The Sthalasayana Perumal Temple is one of the 32 Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram that is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but unlike others that are maintained by the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India), the temple is administered and maintained by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu. Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is a historic city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is well-preserved to date, speaks volumes of its glory, and is also an ancient port city within the Kānchipuram district of Tamil Nadu, India. During the reign of the Pallava Dynasty, (between the 3rd century CE and 7th century CE), Mahabalipuram was famed for its excellent architecture and sculptures along with beautiful rock-cut monuments and a temple that pull architects, history enthusiasts, and travelers from all over the world. Mahabalipuram is famous for its vast beach, monoliths, stone carvings, and temples and was already a thriving seaport on the Bay of Bengal before this time. A significant amount of coins and other artifacts excavated from this region also indicate a pre-existing trade relation with the Romans even before it became a part of the Pallava Empire.
Sri Sthalasayana Perumal Temple located at Mahabalipuram near Chennai, in the state of Tamil Nadu, is one among the 108 Vaishnavite Divyadesams dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The Lord praised here as Sthalasayana Perumal (the Lord who reclines on the ground with hand on his chest) along with his consort Lakshmi as Nilamangai Thayar and it is believed that Lord Vishnu stayed in this place and have appeared to sage Pundarika. This temple is the 63rd Divyadesam and this place is also known as Thirukadal Mallai. Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is believed to have been built by Pallavas, with later contributions from Medieval Cholas, Vijayanagar Kings, and Madurai Nayaks. Thirumangai Azhwar and Bhoodhath Azhwar sanctify this temple in the Nalayira Divya Prabandam through their hymns. This old text (Divya Prabandham) is the early medieval Tamil canon of the Azhwar saints from the 6th–9th century AD. This town is also believed to be the birthplace of Saint Bhoodhath Azhwar, the second of the twelve Vaishnavite Azhwars. During 1120 CE, the Sri Sthalasayana Perumal temple had expansions by Chola king Vikrama Chola (1118-1135 CE).
History of Sri Sthalasayana Perumal Temple
This sthalam, Thirukadalmallai is also called “Mahabalipuram” (or) “Mamallapuram”, as the town was once called got its name from King Raja Mahabali Chakravarthy. Lord Vamana (one of the avatharas or incarnations of Lord Vishnu) gifted this land as a “Varam” to King Raja Mahabali Chakravarthy. The famous holy Sage (Rishi) Pundarika used to live and maintained a beautiful Tamarai (lotus) garden in this town popularly known as Pundarika Pushkarini, which he wanted to dedicate all the Lotus flowers to Lord Vishnu. On an auspicious day, the garden bloomed with hundreds of lotuses and the Sage was very much thrilled, gathered 1008 lotuses then decided to place the lotus flowers at the feet of Lord Vishnu. As he reached the seashore he spotted Lord Vishnu in the middle of the ocean, seated on his bed of the snake, and the Sage decided to approach him. As he made his way in the Eastern direction towards the Lord, he found that the sea waves were solid and huge which blocked his path. Hence, the Sage got down to putting his mind and effort into scooping out the water tirelessly with his hand from the ocean to reach the Lord. He did this for many years without getting tired but one day he cried out to the Lord in despair….“Oh Lord Parandhama, if I am your true devotee, let the sea dry and make way for me till such time I reach you these flowers should remain fresh”. The Lord heard the words of his devotee, disguised himself as an older man, and appeared before the Sage Pundarika. The Lord (Aged man) advised him to stop his futile task but the Sage refused to do so and replied that he would not rest until he offer the lotus flowers at the feet of the Lord. He (the old man) requested the Sage to get him some food as he was feeling hungry. The sage could not refuse the request of a guest. So, he reluctantly gave the lotus flower basket to the old man and went out to fetch some food. On his return, he was shocked to see Lord Vishnu in reclining posture lying on the ground facing his thirumugham towards the East direction along the sea and his body was fully decorated with lotus flowers as a garland. The Sage fell at the Lord’s feet asking forgiveness for having asked him to carry the flower basket and thanked him for giving this divine vision. As Lord Vishnu gave darshan to the Sage Pundarika in reclining posture at that place, he is praised as “Sthalasayana Perumal“.
Greatness of Sthalasayana Perumal Temple
Initially, there were seven temples around the sea shore, the place was then called Seven Temple City – Ezhu Kovil Nagaram in Tamil. All of the Seven Temples were swallowed by the fury of the sea. During that time the place was under the rule of Pallava King Rajasimhan who built three temples, of which two of the temples have been washed away by the fury of the sea again. To protect and preserve this unique statue of Lord Sthalasayana Perumal, the Vijayanagar king, Parankusa, built a temple within the city of Mamallapuram in the 14th century and shifted the Perumal statue to its current location away from the shore. He further built the four Mada streets that circumvent the temple.
Inside Perumal Temple
The Lord is seen in a reclining posture on the ground, holding his hand on the chest, called Upadesa Mudra (beckoning the devotees towards him). Near the Lord Shrine, you can see the idol of sage Pundarika. The Utchavar (procession deity) is known as Ulaguyya Nindran. To the East of the main shrine, there is a sanctum of Goddess Lakshmi, in the form of Nilamangai Thayar. Along with the main two shrines, you can even see other shrines of Andal, Lakshmi Narasimha, Bhoodhath Azhwar, Rama, Hanuman, and the Azhwars around the sanctum. The uniqueness of the temple is that usually Goddess Lakshmi is seated on the left lap of the Lord, while in this temple Goddess is seen sitting on the right lap. There is an ancient rock-cut cave temple dedicated to Varaha Perumal known as Thiruvalaventhai, located around one km south of Thirukadalmallai. The Lord gave darshan as Varaha Perumal with Akilavalli Thayar.
The Sthalasayana Perumal Temple celebrates several festivals including the Avatara festival of Bhoodhath Azhwar during the Tamil month of Aipasi (October-November), Maasi Magam (Feb-Mar), and Vaikunda Ekadasi.
Sri Sthalasayana Perumal Temple is open in the mornings between 6:30 am to 12:00 noon and in the evenings from 3:00 pm to 8:30 pm.
Descent of the Ganges (Arjuna’s Penance), Krishna’s Butterball, Shore Temple, Trimurti Cave Temple, Varaha Perumal Cave Temple, Mahishasuramardini Cave Temple, Olakkanneshvara Temple, Tiger Caves, Pancha Rathas, Light House, Maritime Heritage Museum, Seashell Museum.
Places To Visit Nearby
- Thirukkalikundram is about 14km from the Perumal Temple and there is an ancient Shiva temple with a lofty tower at this place. Nearby is a hill called Vedagiri, 160m high, on the top of which also there is a small Shiva temple.
- Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is about 60km away from Mahabalipuram. This is one of the major water bird sanctuaries in India.
- Thiruporur is about 16km from the temple and an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Muruga is located here. There are some historical inscriptions on the walls of the temple as well as some interesting sculptures.
- Sadras is 16km away from the Temple and is an old fishing village on the seashore which was once a Dutch settlement. A massive fort with 14 well-cut tombstones attracts the attention of the visitors to the place.
- Pondicherry is about 95 km from the Perumal Temple, famous for Aurobindo Ashram and also referred to as the ‘French Capital of India’.
Best Time To Visit The Temple
As this place is situated on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, there will be a moderate and humid climate around the year and the best time to visit this place is during the cooler months of October to March.
Where To Stay
How To Reach
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