Contrary to popular belief that Madurai in Tamilnadu, India is ideal for pilgrimage only for Saivists (those in the Hindu religion worship Lord Siva), because of the renowned Meenakshi Temple, it has also Kallazhagar Temple; Koodal Azhagar Temple and Karmegha Perumal Temple in Madurai for Vaishnavites (those who worship Lord Vishnu).
When people take up Madurai for pilgrimage, they oftentimes tend to curtail their visit only to the Meenakshi Temple or at best get a glimpse of Azhagar Koil (otherwise known as Kallazhagar Temple).
Saivists revere Meenakshi-Sundareswarar something special, as you can see the dancing posture of Siva – raising the right leg in dancing here, instead of the left, usually found in all temples.
But that does not mean Vaishnavites have nothing to take up the trip for Madurai. Notwithstanding the fact that Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu are one and the same, showing different facets for different people of the Lord Almighty, Vaishnavite people in the know would not forsake Madurai. Because, it is here there are three Vishnu Temples, belonging to the list of 108 “Divya Desams” (most sacred temples) of Vaishnavite belief.
The first is Kallazhagar Temple – or Azhagar Koil. The deity Lord Vishnu takes the most beautiful form of an idol and is therefore named “Azhagar”, the Tamil word for one inordinately beautiful. The main deity is “Sundararaja Perumal” (another word in Sanskrit to describe beauty) and the consort is “Sundaravalli”. This temple is considered as Southern Thirupathi in the likes of the famous Thirupathi of the richest deity of India, Balaji. Lord Azhagar comes from his temple, situated 20 kms from Madurai, every year to conduct the marriage festival of his sister Meenakshi with Sundareswarar. This is one of the very famous festivals of South India, particularly Madurai, when lakhs of people gather to worship Azhagar, taking a dip in the “Vaigai” river sometime during April.
The next is Koodal Azagar Temple – situated within Madurai city, on the way to Mattuthavani Central Bus Stand. This “Divya Desam” is important to Vaishanavites, as the deity “Koodal Azahagar” (named after the place “Koodal” or convergence of all Devas at this place to worship Lord Vishnu) as the Perumal can be worshiped in three postures – Nindran (standing); Kidanthan (lying) and Irunthan (sitting). Alwars have enjoyed profusely these three postures of Lord Vishnu at this same place and have recorded their innate feelings in songs.
Periyalwar coined the “Thirupallandu”, a song which is recited by all Vaishnavites daily in their worship. Thayar’s name is Maduravalli.
The third one is Sri Kalamegha Perumal Temple – Thirumoghur, 8 Kilometers from Madurai city proper on the Madurai-Melur route. Better stay at Madurai, as there are no lodging facilities worth the name. The Perumal saved the Indiran and his Devadais from the curse of a rishi to lose all their wealth and power. By skimming the sea (Thiruparkadal) Lord Vishnu got back everything the Devas lost and also got Mahalakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu, the symbol of wealth and well beings.
So next time you take up a trip to Madurai bear in mind to visit these powerful temples.
Brightly painted stucco images on the temple towers at Tamilnadu
See Also : Temples of Madurai