The Parthasarathy Temple is a Hindu Vaishnavite temple dedicated to Bhagwan Vishnu, located at Triplicane (Thiruvallikeni), Chennai, Bharat. The temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Alvar saints from the 6th to 9th centuries CE and is classified as 61st among the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu.
The name ‘Parthasarathy’ means the ‘charioteer of Partha (Arjuna)’, referring to Krishna’s role as a charioteer to Arjuna in the epic Mahabaratha. Thiru means Glorious, Alli means flower Creeper and Keni means the Tank in Tamil. The place is called Allikeni, meaning a pond of lily as it is believed that historically the place was full of lily ponds.
Temple is also worshipped as Brindaranyam (Thulasivanam) as once this place was with full of Thulasi (Brinda). Because of the association of the temple with Krishna, Tiruvallikeni came to be regarded as the Southern Vrindavana. It is believed that Seven rishis – Bhrigu, Atri, Marichi, Markandeya, Sumati, Saptaroma and Jabali – performed penance here.
The temple follows Vaikhanasa agama (i.e.,worshipers of Vishnu and followers of Sage Vikhanasa philosophy that focuses on rituals) and follows Thenkalai tradition (sect of Vaishnavites who give Divya Prabandham, the Vedas and bhakti as the first preference).
This is a unique temple where Sri Krishna is worshipped with his entire family in one place in the sanctum. To His Right Side is Rukmini, while to His Left Side is his Younger Brother Satyaki. Elder Brother Balarama is seen to the right of Rukmini facing North. Son Pradyumna and Grandson Aniruddha are in the North of the Main Sanctum facing South. Krishna in the form of Parthasarathi is depicted with a prominent moustache and carries a conch in his hand.
The temple was originally built by the Pallavas in the 6th century by king Narasimhavarma I and subsequently expanded by Cholas and later by the Vijayanagara kings in the 15th century. The temple has several inscriptions dating from the 8th century in Tamil presumably from the period of Dantivarma, who was a Vishnu devotee. The temple also has inscriptions about the Pallava king, Nandivarma of the 8th Century. One can also see inscriptions of Dantivarma Pallava of the 8th century, Chola and Vijayanagara period in the temple.
The first architectural expansion of the temple took place during the reign of the Pallavas (Tondaman Chakravarthi) and this was vividly described by Tirumangai Azhwar (9th century). From the records of the temple, it appears that the temple was restored during 1564 CE when new shrines were built.
The temple witnessed a major expansion during the rule of the Vijayanagar kings like Sadasiva Raya, Sriranga Raya and Venkatapati Raya II (16th century). There are inscriptions that mention the contributions of the Chola kings Raja Raja and Kulottunga III, Pandya King Maravarma and many rulers of the Vijayanagar dynasty including Ramaraja Venkatapathiraja and Vira Venkatapathy.
According to Brahmanda purana, King Sumathy prayed Bhagwan Thiruvenkata Chalapathy of the Seven Hills to give him darshan in the form of the Charioteer (sarathy) to Partha during the Mahabharata war doing Geetopadesha. Bhagwan appeared in his dream and instructed him to go to “Brindaranya” where he would give him Darshan in the form he wished.
Meanwhile, Athri Maharshi requested his Guru Vedavyasa to guide him to the place fit for doing penance and he was advised by Vedavyasa to go to Brindaranya on the banks of the Kairavani Theertham where King Sumathy was doing penance. Vedavyasa gave Athri Maharshi a Divya-Mangala Vigraha of Bhagwan Parthasarathy with a conch in his right hand and Gnana Mudra in the left hand pointing to His holy feet, signifying the famous last Sloka of the Bhagavat Geetha:-
“Sarva Dharman Parithyajya Mamekam Saranam Vraja Ahamthwa Sarwa Papebhyo Mokshayishyami Ma Suchaha” (18-66): (which means, Give up all your rights and duties. Have trust in me and surrender completely. I will relieve you from all the sins and give you salvation).
Accordingly, Athri Maharshi reaches Brindaranya and meets King Sumathy. Sumathy is pleased with the Divya Mangala image of Sri Parthasarathy Swamy brought by Athri Maharshi and offers his worship. Thus this idol enshrined as the central figure in the sanctum sanctorum is being worshipped as “Sri Venkatakrishna Swamy”.
Shrines in the temple
The temple has icons of five forms of Vishnu: Yoga Narasimha, Rama, Gajendra Varadaraja, Ranganatha and Krishna as Parthasarathy. The temple is one of the oldest structures in Chennai. There are also shrines for Vedavalli Thayar, Andal, Hanuman, Alvars, Ramanuja, Swami Manavala Mamunigal (15th century saint and proponent of Vaishnava philosophy) and Vedanthachariar ( 14th century saint and proponent of Vaishnava philosophy) in this temple.
There is a separate shrine within the main shrine for Sri Ranganatha who is reclining on Adi Sesha and facing East with his consorts and Brahma in the naval. There are two other images in that shrine one is Sri Narasimha and the other is Sri Varaha facing each other north and south.
A separate shrine is built for Sri Vedavalli Thayar facing East on the right side of the Parthasarathy shrine. Gajendra Varada shrine is located on the left side of Sri Vedavalli Thayar shrine. He is seated on Garuda with discus and conch on both right and left hands respectively.
There is a separate shrine for Sri Thellia-Singa-Perumal (Sri Narasimha Swamy) in this temple facing west, behind Sri Parthasarathy swamy shrine. Yoga Narasimhaswamy is the name of Moolavirat and the Uthsava Vigraha is worshipped as Azhagiasinger or Thelliasingaperumal. He has a separate flag mast (dwajasthambam). Thus, there are separate entrances and Dwajastambhas for the Parthasarathy and Yoga Narasimha shrines in this temple.
A separate shrine is built within the temple facing South for Sri Rama with his brothers Bharatha, Satrughna, Lakshmana and his consort Maithilli (Sita). Opposite to this shrine Sri Hanuman is installed in a separate small shrine. A separate shrine is built for Sri Andal-the incarnation of Bhu devi
This temple has the uniqueness of celebrating two Bharmostavams every year, one for Bhagwan Parthasarathy and one for Bhagwan Narasimha Swamy. Float festival is held for seven days in the month of magha (tamil month masi), three days for Bhagwan Parthasarathy and one each of Sri Narasimhaswamy, Sri Ranganatha, Sri Rama and Sri Gajendra Varatha.
As there are festivals held for each deity of this temple there are celebrations throughout the year. The recitation of 4,000 hymns of the Alwars known as Nalayira Divya Prabandham is a tradition preserved in this temple for generations.
Subramanya Bharathiar, the legendary Tamil poet and freedom fighter was struck by an elephant at the temple, whom he used to feed regularly. Although he survived the incident, a few months later his health deteriorated and he died.
Swami Vivekananda, is a devotee of Bhagwan Parthasarathy. In one of his letters in the year 1893 to his disciple Alasinga, he writes ‘Take a bow before Lord Parthasarathy of Thiruvallikeni and give an undertaking before Him of a great sacrifice, one of a whole life for the poor, the lowly and the oppressed – for whom Lord Parthasarathy comes from time to time and whom he loves above all.’ One can find this letter to his disciple inscribed in one of the walls at temple corridor.
The temple is located at the heart of Chennai city near the seashore (Bay of Bengal) and the famous Marina Beach is around 1 KM from this temple.
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