|Aerial view. PC: Praveen Quak Photography|
Ayyangarkulam is an ancient village located in Kanchipuram district, just 9 kms south of Kanchipuram town. While driving from Kanchipuram past the Collector office towards Vandavasi, after crossing Palar bridge, one can see a board mentioning ‘Ayyangarkulam Koot Road’. Take right from the koot road to reach Ayyangarkulam in 5 minutes from there.
Ayyangarkulam is a scenic village with rich heritage, accessible by good motorable roads and also easy to locate. This village has an ancient temple for Sri Anjaneyar who is known here as Sri Sanjeevirayar.
This temple’s legend has its connection with Ramayana period. It is said that while Sri Hanuman was carrying the Sanjeevi Parvatha (Sanjeevi Hill) to Sri Lanka few fragments of the hill fell at this place. Hence, Sri Anjaneyar here got His name as Sri Sanjeevirayar.
There’s also an interesting history behind the name of this village. This temple was built by Sri Lakshmi Kumara Thathachariar who lived during 1456 – 1543. Sri Thathachariar was a great vaishnavite scholar and was a very famous personality in the Vijayanagara Empire. Also called as Thatha Desikan, he was the descendant of Sri Nathamuni lineage, with a rich Vaishnavite legacy. He was also the only person who was serving twin positions as ‘Chief Minister’ and also as the ‘Raja Guru’ for the Vijayanagara Kings, Venkatapathy Rayas I and II (also called Sriranga Rayas).
He enjoyed very high respects and position by the kings and he also was appointed as ‘Sri Karya Thurantharar’ to take care of all the Divya Desams that existed within the empire, which include Kanchipuram, Sriperumbudur, Kumbakonam and many others. He restored the regular worship and rituals in many temples those days according to the philosophies and principles of Sri Ramanujacharya. He also made many grants to various temples.
Due to his knowledge and devotion, Thatha Desikan was celebrated as ‘Aacharya Mahanubhava’. He created many Anna Chatrams and established Desandhiri Kattalai in many temples to feed the visiting travelers. He also was sponsoring many weddings for the poor and needy in his kingdom and was fondly called as ‘Koti Kanyadhaana Lakshmi Kumara Thathaachariar’. Thus was his fame and name during that period.
He constructed the 100 pillared Mandapam in Sri Varadarajar Temple in Kanchipuram and also had renovated many of the shrines within the temple. Many inscriptions are found along the praakaarams of Sri Varadarajar temple about his contributions. He also had done the Gold plating for the Thirumala Thirupathi temple and also undertook renovations partially in Srirangam temple.
Once Sri Thatha Desikan was traveling to Kanchipuram from his capital city, Chandragiri, along with his disciples carrying lot of wealth he earned to offer to the Lord Sri Varadarajaperumal. As it was night time when he was crossing this village, he had to rest in a place with all his men, planning to continue his journey the next morning. He found a place under a tree in this village where he kept all his belongings and rested with the group. As it was a tedious journey, all of them slept so deeply, as they were not even aware that there were a group of thieves who arrived there and tried to steal all the wealth he carried for the Lord.
As the thieves took everything and tried to move away, there came a monkey with a big group of several monkeys who beat and threatened the thieves mob and make them run for their lives. The head monkey along with the group sat near the valuables and started guarding them till Thatha Desikan and his men woke up. At the same time, Thatha Desikan saw the happenings in his dream and also got Dharshan of Lord Hanuman in the dream.
Thatha Desikan, an ardent devotee of Lord Rama woke up to see this miracle where the monkey and it’s group were safeguarding the entire wealth and also few of the thieves lying injured. Thatha Desikan was awestruck and felt that it was none other than Sri Hanuman who saved his wealth which was meant for God. He thankfully prayed Sri Anjaneyar and built a marvelous temple for Him at the same place.
He also built a huge temple tank measuring 150 acres for this temple which is called ‘Lakshmi Saras’. As this temple and the tank were built by Thatha Desikan, the tank and the village came to be known as ‘Thatha Samudram’ and also as ‘Thiruvadi Rayapuram’ which later became ‘Ayyangarkulam’ in the present days. The Lord here came to be known as Sri Sanjeevirayar. This is the biggest temple for Sri Anjaneyar in this part of the country.
Sri Thatha Desikan also composed ‘Sri Hanumath Vimsathi’ in praise of Sri Sanjeevirayar here, which are inscribed on the walls of this temple’s Praakaram.
The entrance to the temple is on the southern side. While entering from the main road, once has to enter through the entrance facing South, which has a very tall 4 pillared mandapam welcoming the pilgrims. All these 4 pillars are made of a single stone.
After crossing the mandapam, the temple doorway invites us inside the temple leading to the western Praakaaram.
Once entered, one can see a small hall on the right hand side which has a beautiful Mutram which is open to sky. The entire temple is built using stones.
On the south west and north west corners of the Praakaaram, there are 2 small mandapams like Urchava Mandapam.
There is a beautiful 24 pillared stone mandapam in front of the sanctum. There is Sri Mahalakshmi Thaayaar located in this mandapam facing east.
Sri Sanjeevirayar is seen in the standing posture facing north towards the temple pond. The sanctum is so peaceful with divine vibrations. There is a small inner praakaram around the sanctum.
Sri Rama & Sita and Sri Lakshmana are seen just outside the sanctum facing south, placed in a small shelf like space on the wall.
The outer praakaram is vast and so beautiful. There is a large Madappalli at the eastern praakaram, where there is a Kal Uruli kept for preparing Prasadams.
On the eastern praakaram, Sri. Garudaazhwar is seen in the standing posture facing north. Sri Garudaazhwar is about 5 feet tall with a smiling face, with His wings open, standing at the open to sky praakaram.
There is a Tulasi Maadam adjacent to Sri Garudaazhwar placed amidst 2 stone slabs fixed vertically.
On the northern side after the Ardha Mandapam, there’s another entrance to the temple which leads to another mandapam where there are lot of pillars with different Hanumans are sculptured. It is said that there are about 85 Anjaneyars present in these pillars.
On the wall of the rear side of the temple, there are warning signs written asking people not to consume alcohol at this place. Shocking to see the sad state of this heritage temple.
From here there are steps which lead us down to the vast temple pond which is said to be about 135 to 150 acres in size. This gives a very scenic view at the rear side of the temple.
There is also a temple at the other end of the temple tank dedicated to Sri Mahalakshmi.
From the other side of the pond, one can see the beauty of the temple. Now, there is a road being laid around the temple tank so that one can drive around the tank where lots of trees planted on either sides.
The uniqueness of Ayyangarkulam doesn’t end here.
In this same village just about 1 km from the temple, there is an architectural marvel called ‘Nadavaavi Kinaru’, a beautiful well that brings Sri Varadaraja Perumaal himself from Kanchipuram to visit this village.
Unlike other wells, this one has a huge arch with wonderful carvings and Sri Gajalakshmi on top, welcoming the pilgrims.
A stairway starts from this place leading down to a stone pillared Mandapam underneath. In the middle of the Mandapam there is the water surface of the well.
The whole structure is beautifully planned and created in such a way that even if the excess water has to be taken out, it is possible through the Yetram built there.
Every year, on Chithra Pournami day, Sri Varadaraja Perumaal visits this village where the holy Thirumanjanam is done for Him. And he visits this Nadavaavi, gets down to the stone mandapam underneath and goes around the mandapam where the Vasanthothsavam is performed. The Lord returns back after the rituals.
Ayyangarkulam, filled with such great history and rich heritage is a treasure trove for the temple lovers and heritage buffs. Just sit on the steps near the temple tank and just think of how Thatha Desikan would have built this 150-acre pond and this wonderful temple; you’ll forget the whole world and travel back in time.
I acknowledge Mr. Praveen, a travel photographer of Praveen Quak Photography who has done some stunning shots of this temple in aerial views. I was astonished to see his visuals on Ayyangarkulam and I thank him for sharing the aerial view pic of the temple to use it here. This is the first time in this blog, I am using a pic that was not shot by me.
It so happened that when I wanted to write this blog and bring it back live, coincidentally I happened to visit this temple a few times repeatedly, got to know Praveen, without any of my efforts came across many information about Thatha Desikan and his descendants (including Agnihothram Ramanunam Thathachariar) and evefrything fell in place with Sri Sanjeevirayars blessings to continue this blog again and here I started with Ayyangarkulam.
Sri Raama Dhootham Sirasaa Namaami!!