The Elder Brother of Lord Ranganatha

Koviladi Thirupernagar Appakudathan Temple

A spark of inspiration is all that is necessary to produce a memorable action. When that spark is gained from that eternal knowledge in our own scriptures, it transforms one’s life. Such an incident transformed the life of Saravanajayan of Erode. Before ten years, Saravanajayan lived alone in Australia. It was when he introduced himself to Bhagavad Gita through the lectures of a famous personality and this introduced him to the divine path. As a result, he began to worship Lord Appalarangan, who is present along with his consorts, Goddess Kamalavalli and Goddess Bhumadevi, at the temple located in Thanjavur. The Appakudathan Temple is said to be the Madhyaranga Kshetram among the Pancharanga Kshetrams.

“The shrine is one of the 108 Divya Desams and is located at Koviladi. The village got its name since it is geographically positioned at the bottom (‘Adi’ in Tamil) of Srirangam. It is situated 25 Kms from Tiruchirapalli on the Kumbakonam-Thiruvaiaaru en route. It is a fact that this temple existed even before the construction of the temple at Srirangam. In a way, it can be said that Koviladi is a forerunner of the temple at Srirangam. The lighter side and the divine play of Perumal could be significantly observed in various Puranas and Itihasas. It is pointed that one of such places where the divine being exhibited his Leela Vilasam is Koviladi,” extoled the ardent devotee, Saravanajayan.

It is also supposed to be that Lord Narayana began to all Divya Desams by placing his first Adi (feet) at this place which is why the village is called as Koviladi. During the course of time, the temple also was commonly referred to by the name of the place, Koviladi. This is also referred to as Thirupeyarnagaran, where ‘Thiru’ means Lakshmi. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi had taken residence in the temple. The Vimanam present at the top of the Lord’s sanctum is known as Indra, signifying the contribution of Lord Indra to the Appakudathan temple. It is aesthetically explained in the Prabandams that the chaste river Kaveri found near the temple is said to do Paadhapooja with her holy waters and all the precious gems found in her.

Lord Vishnu is referred to as Karunasagara because of the quality of being all compassionate. The Appakudathan, one of the manifestations of the Lord, is no exception but an exemplary of the above-mentioned quality. This quality of Appakudathan can be observed from the story of King Uparicharavasu. The story goes as follows; “King Uparicharavasu loses his nation, treasury, wealth and stands impecunious due to fate. The king goes to the Lord and requests him to find out the reason for loss of his wealth. The Lord in turn gets him back all his lost wealth. The King asks the Lord what he can do to compensate this regain. The lord replies that he should do Annadhaana (Donate food) to thousand Bhaktas at the temple premises.

As advised by the Lord, Uparicharavasu begins to offer Annadhaana to the people who visited the temple. In order to check on the king’s lost pride, Perumal takes the form of an old Brahmin and visits him at the temple seeking food. The Brahmin eats the food that was prepared for thousand devotees and asked for more. The king humbly asks the elderly person that what more was needed to satiate his hunger. For which the old man asked for a pot full of Neiappams and the King provided with the same. The Lord eats one Neiappam and reveals his form to King Uparicharavasu. The king surrendered at the feet of the Lord and was relieved of the curse,” explained the devoted Soundar Rajan Bhattar with a tone of complete surrender as the King, Uparicharavasu.

The deity is found in a Bhujangashayana (Laid flat) posture with one hand touching the Appakudam (Vessel containing Appams) representing the essence of the story. This is the famous story behind how Perumal got his name, Appakudathan (The One who holds the Appakudam).

“If one visits the temple, one can be sure to find the Appakudam inside the Garbhagraha. It is said that Rishi Markandeya was liberated from the curse of Yamadharmaraja at this temple. The idol of Markandeya Maharshi can also be found in the premises. The belief is that Nammazhwar sung his last Pasuram here. Periyazhwar, father of Andal, is also said to have sung in this holy temple praising the Lord. Though he resided at Srivilliputhur, this is the common belief of the people of the area,” happily stated the Bhakta, Sarvanajayan.

The story of the Mokshprapti of Nammazhwar is enacted at this place during festive times. It is the specialty of the place. Few people from around the country would gather at the temple premises on all auspicious occasions of Panguni Utthiram, Vaikunta Ekadashi, and Navaratri. It is also guaranteed that one would be able to witness the play from close quarters, unlike Srirangam.

“This Divya Desam is also called as Sripuram in Sanskrit. According to the Pasurams of the Azhwars, the Punya Sthala is addressed as Thirupernagar. The Lord is said to have been residing in the temple from Dwapara Yuga. As the Lord is said to have been present from the time even before the construction of the temple in Srirangam, Appakudathan is treated as the brother of Lord Ranganatha. Koviladi was said to be sung by the four Azhwars namely, Periazhwar, Thirumangai Azhwar, Thirumazhisai Azhwar, and Nammazhwar. Nammazhwar mentioned in one of the Pasurams that on praying to Appakudathan, all burdens and obstacles in one’s life are said to get lessened in intensity,” proficiently quoted Raman Bhattar.

The Thirupernagar temple is believed to be the heart of Chola kingdom and is situated in the banks of the river, Kaveri. To witness river Kaveri from the Srirangam temple is difficult, while one can even stare the riverbed from this temple. Appakudathan temple is the sixth among the various Cholanaatu Sthalangal. Poojas are done three times a day by selfless, chaste, Battachariyas of Thirucherai. The Sthala Vrksha, Palaashamaram, also known as Purasamaram, is at the entrance of the temple and a Tirtha (Well) inside, both of which are well preserved and maintained. Offering Neiappam to the Bhagavan is considered to be auspicious.

Saravanajayan says, “Ramanujacharya is the gem of Vaishnavism. It was only after he uniformized the code of rituals in all Perumal temples, the prayers became common. The southern part of India, especially Tamil Nadu, was truly fortunate to have had him. Without Ramanuja, it is impossible to dream about the growth of Vaishnavism in India. After Ramanuja, his disciples took over his place to preach the words of Vaishnavism. This immense contribution of the Guru Parampara helped fixing Bhakti well rooted in the minds of people and decipher the core of Vaishnavism.”

It is a small temple and was in a dilapidated state few years ago. But recently the temple was renovated and Kumbabhishekam was done. Sincere prayers to Appakudathan are said to bestow one with Santhaanaprapti (Childbirth for childless couples), Vivahaprapti (Marriage for the unmarried), and removes all Manakleshas (Disturbances in mind). All legal issues are solved on offering cotton handwoven saree and praying to Bhumidevi Thayar.

The fervent devotee concluded, “I have not simply asked anything to the Lord, but if I make a request to Perumal it has always been answered. This made my faith even stronger. The specialty of Perumal is that He always bestows what does not lead to the destruction of a person.” Saravanajayan runs Sri Krishna Textile Processing and Sri Appakkudathaan Dyeing at Erode.

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