(Last Updated on : 16/08/2010)
The Vishnu Temple dedicated to Lord Sri Sundaravarada Perumal is one of the significant Vishnu Temples stationed in Uttiramerur. This temple, built in the 8th century A.D, during the rule of the Pallava kings of Kanchipuram. The temple represents a very unique architectural design. The striking feature of this Vishnu temple is that unlike the majority of temples which have only one principal sanctum (garbha-griha), enshrining the presiding deity, this temple has three vertically aligned sanctums. All the sanctums are facing towards the east, one above the other, each housing one image of Lord Vishnu. Sri Sundaravarada Perumal temple at Uttiramerur was built on the model of the Vaikuntha Perumal temple in Kanchipuram, the very first temple in South India to have three shrines one above the other, constructed in the 8th century A.D., during the time of the Pallava ruler, Nandivarman II Pallavamalla (731-796 A.D.), a very great devotee of Lord Vishnu.
Another unique yet striking feature of the Sundaravarada Perumal temple is that in the three cardinal directions around the main sanctums on the ground-floor and the first-floor, there are three other sanctums enshrining other forms of Lord Vishnu. In the main garbha-griha on the ground-floor, there is enshrined a very beautiful and majestic image of four-armed (Chaturbhuja) Vishnu holding the conch (sankha) and discus (chakra) in His left and right hands respectively. Interestingly, unlike most Vishnu images, the upper arms are seen slightly projecting forward. His lower two hands are in the attitude of protection (abhaya hasta) and palm resting on the thigh (kati hasta). This image of Lord Vishnu, in a standing posture, is fondly called Sundaravarada Perumal and He is seen with Sri Devi and Bhu Devi standing on either side. The processional deity is similar to the main image.
A legend associated with the temple depicted an episode from the celebrated epic of Mahabharata. According to that legend connected with this small village Nirvalur, the Pandava prince Bhima once had a darshan of this deity. On the ground-floor, in the sanctums around the Sundaravarada Perumal shrine is erected the images of Achyuta Varada (facing south), Aniruddha Varada (facing west) and Kalyana Varada (facing north). They are believed to have given darshan to Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva respectively. A separate shrine is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi in this shrine worshipped here as Goddess Anandavalli (also known as Loka Mata), facing east is seen on the ground-floor. With the shrine of goddess Lakshmi is associated toIt is said that Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas had a vision of this Goddess. Situated close by is a similar sanctum for Sri Andal.
The staircase of the temple is worth interesting as the architectural pieces. Two flights of stairs, one for ascent and the other for descent have been constructed on either side of the main sanctum on the ground-floor for devotees to worship the deities enshrined on the first floor. Here, the main sanctum-sanctorum (garbha-griha) houses the image of Lord Vaikuntha Varada, who is seen in a seated posture and is surrounded by His two consorts (Ubhaya Nachiyar), all of which are placed in a large wooden mandapa. It is said in the legendary stories that Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandava princes had a vision of this God. Just like the ground floor, there are erected three other small sanctums around the Vaikuntha Varada sanctum in the narrow circumambulatory passage. The one sanctum facing south enshrines the seated images of Krishna and Arjuna, with four-armed Krishna in abhaya and varada hastas and Arjuna beside him with folded palms (anjali hasta). Facing west is the image of Lord Yoga-Narasimha while in the sanctum facing north is seen the image of Bhuvaraha with Goddess Bhu Devi sitting on His lap. The special arrangement of the images in their sacred pedestal is one of the striking features of the temple.
In front of the Vaikuntha Varada shrine is situated an open verandah from which two flights of stairs lead to the top-most floor which has one shrine. This faces east and has the figure of Lord Ananta Padmanabha reclining on Adisesha cast a picturesque view to the temple. At the base of the serpent couch are seen the fascinating images of Goddess Bhu Devi and sage Markandeya who is being blessed by the Lord. This Vishnu temple is significant from the point that it houses nine different forms of Vishnu. It is also revered as the Padma Koshta Ashtanga Vimana. The codes according to which the rituals of this temple are performed are of the Vaikhanasa Agama (Marichi Samhita). There are numerous inscriptions found on the walls of the Sundaravarada Perumal temple, which has intensified the traditional importance of this antique Vishnu temple. These inscriptions provide several information about the temple. One of the inscriptions provides the information that this shrine was built in conjunction with the Agamikas of this village, who were well-versed in agamic principles and practices, by the truthful and dexterous Parameshvara Takshaka (architect) of Paataka (which is a suburb of Kanchi). The gopura at the entrance is a very tall and majestic edifice, seen for miles around. This gopura has served the significant interest of Sundaravarada Perumal temple.
The very ancient and historic tank called Vairamegha tataka, located to the west of Uttiramerur village, is a legendry epigram. However there is no mention of this ancient tank in none of the inscriptions. In some of the contemporary texts, however the named of the tank is clearly mentioned. As these texts relate the ancient tank takes its name from the title' Vairamegha' held by the Pallava king Nandivarman II. These ancient epigraphs also reveal the numerous names by which the Sundaravarada Perumal temple and the deity were referred to over the centuries. The temple was called Sri Vellai Vishnugriham and the deity was known as Vellaimurti Emberuman, Vellaimurti Azhvar, Sri Rajendra Chola Vinnagar Azhvar and Sokka Perumal.
In Sundaravarada temple of Lord Vishnu several festivals are observed which reveal the cultural significance of the temple. Numerous festivals are celebrated all through the year in this temple, the more important among them being the Brahmotsavam and Sri Rama Navami in the Tamil month of Chittirai (April-May), Pavitrosava in Adi (July-August) and Sri Jayanthi in Avani (August-September). During these festivals a chunk of people gathers in the temple precincts to offer their worship and veneration to the God.