(Last Updated on : 12-09-2012)
Eri Katha Rama Temple is one of the significant temples dedicated to Lord Sri Rama. Since the popular deity worshipped in most of the temples is Lord Vishnu, Lord Rama ceased to achieve equal veneration like Lord Vishnu. The place Tiruninravur, apart from being popular as the abode of famous Vishnu temples, is also well known as the home to another very ancient temple dedicated to Lord Rama. The Rama temple of Tiruninravur is known as Kaiunakaramurti and Daasharathi and fondly referred to as Eri Katha Rama. This small shrine is also facing, east. It is located in a very scenic spot about half a kilometer west of the Bhaktavatsala Perumal temple, with the holy tank known as Kshira Pushkarini on one side and bordered by the vast lake named Varuna Pushkarini on another.
The ancient temple of Lord Rama in Tiruninravur is one of the legendary temples in South India. There is a very interesting episode connected with this temple. It is believed that once, the sister of Sri Ramanuja named Nachiyaramman and her husband Ananta Dikshitar came from nearby Sri Purushamangalam (now called Nazarethpettai near Poondamallee). This couple did not have children for a long time. On their way to Tirumala (Tirupati) they halted for the night in Tiruninravur at the Eri Katha Rama temple. Lord Rama appeared to Ananta Dikshitar in his dream and bestowed him with a boon that he would get a son who would be His own incarnation. Just as Ramanuja of Sriperumbudur was the incarnation of Adisesha or was duly born to him, he was named Daasharathi (Rama, the son of Dasaratha) later known as Mudaliyandan who became Ramanuja's very ardent disciple. The legendary story endowed the temple with antiquity and enhanced its traditional significance.
The architectural and sculptural carvings, which are engraved on the temple walls, provide the temple a stately grandeur. The images enshrined in the Temple are the evidence of the craftsmanship of the artists. This tiny Rama temple, which is built on a slightly elevated level, enshrines the very tall images of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita on the same pedestal. The height of the Rama image, the principal deity is approximately eight feet and the other images are correspondingly tall. The captivating image of Rama is two-armed holding a bow and arrow. His brother Lakshmana is placed next to him. He is seen with his hands in an unusual posture as if holding his bow in a horizontal way. The graceful image of Sita with a beautiful smile, holding a lotus is placed to Rama's right.
The stately posture of deities provides a magnificent splendor to the temple. Interestingly, the three images are made of stucco or sudhai and not hard granite. The stucco images are fascinating and these large stucco images are reminiscent of the similar imposing stucco images of Pandava Doota Perumal, Ulagalanda Perumal and Yathoktakari Perumal found in Kanchipuram. The beautiful processional images or utsava murtis of Lord Rama, Lakshmana, and Devi Sita and Hanuman of this temple are kept in a separate shrine very near the main sanctum inside the Bhaktavatsala Perumal temple.
In front of the main sanctum of the Rama temple of Tiruninravur there is tucked away a small-pillared mandapa. In this small mandapa is enshrined a very unique image of Hanuman, the true follower of Lord Rama. The image of Hanuman is no less captivating. He is seen carrying Rama and Lakshmana on his shoulders with the legs of the heroes hanging on side, front and back. Hanuman holds a scepter and a shield in his right and left hands respectively. He is seen treading on the writhing figure of a demoness. This image of Hanuman very much conforms to the episodes of the legends and myths.
In front of the mandapa of the Rama Temple of Tiruninravur, there is a small shrine for Hanuman facing the main sanctum. The planning of the internal structure of the Eri Katha Rama temple is also important. This Rama temple has only one enclosure or prakara. At the back of the temple there are a number of steps leading to the very vast lake-(Eri) called Varuna Pushkarini. Even in the recent past, when the lake was brimming with water, the annual float-festival (teppotsavam) used to be conducted here on an elaborate scale. This is one of the significant festivals observed in this temple. Just like in Madurantakam (in Kanchipuram district), Lord Rama here is believed to have protected this place from a breach in the bund of this large lake and therefore here too He is worshipped fondly as Eri Katha Rama. The most important festival in this shrine is the Sri Rama Navami Utsavam. Lord Rama is eulogized and is offered worship during this festival. A number of devotees flocked in the temple precincts during this festival. At the time of the Brahmotsavam in the Bhaktavatsala Perumal temple, the processional image of Perumal visits the Rama temple during Mohini avataram. This shrine, just like the Bhaktavatsala Perumal temple, follows the Pancharatra Agama mode of worship.
The Eri Katha Rama Temple though small enough and far from achieving popularity like the Vishnu temple, yet represents an unusual architectural and legendary significance of the contemporary period.