Famous Temples of Tamil Nadu (India) – Oppiliappan Temple
Famous Temples of Tamil Nadu (India) – Oppiliappan Temple, is also known as Thiruvinnagaram is temple for Vishnu located nearer to Kumbakonam of Tamil Nadu, India. The temple is one of the 108 Divya Desams of Vaishnavism. The chief deity in this temple is Lord Uppiliappan with his spouse Bhumi Devi and her father sage Markandeya. Inscriptions here date the temple during the period of Rajendra Chola. The temple has a 50 feet high five tiered Raja Gopuram (Tower) facing east and has two prakarams (closed precincts of a temple). This place is also called Vaikunta Nagaram, Markandeya Kshetram, and as Tulasi vanam.
The legend associated with the temple goes like, that, Once Tulsi did penance and asked to be given special place in Lord Vishnu’s chest like Goddess Lakshmi. Lord Vishnu said that Lakshmi occupied that position. But, after severe penance and also as she was about to incarnate on the banks of river Cauvery in Earth with the name of Bhumi Devi, the Lord asked Tulsi to appear there prior to her as a tulsi plant and Lakshmi will incarnate under Tulsi’s shadow. Tulsi obeyed the order and became tulsi bushes on the Cauvery banks. Since Tulsi supported Lakshmi’s incarnation, Lord Vishnu rewarded Tulsi as being very special to him in the temple. It is believed, that one who worships Vishnu with Tulsi leaves will get the effect of doing an Ashvamedha Yagam.
Mrikandu Maharishi’s son, Markandeya worshipped the Lord Vishnu and desired that Lakshmi should be born as his daughter and the Lord himself should become his son-in-law. One day, when Markandeya reached Thiruvinnagaram, he felt that this was the right place for getting his desire fulfilled. Markandeya then started a severe penance for 1000 years seeking Lakshmi’s blessings.
As an appreciation to thousand year’s of severe penance of Markandeya, Lakshmi appeared as a baby under the already incarnated Tulsi plant. Markandeya felt the presence of Lakshmi as the incarnation in the form of the baby and realised that a part of his desire had been fulfilled. He took possession of the baby and raised her. When this young girl reached adolescent age, on a day in the panguni month of Sravana Nakshathram, the Lord appeared as an old man and asked for the hand of Markandeya’s daughter in marriage. Markandeya replied that her daughter is too young and could not even cook with proper salt in the food, to which the Lord in the guise of the old man replied that he was ready to accept her and her cooking without salt. Markandeya later realised this was none other than Lord Vishnu himself and offered his daughter’s hand in marriage and performed the kanya Dhan of his daughter (Lakshmi) to the Lord.
Oppiliappan stands upto 8 feet tall in the centre. Below him Bhoomidevi faces north in a kneeling posture while Makandeya Maharishi who has the boon of retaining his age as 16 forever is the position to the marriage to his daughter. Left hand of Oppiliappan contains the inscription ‘Maam Ekam Saranam Vrija’ which is a verse form Bhagavatgita instructing the whole mankind to devote their pure souls into his lotus feet to attain Salvation
Since the Lord had said that He will accept the food that is not salted as His best and most desired food, this temple Neivethiyam (Prashad) is always done without salt in any food. The name Oppiliappan is as result of this legend. Temple administration mentions Oppiliappan as Sri Venkatachalapathy. Oppiliappan is considered to be the elder brother of Tirupathi Sri Venkatachalapathy. If anyone is unable to visit Tirumala to offer their offerings, they can visit Oppiliappan and it is considered equivalent of doing that in Tirumala itself. Hence it is also known as Tirupathi of South.
Beliefs and rituals
People offer black peppers with salt at Lord Vishnu’s feet in front of the Garudazhwar, to cure them of any dermal diseases. It is believed that praying to Lord and Mother in the temple would ensure unity among the couples and cultivate harmony in their life.Sravana Nakshtra day is very special here. During that day devotees take a dip in the temple tank have darshan of Oppiliappan and carry sravana deepam. Another belief is that if you offer sandal and kumkum you get salvation from brahmahathi dosha.