Mannarkoil Rajagopalaswamy Temple: Magnificent 10th Century Temple with an Asthanga Vimana - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Mannarkoil Rajagopalaswamy Temple: Magnificent 10th Century Temple with an Asthanga Vimana

Gorgeous gopuram of Mannarkoil Perumal temple with Western Ghats in the background

This is a magnificent three-storied temple that overlooks the lush forests and mountains of the Western Ghats. One can see many inscriptions in this historical temple dating back to the Chola period. Situated right between the Thamirabharani and the Gadananathi rivers, this temple built by a Chola king has seen significant contributions from Chera, Pandya and Nayak kings. I am talking about the Rajagopalaswamy temple at Mannarkoil, a magnificent 10th century temple with an Ashtanga vimana.

This temple is also called the Kulasekara perumal temple after Kulasekara Azhvar, one of the 12 Vaishnavite saints, who attained moksha here. A Chera king, Kulasekara Azhvaar, defeated Chola and Pandya kings and was a dominant force in his prime. He spent his last 35 years serving Lord Vishnu by doing daily pooja and abhishekham. It is in recognition of this service that the temple is called Kulasekara Perumal koil, the only historical perumal koil to be directly named as an Azhvaar perumal koil.

Mannarkoil Perumal temple and the lush forests and mountains of the Western Ghats in the background

The highlight of this temple has to be its Ashtanga vimana, meaning 3 floors of sanctum sanctorum, one above the other. On the ground floor, Lord Vishnu is in the standing position. Right above it, on the first floor is the lord in a seated position. And on top of it, on the second floor is the lord in a reclining position. The top most tier is the most beautiful as it has intricate wooden carvings on its walls and ceilings and which were added by the Chera kings. Due to the Ashtanga vimana, one can see the temple from a different perspective and also admire the view of the lush forests and the mountains of the Western Ghats in the background.

Thirunamam on one of the pillars of Mannarkoil Perumal temple

The main deity is Lord Veda Narayana Perumal and his consorts are goddesses Vedavalli Thaayar and Bhuvanavalli Thaayar. The main deity faces east and the Utsavar is Rajagopalaswamy with Garuda (a specialty and a feature found only at the Srivilluputhur divya desam).

Entrance to the Mannarkoil Rajagopalaswamy Perumal temple

This east facing Rajagopalaswamy temple has one entrance and two prakarams, an ardhamandapam and a mahamandapam. The main deity, Lord Vedanarayana perumal’s idol is made of Sudha model with different herbs. The temple campus is also known as Vedapuri as the sound of Vedas is always heard here.

Intricately carved wooden ceiling on 2nd tier of Mannarkoil Perumal temple

As you take a walk around and up the temple, you will discover the shrines of goddesses Vedavalli and Bhuvanavalli, Lord Narasimha, Lord Visvaksena, the Vaishnava saint Kulasekara Azhvaar, Vaishnava acharyas Ramanuja and Manavala Mamuningal.

A door inside the many small garbhagrihas of Mannarkoil Perumal temple

There are life size statues of Lord Rama and other gods, kings with folded hands forming part of the monolithic pillars. Just above the foundation inscriptions at regular intervals are little square of 5 inches, that have scenes of the Ramayana sculpted on them. The yali row is also gorgeous with riders and with some elephants as well.

The grogeous Ranga mantapa inside Mannarkoil Rajagopalaswamy temple

As this is a holy land with echoes of the Vedas, people visit this temple to pray for a strong academic foundation, to get married, to pray for children and for overall family welfare and improvement in occupation.

A street moment inside Mannarkoil Perumal temple

Visit the Mannarkoil Rajagopalaswamy temple for its magnificent ashtanga vimana, gorgeous views, rich history and stunning architecture. Early mornings are the best time to visit the temple as they offer the best views and the weather is very pleasant. I would definitely recommend this 10th century temple to every art, culture and temple lover.

Yali on a wooden pillar on the 2nd temple sanctum inside Mannarkoil Perumal temple


1) 10 day Brahmotsavam in Chithirai month (April 15 to May 15)

2) Procession of Azhvaar in Pushpa Pallaku in Thai month (January 15 to February 15)

3) Theppotsavam in Masi month (February 15 to March 15)

4) Pre event practice session of Kaisika Puranam for the Thirukkurungudi

Mythological creatures at Mannarkoil Perumal temple

How to reach there:

Mannarkoil is located about 7 kilometers away from Ambasamudram, the nearest large town. The nearest bus station and railway station would be Ambasamudram, which is connected well with the cities of Tirunelveli, Tenkasi and Madurai. The nearest airport would be Tuticorin, about 80 kms away.

Scenic setting of Mannarkoil Perumal temple

Best season to visit:

One can visit the temple all year round if you plan on visiting in the early hours of the morning. However, if you are looking for cool weather, then opt for the months from October through February.

Circumambulating the first view of Mannarkoil Perumal temple

Temple timings:

The temple is open from 7 AM to 11 AM and from 5 PM to 7:30 PM.
The gopuram view from the first tier of the Mannarkoil Perumal temple, Tamil Nadu

Where to stay:

The nearest place with decent hotels would be Ambasamudram. Hotel Ambai grand is the best option here.

If you wish for luxury, I would recommend trying the hotels at Tirunelveli – GRT Regency, Janakiram, Aryas.

If you wish to stay in slightly cooler weather, you should try the resorts in and around Courtallam.

If you wish to stay in pristine nature, I would recommend that you stay at the forest rest houses in Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve.

If you care for a true rustic experience, I would recommend that you stay at any of the homestays or guest houses in Kallidaikurichi village agraharam.

Inside the Mannarkoil Rajagopalaswamy perumal temple

Where to eat:

You can find some basic snacks with tea/coffee near the temple at Mannarkoil, but if you want something more elaborate, I would recommend you head either to Hotel Ramanas or Hotel Gowri Shankar at Ambasamudram. Both of them serve delicious vegetarian tiffin items and meals at reasonable prices.

Entering the Rajagopalaswamy perumal temple at Mannarkoil, Tamil Nadu

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) 10th century Kailasanathar temple at Brahmadesam

2) 10th century Valiswara temple at Thiruvaleeswaram

3) 1000 year old Papanasanathar temple at Papanasam: Where you can wash all your sins away

4) Karaiyar Dam: Wildlife and nature holiday destination in India’s deep south

5) Kalakad Mundanthurai tiger reserve and its mighty waterfalls

6) Kallidaikurichi: The village of the saaral season

7) Nellaiappar temple at Tirunelveli: A 7th century cosmic dance wonder

8) Courtallam: The herbal bath holiday destination of Tamil Nadu

9) Tiruchendur Murugan Temple: Sea shore magic

10) 13th century Kasi Visvanathar temple at Tenkasi

11) Punalur suspension bridge: Historical gem of Kerala

12) Lesser known Kerala mountain railways: Treat for nature lovers

13) Sivasailam: One of the wettest places during the north east monsoon in India

14) Manjolai: The offbeat hill station of Tamil Nadu

15) Manimuthar Falls: A great forest waterfall

16) Thenmala forest and Palaruvi falls: Offbeat nature and wildlife getaway

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