Deity: Vishnu - Srikurmanatha. This a famous temple situated about twelve miles east of Srikakulam.
Architecture: A number of inscriptions state this temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu as the Avathara of Srikurmam - tortoise, and the deity is called Srikurmanatha. The temple has beautiful pillared mantapas and some sculptures are made in granite. The Vimana is built in Chola style. The outer gates beyond the prakara were added much later. The temple was originally Saivite, but was changed to Vaishnavite by Sri Ramanujacharya. This is the only important temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the whole of India.
Legend: Naraharitirtha wanted to become a sanyasin and remonstrated with his master that nothing useful was gained by his trying to acquire a kingdom. His master told him to go to the Gajapathi kingdom to acquire the images of Rama and Sita, so that their worship could be restored. Narahari went to Kalinga and was received with great enthusiasm by the people who made him their ruler. He ruled Kalinga for twelve years as a regent for the minor prince. When the prince attained majority Narahari returned the kingdom to him and took the idols of Rama and Sita as Gurudakshina, and gave them to his master. The latter worshipped the images for 80 days and handed them to his disciple Padmanabhatirtha, who in turn worshipped them for six years and gave them back to Naraharitirtha.
Having acquired the images, Naraharitirtha went around preaching. One night he dreamt that an idol of Lord Vishnu was submerged near a tank in the town. He made arrangements to bring it out and establish proper worship. This story is vouched by the inscriptions and epigraphs found at the Srikurmam temple. The presiding deity Lord Vishnu is called Srikurmanatha. There are several sacred shrines within the temple. The Lord first appeared here to bless king Swetamahipathi. His bones were thrown into the Swetapushkarani tank and these got converted into tortoises or kurmas, and hence unclean persons are forbidden to touch the water from the tank.
There is a famous Kshetramahatmyam in this temple told by Rishi Dattira. The Sthalapurana states that the sage heard Lord Hari in his dreams giving details about the greatness of Srikurmam. King Suta ruled Swetachala. The queen was a pious lady and once the king approached her on a Suddha Ekadashi day, which she dedicated to prayer and meditation. The queen prayed that her vrata should not be broken, and Lord Srikurmanatha, ordered Ganga to flow between the king and the queen. The king was thus separated from the queen, and he continued living on the banks of the Vamsadhara River. One day Narada met him and told him he could bring blessings upon himself by doing penance. The king went where Vamsadhara River joined the sea, and prayed to the Lord for darshan. On the way he saw a sacred spot and created a tank known as the Ksheera Samudram. Mahalakshmi came and resided here. The spot is called Srikurmam or Kurmagundam.
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