An idol of Lord Vishnu which is worshipped once in 40 years

Varadharaja Perumal Temple or Hastagiri or Attiyuran is a Hindu temple of Lord Vishnu located in the holy city of Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, India.  One of the greatest Hindu scholars of Vaishnava Visishtadvaita philosophy, Shri Ramanujacharya is believed to have resided in this temple. The temple along with Ekambareswarar Temple and Kamakshi Amman Temple in Kanchipuram is popularly known as Mumurtivasam (abode of trio).

Ka- is Brahma, anchi-is to worship

Kanchipuram is the city where Brahma worshipped Lord Vishnu.

Devi Saraswathi, got angry on Lord Brahma and in that moment she left Devaloka, and took ‘Danda’ of Brahma with her. To acquire back the Danda, Brahma performed a yagna here, in the Atti vana(ficus tree forest). Now devi Saraswathi’s anger caused the river Vegavathi to flood. The yagna was about to be washed away by the fast flowing river Vegavathi, known today as Palar River.  Brahma prayed to Lord Vishnu and Vishnu laid down against the flooding Vegavathi. As soon as river washed over Vishnu its pace was pacified and so is devi Saraswathi’s anger. Vishnu emerged with brilliance of thousand Suns as Devarajaswamy. Vishwakarma sculpted this avatara of Vishnu from the Atti tree and the deity became ‘Atti Varadhar’– the one who grants wishes.

As per another legend, the disciples of sage Gautama were cursed to become lizards. They resided in the temple and were relieved off the curse by the divine grace of Vishnu. There is a panel in the temple where the two lizards are depicted in the roof of the temple.

Thirukkachi Nambigal (Also known as Kanchi Purnar) was an ardent devotee of this temple. He used to bring flowers everyday from Poovirundhavalli, where he maintained a garden. He did Aalavatta Kaingariyam, waving to produce breeze with the help of hand fan. It is believed that Vardharaja used to converse with him, while he was doing that seva. Aalavatta Kaingariyam is a worship practise followed in modern times also.

Nambi also composed Devarajaashtakam (A Sanskrit poem of 8 verses) on the deity. Sri Ramanujaacharya, got answers to his six questions from Lord Varadharaja through Sri Thirukkachi Nambigal.

The temple has around 350 inscriptions from various dynasties like Chola, Pandya, Telugu Cholas, Kandavarayas, Cheras, Kakatiya, Sambuvaraya, Hoysala and Vijayanagara indicating various donations to the temple and also the political situation of Kanchipuram. There is a belief that the temple was first built by the Pallava king Nandivarman II. Varadharaja Perumal Temple was originally built by the Cholas in 1053. and it was expanded during the reigns of the great Chola kings Kulottunga Chola I and Vikrama Chola. In the 14th century another wall and a gopura was built by the later Chola kings.

Fascinating story of ‘Atti Varadhar’ :

This original idol of the temple is worshipped once in 40 years for 48 days, till then it is put to rest in the Kalyani of the temple.

Fascinating isn’t it?

From 1st of July of this year (2019), this rare darshana gas begun, and lakh of devotees are expected to visit the temple this year.

The story behind this rare event:

Until 16th century, this idol, which was worshipped by lord Brahma was the main idol of worship in the Sanctum inside of  punyakoti Vimana.

During Muslim invasion, to prevent the destruction deity at the hands of barbarics, the idol with all the precious valuables were pushed inside the Pushkarini of the temple- the Anantha Sarovara, by the head priest and the Dharmakarthas of the temple.

And they fled from the temple to escape from the invaders.

For 40 years they couldn’t return to the temple and the secret died with them.

There was no idol in Sanctum hence the pooja vidhi at temples were stopped. The uthsava moorthi were sent to Udayar Palyam. The sons of Dharmakarthas, tried hard and brought back the idols with the intention of resuming pooja.

As ‘Atti varadhar’ was untraceable, they decided to install a stone idol in the Sanctum, from a place called ‘Pazhaya Seevaram’. Idol was brought to Kanchipuram and installed as ‘Athi rishi kararchitha Moorthy’

Suddenly in 1709, for some reason the water from Pushkarini was emptied and ‘Atti Varadhar’ was found lying there.

Based on Kaliyuga puja performed by Adishesha to Varadharaja Perumal, temple authorities decided to worship this idol every 40 years for 48 days and again would be immersed in the water.

What fascinating other than the unique worship method is the fact that  a wooden idol which was ages old, which was lying in water for 40 years, when found was unharmed. It is a miracle in true sense.

Dr Sindhu Prashanth