Sri Saranatha Perumal Temple in Thirucherai is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. It is one of the 108 Divyadesam dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Saranathan and his consort Lakshmi as Saranayaki. It is believed that Saranathan appeared for Kaveri, the river goddess, who performed penance at this place.
There are two inscriptions in the temple from the period of Chola Parakesari Varman and Babasahib of Madavipallam indicating various grants to the temple. The temple is believed to be of significant antiquity with contributions at different times from Medieval Cholas, Vijayanagar Empire and Madurai Nayaks. The crown of some of the images from the Chola period shows influence of Buddhist tradition in the region.The metal image of Sita is believed to be a classic example of Chola Art during the 9th-10th centuries.
After the fall of the Vijayanagar empire in Tanjore, Azhagiya Manavala Naicker who ruled Tanjore planned to erect a temple for Rajagopala Swamy in Mannarkudi. He appointed his minister Narasa Boopalan for this job. He was to get Blackstone's from all possible places. This minister was a great worshipper of Saranatha Perumal of Thirucherai and wanted to erect a temple for him too. So he ordered his men to unload one stone from each cart which passed Thirucherai.
A spy of the king caught hold of this and informed the king. The angered king came for an inspection. But before that in overnight Narasa Boopalan constructed this temple and to please the king he added a shrine for Rajagopala Swamy. His plan worked and he was saved from the king's anger after that the king ordered to complete the temple with his money.
The temple is 380 ft long and 380 ft wide. The temple has a temple tank in front of the temple with the same dimension. The five-tiered gopuram (temple tower) is 120 ft tall and pierces the large compound wall around the temple. There is a second gopuram is three-storied and it is located in the first precinct around the sanctum. The presiding deity, Sarantha has a 12 ft tall image in standing posture.
The stone images of Cauvery and sage Markandeya are housed in the sanctum. The festival deity is accompanied by Bhudevi, Sridevi and Neeladevi. A small idol of Santhanakrishna and Selvar are also housed in the sanctum. The shrine of Saranatha's consort Saranayaki Thayar is located adjacent to the sanctum. The image of both the main idol and the festival image in the Thayar are depicted in seated posture. In the second precinct, there is a Kalayana hall, where there is a shrine of Rajagoplaswamy. The images of Rukmini and Sathyabama are also housed in the same shrine. In front of the shrine, the shrine of Thiruvenkatamudayam is situated. There are separate shrines of Sri Rama, Narashima, Kaliyamardhana, Bala Saranatha, Senai Mudaliar, Ramanuja, Pillai Logachariar, Azhwars and Manavala Mamunigal in the temple.
Mudikondan River flows from the west and Kudamurutti River in the south of the temple. There is a shrine of Hanuman from the west end of the temple tank and Vinayaka from the Northeastern side. River Kaveri is seen in a maternal posture with a child on her lap.The temple is one of the few places where there is a separate shrine for river Kaveri.
Sri Saranatha Perumal Temple Thirucherai
As per Hindu legend, when time came to destroy the world and finish the yuga, Brahma was worried a lot. He pleaded Vishnu to tell him a way to keep the tools necessary for Srishti and all Vedas safely. Vishnu ordered him to put all these things in a strong mud pot and after trying mud from all places Brahma finally made a pot out of the sand taken from Thirucherai and saved all Vedas and all necessary aids for creation. Hence as this placed gave the magical mud which held a lead role this place became the reason for all living things to live even after the Maha pralaya so this place is called “Sara Shetram”.
Among all rivers, there was a question on who was superior. All the rivers approached the Hindu god of creation, Brahma. He said that during the Vamana avatar, Vishnu appeared as the dwarf and later became Trivikrama to the king Mahabali. He placed his third feet on the demon king and cleansed Ganga by placing his foot on it. Based on the narration, Brahma quoted that Ganga was the holiest of all rivers. River Cauvery wanted her status to be equal to river Ganges and performed a severe penance. To test her devotion, Vishnu appeared in the form of a child in front of her. Realising the anonymity, Cauvery treated the child with care and motherly devotion. Vishnu was pleased with her devotion and revealed all his ten avatars to her and asked her to visit Sara Kshetram and have a holy dip in the Sara Pushkarani.
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The presiding deity of Sri Saranathan Perumal Temple is Lord Saranatha Perumal , found in standing posture.
Sri Saranathan Perumal Temple is the only temple where Lord Vishnu is found with five Goddesses namely Goddess Sri Mahalakshmi, Goddess Saranayaki, Goddess Neela Devi, Goddess Bhooma Devi, and Goddess Sri Devi.