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Temple Of Sthalasayana Perumal Mahabalipuram
To have darshan of Lord Vishnu without his weapons, the Sanku and the Chakra, and without his customary "bed", Adi Sesha, is somehow a humbling experience. Lying on the ground with one hand supporting his head and the other raised up in the traditional gesture of invitation, the Lord somehow seems defenceless, though the rational mind says this is not true.
Of course, it is only a posture he has assumed to make it clear how accessible he is to the true devotee. In this case, Sage Pundarika, a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. The temple being referred to is the "Sthalasayana Perumal" temple in Mamallapuram, which has been described by the Azhwars as "Kadalmallai". It has a quiet charm about it and, considering that it was built 600 years ago, is in pretty good condition.
Sage Pundarika came to Mamallapuram, where he saw a tank with a lovely lotus flower having 1000 petals. He wanted to offer it at the feet of the Lord. So he plucked the flower from the tank, which is now called Pundarika Pushpakarani. He wanted to offer it to "Par kadalil pallikollum paraman", the Lord who lies on the sea.
He began to bale out the water from the sea with his own hands. The Lord, Anaatharakshaka (protector of the helpless) came to his rescue in the form of an old and weakened man. The old man asked for food, and immediately Pundarika went in search of it. Meanwhile, the aged man started bailing out the water.
When the sage returned with food, he saw that the sea had dried up. In the place where the water had been, a beautiful figure was lying in recumbent posture. The sage realised that the old man was none but the lord himself. He placed the lotus at the feet of the Lord. Because the Lord touched the sea for bailing water, it is now called "Artha Sethu".
The idol being referred to is none other than the idol of Lord Vishnu in the shore temple at Mamallapuram. This is dated to the ninth century A.D. Around 500 years later, in the 14th century AD, the Lord is said to have appeared in a vision to the rulers of Vijayanagar and commanded them to build a temple for the Lord here away from the eroding waves of the sea.
The ruler, Parangusan, built the present "Sthalasayana" temple, which lies in the heart of Mamallapuram town, with an idol that is a replica of the one in the shore temple. The Lord's feet are on a lotus and darshan of the "padams" confers great good. The goddess here is "Nilamangai", the goddess of the earth. There are also shrines to Andal, Lord Lakshmi Narasimha and to Boothathazhwar, who incarnated here. Once this temple was consecrated, pujas were stopped at the shore temple.
Thirukadalmallai is one of the 108 Vaishnavite Divya Desams sung of by the Azhwars. Set in the middle of a crowded town and yet away from it, the temple should be part of any visit to Mamallapuram.
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