Description: This celebrated Vaishnava Dhivya Desam is located in the temple town of Kumbhakonam or Kudandai. The Pancharanga Kshetrams along the course of the Kaveri are Srirangapatnam (Karnataka), Srirangam, Koyiladi (Anbil) and Kumbhakonam and Indalur (Mayiladuturai).
Also located in Kumbhakonam are the Kumbheswarar temple, the Nageswarar temple and the Kudandaikkaronam Shivastalams. Also in Kudandai is the Ramaswamy temple, full of rich and elaborate sculptures, dating back to the seventeenth century.
Legend has it that there was a deluge after the Dwapara Yugam; a pot of nectar and the seeds of creation were placed in a pot (kudam) and set adrift in the deluge. The drifting pot settled at Kumbhakonam; and Shiva as Kiratamurthy, bearing a bow pierced the pot with an arrow, and spilt the nectar which flowed all over. The bulk of it flowed into what is now the Mahamagam tank. It is believed that all river Goddesses live in this tank. It is believed that the remnants of the nectar were mixed with sand, and the Shiva lingam representing Aadi Kumbheswarar was created out of it. The Mahamagam tank is a scene of great festivity once in 12 years, in the month of Aquarius, when the moon and the planet jupiter align themselves in the zodiac signs of Leo. Hundreds of thousands congregate then to have a sacred bath, when the festival image of Shiva from the Kumbheswarar temple is taken in procession to this tank on a silver rishabha vaahanam.
Legend also has it Bhrigu muni entered Vaikuntham; and out of arrogance kicked Vishnu on his chest, at having not been recognized and welcomed. Lakshmi left for the earth and settled on the banks of the Kumbhakonam tank. Bhrigu muni was reborn as Hema Rishi, and offered penance; Lakshmi was reborn as his daughter, in the Mahamagam lotus tank, and he offered her in marriage to Sarangapani. Vishnu, bears the sarangam bow in his hand.
On the banks of the Mahamagam tank, are several mandapams built by Govinda Deekshitar (a minister of the Nayaks of Madurai who is also credited with building the Ramaswamy temple here at Kumbhakonam) , for the reception of deities during festivals.
The Temple: The Sarangapani temple is of great religious significance, considered to be second only to the SriRangam temple. The Vaideeka Vimanam of this temple is considered to be an offshoot of the Sreerangam Pranava vimanam, and a replica of the vimanam presented to Vibhishana of Sri Lanka by Rama. It, is conceived of, as a chariot with wheels drawn by horses and elephants, in a scale grander than that of the Melakkadambur temple built by Kulottunga I (early 12th century).
This vimanam has two gateways (as in Thiruvellarai), the northern gate, or the Uttarayana vaasal, open on Makara Sankaranti, and the Dakshinayana Vaayil, opened on Aadi perukku, the 18th day of the tamil month of Aadi. The earliest of the Azhwars Peyazhwar and Bhutattazhwar have sung of this temple. So have Periyazhwar, Andal and Thirumangai Azhwar (8th century). Thirumazhisai Azhwar spent his last years and attained salvation here. Nammazhwar has also sung of this temple. It is at this temple that the Vaishnavite savant Nada Muni, was inspired to compile the works of the Azhwars, upon listening to the tamil hymn 'Aaravamude' composed by Nammazhwar. Nadamuni spent his last years at the Chola capital of Gangaikonda Choleeswaram.
Although the temple existed during the Pallava period, the current structure is attributable to the period of Vikrama Chola (1121 onwards). Later Cholas built the superstructure of the 11 tiered gopuram, and the tower was actually completed by the Vijayanagar rulers. The tower is about 140 feet in height. There are sculptures depicting the Bharata Natya karanas, as enunciated in the Natya Sastram - on the first tier of the Gopuram, in contrast to other temples (such as Chidambaram) where they are seen on walls.
Deities: The moolavar here is Pallikondaar, while the processional deity is Sarangapani, with his consort Komalavalli.
Festivals: Six worship services are offered each day. The first day of Uttarayanam witnesses the silver chariot procession. Bhramotsavam is celebrated in Thai and Chittirai, and Vasantotsavam in Vaikasi. Also celebrated are the Pavitrotsavam in Ani, Navaratri, Pankuni Uttiram, Maasi Magam, and the Dolotsavam in Margazhi. The grand float festival is conducted in the Hema Pushkarini in front of the temple. There are colorful festivals held here and at the Chakrapani temple in Kumbhakonam. The Chittiraitter procession of the Sarangapani temple is of great significance.
Thirumazhisai Azhwar refers to seven shrines featuring Vishnu in a reclining position - Thirukkudandai, Thiruvegkaa, Thiruvallur, Thiruvarangam, Thiruppernagar, Anbil and Thirupparkadal in a paasuram.