This article is a reproduction of the article that appeared originally in ‘The Hindu’ newspaper on May 30, 2003.
THE 108 holy places, which have been sanctified by Azhwars’ hymns, are known as `Divyadesams’. Apart from these, there are numerous other centres, which are held in equal veneration for their association with saints and seers. Among them are four villages in Pattukkottai taluk, Thanjavur district, and one in Mannargudi Taluk, Thiruvarur District, known as `Panchagramams’ – Karappankadu, Nammankurichi, Puliakkudi, Serankulam and Peravurani. These places have been the birthplaces of great religious preachers and preceptors. Of them, Karappankadu is 30 km. from Mannargudi, and can be reached by travelling via the Mannargudi-Pattukkottai bus route. But one needs to board another bus bound for Vedaranyam or Muthuppettai at Madukkur.
Karappankadu is significant because it was here that great exponents of Visishtadwaita like Sri Singapperumal Swami, Sri Desika Varadachariar, who later became Sriranga Narayana Jeeyar in Srirangam and Sri Venkatachariar, who lived in Chennai and gave discourses on the Bhagavad Gita and the Divyaprabandam, were born.
According to legend, six centuries ago, a band of Vaishnavite scholars from Kanchipuram set out on ‘Sethu Yatra’ or a pilgrimage to Thiruppullani (Darbhasayanam), and while they were trekking their way back to Kanchipuram, they had to spend a night in the forest near Pattukkottai, which was ruled by a chieftain, Karuppa Thevan. He was deeply impressed by the piety, austerity, scholastic pursuits and sincerity with which they performed the daily chores and requested them to stay there permanently. The scholars agreed, and they were provided houses and other facilities by the chieftain. They named the village after him, as Karuppankadu, which later became Karappankadu.
These scholars, who used to offer their obeisance to Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram daily, longed to worship Him. The Lord appeared in their dream and told them that another Archa idol of His was lying buried in a Tulsi garden on the banks of a tank in Moorthiammalpuram, near Vaduvur, which could be identified by a Garuda gliding over the place. The devotees recovered the idol of the Lord and His consorts from the place, brought them to Karappankadu, and installed them at the temple built by them.
As the Lord of Kanchi fulfilled their wish to worship Him, they named the Lord ‘Abeeshta Varadan’ (one who fulfils devotees’ wishes). An idol of Perundevi Thayar, a replica of the one at the Kanchi temple, was also installed in a separate shrine. According to Vaishnavite scholars, Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi came to be known as ‘Abeeshta Varadan’ in Karappankadu for another reason. Lord Ranganatha wanted Ramanuja to come to Srirangam and become the head of the Vaishnavite seat there (which was earlier occupied by Alavandar), and spread Vaishnavism. He expressed His wish through preceptors to Lord Varadaraja, and He readily agreed. Thus He fulfilled the wish of the Lord of Srirangam and became ‘Abeeshta Varadan’. But He could not bear the separation of Ramanuja from Him and hence followed him to Srirangam. However, on realising that Ramanuja was needed by the people more, He took His abode at Karappankadu, the forest of the devout, as ‘Abeeshta Varadan’ forever. A special feature of Karappankadu is that there is no other temple for any deity there and all villagers, irrespective of their caste affiliations, worship only Lord Abeeshta Varadan.
Karappankadu is also known as ‘Dakshina Naimisaranyam’, Krishnaranya Kshethram, Neelambutha Vanam and Kalamega Vanam. The Moolavar idol in the temple is known as Devaperumal or Devadhirajan, Perarulalan, Adiyaarkadiyan and Paattu Kaetka Vanda Perumal. The Utsavar idol is known as Abeeshta Varadan or Uchishta Varadan. The Lord’s consorts are Sridevi and Bhoodevi. The Goddess is known as Perundevi Nachiar. The Lord is hailed as ‘Paattu Kaetka Vanda Perumal‘ as He is fond of hearing the recitation of Nalayira Divyaprabandam of Azhwars. Unlike in other places, Divyaprabandam is recited here five times in a year during festivals, the most important being the Brahmotsavam in the Vaikasi month and the Pahal Pathu and Raappathu in the Margazhi month.
It is said that Saint Nammazhwar of Azhwarthirunagari directed a scholar there in his dream to go to Karappankadu, organise the celebration of festivals and also arrange the recital of the Divyaprabandam. The temple has a three-tier Rajagopuram at the entrance. The Vimanam over the sanctum sanctorum is known as Punyakoti Vimanam as in Kanchipuram. The holy water source is Varada Pushkarani and Paadiri is the holy tree.
The Abeeshta Varadan Kainkarya Sabha renovated the temple in 1984, and again in 1996. Its secretary, K. V. Singarachari, son of Karappankadu Venkatachariar and V. Sami Iyengar, managing trustee, are the moving forces behind the temple’s activities. And steps have been taken to desilt the temple’s tank and revive the float festival. Now a new silver Garuda Vahanam is being made at a cost of Rs. 1.5 lakhs, which will be presented to the temple during the Brahmotsavam.
Contributions may be sent to Abeeshta Varadan Kainkarya Sabha, Karappankadu, Kadantagudi post, (via) Madukkur, Pattukkottai taluk, Thanjavur district, Pin – 614903.