Nachiyar Kovil or Sreenivasa Perumal temple is located in a place called Nachiyar Kovil which is some 10 km from Kumbakonam. This temple is considered as the 14th Divya Desam temple among the 108 Divya Desams. It is built by the Chola King Kochengan and it is the first Vaishnavite Temple built by the king (The King has built totally 70 Saivite Temples and this is the 71st one).
The main God of the temple is Sreenivasa Perumal and His consort is known by the name Vanjulavalli Thayaar. As the name of the temple suggests, this is one of the few Divya Desams where the Goddess or the Thayar of the temple is given preference over Lord Vishnu.
As per the Sthalapurana, there lived a saint named Medhavi here in this place.He wanted Mahalakshmi to be his daughter. So he worshipped the Lord religiously with utmost belief. As a result of his prayers, he found a very beautiful girl baby under the tree named “Vanjula Maram” (Ashoka Tree). The saint took the child and named her as Vanjulavalli after the tree from where he found her. Vanjulavalli then grew up in his ashram and she attained the age of marriage. One day, Lord Vishnu split himself as 5 of His forms namely Shankarshanan, Anirudhan, Prathyumnan, Purushothaman, and Vasudevan and then visited saint Medhavi’s ashram as guests. The saint’s disciples welcomed the guests and Vanjulavalli served a delicious meal for them. After finishing their meal, Vanjulavalli helped them in washing the hands by pouring water. At that time, Vasudevan suddenly caught hold of her hand. When she cried for help, her father Medhavi, came running for help. But before he could catch Him, all the five guests disappeared and Lord Mahavishnu appeared before them. Then he asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Saint Medhavi was extremely happy and accepted to give his daughter in marriage but he asked for 3 boons from Lord. He said that he should attain eternal salvation. All the living beings, who helped Him in attaining Vanjulavalli as His wife should attain salvation and finally, he said that his daughter should always be given prominence – (i.e) She should be given first place in all aspects. Lord Vishnu happily accepted for these conditions and married Vanjulavalli Thayar. (Lord Vishnu predicted that in Kali Yuga, men would have to listen to their wives and so decided to set an example!! 🙂 ). From that day, this place is also called as Nachiyar Kovil – meaning the temple of Mahavishnu’s Wife. Even in the main sanctum, the Goddess Vanjulavalli stands one step ahead of the God.
Another important aspect of this temple Kal Garudan – Vishnu’s mount made up of stone. This huge idol of Garuda is made up of Saligrama Stone and we have a separate shrine for this Garuda extending about 10 ½ Feet, just outside the main sanctum. It is said that the sculptor who created this idol of Garuda, saw that the idol started flying as soon as he finished making its wings. The sculptor got shocked by this sudden action of the bird and he threw a stone at the Garuda striking its nose. Then the Garuda came falling down and decided to stay there in the temple to bless the devotees.
During the months of Margazhi (December- January) and Panguni (March- April), a special event called “Kal Garuda Seva” will be performed in the temple. During this time, the Kal Garudan would be taken out of his sanctum for a procession. The Kal Garudan would step out of its Sanctum by around 7 PM and now the magical event takes place. Only 4 people are required to carry the Kal Garudan from its sanctum. He would be draped in a new silk dhoti, decorated with glittering jewels and with a huge flower garland. Later when he advances further out of each layer of the Prakaram, his weight would increase exponentially demanding 8, 16, 32 and 64 people to carry Him. Finally, when he comes out of the Vahana Mandapa His weight would have dramatically increased and totally 128 people were required to carry. Even He would sweat profusely so that his clothes get drenched in the sweat. We could even see the droplets of sweat on His Nose. Interestingly, when He returns to the temple after the procession, the Stone Garuda would decrease its weight in the reverse order so that only 4 people would be required to carry Him back at the sanctum.
During the procession, the Lord Sreenivasa would be mounted atop the Kal Garuda and the Goddess Vanjulavalli Thayar would be mounted on the Swan Vehicle. Normally, during the procession, the Lord would lead the way. But here, due to the heaviness of the Kal Garudan, it would be tough for the devotees to carry Him faster. So the Goddess Vanjulavalli Thayar on the Swan Bird would move faster followed by the Lord. This clearly states that the Lord is still keeping up His promise that He gave to the saint Medhavi that his wife would be given first place in all the things.
Another important feature of this Kal Garuda Seva is that the Garudan would receive his first honors from Sreenivasa Perumal at his sanctum for carrying him effortlessly on to the streets of Nachiyar Koil, on this special occasion. Once the procession is over, the next day morning, the Lord would present His Parivattam, dhoti, and garland to the Kal Garudan. With this event, the Kal Garuda Utsavam comes to an end !!