(Last Updated on : 24/01/2009)
Mylapore, one of the best-known areas of Chennai, is also one of the oldest and most historic places in this city. The historic place of Mylapore is renowned as the home to numerous ancient temples, big and small, dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Ishvara. Mylapore is also known in different names in the preceding ages. Ptolemy, the famous Greco-Roman geographer of the second century A.D. has referred to Mylapore with the names like Mylarphan. Some of other ancient names are Mayilarpil, Mayilai, Tirumayilai, Mahilup, Mirapolis, Mirapor, and Malepur. The historical place of Mylapore is situated in the famous, territorial sub-division known as Puliyur Kottam, which figures in many early inscriptions. Mylapore used to be the part of the extensive empire of the Pallavas of Kanchipuram. At that time Nandivarman III was the Pallava king ruling the area of Mylapore. He proudly held the title "Mayilai Kavalan', which refers to as the 'guardian or protector of Mayilai.
The place of Mylapore is historically significant since it is closely connected with the cult of Vaishnavism. Srivaishnavas have a special regard for Mylapore on account of these Vaishnavite connections. Many of the Azhvars or the Vaishnava saints have eulogized this sanctified spot in their hymns and religious texts. Mylapore is the birthplace of Pey Azhvar (one of the first three Azhvars or Mudal Azhvars) who was born here. Hence the place is also venerated as an Avatara Sthala. In the consecrated city of Mylapore is the Azhvar was born in the well called Manikairavam. This well and the area surrounding it (near the Madhava Perumal temple) are considered holy and are worshipped even today with awful veneration. Tirumazhisai Azhvar, who was a contemporary of Pey Azhvar, while mentioning Tiruvallikeni (Triplicane) mentions Mayilai also in this connection (Maamayilai Maavallikkeniaan) in his Nanmukan Tiruvandadi. Later, Tirumangai Azhvar too sang of these two holy sites together as 'Maamayilai Tiruvallikkeni' in his Periya Tirumozhi. However this historical town is primarily famous for the presence of a large number of Vishnu temples. The Madhava Perumal temple, very well-known is located in this town.
The town of Mylapore is a significant legendary place for the presence of the Vishnu temple. As the historians have opined after their research Sri Madhava Perumal Temple is also one of the legendary Vishnu temple. A number of legendary stories are also associated with this temple, which has lent it a stately magnificence. The detailed reference of the Vimana of the Madhava Perumal Temple and Mylapore are given in celebrated Brahmanda Purana in the section called Mayurapuri Mahatmyam. In this section of Purana the place is referred to as Madhava Puram. A subtle reference of this place is also found in the Vedas. As it is described in the legendary Vedas in answer to Veda Vyasa's question as to which place is suitable for penance in Kali Yuga, Lord Vishnu answered that Madhava Puram where Brighu Maharishi's hermitage (ashram) was situated is the best place. Hence the place attained a legendary greatness by the mention of this place in the Vedas and Brahmanda Purana.
The Sthala-Purana related to this place also mentions that during the churning of the ocean of milk, when Goddess Mahalakshmi arose from the ocean, Vishnu sent Her to Mayurapuri to Brighu Maharishi's ashram. Hence the place also attained a mythological significance. According to that story She appeared before Brighu Maharishi who was then praying for a child, and he brought Her up and named her Amritavalli. Sriman Narayana as Madhava Perumal came to this place and asked for Her hand in marriage which took place in Panguni Uttiram. It is believed that this temple is situated in the place where sage Bhrigu's ashram existed. The temple was also named following the name of Lord Narayana in his disguise. Thus the reference of the place in the legendary accounts like Brahmanda Purana and the Vedas is an added grandeur to the temple and nowadays Sri Madhava Perumal temple existed as the legendary shrine of the historical place of Mylapore.
The presiding deity of this temple is Madhava Perumal is the chief attraction of the temple. The deity is seen in a seated posture flanked by the goddess Sri Devi and Bhu Devi by His side. Madhava Perumal, the presiding deity is also called Kalyana Madhava as He married Amritavalli Thayar (goddess Lakshmi is known by this name here). Those devotees desirous of marriage considered Him as Prarthanai niraivetra Perumal. These devotees also believe that in order to get married soon, they should satisfy the lord enshrined here by offering their worship and veneration. The large processional image (utsava murti) of this shrine is another striking feature of the temple. It is seen in a standing posture flanked by Sri Devi and Bhu Devi. This processional image deserves special mention on account of His exquisite and serene countenance. In the exquisite utsava murti is also seen the image of Niranjana Madhavan (Chinna Madhavan) holding the sacred sankha and chakra. His lower hands is found in the gesture of abhaya hasta and his left hand resting on His thigh (uru hasta), also with Sri Devi and Bhu Devi. The imposing image of the Lord created a sense of awe and veneration in the heart of the devotees and the same time this unusual image cast a beautiful sight.
In the mandapa in front of the principal sanctum is erected the shrine dedicated to the consecrated preceptor Pey Azhvar. The other Azhvars are also enshrined in the temple complex. But they are worshipped with high admiration in a shrine a little outside in the courtyard. This is in keeping with the special position given to this Azhvar in the Mylapore area, his birthplace (Avatara-Sthala). The Pey Azhvar avatara Utsavam is celebrated annually in the month of Aippasi (October-November). Next to the sanctum of this Azhvar is erected another sanctum for Lord Sri Ramanuja, the pre-eminent Srivaishnava Acharya.
There is a shrine for Goddess Lakshmi, who is worshipped here as Amritavalli Thayar. The sanctum for the goddess is located to the right of the main sanctum (garbha-griha). Many festivals like the Navaratri Utsavam and Tirukalyana Utsavam during Panguni Uttiram are celebrated here for praising the deity and on all Fridays the Unjal Utsavam for those desirous of offspring are conducted. Like in most Vishnu temples of Tamil Nadu, there is a sannidhi for Sri Andal to the left of the main sanctum. In this sanctum dedicated to sri Andal is observed a festival every month. During the occasion of Puram Nakshatram there is held a procession (tiruveedhi purapaadu) and during the month of Adi, for ten days, the Tiru Adi Utsavam is celebrated on a grand style. A large number of devotees flocked in the temple precincts and participate in this processional festival.
A small sanctum for Bhu Varaha, the third incarnation of Vishnu is seen near the Goddess Amritavalli shrine, which is facing to the east. In this place he is popularly known as Jnanappiran. This beautiful image of Varahasvami with Bhu Devi on His left lap is extremely captivating. The image was earlier placed in a shrine near the sacred tank (pushkarini) but presently it is consecrated in a separate sanctum near the Thayar sannidhi. Every month, during Uttaratadhi nakshatram, Tirumanjanam and Prarthanai Dolotsavam are performed. Every year, for students who are to appear for the public examinations, during February, Varaha Homan is conducted for this deity and Garuda rakshai is distributed. Varaha Jayanthi is celebrated during the Uttaratadhi asterism in the month of Chittirai. It is believed that if this deity is satisfied with the worship, the devotee is blessed and passed in the public examination without any difficulty.
In the large courtyard of this temple is also found a shrine dedicated to Lord Rama along with Lakshmana, Sita and Anjaneya. During the occasion of Punarvasu nakshatram every month, tirumanjanam is performed and the deities are taken out in procession (tiruveedhi purapaadu). In the occasion of Masi (February-March) there is organized the float festival (teppotsavam) in the name of lord Rama, and during Panguni (March-April), the Tiruavatara garbha Utsavam is celebrated for nine days. One of the striking feature of these Rama festival is that during the festival season, on each day, the image of Rama is decorated differently (tirukolam) in accordance with the various episodes in the Srimad Ramayana. There is erected a separate shrine for Sri Anjaneya and is named Bala Anjaneya. During the occasion of Margazhi (December-January), Hanuman Jayanthi is celebrated with much pomp and grandeur.
For Lord Venugopala Svami, during the festival of Avani (August-September), the Sri Jayanthi Utsavam and Uriadi Utsavam are conducted. The festival of Tirumanjanam is also performed every month during the tome of Rohini nakshatram. The utsava-murti of Sampath Kumaran during this festival is seen with sankha and chakra, and with His lower hands is found in the posture of abhaya hasta and holding the mace (gada). Goddess Mahalakshmi is seen at Lord's feet and Sri Andal is also seen with Him. Every month during the celebration of Pushya nakshatram, a special event called Prarthanai tirumanjanam is conducted. During the month of Panguni, a ten day celebration is held. On the fourth day (Shukla Paksha dasami), in the morning, during Garuda vahana, He is seen with Vaira Mudi. On the next day, He is seated on the lap of the illustrious Srivaishnava preceptor, Sri Ramanuja.
The sacred tank of this shrine, situated within the temple-complex is called Santhana pushlcarini. This tank happens to be one of the chief interests of the temple and also cast a picturesque view to the temple. In the month of Masi, during the occasion of asterism Magham, all the sacred rivers of India are believed to join here in this tank. A few of the other important festivals observed here are, the Brahmotsavam (in Chittirai), the Vasantotsava, Pavitrotsava, Tirukoyilur Vaibhavam, Pahal Pattu, Vaikuntha Ekadasi, Erapattu Utsavam, Ratha Saptami, Teppa Utsavam, and Panguni Uttiram Tirukalyana Utsavam. The festivals are observed with immense grandeur and splendid magnificence.
Another significant feature of the temple is the sacred tree on the bank of the river. The sacred tree of this temple is known as the Punnai tree. This tree has a special connection with the presiding deity Madhava Perumal, who is also known as Lord Krishna. The tree is seen on the rear side of the main sanctum of Madhava Perumal.
This east-facing temple has a beautiful five-tier Rajagopuram at its entrance, which is the specimen of its excellent architecture. In January 2007, the Samprokshanam or the consecration (renovation)of this temple was performed. The Madhava Perumal temple a legendary one bears the evidence of the exceptional architecture prevalent in the contemporary era.