Handsome and prosperous

IN SINGING the praise of the Lord of Thentirupperai, the last on the southern bank of the Tamiraparani, on the main Tirunelveli-Tiruchendur Road, Nammazhwar, again, assumes the role of the heroine. The girl confides in her friends the fact that she has surrendered to the charms of the deity. She says: The sound of Vedic chanting rivals the roar of the ocean. Amidst this, holding the conch, he rests at Tirupperai. I have lost myself to him and sent my heart to retrieve myself. But my heart too has lost itself to him! Hear ladies who chide me! What shall I do now?" — Tiruvoimozhi 7.3.4.

In her song to Makara-Nedunkuzhai-Kathar, The one who wears the fish-shaped earrings, she begs her friends to show her the way to Tirupperai, lapped by the waters of the Tamirparani, surrounded by fertile fields of swaying paddy, fruit laden groves and stately houses. The water level in the river might have abated in the scorching heat and the fruit trees long gone but the swaying paddy fields are there and so are the old houses though not as prosperous as they would have been in the past. The lord, wearing his fish-shaped earrings, sits with Sri and Bhumidevi Nachiar.

There are also separate shrines for Kuzhai-k-Kadhuvalli and Tirupperai Nachiar. The special characteristic of the Lord here is Soundaryam or radiant beauty.

The sthalapurana talks of Bhumi Devi undertaking penance to redeem herself from a curse of sage Durvasa. In doing so, in the waters of the river, she finds a beautiful pair of earrings shaped like fish. Wishing to see them adorning Vishnu, she prays, and He appears before her, accepts the earrings and redeems her from the curse.

The place thus comes to be known as Thiru Perai, the site of Perai's penance. Inscriptions dating from 1011 record gifts of land to the temple. Most of them seem to have been made by local Chola chieftains who ruled as representatives of the Cholas. Similar inscriptions are also to be found in the less known Siva temple in the same village which was then known as Sundara-Pandya Chaturvedimangalam.

The prosperity is also mentioned in the concluding verse. Sadagopan of Kurugur, sang a thousand verses of which ten are dedicated to this shrine. They are on the protector of His devotees — "The protector who resides at prosperous Tirupperai. In mastering them you will be as devoted to him as his discus." — Thiruvoimozhi 7.3.11 Very little of this prosperity remains now.

The archakar who drew out the travel plan for the next six said: ``Remember to write about the Garuda Sannidhi which is not exactly opposite the main shrine and of this temple's association with Sukran in the Navagraha constellation."

He also extended an invitation for the annual uthsavam in Panguni and Vaikunta Ekadasi. Accepting it I rushed to the main road and retracing the route passed Thirukolur and Azhwar Thirunagari to cross the bridge and proceed to the six other temples.


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