Arulmigu Gajendravaradaswamy Temple - Athalanallur, Tirunelveli District
Temple History :
A king, Indradhyumna by name ruled the region in accordance with the advice of Sage Agasthya, his Guru. One day, he failed to receive the Guru when he came to his court as he was engaged in entertainments. Angry Agasthya cursed him to become an elephant and be their head in the jungles. He fell on the earth as an elephant bearing the name Gajendran – head of elephants.
Similarly, a Gandharva, a community noted for its musical skills, fell to the curse of Sage Kabila. While the sage was bathing in the river, the Gandharva, not meaning to offend him, caught hold of the legs of the sage as he was also bathing the river. The angry sage cursed him to become a crocodile. He told the Gandharva that he would remain a crocodile till Lord Vishnu would cut his head with His discus.
King Indradhyumna and the Gandharva thus began their cursed lives in earth and water then.
Due to scarcity of water caused by famine, the elephants came to River Tambiraparani to quench their thirst. The crocodile in the river caught hold of Gajendra who fought with the creature to free itself from its hold. The struggle went on for thousands of years.
Gajendra saw a lotus bud in the middle of the river and immediately thought of Lord Vishnu and offered it to Him crying ‘Adhimoolame’. Lord rushed to the rescue of the animal and cut off the crocodile with His discus. When the Lord gave His hand to Gajendra to drag him to the bank, he requested the Lord to stay there itself to rescue people in distress. Lord obliged the prayers and stayed in this holy soil. Both were simultaneously relieved of the curses.
The popular legend of Gajendra Moksha is associated with this temple. It should be noted that there are several other temples which claim to have associated with this legend.
A king named Indradhyumna ruled this region. One day, owing to his other engagement, he did not receive his Guru Agastya Rishi when he came to his court. The saint got angry and cursed him to become an elephant. Thus the king became Gajendra, the head of elephants.
A Gandharva, by mistake, got hold of the legs of the sage Kapila when both of them were bathing in the river. Kapila cursed him to become a crocodile; he was told that he would remain a crocodile till Lord Vishnu would cut his head with his discus.
Once, Gajendra, the elephant came to the river Tamrabharani to quench its thirst. The crocodile caught hold of the elephant's legs. The struggle between these two creatures went on for thousands of years. At last, the elephant took a lotus and offered that to Lord Vishnu; it also cried 'Adi Moolame'. Now, Lord Vishnu rushed to the site with his mount Garuda and rescued the elephant by killing the crocodile. Both the elephant and the crocodile, thus, got rid of their respective curses.
As per another legend, the sages Bhrigu and Markandeya got darshan of Lord Vishnu in this site on the banks of the river Tamrabharani.
Temple Layout :
The temple is located on the banks of the beautiful river Tamrabharani. You can find the river on the backside of the temple.
The temple is facing the east direction and has a stunningly colorful five tier tower (Raja Gopuram). There is another tower found after entering into the entrance. The area between both the towers are full of pillars with beautiful carvings.
The sanctum sanctorum has the main deity Aadi Moolam; he is found with four arms and in the standing posture; his two consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi are found in the standing posture on his either sides. The sages Markandeya and Bhrigu are also found inside the main shrine. As per the legend, they got darshan of Lord in this site.
The metal (utsava) processional idols of Gajendra Varadan along with his two consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi are also found in the same shrine. Also, a separate utsava idol of Andal is found here.
At the entrance of the Ardha Mandapa, the sculptures of Dwarapalas are found to be huge in size.
As usual, the sub-shrine of Garuda, flag staff and bali peeth are found facing the main shrine.
The main shrine is build as per 'maada kovil' architectural style. Hence, the main shrine is found on a raised platform and you can reach that by climbing up few steps. Also, as per this architectural style, there is a front side mandapa with carved pillars. The vimana called as 'Indira Vimana' and the back side wall of the main shrine are artistically beautiful.
The temple has two prakaras. The outer prakara is a open space found with trees and plants.
The inner prakara has the shrines of Goddesses - Therku Nachiyar (Lakshmi) and Vadakku Nachiyar (Bhoo Devi). Also, the idols of ten Avatars of Vishnu - Dasavatar, Krishna with Rukmini and Satyabama, a sub shrine of Paramapatha Nathar - a stucco idol of Vishnu in the sitting posture are all found in the inner prakara.
In Maha Mandapa, the sub-shrines of Andal and Vishwaksena are found. Near Garuda's idol, Chakrathalwar with Narasimha carrying four discuses on his back side and the sub-shrine of Hanuman are located.
The temple is full of beautiful carvings. Many of them depict Dasavatar scenes or the scenes related to Gajendra Moksha legend.