Ancient civilizations have usually grown around rivers, their waters the lifeline around which human settlements and their activities have developed. The Tamraparni river is a similar lifeline to the Tirunelveli District. The name Tamiraparni is said to be derived from Tamra or Cheppu for copper, though it is also possible to derive the name from “Tamira” and “Porunai,” which later became Sanskritized. Sarting from the Podigai hills, the river weaves its way through the land to reach the ocean at the Gulf of Mannar. The Tamiraparani is not a mighty river in its length, probably about 120 km, and with all the dams on it, its flow is regulated, but its historical contribution to the district is undeniable.
As the area prospered and grew, more and more temples were built along the banks of the river. Read more about the temples along the river, the beautiful architecture that makes them stand out in this article: Shrines along Tamiraparani’s banks – The Hindu.
Tamil Nadu temples have been a repository of art and architecture and also chroniclers of the activities associated with the temple, giving us glimpses into how people lived and worshiped. Read more about the historical information carved into the temple walls of Tirunelveli district in this article: Temple walls speak history – The Hindu
As the Tamiraparani flows around Alwarthirunagari, where Anantya in the Village, the heritage homestay, is placed, there are a series of temples on the banks of the river known as the Navathirupati temples. These temples are not part of the popular heritage tour circuit, are not thronged by foreign travelers, and are largely unknown outside the districts. However, they provide a fascinating glimpse into the art and architecture of the Pandyas, the Cholas, and the Madurai Nayak kings, who ruled these parts.
Navathirupathi (Temples) is a group of nine Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu located on the Tiruchendur-Tirunelveli route, Tamilnadu, India, on the banks of the Thamiraparani river. All these 9 temples are classified as “Divya Desams”, the 108 temples of Vishnu revered by the 12 poet saints, or Alwars. Anantya in the Village is an ideally located hotel to stay in while visiting and exploring these Navathirupathi temples.
Divya Desams are Vishnu temples that are mentioned in the works of the Tamil Azhwars (saints). While 105 of these are located in India, 1 is in Nepal, and the remaining 2 are located outside of the earthly realms.
In these Navathirupathi Vishnu temples, the prime deities themselves are worshipped as the Navagrahaas, so there are no separate shrines for the Navagrahaas, as found in other temples. It is said that offering worship to these deities alleviates the malignant influences of the Navagrahas that come about during one’s lifetime.
The nine Vaishnava shrines, hailed as “Navathiruppathi,” are considered to be related to the ‘Navagrahas’ or the nine planets or celestial bodies, and the deities in these temples are worshipped as the ‘Navagrahaas’ themselves. They are:
Each of the temples has something unique of interest. Be it a legend of origin of the temple linked to the killing of an asura by Vishu, like the temple in Perumkulam. Or, a story etched in stone in the spectacular architecture, such as the temple in Srivaikundam. Here twice a year, the Sun-god comes directly to worship the Lord! The golden rays of the sun cross the temple portals, reach the sanctum and bathes the deity with their splendid light on the sixth day of the Tamil months, Chithrai and Aippasi. Or the temple at Alwarthirunagari, made famous for the life and compositions of Nammalwar (the 9th of the 12 poet-saints (Alwars)), who sang about his devotion to the lord.
Stay at Anantya in the Village to visit the Navathirupathi temples. Read the article below about a personal experience at the Navathirupathi temples and how Nammalwar glorified these temples in his poetry here.