Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Madhava Perumal Temple, Mylapore: A Photowalk Experience

Chennai Photo-walk (CPW) arranges photo-walks twice in a month to walk around Chennai streets, exploring the surroundings, exercising participants' creativity and clicking pictures. Retrowalk # 20 'Thiru Mayilai' is one such photo-walk planned around Mylapore (Meliapor as per Portuguese records), the town of peacocks and heritage suburb of Chennai on 12th July 2015, Sunday in between 06.30 - 09.30 am. The walk went well and was participated by umpteen number of CPW members and few new entrants. Venkatesh Ramakrishnan, the historical novelist (English novel 'Gods, Kings and Slaves', Tamil novels 'Kaviri Maindan' (a sequel to Ponniyin Selvan), 'Kanchiyin Tarakai' (a sequel to Sivakamiyin Sabadam) and 'Tillayil oru kollaikkaran'), heritage lover, founder of Ponniyin Selvan Varalatru Peravai and key activist for a band of volunteers planning to culturally map the Cooum, was very kind enough to participate in the walk and was literally guiding us to the ancient monuments around LUZ. Other heritage lovers from different groups of Chennai also participated including Sri R. Gopu and Smt. Padmapriya Baskaran.

Venkatesh Ramakrishnan & Guests (Picture by Gopalakrishnan)
 The walk commenced from Madhava Perumal Temple, Madhava Perumal st, off the Kutcheri road, and extended to few Shiva (Chola period) temples in Bazaar road, Tiruvalluvar (memorial) temple,  Apparswamy temple, Luz church and ended at Nageswararao Park.

Picture by Gopalakrishnan
Immersed in history, Mylapore is the hub of Chennai and a place of great antiquity. It brings back the attribute and the image of South Chennai. Ancient Hindu temples, mutts, historical churches come through side by side. You can witness at least one festival in a week happens here. Happening place. Two little known Vaishnavite temples and several Saivite temples and the Chola inscriptions bear testimony to Mylapore's connections with the Cholas. The Vaishnava classics (religious works): ‘Divyasuricharitam' and ‘Guruparamparai'  have referred Madhava Perumal and Kesava Perumal temples of Mylapore.

The Thenkalai, Vaikanasa agamic,Vaishnavite (east facing) temple is dedicated to Madhava Perumal. Lord Madhava Perumal appear seated inside the main sanctum under Ananda Nilaya Vimanam (Similar to Ananda Vimanam in Tirupati) with the upper hands holding the conch and the discus, the lower right hand in abhaya hasta and the left hand holding the Kaumodaki, the gada (mace weapon) and flanked by two consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi.

Stucco image of Prime deity above lintel
The prime deity is also known as Kalyana Madhavan since the celestial marriage with goddess Amritavalli Thayar took place at this shrine. Aravind Madhavan is the prominent procession deity (Utsava murthi) appear in a  standing posture flanked by two consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi. The other procession deities of the main sanctum include  Narthana Krishna, Vishwaksena, Sudarsana and Anjaneya. Niranjana Madhavan (Little Madhavan),  the unique archa murti (ablution deity) appear standing with two upper hands holding sankha and chakra and the lower hands show abhaya and kati-hasta (hand resting on the hip) mudras.

Vimanam of Prime deity
The east facing temple comprise a sanctum (garbagriham), an antechamber (or vestibule or antarala) that connects the sanctum to a pillared hall (mukha-mantapa) which is preceded by ornately pillared main hall (mahamantapa). The dwi-tala (two tier) Dravida vimanam with hard granite base  (from pada-bandha adishtana to prastara) structure and with  brickwork kanta (neck), octagonal sikhara and stupi (finial) having mahanasika. The sanctum can be accessed through the east and south facing entrances.  The three arched niches on the bhadra segments are without images. Opposite the main sanctum is the small Garuda shrine.

Main Sanctum & Tower
Goddess Amirtavalli Thayar appear in a separate east facing sanctum (to the right of the main sanctum) near Santhana pushkarini (holy watertank) and the sanctum is the simple brickwork structure.  There are separate shrines for Bhoo Varahar, boar form of Lord Vishnu and goddess Andal who has got some unique significance with Madhava Perumal.  A separate shrine for Lord Rama along with Lakshmana, Sita and Anjaneya is also seen in the corridor of this temple. Peyalvar (the third alvar), one among the three prime alvar saints, was probably born in the 7th century AD on a red  water lily flower (Bot. name: Nymphaea rudgeana) in a 60-feet deep well known as Manikairavam located in Arundale street (south-east of this temple). The saint is believed to be the incarnation of the sword of Lord Vishnu (Nandakam). Since the saint showed crazy bondage with Lord Vishnu, he probably acquired the unique name 'Pei' Alvar (Pei in Tamil means ghost). His Tamil hymns are compiled as  "Moonram Thiruvandhadhi" in the Vaishnavite seminal work Nalayira Divya Prabandham. There is a separate shrine for this alvar saint in the north corridor. Also there are shrines for acharyas like Ramanuja, Manavala mamunigal.

The most eye-catching feature is two four pillared mandapas (pavilions): one is located before the rajagopuram and the taller one inside the south corridor houses the viswaroopa form of Anjaneya with folded hands facing the sanctum. The roofs exhibit exclusive angled patterns of squares.

The square bases of pillars of the mandapas have the ornate bas relief images, depicting various forms of Lord Vishnu and His consorts, associate deities and Alvar saints.


Sage Vyasa prayed for Lord Vishnu's grace and appealed him to indicate the most holy shrine where he could observe deep penance. The Lord heeded Vyasa's prayers and appeared before him to indicate Madhavapuram (the present Madhava Perumal shrine). The sage built hi hermitage and observed deep penance. The chapter in Mayurapuri Mahadhmiyam of the Brahmandapuranam, a Puranic literature narrate the story.

This temple is encircled by all-embracing tall perimeter wall and the most impressive five-tier rajagopuram at its eastern entrance. The holy tree of this shrine is the Punnai tree (Bot. name: Calophyllum inophyllum) meant for Lord Krishna and the plant can be seen behind the main sanctum.


The Madhava Perumal Temple is located in the Madhava Perumal Koil Street (off the Kutcheri road), Mylapore, Chennai. The entrance arch from can easily be located nearer to Sanskrit college, Royapettah High Road. The temple can also accessed from the Mylapore Tank bus stop. Just follow the well known Kutchery road, then turn left to Mundakkanni Amman Koil Street. After passing by the Mundakkanni Amman temple, turn right to Madhava Perumal Koil Street.


Theppotsavam in Maasi (Feb - Mar)
Chitrai Brahmotsavam Annual Festival (Apr - May)
Varaha Jayanthi Utsavam in Chitrai (Apr - May)
Navratri (Sep - Oct)
PeyAlvar Avatar Utsavam in Aipasi (Oct - Nov)
Margazhi Tiruppavai Festival (Dec - Jan)


    7.00 A.M - 11.30 A.M - 4.30 P.M - 09.00 P.M

During Margazhi (Dec - Jan) months the temple is kept open from 05.00 A.M and is closed at 08.30 P.M

Contact details: Madhavaperumalpuram, Mylapore,  Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India . Ph #: 044 24985112

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