Thirumangai Azhwar was deeply devoted to the service of Lord Vishnu. His unflinching faith and devotion to the Lord caused the emergence of five temples for Lord Narasimma in Seergazhi in Mayavaram district in Tamilnadu. The history behind them is quite interesting. It is believed that those who visit all the five temples in a single day and worship Lord Narasimma, their long standing debts will get cleared, hidden enemies will be destroyed, hindrances in marriages will go away and peace of mind will prevail. The uniqueness of these temples are that all of them are situated in and around one or two Kilometers from each other in the same area and form part of the temples listed in Divya Desam.
Thirumangai Azhwar, born in the village Thirukkurayalur is one of the twelve Azhwar in Vaishnavite sect who had darshan of Lord Narasimma in five forms. He was born in a sect called Kallar. Thirukkurayalur is five km away from Mangai Madam, a small village in Seergazhi.
In the bygone era of Chola Kingdom, chieftain namely Thirumangai Mannan was put in charge of Mangai Madam. Who was Thirumangai Mannan?
At one period of time, lots of Vaishnavites lived in Thirukkurayalur. The place was also under the rule of Chola Kings, and administered by a Vaishnavite called Alainathar whose wife was Allithirattu. The couple were ardent devotees of Lord Vishnu and soon were blessed with a beautiful son. They named the child Neelar.
The child Neelar was given good education particularly in the field of martial arts because the family belonged to warriors class. Since Neelar was well versed in handling all type of weapons he could lead in sync four different forces namely the elephant, horse, and chariot forces along with regular soldiers. His fame and brilliance coupled with braveness when reached the ears of the Chola King, he wasted no time in inviting him and to make Neelar the chief of the armed forces. Because he always fought the battles ferociously he was nick named as Kalan meaning the one who removed the life of others (Killing) quickly during war. Lord Yama who takes away the life of souls is called Kalan; hence the same name for Neelar. Soon he was made the chieftain of a place called Thirumangai and therefore came to be called Thirumangai Mannan (Mannan meaning King).
Actually Thirumangai Mannan was incarnation of Lord Vishnu’s bow in previous birth and was fated to be born a human on account of a curse he had received. The curse was intended to make the bow born a human in earth to spread Vaishnavism and also release the curse of another Devaloga Virgin girl who was also fated to be born as human. She was fated to marry him and involve him in spreading Vaishnavism. These two characters were interconnected and events inter related. On the other side the Devaloga Virgin girl accrued the curse because she japed at the uncouth appearance of a great saint who was talking with sage Kapila. Her indecent act angered sage Kapila to curse her to born as human. When the Devaloga Virgin girl realized her mistake and sought his pardon, sage Kapila unable to reverse the curse, modified it to effect that after born a human, she should marry a greatest warrior of a different other class and convert him as Vaishnavite and spread Vaishnavism in a particular region. He identified the specific area to her. Sage Kapila told her that the warrior should be pulled into the spiritual path to spread Vaishnavism, and once done she would be released of her curse and again become a Devaloga Virgin girl.
Accordingly both of them were born humans and earned the names Thirumangai Mannan and Kumudavalli and got married after several events happened in their love affair, all as ordained by the Lords. As a precondition for her consent to the marriage was Thirumangai Mannan was to serve food to 1000 Vaishnavites every day, wash their feet and bring the same water and sprinkle some on her head as proof of his having fulfilled the promise if he truly desired to marry her. Thirumangai Mannan complied with her condition as he was deeply in love with her. Lord Vishnu thought that by marrying her he could be led into the path of spirituality and ultimately become an Azhwar so that through him (Thirumangai Mannan) he (Lord Vishnu) could take five different forms of Lord Narasimha in a specific region for the benefit of his devotees.
The continuous feeding of 1000 Vaishnavites every day emptied the coffers of Thirumangai Mannan and he was unable to meet the demand of tribute (Like Tax) due to the Chola King. In anger the Chola King took away the wealth from his land against the tribute due from him. Therefore Thirumangai Mannan had no way but to resort to extortion and robbery by waylaying the travellers to feed 1000 vaishnavites. The appropriate time period fixed by divine to convert him into an Azhwar arose.
Seeing the service of Thirumangai Mannan, Goddess Lakshmi was highly pleased. She requested Lord Vishnu to recognize the services of Thirumangai Mannan suitably so that the world in future would hail the great service rendered by him (Thirumangai Mannan) in the service of vaishnavism. He counseled her to be patient for some time. Soon Lord Vishnu with his consort Goddess Lakshmi enacted a drama and as part of drama, wearing several jewels, he began walking through one of the forest lands under the control of Thirumangai Mannan. The place was Vedarajapuram, a small helmet between Thiruvali and Thirunagari in the present Seergazhi district of Tamilnadu. As usual Thirumangai Mannan attempted to rob the valuables from them and in the course of events that followed, Thirumangai Mannan was unable to lift the jewels as they were protected by certain sacred mantras which prevented anyone from bodily lifting them if robbed. The Lord in disguise of the traveler agreed to preach the sacred and secret mantra into the ears of Thirumangai Mannan and when he came near the Lord, instead of the secret mantra he preached Maha mantra called Thirumanthira Upathesam into his ears which instantly changed him into new born human who began to chant verses on Lord Vishnu in a miracle act. Thus thereafter Thirumangai Mannan began to be called Thirumangai Azhwar.
As Thirumangai Azhwar continued to compose hymns and worshiped the Lord the events of Hiranyakasipu occurred and Thirumangai Azhwar desired to have the darshan of Lord in the form of Lord Narasimha.
Acceding to the request of his devotee, in a place called Thirunangur in Seergazhi town of Mayavaram district in Tamilnadu, Lord Vishnu gave darshan to Thirumangai Azhwar in five forms of Lord Narasimha as desired by him. The most important amongst them are situated in villages Thiruvali and Thirunagari which are situated 2-3 Kilometers away from each other. Al the five temples (called Pancha Narasimma Shethras) where Thirumangai Azhwar had the darshan of Lord Narasimha are situated in and around Thiruvali and Thirunagari. The five Lord Narasimha Kshetras where the Lord appeared in five different forms are as below:
- Kuraiyalur – As Lord Ugra Narasimha
- Mangai Madam – As Lord Veera Narasimha
- Thirunagari*- As Lord Hiranya Narasimha
- Thirunagari* – As Lord Yoga Narasimha (*two Narasimha idols in one Temple)
- Thiruvali – As Lord Lakshmi Narasimha
(1) In Lakshmi Narasimha temple in Vilvaranyam in Thiruvali, the presiding deity is Lord Lakshmi Narasimha (Lord Vishnu), also called as Lord Vedarajan or Lord Thiruvali Nagaralan. The name of his consort is Amirtagadavalli or Amirththavalli Thayaar (Goddess Lakshmi). As per the sthala Purana, after annihilating Hiranyakasipu Lord Narasimha was still in furious state and none could cool down his anger. In order to cool down his temper, the devas requested his consort Goddess Lakshmi to help them. Accepting the plea of Devas, Goddess Lakshmi went and sat in his lap. When she sat on his right lap, Lord hugged her and calmed down. Therefore this place was called Thiruvali meaning Alingana i.e. embracing. The presiding deity is also called by the names of Lord Kalyana Ranganathan since the Lord appeared before Thirumangai Azhwar in the form of a groom. Thus the Lord can be seen in two postures in the same sanctum.
(2) At a short distance away in a place called Kuraiyalur in the same area, the Lord gave darshan to Azhwar as Ugra Narasimha in the temple though the fierce form of the Lord is not visible on his face.
(3) In another village called Mangai Madam in the same area, Lord appears in the temple as Veera Narasimha.
(4 and 5) In Thirunagari, another village in the same area, in a temple, the Lord gave darshan both as Yoga Narasimha and Hiranya Narasimha in two separate sanctums. The legend of the temple is that it belongs to Thretha Yuga and one of the son’s of Lord Brahma did penance at this place for the darshan of Lord Vishnu. Since Lord Vishnu did not give darshan even when requested by Goddess Lakshmi, she got angry, deserted him and came to this place and hid herself inside a lotus flower. Lord Sri Vishnu came in search of Goddess Lakshmi and found five lotuses in the tank. In order to find out in which of the lotus flowers his consort lay hid, he opened his left eye which was Lord Chandra and immediately four lotuses blossomed while the fifth one in which Goddess Lakshmi hid did not open as it was held tightly by the goddess. Immediately Lord Vishnu identified the place of hiding of Goddess Lakshmi and opened the fifth Lotus and embraced her. Hence this place too came to be known as Thirunagar meaning where the Lord rejoined with his wife. The uniqueness of this temple is unlike any other temple, this is the only temple where two Flag posts are installed. As per the pundit one is meant for the Presiding deity of the temple and the other for Thirumangai Azhwar.
Few snaps from five
Lord Narasimma temples