Koodal Azhagar Temple

Weather :

Timings : 5:30 AM - 12:00 PM and 4:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Time Required : 2-3 hrs

Entry Fee : Adults: INR 20,
Children: INR 10,
Parking: INR 20

Koodal Azhagar Temple, Madurai Overview

Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the Koodal Azhagar Temple, located in the centre of Madurai city of Tamil Nadu is a unique and famous temple of historical significance constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture and supposedly built by the Pandyas. Koodal is another name for the city of Madurai and Azghar in Tamil translates to 'beautiful one', referring to Vishnu as Koodal Alagar and his consort Lakshmi as Mathuravalli. Beautifully sculpted and carved by adding different shades of colour, the majestic temple imposes itself in the eyes of the beholder. 

With Lord Vishnu as the main deity in the form of Sri Koodal Azhagar, this temple is one of the 108 Divyadesams and lies on the 65th spot. This ancient temple is situated near the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple. Six pujas are performed in this temple which covers an area of 2.5acres. What makes this temple so rare and unique, is the presence of three different postures of Vishnu at such proximity to each other. The temple complex is big and built in traditional style with big front Gopuram and beautiful vimanam. Thousands of pilgrims flock here every day and most importantly during the Tamil month of Vaikasi (May - June) to offer their prayers. Glorified in the words of ancient literature, from the Sangam period to the works of Alvars, the temple is the present embodiment of unparalleled craftsmanship of a past era.

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Legend of Koodal Azhagar Temple

As it has been passed down from generation to generation, the common legend is that a 9th-century poet-saint called Vishnuchitha was once summoned to Madurai in a Pandya court to settle an altercation between different religious sects. He preached the dominion of Lord Narayana as the ultimate soul by orating verses from the Vedas in an effortless manner. At the end of his speech, gold coins suspended on a pole fell into his hands. This miracle was perceived as divine acceptance.

Vishnuchitha was honoured by being placed on a royal elephant, accompanied by Vedic pundits. Pleased with his display of devotion, Lord Koodal Azhagar himself appeared before the grand procession, seated on the shoulders of Garuda and blessed Vishnuchitha. His joy knew no bounds, he blessed the Lord and conveyed his wishes in the form of twelve verses in Tamil called 'Thirupallandu'. He recited hem in tune with the ringing of the elephant bells and offered Mangalasanam at the holy feet of the lord.

Vishnuchitha gained the name of 'Periyalwar' from Vishnu himself. He is regarded as the most prominent of the twelve alwar saints of the Vaishnava sect. Thirupallandu is still recited to this day as starting prayer offerings to the deity.

Architecture of Koodal Azhagar Temple

The ornate flamboyant Dravidian style architecture is a treat to anyone’s eyes. The Koodal Azhagar temple has a giant gateway tower, a five-tiered rajagopuram that rises to a height of 125 feet and the complex covers a total area of about 2 acres. The enclosure around the grand temple is bounded by huge granite walls. It was renovated in 2006 using special natural vegetable dyes and paint made from medicinal herbs from Kerala. 

The Ashtanga Vimanam over the structure is astonishingly placed. It is said to be the magnum opus of Vishwakarma, the divine architect. The shadow of the huge Vimana on the main structure does not fall on the ground! This type of Vimana construction is said to be found in only three other temples, at Uthiramerur, Thirukoshtiyur and Cheranmadevi temples in Tamil Nadu.

The Koodal Azhagar Temple is the only Vishnu temple to have Navagrahas, the nine planetary deities - a visual imitation of the nine planets (one excluded now) in our solar system. Usually, they are only present in temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Inner walls of the temple sanctuary depict paintings of ashtadipalakas (the eight guardian deities who protect the eight quarters of the world, in Hindu mythology). The three positions of Lord Vishnu as Koodal Azghar are exceptionally shown on three levels of the temple.

You can find inscriptions and detailing related to Ramayana and Mahabharata here. The coronation of Lord Rama is depicted here with woodcarvings. Intricately woven and masterfully sculpted, every wall in the temple has a story to tell.

Festivals Celebrated at Koodal Azhagar Temple

Six times a day, prayers are offered to the gods without fail. Weekly, monthly and fortnightly rituals are also performed in the temple premises. Annual festivities begin each year in the Tamil month of Vaikasi from May to June, when the dasavataram of Vishnu are enacted out.

The fourteen-day Brahmotsavam is the most notable of all the festivals celebrated here. It is during this time that the main deity is decorated exuberantly, carried in a chariot and paraded around the temple. A ten-day float festival is held during the Tamil calendar month of Maasi (mid-February to mid-March). Krishna Janmashtami, Navratri, Vaikuntha Ekadasi are also much celebrated here.

History of Koodal Azhagar Temple

Supposedly built by the Pandyas, the exact dates of construction of the Koodal Azghar Temple is still shrouded in mystery. Historians believe that the temple finds mention in the Sangam literature that spanned from 300 BCE to 300 CE. Additions such as pillared halls, sculptures and major shrines were made by the later Vijayanagar and Madurai Nayak kingdoms during the 16th century who used the temples to hold grand festivities and prayer ceremonies.

As we can detect and trace back the earliest roots of the temple to the Sangam period, its presence reverberates in great Tamil literature poems and epics such as Paripaadal and Silappadikaram. The Brahmanda Purana, an ancient Hindu Sanskrit text describes this area in seven chapters in a detailed manner. Also, it is mentioned as a significant place during the four Vedic ages, Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapar Yuga and Kali Yuga (a yuga is an era within a four-age cycle).

Tips For Visiting Koodal Azhagar Temple

1. To take a closer look at the richly decorated superstructure, climb to the top. There are steep steps you may have to climb in one portion of the temple complex.
2. Taking your video camera inside the temple premises will cost INR 100 while taking a still camera costs INR 50.
3. The dosa at the temple stall is quite delicious.
4. There are lockers here for your shoes and other belongings. 

How To Reach Koodal Azhagar Temple

Take a cab from Madurai which is at a distance of 20 km. The temple is barely five walking minutes away from the Madurai railway junction.

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