The majestic Pundarikaksha Perumal Temple is situated in Tamil Nadu near Tiruchirapalli.
It is also known as Thiruvellarai as “vellarai” means white rock and is situated on top of a small mountain that is also white in colour.
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Located at a distance of 27km from Trichy, the temple showcases the aesthetics of Dravidian architecture. Being one among the 108 divya desams, Lord Vishnu is worshiped here as Pundarikakshan and his consort Lakshmi as Pankajavalli.
According to legends, the temple was built by Sibi Chakravarthy, the king of Ayodhya in Treta Yuga 15 lakh years ago. In fact, the shrine is even older than the Srirangam temple.
The temple has three inscriptions in its two rock-cut caves, two of them dating from the period of Nandivarman II, who reigned from 732 AD to 796 AD, and other to that of Dantivarman, who ruled from 796AD to 847AD.
The shrine is built on a 50ft artificial hill and has two stepped entrances to the sanctum — Uttarayana Vaasal and Dakshinayana Vaasal. From January 15 to June 15, devotees enter the shrine through the Uttarayana Vaasal and for the next six months Dakshinayana Vaasal is opened.
The presiding deity Pundarikakshan is named “Thai Maatha Naayagan” during Uttarayanam and “Maayavan” during Dakshinayanam.
Besides the main shrines of Vishnu and Lakshmi, the temple has shrines dedicated to Azhwars, Garuda and other gods. A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all the shrines and six of its seven water bodies.
The rajagopuram or the main entrance way is still unfinished yet its elegance and intricate carvings make one stop and admire its surreal beauty. A swastika-shaped temple tank built in 800AD during the reign of Dantivarman is present in the south-western corner of the street around the temple.
The temple is mentioned in various Sanskrit texts.
To reach the shrine, one needs to climb 18 steps, representing the 18 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita. The next four steps at the gopuram tower represent the four Vedas.
The Vijayanagara and Nayak kings commissioned several paintings on the walls of the shrine, some of which are still present.
Although the temple doesn’t find mention in the list of famous temples, it is really a shrine worth visiting.