Attru Azhagiasingaar-Dr.S.Sundar Rajan MS ortho

Nowadays Kaveri is a pale shadow of what she used to be. The many dams built
west of Srirangam have reduced her from a mighty perennial river to a sorry
stream. Old paintings dated to about two to two and half centuries ago depict
her flowing at the base of the unfinished(the present humongous rajagopuram,
built by HH Mukkur Azhagiyasingar) south gopura. Now she flows about 1.2km away
and water has to be pumped unto the sands during Gajendra moksha festival!
Srirangam being an island was not very easy to get to in those days. Circular
plate like “parisals ” and boats used to ferry people and pilgrims to the island
of Sri Ranganatha. The British, like the Romans much before them, realised the
need and importance of good roads and bridges to administer their vast empires.
So they set about building a bridge to span the mighty Kaveri, so that
Trichnopoly could be connected to Srirangam. They began building about 2kms
from the base of the Rock fort. Kaveri playfully washed the structure away. They
tried again and again. Legends say that thrice the masonry was taken apart by
the waters.
Then one of the chief engineers had a dream. Sri Lakshmi Nrisimha appeared and
instructed that an old temple of His on the southern bank of Kaveri near one of
the piers needed renovation and on this being done, Kaveri would allow a bridge
to be built. The small temple was found amongst unapproachable bramble and
tangled bushes at the river’s edge. Workers were scared to go near because it
appeared to be protected by a mighty serpent. The snake was appeased and a new
sanctum was built for the deity. The construction was solid as can be seen even
today. The walls are about a foot thick. In front of the sanctum sanctorum there
is a low area. The deity inside is on a slightly elevated platform. Kaveri was
in spate about five years ago. Water and slush entered the temple. For three
days the archaka couldn’t enter. When the silt was washed aside and the sanctum
approached it was seen that Sri Lakshmi Nrisimha was above the water level and
Kaveri was dutifully lapping well below His foot. That year it was feared that
the waters may flow into Srirangam. We were witness to waters overflowing on to
the Amma Mandapam road, where the banks had been breached. But our Lord Lakshmi
Nrisimha was high and dry, so to say!
Mettu Azhaghiasingar, the exquisite eight armed deity with a smiling
Hiranyakasipu on His lap and Bhakta Prahlada beneath His folded knee is near the
north gopura of the Peria Koil. It was He who approved Kamba Ramayana.
Kattu Azhaghiasingar is the huge seated Sri Lakshmi Nrisimha about 1.5km to the
east of the superb white Vellai gopura, the main eastern portal of the
SriRanganathaswamy temple. The temple of Kattu Azhaghiasingar was the base of
Sri Kura Narayana Jeeyar and later on Sri Pillai Lokacharya. Both these
mahacharyas have rendered inestimable service to Lord Ranganatha and His temple.
The afore mentioned Azhaghiasingars are well known. But Attru Azhaghiasingar,
that is Nrisimha of the river’s edge is not well known.
The Divine couple are to be found at Oduthurai, on the very edge of the south
bank of the river Kaveri between the road and rail bridges that connect the town
of Trichy to Srirangam. As one comes from Srirangam on the Trichy Chennai road,
after crossing the bridge over Kaveri, one has to take a left turn, actually a
left U turn. This road leads to a level crossing, Oyamori the cremation ghat and
the bypass road on to the south Kalannai road further eastward. Almost half way
between the point where one turned left after the Kaveri bridge and the railway
crossing there are steps leading down. The steps are high, about 15 in number
and these lead to small approach between two houses. Climbing up the few steps
one reaches the entrance into the temple. Inside it is clean. The sanctum is
open to the east, it is in the east west direction. The ceiling is low, about
nine feet only. Right at the eastern end there is a dwaja stambha and a small
sanctum of Garudaazhwar, as always with hands folded. He is forever gazing at
the Divine Couple.
The young archaka, Sri Kamalakannan is very articulate and well informed. He
patiently answers all our questions. It is he who narrated the afore mentioned
legend. With great fervour he tells us about the presiding deity.

The Divine Couple are seated under the shade of a tall five hooded Adiseshan.
Thayar is on His lap. She is seated daintily and Her body and face are turned
towards Him, partially. She has Her hands together in the “namaste” posture.
This not usual. Sri Lakshmi usually has one hand in the “abhaya” and the other
in the “varada” mudhra. In some places She has a lotus in one of Her hands. Here
She sits with Her head slightly bent, hands folded together in a pose of
supplication. That is why this is “venduthal sthalam” a wish granting place. On
the wall at the entrance there is a huge banner printed digitally which
colorfully explains which day of the week is optimal for which need!
This pose of our Mother graphically illustrates Her role as a mediatrix. Even
though our Lord is a repository of mercy, compassion etc. one never knows when
He is displeased with us. When He looks at us with His sun like eye all our
countless sins, committed down the ages, are well lit up and He pushes us away
angrily, into the endless cycle of rebirths. It is only by Her mediation He is
made to overlook our transgressions and emancipate us. It has been repeatedly
emphasised by the scriptures and by the teachings of our acharyas, that bereft
of Her help we can never escape bondage.
A mediatrix can be effective only if she is merciful, seeks refuge in Him only
and can influence Him at will. Our Mother Sri Lakshmi is always with Him just
for this purpose. Here on the south bank of Kaveri the Divine Couple enact this
truth for us.
Sri Nrisimha is seated with the left leg folded and only the right foot is
visible. His right lower hand is in “abhaya mudhra” and he has fearsome
moustaches! His lower left arm is invisible behind Her and His upper two arms
have Chakra and Sankha. He is smiling, showing all His teeth. The five hooded
Adisesha covered by silver plates dwarfs the “thiruvasi” the arch over the
Divine couple.

Sarvopi Samashrithya Sakalam Bhadram Ashnuthe
Sriyascha Badryajushra Estham Bhadram Namamyaham

To one side of the Divine Couple, stands Anjaneya in a vinitha, humble, posture.
The surprising point is that he has three eyes, the third one in the centre of
the forehead. We have seen many Sudarshanas and our Lord Nrisimhas with three
eyes, this is our first darshan of Anjaneya with an extra eye.
The next surprise is the utsavar. Guess who? He is as handsome as a new
bridegroom and is the same both above and below the neck, i.e. He is not a
man-lion. To either side of Him are Sridevi and Bhudevi. His name? We gave you a
hint didn’t we. Azhagiyamanavalan, the handsome bridegroom, same as the renowned
processional deity of SriRanganathaswamy Koil, fondly called Nam Perumal. It is
Azhagiyamanavalan here who is taken out on all the processions, in fact He goes
upto the base of the Rock fort about two kms away.
There is a small idol of Vainatheyan behind Anjaneya.
To the right side of the sanctum, an idol of SriLakshmiNrisimha on Garuda vahana
is shown to us by he archaka who says that it is made of sandal paste.
After repeatedly paying obeisance to the Divine Couple we circumambulate the
small well built sanctum. Huge pictures of Padmavathi Thayar and
Venkatachalapathi adorn the wall next to the sanctum. Going behind, i.e.
westward we see the entrance to a huge hall, extending in the south – north
direction. On the posterior wall of the sanctum Sri Sudarshana, as in Srirangam,
is painted on the wall. Coming to the left of the sanctum(north) we see the
steps that lead down to the Kaveri. Generous flow from Karnataka due to the
plentiful south west monsoons is the reason Kaveri is lapping at the lower
steps. One can well imagine the flooding of this temple when Kaveri is in spate.
From the steps leading to the Kaveri we go further eastward. This is a big
mandapa in front of the sanctum, closed on all sides. Near the northern wall
there is a lovely image of Venugopala. On the wall there is an old painting of
Srinivasa in the Mysore style. There is an antique handsome Tanjore painting
nearby depicting deities of many divya desas. We turn right to reach the stunted
dwaja stambha. Again a right turn brings us to the southern wall. There is an
alcove in the middle, housing a smiling Anjaneya in a standing pose. He is
facing northwards, towards Peria Perumal in Srirangam and Perumal, Rama, in
Ayodhya. He appears to be a “vara prasadi” boon granter, as several paper
garlands around his neck attest. These papers are full of “SriRamajayams”. To
the right of Thiruvadi we have a seated Sri Nammazhwar and to the left Sri
Ramanuja and Sri Manavalamamunigal.
The ceiling has frescoes. Some of which are in excellent condition. The ceiling
right in front of Anjaneya has the ten azhwars and Andal. They are not in order
and identification is not easy, though the paintings are in good condition. In
the middle, right above Garudaazhwar is a fresco of Nrisimha with many
hands(how many?… we are unable to make out) disemboweling Hiranyakasipu. Near
the asura a swan like bird is drawn, kiliasura we are told. The same white bird
makes an appearance in the same context on the southern wall in front of
Kattuazhagiasingar temple. On the ceiling to the east is the “pranavakara
vimana” and SriRanganatha. Here He has His left hand near His crown. Maybe this
painting must be seen in a mirror held below, then the image will be correct.
Coming to the ceiling near the sanctum, the northern portion has a lovely
untouched picture of Sri Ranganayaki, but the southern portion has a distorted
drawing of Nam Perumal with ubhaya nacchiyars. Sri Ranganayaki is beguiling and
the painting is in good condition.
These frescoes point to the fact that this temple is quite old.
We once again worship Sri LakshmiNrisimha and take leave of the archakar.
Tvai rakshathi rakshakaihi kimanyai
Tvai cha arakshathi rakshakaihi kimanyai
Ithi nischita dhi shrayami nithyam
Nrihare veghavati(kaveri) thatashrayam tvam
As always we let Sri Vedanta Desika have the last word!


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