The SArangapANi Temple at Kumbakonam (Thiru Kudanthai) ranks high in the hierarchy of Srivaishnava temples. It is one of the Pancharanga kshetrams – the five Ranganatha temples along the banks of the Kaveri river.
The temple complex is imposing from the outside, and unique with regards to its innermost prakaaram – the sanctum sanctorum, which is in the form of a chariot. Lord Sarangapani is also known as ArAvamudhan. Nammaazhwar, in a verse that is synonymous with the temple itself, refers to the Lord as ஆரா அமுதே (ArA = immeasurable; amudham = nectar).
Another verse that people immediately recall when thinking about the temple is from the Thiru Chanda Viruththam by Thirumazhisai Aazhwar. The verse also explains the unique posture of the Lord. He is referred to as uththAna sAyee. In some temples (Srirangam, for example), Lord Narayana can be found in the reclining position. In Kudanthai, the posture is as if the Lord is just getting up from the reclining position. Here is the verse, and even as I type it, I can recall my grandfather reciting it:
நடந்த கால்கள் நொந்தவோ? நடுங்கும் ஞாலம் ஏனமாய்
இடந்த மெய் குலுங்கவோ? விலங்கு மால் வரைச்சுரம்
கடந்த கால் பரந்த காவிரிக் கரைக் குடந்தையுள்
கிடந்தவாறு எழுந்திருந்து பேசு வாழி கேசனே!
Thirumazhisai Aazhwaar looks at Lord Sarangapani, then in the reclining position, and asks Him, “Lord, do You feel pain in Your legs?” He adds, “Do You, the One, when in Varaha avatara, who supported the earth when it was unstable (நடுங்கும் ஞாலம்) feel tired now?”
“You are here in Kudanthai, on the fertile banks of the River Cauvery, which itself has crossed rough terrain, mountains and barren lands (விலங்கு மால் வரைச்சுரம்) on its way. Why don’t You rise just a little (கிடந்தவாறு எழுந்திருந்து) and talk to me, O Lord?”
Legend has it that, as Thirumazhisai Aazhwaar completed singing this verse, the Lord got up just a little to acknowledge him. Hence the uththAna sayanam.
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