One of the unique features of Tiruvakkarai temple is the 100-pillar mantapam (hall). Kandar Suriyan Sambuvarayan who built the Rajagopuram, the main tower of the temple also built this 100-pillar mantapam in 1179 A.D. This Mantapam is in the form of a chariot with four wheels drawn by two horses. This type of wheels is seen in the temples like Darasuram and Chidambaram and reminds one of the wheel of Konark. Inside the mantapam, on the inner wall, we can see the image of a Kandar Suriyan Sambuvarayan, in the form of a soldier seated on a horse with a sword in his right hand.
Outside the 100-pillar mantapam, there is a big Nandi, with its unique posture of raised ears and a smiling face. It is very rare to see a Nandi who is smiling. This Nandi is not on a straight line from the Sanctum and the Rajagopuram, as is the norm in the temple architecture, but is slightly inclined towards the north. Hence it is also in a Vakkara position in line with the other features of the temple. Just near this Nandi there is a small shrine for Lord Ganapathi.
The Rajagopuram with its granite base is a nine-tier construction and the brick and the mortar have been used for the superstructure. The upper tiers have been adorned with beautiful stuccowork with the images of gods and goddesses and devotees, flora and fauna and the decorative figures. The inscriptions on the temple reveal that the Rajagopuram was named after 'Kandar Suriyan Sambuvarayan' who was responsible for its construction. The inscriptions also say that in 1193 A.D., during the 16th year of rule by Kulothunga Chola-III, Kandar Suriyan donated two five-tier Kuthuvilakkus (traditional temple lamps) weighing 1,182 palams (about 42 kgs) to the temple.
In the temple Prakaram (courtyard), south of the sanctum, the samadhi of Kundalini Maharishi, a sage connected with the temple and locally venerated exists. He spent great part of his life in the temple and sang its praise and hence his mortal remains were kept in a samadhi built within the temple premises for the benefit of devotees. A Shivalinga has been installed over the samadhi.
The temple complex in Tiruvakarai houses shrines, both to Shiva and Vishnu apart from Mother Kali. This is not the only temple to house both Shiva and Vishnu shrines. There are a number of Siva temples including Chidambaram, where a separate temple for Vishnu is built inside the same premises. The Vishnu is worshipped here in the form of Varadharaja Perumal. His shrine is facing west on the northern side of the main temple. The statues of the temple guards (Dwara Palakas) in front of the shrine are noteworthy for their vigour and their rare sculptural beauty.
Lord Vishnu here is seen without his usual consorts namely, Sridevi (Goddess Lakshmi) and Boo Devi (Mother Earth). The six-feet idol of Varadharaja Perumal, holding 'Prayoga Chakram' (the killer wheel) in one hand and the Sangu (the conch) in the other hand. The Lord is standing in the position of Abbaya Hastha, faces the west and attracts devotees from all parts of South India.
According to 'sthala purana' (History of the temple), Lord Vishnu came to this place, leaving Sri Devi and Boo Devi at Nachiar Temple, to wage a war with Vakkara Asura, the demon. In fact Vishnu was wounded during his battle with Vakkara Asura and it was Kali who eventually vanquished the demon. After the war Vishnu continued to stay on here without his consorts.
Inside the temple, there is an exquisite idol of Vishnu as Krishna in the form of Rajagopala with his consorts, Radha and Rukmini carved in a single piece of stone. He is carrying a bow and arrow in his hand (alluding to Krishna to be same as Rama, the warrior) symbolising that the Lord Vishnu came back to earth in the incarnation of Rama as well as Krishna. Opposite to the Vishnu temple, we can see the sculpture of 'Garuda, ' the king of the birds, bowing in sincere devotion to the Lord. Garuda serves as the vehicle of the Lord Vishnu.
It is interesting that each major deity of the Hindu pantheon possesses a personalised vehicle, which is invariably from the animal kingdom. As mentioned it is Garuda for Vishnu, Nandi the bull for Shiva, mouse for elephant headed god Ganesha, Airavat the elephant for Indra, white Swan for Goddess of Wisdom, Saraswati, Peacock for Lord Muruga (the son of Shiva), black buffalo for the God of death, Yama, lion for Goddess Durga, tiger for Lord Ayyappa (son of Shiva and Mohini), dog for Bhairava..........
C K Gariyali IAS
Source : Chennaionline.com