Vaishnava Darshan-Kanchi Sri Varada Raja Swamy temple

Shravanmaas is a festival season for devotees of Lord Vishnu. It is said that, Lord Vishnu will shower his grace and benevolence to devotees offering obeisance during Shravanmaas. It is a customary practice among devotees to take up SpiRitual Journeys to various Teertha Kshetras and temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

Pureprayer is presenting some of the interesting Vishnu temples as travel destinations for Shravanmaas.

Great poet Kalidasa has praised two holy cities of our ancient India. One is Kashi and the other Kanchi. He has said, they were both built by God Almighty himself. The city of Kancheepuram or Kanchi has been praised in the poem that begins with Nagareshu Kanchi…! Kanchi also finds mention as one of the Seven Sacred Places of India. History records that the great emperor Sri Krishna Deva Raya had made two visits to this sacred city. Also, the singer saint of Karnataka, Purandara Dasa sang about Kanchi Varadaraja Swamy as “Kannare Kande Achyutana”.

What is the story behind the name Kanchi?

Kanchi is said to be derived from the word ‘Kanchanam’ (Meaning: Gold). The town was a huge city which was so prosperous in wealth and knowledge. People from all over would travel to Kanchi or Kancheepuram in pursuit of knowledge and business.

Where is Kanchi Varadaraja temple?

Sri Kanchi Varadaraja Swamy temple is located about 80 kms from the capital city Chennai in Tamil Nadu state. This region of the city is popular as Vishnu Kanchi. Sri Varadaraja Swamy temple is on a hill called Hastigiri. This is one of the 108 Divya Desams visited as a part of Sri Vaishnava Yatra.

You can click here to learn more about the Spritual Journeys to many sacred places across India.

Why should one visit Kanchi Varadaraja Swamy temple?

Kanchi Varadaraja Swamy is said to grant the devotees wishes very quickly. He is well known for cures to the eye-related illnesses.

What Puranas say about Kanchi?

It is mentioned in Puranas, during Satya Yug the creator Lord Brahma had an argument with Goddess Saraswati once and she left him. Brahma decided to perform Ashvamedha Yaag (Horse sacrifice). Saraswati came to know about this and wanted to interrupt the Yaag. She took the form of river Vegavati and came rushing to the place of sacrifice. Lord Vishnu came to the rescue and stopped her. Brahma offered worships to the lord and later consecrated an image for the benefit of his followers.

Another incident relates the gods Indra and Sun and Moon. Indra was once cursed by Goddess Saraswati to become an elephant. When Indra sought forgiveness, Saraswati said, when he visited a temple of Lord Vishnu, he would get back to his true form. The roaming elephant once entered the Varadaraja Swamy temple of Kanchipuram and was absolved of the curse.

What is the importance of two lizards depicted in the temple?

Two disciples of Sage Gautama while learning with him, had brought water in a vessel as ordered by him. Due to negligence, two small lizards had got in. When the vessel was placed in front of the sage, they sprang out. The enraged Rishi cursed his disciples to become lizards. They fell to his feet and prayed for the relief from this curse. He said, when Lord Indra with Sun and Moon visits the Varadaraja temple in the form of an elephant, they would be relieved of the curse.

It is said that, anyone visiting Kanchi Varadaraja temple is cured of all Doshas (Meaning: Ill-effects) as a result of lizards falling on human body or getting accidentally killed.

What is the connection between Atthi Varadar and Kanchi Varadaraja Swamy temple?

During 17th Century CE, the temple was under a threat of invasions by Mughal emperors, especially, Aurangzeb was planning an attack. Image of the Varadaraja Swamy was removed and hidden in the temple pond. The location of this image was lost in time. Another image from Udayarpallyam in Tiruchinappally was transported and installed in the main shrine. When temple authorities took up the cleaning process of the temple pond a few years later, they discovered the tub with Nagapashams in which Attthi Varadar was safely stored. A tradition was started from then on that every forty years, the image of Atthi Varadar would be removed from the pond and put up for a Mandala Puja of 48 days. Presently, the image of Atthi Varadar is on display in the temple premises. The lord would be moved back to the pond after 17th of August, 2019, to be retrieved only in 2059.

Temple Architecture:

Oldest references to the Kanchi Varadaraja temple-complex situated on Hastigiri spread over an area of about 23 acres (approx.) goes back to as far as 7th Century CE. It is opined that, Medieval Cholas, Pallavas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagar Empire have contributed to the development of this temple. As many as 350 inscriptions found in the temple, sculptures and constructions related to this time period have been studied. This can throw a light on the existence of the temple for more than 15 centuries.

The temple complex is aligned in the East-West meridian. The Gopuram through which devotees enter the temple is taller than the tower on the Garbhagudi (Meaning: sanctum sanctorum). Gopuram over the sanctum is called Punyakoti Vimanam. Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu has been installed in a separate shrine. Gopuram on this shrine is called Kalyana Koti Vimanam.

The temple is surrounded by three Prakarams (Meaning: Corridors round the shrine). They have been named, Azhwar Prakaram, Madai Palli Prakaram and Thiru Malai Prakaram. The temple structure contains as many as 32 shrines, 19 Vimanas (Meaning: Tower) and many halls with carved stone pillars. Many water bodies are around the temple complex. Anant Saras or Anant Teertham is a water pond inside the complex. A shrine for Sudarshana called the Chakrattalvar is beside the tank. The image of Sudarshana is with six arms. The shrine has two entrances. Lord Narasimha has been installed in a separate shrine.

Sanctum is in the first Prakaram. The second Prakaram contains four shrines. Among these, one is a shrine for Malayala Nacchiar. This is said to be an addition made by Chera Dynasty during early 14th Century CE. Many Azhwars including that of Sri Ramanujacharya, the proponent of Vishishthadvaita have been installed here. Third Prakaram has a shrine for Perundevi Tayar (Bhudevi). Sri Mutthu Swamy Deekshitar has written a song about the goddess known as Brihannayaki. It is a practice, to visit this temple before having a Darshan of Sri Varadaraja. Four identical pillared halls were built during the Pattabhishekam (coronation) ceremony of Achyutaraya. They are known as Tulabhara Mantapas.

A stone chain created by the sculptors in 100 pillared hall is a piece of marvel visited by many people in this temple. Many pillars sculpted with images relating to stories from Ramayana and Maha Bharata can be seen here.

Main Deity:

The lord is known by many names: Perumal, Hastishan, Devarajan and so on. Kanchi Varada Raja Swamy is a 10 feet tall image hewn in granite, in a standing position showing Varada Hasta (Meaing: benevolence) in the lower right hand, while holding Shankha, Chakra and Gada in the other three hands. During festivals, a special jewelry called Maharkandi is used for decoration. This is believed to be a donation of Clive during the British rule and is called Clive Maharkandi.

Procession deity is known as Peru Arul Alan. Sri Ramanujacharya used to perform a service called Jalakainkarya before he took the oath of celibacy.

When are the festival season in the Kanchi Varadaraja Swamy Temple?

Brahmotsavam is a major festival celebrated in this temple-complex, during the Vaishakha Purnima occurring in the month of April or May. This is a ten-day event. However, a festival is on the calendar every month. Vaikunth Yekadashi is celebrated in the Margashiramaas occurring in the month of December or January and attended in big numbers.

What are the nearby temples?

Ulagalanda Perumal Temple:

Ulagalanda Perumal in Kanchi dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the form of Trivikrama is located about three km from Kanchi Varadaraja Swamy temple. This is one of the 108 Divya Desham temples believed to be at least 13 centuries old. Lord Vishnu came down to the city of Mahabali to seek three feet of land. When Mahabali agreed, Lord Vishnu changed his form to Trivikrama and covered earth and space with each foot. Mahabali understood that Vishnu had come in the form of Vamana to grant him salvation and offered his head for Trivikrama to put his foot.

Pandava Duta Perumal temple:

Pandava Duta Perumal temple in Kanchi is dedicated to Lord Krishna. This is believed to be one of the oldest temples in the city. Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated with great pomp and glory in this temple.