The Parthasarathy Temple is an 8th-century Hindu Vaishnavite temple dedicated to the Lord Vishnu, located at Thiruvallikeni, Chennai, India. The temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Alvar saints from the 6th–9th centuries CE and is classified as among the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu. The name ‘Parthasarathy’, in Tamil, means the ‘charioteer of Arjuna’, referring to Krishna’s role as a charioteer to Arjuna in the epic Mahabaratha.
It was originally built by the Pallavas in the 8th century by king Narasimhavarman I. The temple has icons of five forms of Vishnu: Narasimha, Rama, Gajendra Varadaraja, Ranganatha and Krishna. The temple is one of the oldest structures in Chennai. There are shrines for Vedavalli Thayar, Ranganatha, Rama, Gajendra Varadaraja, Narasimha, Andal, Hanuman, Alvars, Ramanuja, Swami Manavala Mamunigal and Vedanthachariar. The temple subscribes to Vaikhanasa agama and follows Thenkalai tradition. There are separate entrances for the Krishna and Narasimha temples. The gopuram (towers) and mandapas (pillars) are decorated with elaborate carvings, a standard feature of South Indian Temple Architecture.
Parthasarathy Temple History
The temple was originally built by the Pallavas in the 8th century, 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 and Telugu presumably from the period of Dantivarman, who was a Vishnu devotee. Thirumangai Alvar, the 9th century alvar also attributes the building of temple to the Pallava king. From the internal references of the temple, it appears that the temple was restored during 1564 CE when new shrines were built. In later years, endowments of villages and gardens have enriched the temple. The temple also has inscriptions about the Pallava king, Nandivarman of the 8th Century.
The temple was extensively built during the Chola period and a lot of inscriptions dating back to the same period are found here. The outer most mandapam is replete with sculptures of various forms of Vishnu, especially the avatars. One can also see inscriptions of Dantivarma Pallava of the 8th century, Chola and Vijayanagara in the temple. The first architectural expansion of the temple took place during the reign of the Pallavas (Tondaiyar Kon) as vividly described by Tirumangai Azhwar. Reminiscent of this is the inscription of the Pallava King Dantivarman (796-847 A.D.), which is preserved in the temple.
The temple witnessed a major expansion during the rule of the Vijayanagar kings like Sadasiva Raya, Sriranga Raya and Venkatapati Raya II (16th century). Many subshrines and pillared pavilions (mandapas) like the Tiruvaimozhi Mandapa were added.
A Pallava king built the present temple in the eighth century. The gopuram was also built by a Pallava king – Tondaiman Chakravarthy. There are inscriptions that record the contributions of the Chola kings Raja Raja and Kulottunga III, Pandya King Maravarman and many rulers of the Vijayanagar dynasty including Ramaraja Venkatapathiraja and Vira Venkatapathy. For a while the East India Company administered the temple.
The pushkarani is called Kairavani and five sacred teerthams are believed to surround the tank – Indra, Soma, Agni, Meena and Vishnu. Seven rishis – Bhrigu, Atri, Marichi, Markandeya, Sumati, Saptaroma and Jabali – performed penance here. All five deities in the temple have been extolled by Tirumangai Azhvar. There is also a separate shrine for Andal, one of the 12 Alvars who is also considered as a consort to the presiding deity.
It is one of the very few shrines in the country dedicated to Krishna as Parthasarathy, charioteer of Arjuna and to contains idols of three avatars of Vishnu: Narasimha, Rama, and Krishna.
Unusually, he is depicted with a prominent moustache and carries a conch in his hand. Also unusual is the iconographical combination found in the sanctum. Here, Krishna is seen standing with consort Rukmini, elder brother Balarama, younger brother Satyaki, son Pradyumna and grandson Aniruddha. Because of the association of the temple with Krishna, Tiruvallikeni came to be regarded as the Southern Vrindavana. He also mentioned about the Telliya Singar shrine within the temple.
Parthasarathy Temple Darshan, Sevas and Festivals
The temple is administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu. The temple follows the traditions of the Thenkalai sect of Vaishnavite tradition and follows vaikanasa aagama. The temple has grand brahmotsavams (big festival) for Sri Parthasarathy swami during the Tamil month of Chittirai (April–May), on the same month Udayavar uthsavam is also celebrated.
As per Sri Pillailogam Jeeyar Swamy in his work “Ramanuja Divya Charithai” it is stated that Sri Asoori Kesava Somayaji, father of Sri Ramanuja, performed Putrakaameshti Yagam at Kairavini the temple pond at Thiruvallikeni, and prayed to Sri Parthasarathy to bless him with a son. Sri Parthasarathy appeared in the dreams of Sri Asoori Kesava Somayaji and promised he will be born as his son to impart teachings of his Gita for the benefit of mankind. Bhagavad Gita Bhāshya (a review and commentary on the Bhagavad Gita),was later written by Sri Ramanuja. In conformity of the above tradition during the annual festival, unlike other Alwars and Acharyas, Sri Ramanuja has independent processions both in the morning and evening.
In the month of Vaigasi, Sri Varadarajar uthsavam, Sri Nammalwar uthsavam (vaigasi-visagam) and Vasanthothsavam are celebrated. Sri Azhagiyasingar (Lord Narashimha) during the Tamil month of Aani (June–July). So uniquely two Bhrammotsavams are performed here annually. There are also festivals for Ramanuja (April–May) and Manavalamamunigal (Oct-Nov) besides festivals for Alvars and Acharyas. Vaikunta Ekadesi and during the Tamil month of Margazhi (December–January) draws lot of pilgrims.