Matchmaker NonPareil, Thiruvidanthai
By the east coast road, the famous ‘ECR’, enroute to Mahabalipuram lies this divyadesam of Thiruvidanthai, more commonly known as Nithya Kalyana Perumal Kovil. The temple is famous for its matchmaking prowess. It is the favorite haunt of unmarried youngsters and their devout parents. Afterall, what better place to pray for the boon of marriage than a kshetra where Mahavishnu married 360 daughters of a Maharishi. A marriage a day, lucky guy!!! :D
In Thretha Yuga, long long ago there lived a king called Bali Chakravarthy. Though born in an asura lineage, Bali was fair and ruled justly. Hearing about his prowess, three demon kings, Maali, Maalyavan and Sumaali went to him and requested him to fight along with them in a war against the devas. Bali was however totally against the idea and adviced them to leave the devas in peace and not to fight without a just cause. The demon kings ignored his advice and went ahead to war with the devas. They were crushed to defeat by the devas.
Once again the asuras approached Bali and requested him to fight on their side. Upon much insistence Bali agreed to war against the devas. This time around, because of the uncomparable might and warfield tactics of Bali, the devas were defeated in the war. Tha asuras went around kicking the devas and hurting them in every imaginable way. Now, since a just man like Bali had been involved in this cruel and unjustified treatment of the devas, he was cursed with the Brahmahathi Dosha (The sin that one ‘attains’ when he/she has been involved in the killing or mistreatment of a brahmana). The Brahmahathi is one of the worst sins to acquire. It spoils the mental and physical peace of the person who has been afflicted with it. Bali too suffered the same tortures. Finally, unable to bear anymore of the nonsense, he decided to take refuge in the supreme protector, Mahavishnu. He arrived at a spot near the present seashores of Chennai and undertook severe penance unto Madhusoodhana. Vishnu, pleased with his austere tapas appeared before him as Swetha Varaha, the Divine Swine, and cured him of all the ill effects of the dosha. Bali, immensely pleased with the gracious will of the lord, built a humble temple to Varaha on the spot. The place became to be known as Varahapuri, Sri Puri and Adi Varaha Kshetram.
Now, the divine force of the place pulled many holy men and women towards it like a gigantic human magnet. Rishis and Rishipatnis set up aashramas around the temple and started to live their simple lives, worshipping Sri Varaha Moorthy. One such rishi named Kuni Muni performed severe penance to reach heaven along with his daughter. By the blessings of the supreme, Kuni Muni ascended to the heavenly kingdom, however his daughter could not achieve the same fortune. Sage Narada took pity on the distraught girl and came down to talk to her.
“Child, did’nt your father tell you, that the riches of the kingdom of heaven can be achieved only by married men and women? Dont worry over this. Marry a suitable man, enjoy the blisses of grahastha, and then you too would ascend to heaven.” Narada consoled her.
The girl immediately took Narada’s advice and went around the holy place of Varaha Kshetra, asking the eligible rishis to marry her. When she knocked the door of Kalava Maharishi with the same plea, the rishi took pity on her and married her. Kalava and his wife started along their path of married life. They were indeed a happy couple and soon Kalava was the father of 360 daughters. And that was the end of their happiness. There is a saying in tamil, “Pennai petraal Arasanum aandi aavaan.” (If one begets a girl, even a king will soon become a pauper). If that is the condition of having one daughter, imagine what would have been the piteous plight of Kalava Muni.
When the 360 daughters reached an age suitable for marriage, Kalava Muni did what every one of us would do when face with an impossible disastrous situation-turn to divine help. He pleaded the lord of Varahapuri to show him a way out, but the lord answered back not. Kalava muni was deeply dejected at the silence of the saviour.
One day Kalava Muni had a unexpected guest. A young man, a brahmachari, exceedingly handsome and radiating splendour, came upto his doorsteps to ask for lodgings and food for the night. Ever benevolent and upholding the hindu traditions of “Athithi Devo Bhava” (The Guest is our lord), the rishi invited him to make himself comfortable at their ashram. During the night’s dinner, the man proposed to marry the first daughter of the rishi. Kalava was happy beyond all measures and performed the marriage of his first daughter with all the apt rituals. The bridal couple then went to the temple to seek the blessings of Sri Varaha Moorthi. When the couple entered the sanctum of the lord, there was a flash and then they were gone. Kalava was shocked and bewildered. He was afraid that he had earned the wrath of the lord and lost his daughter and son-in-law. He returned home more disturbed than before.
Surptisingly, the same set of events followed successively, one after the other, for a whole year. Kalava had married off all his daughters, at the rate of one a day, to exceedingly handsome celibate men, only to find them disappearing into the nothingness of the sanctum. Deeply perturbed by the mysterious disappearings of all his daughters and sons-in-law, the rishi prayed to Mahavishnu to enlighten him with their plights. Lo and Behold!!! There in the sanctum stood Sri Varaha. All his 360 daughters were seated on his laps. It took only a few seconds for Kalava to realise that all his 360 sons-in-law had indeed been forms of Vishnu himself. He was ecstatic with this supreme fortune that he had been blessed with. Sri Varaha then combined all the 360 daughters of Kalava and merged them into his divine consort Sri Maha Lakshmi. He then gave darshan to Kalava and his wife as Sri Varaha with Mahalakshmi on his left thigh. The rishi couple were immeadiately sanctioned a place in heaven. Afterall, they had had the good fortune of being the parents of Sri Mahalakhmi and the in-laws of Sri MahaVishnu himself. Sri Varaha Moorthi decided to stay on in Varahapuri in his present form, having Lakhmi on his left thigh, to bless all his devotees who would need any sort of help in their endeavours. Since Sri Mahalashmi sits on the left thigh of Sri Varaha, the place came to be known as Thiru Ida Enthai (Thiru-Lakshmi, Ida-Left, Enthai-My Mother(Lakshmi)) which over time got corrupted into the present name of Thiruvidanthai.
The moolavar, Sri Lakshmi Varahar, in this temple stands in a unique posture. With his right foot on the ground, he holds his left foot up, supported by Adhisesha and Bhoomi Naachiyar. On his left thigh is seated Sri Mahalakshmi, known as Komalavalli Naachiyar, after the first daughter of Kalava muni. She is also known as Akilavalli Naachiyar. In his right hand, the moolavar holds the Sudarshana Chakra and in his left he holds the Panchajanya. His lower right hand is shown to be gently supporting the seated Mahalakshmi. This is a form that is seen in no other temple and by itself makes the sthala quite famous.
The utsavar is known very aptly as Nithya Kalyana Perumal (Nithya-Daily, Kalyana-Wedding). He enjoys a Kalyana utsavam every day. This is the only divya desa where the utsavar gives darshan in a bridal attire all day long, all year long, for 360 days. The utsavar surprisingly has a very small scar on his cheek, This resembles the drishti pottu to ward off the evil eye that may befall the lucky groom and further adds to the bridal beauty of the lord.
The temple is an architectural wonder by itself with sculptures rich in detail and beauty. Even to this day, eager archeologists discover beautiful statuettes in bronze and other metals buried at various places around the temple. It happens to be a divya desa, the mangalaasaasanam having been done by Thirumangai Mannan and Manavaala Maamunigal. But apart from all that, the temple is known for its powers in granting a sweet married life to everyone who prays for the same. Young men and women alike, who are having trouble finding a suitable life partner throng to the temple in large numbers. They attend the Nithya Kalyana Utsavam and take part in the rituals of the divine marriage. Later, they offer a garland to the lord and pray for a suitable spouse. Then wearing the same garland, they circumambulate around the temple, all the while meditating on the divine lord and seeking his blessings in their marriage. They then take the garland home and keep it in their worship altar and continue worshipping the lord everyday. Usually, with the blessings of Sri Lakshmi Varahar, they soon find a suitable alliance of their choice and get married. Then, the person comes to the temple with their spouse in their bridal attire and the dried garland to offer their prayer of gratitude to the lord. It is a visual proof of the powers of the kshetra to see hundreds of newly married couples flocking to the temple every day.
The temple is situated by the scenic east coast facing the Bay of Bengal and is surrounded with a beatiful thicket of trees, giving the place a look of natural beauty. The village nearby was previously known as Komalavallipuram and has a beautiful stretch of beach that attracts lots of tourists. The place is presently known as Kovalam (Aaah!!! I knew that). There are two pushkarinis by the temple, Kalyana Theertham and Varaha Theertham. People travelling down to Mahabalipuram can hardly miss the temple. Though I have no urgent necessity as of yet to visit the temple :P , I would still recommend all of you to visit this beautiful Kshetra, a stone’s throw from Chennai and enjoy the scenic stretches of the ECR and the appeasing calmness of the temple.
P.S. To people under the age of 18, please visit the place at your own risk. I am not responsible for an ‘Early’ marriage :D