The Purushottama of Thirukarambanur

The one who lives by exhausting others is known as adhaman. A person who is neutral but not of service is called madhyaman. The one who takes up the cause of the other people at his own cost is known as utthaman. Lord Narayana resides as Purushottama at Utthamar Kovil. This temple is located in the outskirts of Trichy. Utthamar Kovil is the third divya desam in the list of the places eulogized by the visits of the holy Aazhwaar-s (Staunch devotees of Lord Narayana). This holy site is located next to an over bridge and is maintained in a nice manner. Hundreds of faithful devotees visit this shrine everyday.

A number of stories are associated with this shrine. Utthamar Kovil is home to the holy trinity and their respective consorts. The ‘Brahmanda Purana’ talks about this magnificent temple. Lord Brahma was performing rituals and prayers as per the Aagama-s (Shastra-s). He used to pray to Lord Vishnu during the sandhya period every day. Lord Vishnu decided to test Lord Brahma and took the form of a Kadhamba tree. Lord Brahma followed Him and began to offer his prayers by watering the Kadhamba-Tree-Vishnu with his Kamandala (Water container with an inbuilt spout). Lord Vishnu was immensely pleased with the Thirumanjanam (Holy bath) given by Lord Brahma and therefore requested him to stay back in the same spot. This was suggested to ensure that the watering continued for eternity. Lord Brahma obliged and he took up this place which later came to be known as Utthamar Kovil.

Trees are essentially important in our environment. The story of Lord Vishnu taking up the form of a tree demonstrates the same. We get to see Lord Brahma, the creator, watering the tree. Therefore, we can understand that creation begins with water and trees. Lord Vishnu, the sustainer, then carries on with his task. There was a time when the kapaalam of Lord Brahma got stuck in the hands of Lord Shiva.

The dancing Lord Shiva had decapitated the head of Lord Brahma. Both Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma used to have five heads. This confused Devi Parvathi and hence Lord Shiva removed one of the heads of Lord Brahma to avoid confusions. Since Lord Brahma had been a scholar, Lord Shiva had to rid himself of the affliction connected with the act. Therefore, he went from one place to the other. The skull had to get filled up with food and this would release Lord Shiva from this issue.

He went on a Theertha yaatra (Pilgrimage) and arrived at Utthamar Kovil. Lord Vishnu requested Devi Mahalakshmi to offer food in the kapaalam that was stuck in the hands of Lord Shiva. Devi Mahalakshmi offered food and the kapaalam got filled up. Lord Shiva became free thereafter. This act which filled up the kapaalam earned the epithet, Poornavalli (Poorna means full), for Devi Mahalakshmi in this shrine.

Lord Shiva is known as Bikshaadanar here and this temple is place is therefore known as Bikshaadanar Kovil. Since Lord Vishnu took the form of the Kadhamba Tree, the village came to be known as Kadhambanur. Over time, the name got corrupted to Karambanur. The devout address this place as Thirukarambanur. The saint, Thirumangai Aazhwaar, addressed Lord Vishnu as Utthaman in his composition and hence the place is known as Utthamar Temple. Aandaal and Thirumangai Aazhwaar are the only two among the holy twelve to address Lord Vishnu as Utthaman. Devi Aandaal addresses Lord Vishnu as Utthaman in her, ‘Thiruppavai.’ The verse, “Ongi Ulagalandha Utthaman Per Paadi,” is the testimony for the same.

The lord faces the east in a reclined position and his consort, Devi Mahalakshmi, is known as Poornavalli/Poornadevi. The water that was used to nourish the Kadhamba-Tree-Vishnu accumulated itself to form a puddle and over time it became a small water body. Hence, the holy water or theertham is known as Kadhamba Theertham.

We must now recall the story of River Cauvery, being granted the numero uno status by Lord Vishnu as Saranatha Perumal at Thirucherai in the Chola country. There is the legend of Lord Shiva seeking food from Devi Annapoorani in Varanasi/Kasi. The same story is valid in Utthamar Kovil too. Except that Devi Mahalakshmi as Poornavalli grants the food. This story makes one understand the fact that River Cauvery is greater than River Ganga. Lord Vishnu’s boon as Saranatha Perumal had given this status to the river. There are ever so many stories, facts connected with Utthamar Kovil and let us look into a few of them.

- Lord Brahma and his consort Devi Saraswathi are ever resident in this temple.

- The rajagopuram or the main temple tower is small here but is finely crafted.

- The temple tower is known as udhyoga vimaanam.

- Lord Ranganaatha has a ritual bath in the Kadhamba Theertham on an annual basis.

- Saint Thirumangai Aazhwaar and Pillai Perumal Iyengar have offered their prayers in this shrine.

- The saint had done a lot of work at Srirangam. He had constructed a lot in the sacred spot known as Bhooloka Vaikunta. He had stayed in the vicinity of the Kadhamba Theertham and hence the land which hosted him continues to be known as Aazhwaar Pattavarthi.

- Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu jointly participate in processions.

- Circa 1751 was the time when the French and the English were engaged in a war. However, they did not harm the temple. They granted lands and jewels to the temple. This is again the grace of Lord Purushotthama.

- There was a time when this shrine existed without a door. This was to facilitate the visit of every passer-by. The testimony for the same can be found in the works of Periyavachan.

- The noble king, Janaka, had performed a yagnya on the banks of the holy Kadhamba Theertham. A dog came and ate away the offerings. The sages present advised Janaka to water the Kadhamba Tree to once again commence the yagnya. Lord Purushotthama appeared here with Lord Brahma in his navel. Lord Shiva appeared as Bikshaadanar on the same spot. Janaka was the first to see the Trimurthi-s (Holy trinity) at one place.

The temple is believed to have been built by the Chola-s. The rulers of Vijayanagar and the Naicks of Madurai followed them. A nice granite wall encloses all the shrines. The temple is endowed with six daily rituals. An annual Brahmotsavam is celebrated here. The sapthaguru-s are identified in this temple. They are Sadasiva Guru (Bikshaadanar), Brahma, Soundarya Parvathi, Brihaspathi, Varadaraja Perumal, Muruga and Shukra. Soundarya Parvathi is known as Vadivudainaayagi in Tamil. There are images of Lord Muruga, Lord Ganesha , Lord Chandikeswara, Lord Dakshinaamurthy and navagraha-s in this holy spot.

This temple has both the Shaivaite and Vaishnavaite priests in good measure. Rituals are conducted on amavasya, pournami and pradosham in this temple. The warrior-goddess, Durga, is resident at Utthamar Kovil. It is sacred to the devotees who live by the Ramanuja sampradaaya (Principles propounded by Saint Ramanuja). They visit the place in good number. Since the temple is in the Trichy region, it can be accessed easily.

Let us offer our prayers to Goddess Poornavalli and Lord Purushottama at Utthamar Temple. The holy trinity would bless seekers with knowledge, wisdom, health , long life, joy and contentment.

Mr. Rajesh Govindarajulu is one of the founding members of the Verandah Club Pvt. Ltd. He is a leading columnist, historian, jeweler, entrepreneur, and a heritage enthusiast who is earnestly working to revive the past in the light of the present. Experiential learning about the history of Coimbatore is his main course of interest and he is also a panel member of many colleges in the city.

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