accepting the abhisheham from Lord Brahma, as a small boy. Frankly I got totally mesmerised and lost in the grandeur of the temple walls and the sculptures, I spent much less time towards the divinity aspect. I even totally forgot to record the priest’s version of the temple legend which I usually do.
The Koshta god idols are really marvellous.
After finishing the main dharshan, let’s start our middle prahara roundup.
In the north west corner, is present a group of lingams called Yuga lingams along with Pancha muga Sadhasiva lingam and Karikkal Ammaiyar idols. I don’t know the significance of the Yuga lingams and the connection of Karikkal Ammaiyar with this temple (Anybody who knows the details, may please inform).
The main vimanam is in Gaja Prashta Vimana structure.
From the northern side middle praharam we enter the Amman shrine. Both the Margabandheeswar and the Ambal are east facing. The speciality of the temple being that there are two dwajasthambams, one for the main shrine and another one exclusive for the Amman shrine.
The Ambal shrine also has an inner praharam.
Sculptures in the Mandapams
Unfortunately, the temple is not being maintained well. If the two Kalyana mandapams are renovated properly and the old beauty is restored, there could be many marriages/ upanayanams taking place regularly and the place could regain its past glory. With the Vellore Golden temple being a great attraction already, the traffic of Spiritual and other people to Vellore has increased enormously and this temple could very well become an important spot in their list. It is good to know that there are many renovation works planned and it appears from the Donor list board that the Golden temple trust is the biggest donor for that but the following photo depicts the sorry state of today. Before taking up the renovation works in crores, atleast the weeds can be removed periodically to stop further damages to the temple and the Simha Theertham can be cleaned out and maintained regularly so that people start taking the holy dips again. Hope the authorities will listen.
Note and Acknowldgement: Later after visiting the temple only, I came to know of the Rajagopurams on the southern and northern sides, the Kaalam Kaattum Kal, the main theertham of the temple – Brahma Theertham outside the temple. Thanks to R.Balaji for providing the pictures of the places that I missed out and making this writeup complete.
Other temples in Virinchipuram:
• Minakshi Sundareshvarar temple (built by Appayya Dikshithar)
• Kailasanathar temple