Koodal Azhagar Koil is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu located in the center of the city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. Koodal is another name for Madurai and Azhaghar means The beautiful one, in Tamil. The temple is an ancient one and very close to the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple. It is one of the 108 divyadesams the holy abodes of Vishnu.
Temple History :
This temple hails from the earliest Age of Sangam period. There are references of this temple in Paripadal and Silappadikaram. The presiding deity was praised and worshipped by the Sangam tamil Poets as the president and guardian deity of the Sangam and called him by the name “Thuvarikoman” (the King who ruled over from Dwaraka) and Koodal Alagar. Koodal refers to the assembly of Poets and scholars.
The Ancient Pandya rulers celebrated Avani Onam festival in praise of Sri Koodal Alagar for a period seven days. This festival is vividly described in Maduraikkanchi, on the ten lengthy poems called Pathupattu of the Sangam period. Ilangovadigal praises the Lord as “Needu Neer-Vaigai Nedumal” meaning the Lord who spanned the universe by taking three strides. (Thiruvokrama) Who is now seated at the bank of the river Vaigai in Archa form.
Brahmanda Purana vividly describes this kshetra in seven chapters. Sri Koodal Alagar is seated in the Ashtanga vimana flanked by his consorts. The legendary Kings Prithu, Malaydioaja workshipped Sri Koodal Alagar, who bestowed them with prosperity and attainment of moksha at the end.
Alwars are mystical saints who glorified the presence of Narayana in temples by their hymns. Among them vishnu chittha has a unique position. He was invited to visit the Pandya Court at Madurai in order to settle the disputes among the various religious sects. Vishnuchitha established the supremacy of Sriman Narayana by quoting profusely the vedic texts in support of his argument. At the end of his argument a miracle happened. The purse containing gold coins suspended in a pole landed down in the hand of Vishnuchittha.
This was a divine acceptance!. The King celebrated this victory by seating Vishnuchittha on the decorated throne placed on the back of royal elephant and he himself led the procession accompanied by the vedic Pandits. Sri Koodal Alagar pleased by the grand victory appeared before the procession seated on the shoulders of Garuda the divine vehicle and blessed Vishnuchittha. Vishnuchittha got himself immered in the infinite beauty of the lord, regaining his senses he blessed the lord, with a long life of thousands of years by expressing his wishes in the form of twelve verses in tamil known as Thirupallandu.
Vishnuchittha recited the verse in tune with the ringing of the bells tied to the elephant. He offered Mangalasasanam at the holy feet of Sri Koodal Alagar. Thirupallandu is recited even today as the starting invocations in the shrines. The Pandya King praised Vishnuchittha as “Pattar piran” while the lord gave him the name “Periyalwar”. Vishnuchitta is regarded as the foremost among the twelve Alwars by the merit of his infinite love and utterance of Pallandu, which was given the foremost place in the recital of Divya Prabandam by Nathamuni who confided the Naalayira divya prabandam.