Alagar Kovil – Kallazhagar Temple is one among the 108 Divya desam’s of Lord Vishnu

by Saras Chelladurai Posted on 2578 views 0 comments

Located at 20 km from the center of Madurai city. The Shrine is well known for its sculptures of Vishnu in sitting, standing, and reclining positions. They are all place one above the other. The complex is very large. Be sure to visit the tower over the sacrum sanctum, and notice the wonderful carvings. It has a huge dome and beautifully carved pillars. Be aware there are steep steps to climb.

Alagar Koil is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, situated on foot of Alagar hills, amongst the natural beauty of the woods (known as Solaimalai). The Vaishnavite temple is famous for its beautiful sculptures and exquisite ‘mandapams’. It is believed that pilgrims visited Azhgar Kovil even in the early days of the Sangam age. According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Vishnu came to this place from his heavenly abode to give away Goddess Meenakshi in marriage to Lord Sundareswarar.

The splendid main tower at the entrance is believed to have been built by the Pandyan Kings. According to the historical background of the place, Malayadhwaja Pandyan, son of Kulasekhara Pandyan, was the earliest known monarch to patronize the temple. Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan beautified the ‘vimana’ of the shrine with gold plates. After the Pandya rule, the Nayakas patronized the deity.

Ulagalantha Perumal – Vishnu’s Vamana avatarVaraha Avatar – the boar form of VishnuGaruda Vahana – the carrier of Lord VishnuSlaying of Hiranya  – Narasimha Avatar

The main deity of this temple is called Paramaswamy and the processional idol is called Alagar or Sundararajan. The stunning idol is made of pure gold and is an exquisite example of craftsmanship. There is shrine of Kalyana Sundaravalli, the divine consort of Alagar, in the southern enclosure. There is another shrine in the north dedicated to Andal. Other important shrines are of Sudarshanar and Yoga Narasimha. There is another shrine nearby, dedicated to Karuppannaswamy, the God of Kallars. There are finely carved eighteen steps, which are an object of both worship and amazement by the devotees. It is claimed that nobody dares to tell a lie at this spot. The place is also known for its holy springs called Silamboru and Noopura Gangai. According to local tradition, these springs originated from the anklets of Maha Vishnu during His incarnation as Trivikrama.

The Legend

The legend has it that sage Suthapas (Munivar) was bathing in Nupura Gangai at Alagar Hill and did not pay heed to Durvasar Maharishi, who was passing by. The enraged Durvasar cursed Suthapas that he would turn into a frog until he is redeemed of his curse by Lord Sundararajar, who is also known as Kallazhagar. The Suthapas Maharishi, who is named as ‘Mandooga’ munivar because of his frog status, performed ‘thapas’ (prayer) on the banks of river Vaigai, which is otherwise known as Vegavathi, at Thenur. The Lord Kallazhagar comes from his abode in Alagar Hill to redeem Mandooga Maharishi of his curse, when he is praying.

Since days unknown, it is believed that the lord Kallazhagar comes to Thenur via Malaipatti, Alanganallur and Vayalur. In Thenur Mandap, the lord redeems the sage of his curse and leaves for his abode.

Alagar malai had been highlighted in the Vaalmigi’s Raamaayanam, Veda Viyasar’s Mahabharatham and Sugar’s Maha Bharatham. Viyaasar quoted in His Mahabharatham, that Yuthistran (Tharuman) came here, when they had been experiencing the forest life for 12 years. Again in Sugar’s Bhagavatham, Balaraman, the incarnation of lord Vishnu, had reached the Virushapathiri (Alagar malai), and had gone to Sethu (Rameshwaram), when on His pilgrimage.

In Silappathikaram (one of the five maha Kaapiams of Tamil language), also the glory of this hill had been highlighted, that one brahmanan (one who learn the veda and Upanishath etc.) had told Kovalan (hero of the kaapium),Kannagi (Heroin) and gownthiadigal (a jain guru), when approached Madurai for their survival, that they should visit “Thirumalirunkundrum“, which is on the way to Madurai,and there they could capable of finding three holy Theerthaas namely, Siravanam, Bawahaaruni, and Istasiddhi, provided if they could fulfill some rituals there, which had been very difficult to follow.Otherwise, they simply worship the feet of the lord Thirumal (lord Vishnu) and could get the moksha definitely. But the sign of those three theerthas has not been here, only Nooburagangai or Silambaaru is the only theertham seen nowadays.It has been there under the shrine of Goddess “Sri Raakachi amman“.

Several religious literary works offer valuable information on this temple. The Hill was once a safe refuge for the Jain monks in I.B.C. Paranjothi, the saivaite poet describes the event when a Jain monk sent a magical cow which was over-powered by Siva’s “Nandhi”. The cow which lost its power fell down and turned into a hillock and Siva’s ‘Nandhi’ also turned into a small mountain on the left side of this cow-like hillock. The presence of ‘Brahmin” script carved on stones inside some of the caves in these hills prove the presence of Jains in this area. A lot of sages belonged to various religion like Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism had been there at the caves found in the hill.

The Structure

Kallazhagar temple covers an area of about 2 acres and has a seven level gopuram (tower). The temple in enclosed in a rectangular enclosure with huge granite walls. The central shrine houses the image of the presiding deity, Perumaal in reclining posture on a snake bed similar to that of Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple. The images of Sridevi and Bhudevi are also housed in the sanctum. There two life size images of Narasimha, the avatar of Vishnu. One of them is shown holding the demon Hiranya and other slaying him. There are separate shrines of Sundaravalli Nachiyar, Andal, Sudarshana and Yoga Narasimha around the shrines of the sanctum.

The architecture of the Azhagar temple corresponds to any of those of south Indian temples, with large gopurams and pillared mandapams. The gopuram of the Karuppa swamy shrine depicts the passionate side of human relationship in the form of beautiful statues. Apart from these, it also depicts the evolution of cultural aspects of the local society including a depiction of an Englishman in British police uniforms.

The main tower entrance always remains closed, with the shrine of Karupana Swami. The steps behind the closed door is worshiped as Patinettaam padi Karuppan (meaning, the black deity who occupies the eighteen steps ). There are various legends associated with it. Only Once in a year, the doors are opened and Sudarshana Chakra (Chakrathaazhvar), the famous Vishnu’s wheel, passes over through the open door. This is a centuries-old practice, where even the festive deity of the presiding deity is not allowed to pass through the doors.

Some research scholars opine that this was earlier a Jain temple, but was later converted into a Vishnu temple. During archaeological excavations, many Jain caves and inscriptions were found in the same hill around this temple. However, the famous Vaishnava works in Tamil, belonging to the early 4th to 6th Centuries point that to this temple as a Vishnu temple. The Sangam age Silapadikaram belonging to 3rd Century AD, points out to this temple as a Vishnu temple. During 2013, while cleaning the area in front of Karupana Samy shrine, a big Teppakulam was discovered, filled with sand and covered with dense undergrowth.

The recently renovated gopurams of this temple look resplendent. The Mahabharata a says that this temple was visited by both Yudhisthira and Arjuna . It is said that Karudalwaar , the chief disciple of Ramanuja , regained his eyesight by worshiping the deity here. Don’t miss the 2,000 years old Sudarsana-chakra in this temple.

The Festivals

Among the many festivals that are conducted here, the Chitra festival is the most important one. During this festival, the processional idol of Alagar is taken to Madurai, halting at various places on the way. This festival attracts thousands of pilgrims and visitors from South India as well as from other parts of the country. A legend is popular how Alagar, the brother of Meenakshi was unable to attend her marriage in time and how he turned back from the banks of the Vaigai river. It is surprising what a strong visible influence this picturesque belief has been left in the environs of Madurai.

Chithirai festival of this temple celebrated for ten days. One of the festival day is declared as Local Holiday. In chithirai, Lord Kallalagar starts from Alagar kovil in the form of Kallar and reaches Madurai on Pournami (Full Moon day). Here he steps into river Vaigai in his Horse Vaganam. Lakhs of devotees flock to river Vaigai to see this event. “Ethir Sevai” festival is celebrated on the day before Alagar steps into river Vaigai. It is a tradition for the people of Madurai to welcome Alagar.

As Alagar returns from Vandiyur Dhasavatharam festival is celebrated throughout the night at Ramarayar Mandapam in the Northern part of river Vaigai. After this event Alagar is taken to Mysore Veera Mandapam on decorated Anantharayar Palanquin. The next morning Alagar in the form of Kallar returns to Alagar kovil in ‘Poo Pallakku‘ (Chariot decorated with flowers).

In the month of April and may, each year the great Chitra festival is celebrated on Pournami (full moon day). The Festival dramatically re enacts the visitation of Lord Kallalagar to Madurai from Alagarkoil . Millions of devotees flock to river Vaigai to personally witness the event of lord Alagar stepping down into the river and to get his blessings. During the months of July and August the festival of Aadi Brahmmorchavam is being celebrated for 10 days. This festival occurs within the precincts of the shrine. Devotees from different parts of Tamilnadu throng to participate in this festival. The temple car ‘Amaiththa Narayanan’ is taken in procession during Pournami (Full-Moon day) of Aadi (Brahmotchavam).

Festival and Pooja Schedules

English MonthTamil MonthFestivals
Mid April – MayChithiraiChithirai grand Thirivizha
May – JuneVaikashiVasantha Vizha (festival)
June – JulyAaniMuppala festival
July – AugustAadiAadi grand Thiruvizha
August – SeptemberAavaniThiru Pouthira festival
September – OctoberPurattasiNavarathiri festival
October – NovemberIyppasiThailakkappu (Sri Perumal visiting Noopura Gangai)
November – DecemberKarthigaiKarthigai Deepam festival
December – JanuaryMargazhiThiruvadhyayana festival (Pagal Patthu Rappatthu festival)
January – FebruaryThaiKaanum Pongal
February – MarchMasiGajendra Motcham festival, Float festival
March – AprilPankuniThirukalyanam Festival

Pooja (veneration) Timings – All days

Vishva Rupam Pooja – 6.00 A.M
Pongal Kalam Pooja – 7.00 A.M
UcchikKalam Pooja – 12.00 P.M
Sayarakchai Pooja – 5.00 P.M
Nithiyana Santhanam Pooja – 6.30 P.M
Sampakkalam Pooja – 8.00 P.M

The Holy Water (Nupura Ganga)

When Lord Vishnu took Vishvaroopam in his Vamana avatar and raised His foot over, Lord Brahma performed Padapooja with the Ganga water in the Heaven. Some of the water drops splashed over the anklet of Lord Vishnu, fell on the earth at Azhagar Hills and is still flowing as waterfalls. This is named as Noopura Gangai (Noopuram means anklet) and also as Silambaru. The devotees take bath in the Noopura Gangai Theertham to wash away their sins. This water tastes sweet and has medicinal values. There is a shrine for Rakayee amman here.

This water from the spring is rich in minerals. It is found to contain minerals like Iron and Copper. It is also believed that it could cure a number of diseases. It tastes sweet. There is a mystery surrounding the ‘Utsavamoorthi’ or ‘uthsava idol’ of God Kallalagar here, which is made of an alloy with a high percentage of pure gold, that if it is bathed in any water other than from this spring water, the idol turns black instantaneously.

There is a spring here for Lord Hanuman known as Hanuman theertham (devotee of Rama). Just above it is the “Garuda Theertham”.


Take a towel and a pair of alternative change clothes if u want take dip in the holy water. There is no eatery, except for a small shop in the place so better take food downhill at Azhagar Koil. This place is known for monkeys, so don’t forget to close, lock your vehicle doors properly and keep your food hidden. These monkeys will not harm you unless you annoy them. Beware of the steep steps to climb up to the sanctum.

The History

The Alwars period

Alwars are the 12 persons of fierce disciples of lord Vishnu, belonged to 8 th century. Among them, some body belonged to the 5th century. On those days, they praised this hill and it’s wealth, and described this as the “South Thirupathi”. In their hymns called “Paasurams”, they had praised the isthalam, Moorthy and the Theertham. They had done “Mangalasaasanam” on this Isthalam. Out of this 12 Alwars, six of them namely, Periyaalwar, Aandal, Thirumangaiyaalwar, Bootathaalwar, Paeyaalwar, nammaalwar had praised the hill and the lord Alagar in their 128 paasurams. All these paasuramshave been compiled and called in the name of ” Naalaayira thivya prapantham “, which has been called as the Veda of the vaishnavites.

Periyalwar and Aandal

Aandal is the incarnation of the goddess Sri “Maha lakshmi”, the consort of lord Vishnu, who had been the one of the 12 Alwars. She wanted to mary lord Sri Renga (lord Vishnu), with out knowing the birth secret of Her incarnation. She had been also called as the other name “Soodi kodutha Sudarkodi“, that every day, She had made the garland for the lord Vishnu and had garlanded Him with the flowers and songs in the name of paasurams. She and Her father Periyaalwar (also one of the 12 Alwars) often visited Alagar kovil and had sung paasurams about the hill and Alagar. Atlast She got married with Alagar in the form of lord sri Renganatha.

  Poigai Alwar
Poigai Alwar
StarThiruvonam (Sravana)
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  Bhoodath Alwar
Bhoodath Alwar
PlaceKadal Mallai
StarAvittam (Dhanishta)
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  Pei Alwar
Pei Alwar
StarSadayam (Satabhishak)
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  Thirumazhisai Alwar
Thirumazhisai Alwar
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Pei Alwar
PlaceAzhwar Thirunagari (Kurugoor)
StarVishaakam (Vishaaka)
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  Madhurakavi Alwar
Thirumazhisai Alwar
StarChitthirai (Chithra)
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Pei Alwar
PlaceSri Villiputhur
StarSwathi (Swaathee)
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  Sri Andal
Thirumazhisai Alwar
PlaceSri Villiputhur
StarPooram (Poorva Phalguni)
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  Thondaradippodi Alwar
Pei Alwar
StarKettai (Jyeshta)
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  Thiruppaan Alwar
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  Thirumangai Alwar
Pei Alwar
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  Kulasekara Alwar
Thirumazhisai Alwar
StarPunar Poosam (Punarvasu)
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Apart from puraana times, coming into the historical era, when the origin of pandyan kingdom there had been the Alagar kovil and the Alagapuri also there .This temple had been situated within the castle wall of Alagapuri. Both the temple and the Alagapuri were once considered as the same in social & religious life. At first both of these were said to be constructed by the deity of justice and the Viswakarmaa, the celestial architect of heaven, then were renovated by the pandyan king “Malaithuvaja pandyan”, who was the son of the founder of the pandyan kingdom, Kulasekara pandyan.

In the Periyalwar puraanam, when quoting about the temple, there said to be a big wall around the temple, and nowadays, we can see the destructed parts of the remaining big wall that were constructed by the granite stones. Apart from the pandyan kings, the other kings of cholas, Sri lanka’s, Vaanar’s, hoisaalar’s and the vijanagara’s Ambassadors, who were said to be Naayaks were also engaged themselves in the religious services. At last the, patronage was handed over to the east Indian company of the British government on 1785.

The Pandyan kings were having their flags embedded with the monogram of Fish, which would have been the first incarnation of lord Vishnu, the “Machha Avatar“, since they were the followers of the Vaishnavam.

Vijayanagar kingdom

Pandyan king Jadaavarman Sundarapandiyan (1251 – 1270) had done a lot of religious services to Alagar kovil, like one of them was the golden layer work of the tower of the temple. After the pandyan kingdom, the kings of vijayanagara had the direct supervision over the pandyan kingdom,allowing the pandya kings as only their representatives. Pandya successors built the big towers of goddess Sri Meenakshi amman, which are seen nowadays.

In 1565, the last king of vijayanagar had been defeated by the Mohammedans, in the war of “Thalaikottai”, the ambassadors of the pandyan kingdom became liberated and declared as they were the kings of those regions. Among the Vijayanagara’s kings, the very noted person was “Krishna devaraya“, who had immense devotion towards Alagar and the temple. He, then gave two villages called “Samaya nallur” and “Sattha mangalam” to the temple.

The king Krishna devaraya with his warriors, had come to Alagar kovil and had been halted for three days. The last ambassador of the vijayanagar, Viswanatha nayak had also done a lot of well fares to this temple, which had been in-scripted,near the western side of the tower of “Pathinettaampadi karuppu”. After his reign only, the Nayak’s ruling on Madurai, individually had began.

During the reign of Thirumalai Nayak (1623 – 1659), Madurai had been on it’s peak of prosperity. He had done a lot of religious services to the Alagar kovil, like the construction and renovation of yaaga salai, palliyarai, thantha vimaanam, thantha pallakku, abisheka mantapam etc. He also built a palace in Thirmalirunsolai (Alagar kovil).

The power of ruling Madurai had been changed over to “Aarkattu Nawaab” from the last nayak’s queen , called Meenakshi Ammal, on 1736.That time all the temples in Madurai had been at deep trouble. In 1757, the Mohammedan king ‘Hither ali’ had conquered Madurai, and robbed the wealth, surrounding Madurai and destroyed the sculptures in the marriage hall of the temple. He also destroyed the city Alagapuri and the surrounding walls of Alagar kovil. Now we can see the remaining destructed parts of the wall, which had been destroyed by Hyder Ali, near the temple premises. He also broke down the palace and it’s surroundings inside the castle (See picture below)

A great Mohammedan warrior called Yusuf khan defeated Hyder Ali, and sent him back to Dindigul on 1758, and also on the same year, he returned back the robbed wealth of Hyder Ali, to the alagar kovil temple. Due to conspiracy, Yusuf khan had been killed and again chaos had been there at Madurai. At last, on 1785, Madurai had been handed over to the east Indian company of British kingdom.

British Rule in Madurai

In 1801, the British to charge of the temple premises and made management reforms to return the authentic belongings of the temple. Then, on 1817, the management had been handed over to the Board of revenue and at last on 1863, the “committee for governing the religious activities” had taken the in charge of this temple. Finally, on 1929, a new department namely, “Hindu Religious and endowment board” had taken in charge of the ancient temples. Now a lot of temples are under the control of this board, and been maintained properly.

Saras Chelladurai

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