Sri Sarangapanai Temple is a Vishnu temple located in the town of Kumbakonam in the Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu. Located along the banks of the River Kaveri, this temple is one of the Pancharanga Kshetrams (a group of temples dedicated to Vishnu on the banks of the Kaveri) and is considered third in line to the Srirangam and Tirupathi temples in prominence. The Sri Sarangapanai Temple also gains special mention as one of 108 Divya Desams or the temples that are special to God Vishnu. The Sri Sarangapanai Temple has a significant presence in the Nalayira Divya Prabandham sung by the 12 Alwar poets.
Sri Sarangapanai Temple is the center of many legends some of which we shall discover below.
The origins of the town of Kumbakonam itself are said to be divine nature. When Shiva decided to wipe the face of the earth clean and start life anew he decided to do so by the force of nature.
He called upon a Pralaya Kaalam, a period of heavy rain to cleanse the earth. Brahma in order to secure the Vedas and the Amirtham which were essential for recreating life on earth created a mud pot and left it for safekeeping on top of the Mountain Meru. However the force of nature did not spare the pot and was washed away in the flood. The pot moved in a southerly direction and came to rest in a spot.
After the floods subsided, the devas pleaded with Shiva to release the Amirtham so that life can begin. Shiva obliged and broke open the pot with an arrow from heaven. The Amirtham flowed from the pot and formed two pools of water which is what we now know as Maha maga kulam and the Potramarai kulam.
The pieces of the pot combined with the Amirtham from which rose the form of Lord Kumbeswarar. The place of this divine event is now what is now known as Kumbakonam.
Another legend concerns Sage Brighu. An argument arose among the rishis as to whom they would submit an Avirbagam (an offering). Unable to decide the rishis sent Brighu Maharishi to tour each of the trinities’ respective abodes and declare a worthy winner. Brighu Maharishi made the trip to both Shivaloka and Brahmaloka but was treated with disdain and disrespect.
Angered, he made his way to Vishnuloka hoping that he would be treated much more respectfully. Unfortunately Vishnuloka was no better and this angered Brighu to no end. In a fit of rage the maharishi, raised his foot and kicked the almighty Vishnu in his chest! Vishnu’s consort, Mahalakshmi who resided in his chest was angered by this act and retaliated. She left Vishnu’s abode and went to earth.
Vishnu meanwhile responded to Brighu’s act of anger in a calm and collected manner. He held the sage’s legs and while trying to soothe his aching legs artfully plucked out the Brighu’s third eye (or Pride Eye) from under his toe! Brighu Maharishi regained his composure and realized the gravity of his actions. He pleaded to Mahavishnu to forgive him for his reckless deed.
Mahavishnu missed Mahalakshmi and went in search of her in the earth. He search high and low but his search was in vain. Dejected, Vishnu undertook the form of God Srinivasa and decided to marry Goddess Padmavati. He even borrowed money from God Kubera for his marriage as he could not afford it due to Lakshmi’s absence.
But the marriage would not last long. Padmavati quarreled with Srinivasa and left Tirupathi for good. The news of Vishnu’s marriage to Padmavati and its eventual demise reached Mahalakshmi who was residing at Kollapuri through Naratha. This further angered her and she went in search of Vishnu to demand an explanation.
Srinivasa anticipated Lakshmi’s anger and took refuge in a Paatha Loka (Abyss) in Kumbakonam to escape her wrath. Goddess Mahalakshmi’s search did not end successfully and hence she took the form of a small child named Bala Komalavalli and crawled the banks of the Potramaria Kulam.
A sage by the name of Hema Maharishi who was passing by saw Komalavalli and adopted her as his own. Hema Maharishi was none other than Sage Brighu Maharishi who sought retribution for his needless act of anger. He had taken the form of Hema Marishi and came down to earth, immersing himself in deep penance and praying that Lakshmi be born to him as a child.
Sage Hema, raised Komalavalli up to her marrying age upon which he prayed to Mahavishnu to accept Lakshmi back as his consort. Mahavishnu acquiesced and descended upon the earth in a mighty chariot and married Komalavalli Thayar. The legend says that Vishnu’s chariot was the very temple which stands today at Kumbakonam and was also the very place where the wedding took place.
But Komalavalli Tayar was still angry at Vishnu’s act. In order to appease her Vishnu abandoned his mighty standing posture and took a more relaxed laying down pose. Further Vishnu took a Sarangam,
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