This Divyadesam is located at about 20 km north of Trichirappalli, enroute to Thuraiyur and situated in a 14 acre site and resembles like an Old fort with strong compound walls The temple is older than Srirangam and built ahead of LORD Rama’s avataram . Hence the name Aadhi Vellarai. Tiruvellarai in tamil means white rock and this grand temple is situated on a white granite hill which is almost 90 to 100 feet high .
Lord Pundareekaksha Perumal. ( LORD with Lotus Shaped eyes) graces the devotees with abundant mercy . This temple is surrounded by a 36 feet high wall and resembles almost like a fort . The second tower entrance leads us inside the temple which has huge sculptures on the wall painted . The Bali peetam here is a huge one which has special significance . The third tower leads us into the inner sanctum of the temple.
There are two entrances dwaras (doors) leading to this sanctum sanatorium . One is called as Dakshinayana dwaram and the other is Uttarayana dwaram. The dakshinaya dwaram remains open from Aadi to Marghazi ( August to Jan Mid) and the other door remains open from ( Mid January- July) Thai -Aani. This is in accordance with the movement of the Sun’s path. Apart from Utharayana and Dakshinayana Gates, the sanctum sanctorum has one more entrance called ‘Naazhi Ketta Vaayil’ where it is believed that the Lord was intercepted and questioned by goddess , Mahalakshmi upon his returning home later, after his sojourn.
The main deity LORD PUNDARIKAKSHA has Sun and Moon on either side offering their services . Garuda and Adisesha ( The serpent God in a human form, as the main deity is in a standing posture) are also near the main deity. Markendeya Maharshi and Boodevi are seated near LORD’S lotus feet and is believed to have prayed here at this place.
The temple maintains beautiful garden outside the prakaram and it is famous for its Swastika shaped tank on the Northern side of the temple.The shape seems is to give privacy for people, while having bath. There are many inscriptions in the temple and it also mentions about this unique pond which was built by one feudal Lord under Pallava kings. The temple precincts are kept neat and clean.Outside the prakaram we can have darshan of Thayar Senkamala Valli , and Chakra Thazhwar .
During the festivals, after gracing the devotees around the town , Perumal has to account for his time to his consort by informing the time he started, the places he visited etc., at this gate in order to gain entry into the temple. To seek LORDS darshan one has to climb 18 Steps at the entrance .
At the very entrance of this temple there are 18 steps reminding us of the 18 chapters of Srimad Bhagvat Gita given to us by LORD Pundareekakshan.
Proceeding further we come across 4 steps that are 4 Vedas and later one reaches the Bali Peetam. It is believed that one’s wishes submitted to the Perumal at the Balipeetam with the turmeric kappu are automatically taken care by Him. Abhishekam is done to the Bali Peetam only . From here, we enter the Perumal sannidhi by ascending 5 steps further representing the PanchaBhoothams (Fire, Water, Space, Air and Earth) and slowly crossing the Naazhi Kettaan Vasal. Now we see 2 entrances Dakshinaayana Gate and Utharaayana Gate which are alternately opened for devotees during the Dakshinayana/ Utharayana six month periods.
As One climbs further 8 steps we are reminded of Ashtaakshara mantra and further we move ahead another 24 steps reminding us of Gayathri Mantram to arrive at the sanctum sanctorum,where we have divya darishnam of our LORD Senthaamarai Kannan (Pundareekaakshan) along with His consort Pankajacchelvi Naacchiyaar.
Uyakkondar was foremost disciple to ” Swami Nathamuni ” . Uyyakkondar was called as Pundareekaakshar by his parents . Swamy Uyyakondar appeared in Tiru vellarai the famous Srivaishnava Divya desam . It is believed that Swamy Pundarikakshar parents had migrated from Madhyapradesh, and settled at Tiru vellarai, performing devotional services to Lord Sri Pundareekaaksha Perumal at this divyadesam. Swamy Uyakkondar had five prominent disciples , of whom Manarkal nambi (also known as Rama mishra) was the most popular and important to our Srivaishnava school . Swamy Uyyakondar taught the disciples Azhwars’ Naalayiram Divya Prabandam’ .This rock is called as ‘Uyyakkondaan Malai’ where Swamy taught his disciples .
After the demise of Swamy Uyakkondar’s wife, the humble disciple swami Ramamishra took charge of the household chores at his Acharyars Uyakkondar’s house. He also took care of Uyakkondar’s young daughters like a dutiful mother . One day, when the children were returing from daily bath at a nearby pond, the girls had to walk past a muddy stream and were hesitating to cross it. Rama mishra seeing their confusion fell across the stream and asked the girls to use his back as a bridge. Seeing the foot marks on his disciples back, after their return, Uyakkondar understood the humility of his disciple . Pleased , Swamy Uyakkondar titled him Manarkal Nambi and renamed his birth place as Manarkal.
Swamy Nathamuni, while collecting the Nalayiram Divya Prabhantham from our Nammalvar after the recitation of Kanninum siruthambu pasuram , was also presented with a deity of Swamy Ramanujar ( Bhavishya Acharyar ) instructing him to handover the deity to the arriving Acharya who will be appearing shortly.
When Nathamuni was about to depart , he passed on the deity to Uyakkondar for worship and then Uyyakondar handed over the deity to Swamy Manarkal nambi which finally was handed over to Sri Yamanucharya and worshipped .
Once as per the directions of his Acharyar Swamy Natha Muni, Pundarikakshar escorted his mother (Acharyars wife ) to her parent’s home. The womenfolk known as Vangipurathu Aachis made him sit in an corridor and fed him with stale remnants of food left over. Pundarikakshar partook the same with relish as it was food offered to him by the Parijanas ( those dear to) of his Acharya. On his return, on he felt greatly elated and narrated the incident to his Acharya. The Acharya was overwhelmed and exclaimed ” Nammai Uyyak Kondeero?”-Oh You came to redeem me?”. From then on, he came to be known as Uyyak Kondaar.
It is believed that all of us must visit this temple at least once in our lifetime in order to be eligible for Moksham .
Hence, there is a tradition at the temple to call ‘Thiruvellarai Kandeero- Thiruvellarai Kanden Aiyya’ (the devotees informing the Lord that they have seen Thiruvellarai Perumal and that they are now ready/eligible for Moksham), a voice that is said to echo to the Lord up there.
Swamy Ramanujar spent a few months in this divyadesam after the unfortunate incident at Srirangam , where some person wanted to poison him..
Another most respected Acharyar was Swamy Vishnuchithar’s who appeared in this divya desam He served Swamy Ramanuja at this place . A tank called Udayavar kulam was dug for the use of Jagathacharyar Swamy Ramanuja during his stay . Vishnuchithar’s was about 80 years younger than Swami Ramanuja. Swami Ramanuja embarked upon the task of writing Sribhashya, a commentary on the Brahmasutras of Sage VedaVyasa. He engaged Swami Kooratthazhwan to write down the commentary as he dictated. Unfortunately for him, Swami Koortthazhwan services could not be extended by the divine will Swamy was looking for a scholar who could help him finish the text. He decided Swami Vishnuchithar’s would be the apt person to write down sribashya .
He was very pleased with Vishnuchithar’s deep knowledge and compared him with Swami Kooratthazhwan and embraced him calling him ‘Engal Azhwano!’ (Your knowledge equals that of our Azhwan (Kooratthazhwan)..
Vishnuchithar was henceforth called as Engalazhwan.
Swami Ramanuja made Swami Engalazhwan a disciple of Thirukkurukaippiran Pillan. Swami Engalazhwan was also called Ammal Acharyar since he was the Acharya of Nadathur Ammal .
Adiyen had the bhagyam of having darisanam of the present His Holiness Engalazhwan at Thiruvellarai
Adiyen Ramanuja dasan.
Video credits : Thiruvellarai Swamy , Sri Soundhararajan Padmanabhan