Description: Varadharaja Perumaal temple, one of the celebrated Vaishnava Dhivya Desams, is located in Perumaal Kanchi, or the little Kanchi. Its vast temple campus is an amalgamation of embellishments over several centuries. This temple is also an important religious center, and is one of the well visited temples in Tamilnadu.
The Dhivya Desams revered by the Azhwars in Perumaal Kanchi are Aththigiri (the vast Varadharaja Perumal temple), Ashtabuyakaram, Thiruttankaa, Thiruvelukkai and Thiruveqkaa, while those in Shiva Kanchi are Thiru Oorakam (Ulagalanda Perumaal Koyil) , Thiru Neeragam, Thiruppaatakam, Nilaatthingal Thundam, Thirukkaaragam, Thirukkaarvaanam, Thirukkalvanur, Thiruppavalavannam and Parameswara Vinnagaram. The vast Ekambreswarar temple(Prithvi Sthalam) revered by the Thevaram hymns, is located in Periya (Shiva) Kanchi, as are the Kamakshiamman and the Kumara Kottam temples.
Varadharaja Perumal temple is known as Hastigiri; it was originally known as Attiyuran. BhootaththaAzhwar, one of the earliest of the Azhwars, has sung of this temple. The name Hastigiri is applied in the connotation of Gajendra moksham and from the legend that Indras elephant Airavatam - in the form of a hill bears the image of Perumaal. The name Attiyurar emerges from the tradition, that the original image of Varadharaja Perumaal here was made from Attimaram. This ancient wooden image is worshipped for 10 days, once in 40 years.
Legend has it that Bhrama worshipped Perumaal in Krita yugam, Gajendran in Treta Yugam, Bhrihaspati in Dwapara Yugam and Adiseshan in Kaliyugam. The legend of Perumaal lying across the river in spate, to prevent a deluge from wiping out Bhrama's sacrifice also holds in this temple as in another Dhivyadesam Thiruvegkaa in Kanchi.
Deities: The Moolavar here is Varadharaja Perumal in a standing posture facing west. Perundevi Thaayaar is housed in a separate temple within the complex. Other shrines here include those to Kannan, the Azhwars, and the Acharyas, Ramar, Kariamanikka Perumaal, ,Andal, Varaaha Perumaal.
The Temple: The first prakaram is on the Hastigiri hill. It houses the sanctum, and the two co-axial walled mandapams. The sanctum houses the imposing image of Varadharaja Perumaal. The vimanam here is known as the Punyakoti vimanam. The sanctum is the womb of the fire, that is believed to hold the manifest universe whithin which the standing Perumaal appeared.
History: In 1053, the Cholas rebuilt the base of the hill, on the East west axis, to signifiy a cave in the hill, within which the icon of Narasimha sits as a yogi facing west. Several inscriptions are seen in this shrine.They circled the hill with a double storeyed cloistered veranda with colonnades of uniform pillars creating an opern courtyrard with a chola style gateway on the East.
This temple was expanded vastly during the reign of Kulottunga Chola I, and his son Vikrama Chola (1075 - 1135). It was during the same period that expansion work at the temples at Chidambaram, Thiruvanaikka, Sirkazhi, Thiruvarur and Srirangam were carried out. Other shrines built during the Chola period were those of Karimanikkapperumaal, AnantAzhwar, Abhisheka Mandapam, and the Perundevi Taayar shrine. A separate shrine for Perundevi was built on the south west, facing the sanctum, (rebuilt in 15th ent). By 14th century,the Cholas built another encircling wall including a tank etc with a gateway and a 7 tiered tower.
There are now 5 courtyards. After the long period of Chola patronage, and the political confusion following their decline, the Varadharaja Perumaal temple, came under the patronage of the devout Vijayanagar rulers, who added the towering Eastern Gopuram, and the beautiful Kalyana Mandapam, the Oonjal mandapam etc. Vijayanagar rulers embellished this shrine in the 16th century with minute carvings, pillared verandahs for circumambulation, a shrine for Andal, large hall for Navarathri, Unjal Mandapam, Kalyana Mandapam, (575 sq meters in 2 meter high plinth with 96 monolithic pillars, geometric designs, yalis, rampant horsemen, european soldiers). The East gopuram is 9 tiered rising to a height of 180 feet while the western gopuram is 160 feet high. The temple occupies an area of 20 acres. Stone chains adorn the hundred pillared halls.
Festivals: Four worship services are offered bere by priests who are said to be descendents of Yagna Valkyar. The annual Bhramotsavam is celebrated in the month of Vaikasi, while the Adhyayanotsavam is celebrated in the month of Margazhi. The Garuda Sevai and the Chariot festival during the Bhramotsavam draw thousands of pilgrims. During Chitra Pournami and Pongal, the deity is taken out to neighboring areas.