There is no denying the fact that travelling within India is replete with interesting sights, engaging experiences and surprises at almost every nook and corner. A visit to the southern city of Kumbakonam is sure to treat you to some unique sights. And the seemingly non-descript town of Natchiarkoil on the outskirts of Kumbakonam is one such experience. Located at a distance of just under ten kilometres from Kumbakonam, this town is almost synonymous with the Nachiyar Kovil or Thirunarayur Nambi temple.
Auspicious Vishnu Temple
The temple is believed to have been built by Kochengat Cholan of the 3rd century and then renovated by the Cholas of the medieval period and the Vijayanagara kings. The over 70 feet, five-tiered ornate gopuram or tower at the entrance of the temple, which is also known as the Kal Garudan temple, is hard to miss.
The temple is one of the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu and is worshipped as Srinivasa Perumal. His consort Lakshmi who is known as Nachiyar is also religiously very significant. A unique feature of the temple is the fact that there is a separate sanctum dedicated to Garuda or the divine eagle-like sun bird. Known as Kal Garuda, the idol is over 10 feet tall and is made from Saligrama stone. It is found in a rare kneeling down position.
The daily pooja which includes offerings and rituals at this temple designed in the Dravidian style is performed 6 times every day. The main festival or Brahmmotsavam is a 10-day extravagant affair celebrated during the Tamil month of Margazhi (December–January). Garuda Sevai is celebrated during the Tamil month of Phalgun (March–April).
During the occasion of Garuda Sevai, the idol of Garuda is decked up with jewels and an elaborate pooja is performed. It is then taken out via a grand procession from the sanctum. It is said that while four people are initially able to take out the idol from the sanctum, its weight exponentially increases and 8, 16, 32, 64 and 128 people are required to carry the idol as it crosses each “Prakaram”. Even droplets of water as sweat appear on the nose and face of Garuda’s idol as it is carried outside. Similarly, as the idol is bought back, the weight magically decreases and from 128 people just 4 people are required to carry the idol and place it back in the sanctum. This is touted to be one of the miracles of the temple that remains undeciphered till date.
Apart from the above phenomena, it is key to note in this temple, the Goddess is given priority over Lord Vishnu in that the first rights are reserved for Nachiyar who moves first and then Lord Srinivasa follows her. The offering of the prasadam is also done for the Goddess first and then to Lord Vishnu. Needless to mention, even in the sanctum, She is placed in a more prominent position than Lord Srinivasa.