Mannar Kovil at Brahmadesam
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Sri Vedhanarayanar Rajagopalaswami Kulasekara Azhwar temple, built during the 10th Century A.D. (circa A.D. 1209 ?), stands on about three acres of land enclosed by imposing temple walls, is situated at about two kilometers from Ambasamudram town, in Tirunelveli district of Tamilnadu, INDIA. Lord Vishnu is said to have appeared in three postures — standing, sitting and sayana — to give darshan to his devotees, on the ground floor in standing position, on the first floor in sitting position and on the second floor in lying down position.
The temple is one of the few with an ashtanga vimana. The ground floor has the sanctum for Vishnu, standing with his two Consorts Sridevi and Bhoodevi. A narrow flight of stairs leads to the first floor where He is seen seated with his two Consorts and the pradhakshina praharam here is called Yanai Mudukku (elephant pass). An even more narrow flight of stairs leads from here leads to the second floor where He is seen reclining on Adisesha and the pradhakshina praharam here is called poonai mudkku (cat pass) barely two feet across. All the images are in beautifully painted stucco, in bold vivid colours to compensate for poor lighting. This kind of three storied sanctums are rare, situated perhaps only in this temple and at the Srivilliputtur Raja Mannar temple.
Surrounded by lush-green garden and fort-like compound walls the temple stands majestically even in disrepair, blackened with age. The huge wheels of the now disused temple chariot and its innumerable wood carvings and the sculptures of a Nayak king and his family lie scattered around.
Though not been vandalised, dampness and time has taken their toll. But even the faint outlines of the Venugopala and Rama murals have astonishing grace and fluidity of form. On the first floor there are carvings of the Zodiac signs, some of which still retain their colours.
Age has taken over the earlier archakar, once energetic headmaster of the local school and native to mannarkoil for generations, who has actively participated in preventing the temple from being closed down and shifting the icons to Ambasamudram. Now another Archakar, again a native to Mannarkoil gramam for many generations has taken charge. His son, a good natured young man, assists him in daily poojas.
There are inscriptions at the base of the vimanam, translated by Mr. R Tirumalai's masterly monograph and the epigraphic surveys, called "Rajendra Vinnagaram" after the old name of the village).
The inscriptions were recorded and translated in 1905 and 1916. They speak of a powerful Temple Mahasabha that received large grants of land from various Chola, Pandya kings. The kings seem to have done this when they camped in nearby towns such as Velaikurichi and Kallidaikurichi. Particularly interesting were those that refer to an edict that directs the dancing girls of the temple to husk the rice and also refer to the gifting of the village of Velanjolai to the temple.
Land was gifted to 12 Brahmins who had settled down in the village from towns such as Thirukurungudi, Tirukurugur (Azhwar Thirunagari) and Thirumaliruncholai (Azhagar Koil), in recognition of their recitation of the "Thiruvaimozhi" in the Thiruvaimozhi Mandapam (still called the same). Land was also gifted to some humble people like the temple watchman. An interesting inscription refers to the Mahasabha accepting the bequest of land from two widows only after their male relatives had agreed to the land being gifted to the temple. In cases where the signatories to a contract were illiterate, others had signed on their behalf! Inscriptions also record more routine matters like the appointment of Sankaranayanar as the dharmakarta in Kollam year 764.