Located approximately eight kilometers from Nagapattinam in a small serene village is this lovely temple of Lord Krishna known as Thirukannangudi Damodara Narayana Perumal temple.
Once on the banks of the river Cauvery, sage Vasishtha took his regular bath and performed gayatri-japa. Then he started worshipping his shaligrama-shilas. In his meditation he offered a golden simhasana, bedecked with jewels for the pleasure of the Lord. He then invoked sacred waters from the holy rivers and bathed the Supreme Lord from these holy waters.
His wish-fulfilling cow Nandini supplied him with milk, curd, honey and ghee by which he performed panchamrita abhisheka to the Lord. He then offered a tulasi garland to the Lord. His wife Arundhati gave him freshly made butter out of which he made a small Deity of Krishna and started worshiping the Deity as well.
At that time Krishna, who is glorified as the Lord of unlimited pastimes appeared disguised as a small boy and ate the butter. Angered by this act of the boy, sage Vasishtha wanted to punish him. Fearing him, the boy started running and Vasishtha chased him. The boy then hid behind a bakula tree. Some rishis who were watching this wanted to help Vasishtha. They took a rope to tie the boy to the tree. How much ever they tried to tie him up, the rope was always two inches short.
Amused at this, sage Vasishtha immediately remembered the damodara-lila of the Supreme Lord. Dama means “rope,” and udara means “belly.” Since Krishna was bound by a rope to his belly by mother Yashoda, He is also known as Damodara. Vasishtha remembered this pastime of mother Yashoda binding the Supreme Lord to a wooden mortar and recollected the following verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam:
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead has no beginning and no end, no exterior and no interior, no front and no rear. In other words, He is all-pervading. Because He is not under the influence of the element of time, for Him there is no difference between past, present and future; He exists in His own transcendental form at all times. Being absolute, beyond relativity, He is free from distinctions between cause and effect, although He is the cause and effect of everything. That unmanifested person, who is beyond the perception of the senses, had now appeared as a human child, and mother Yashoda, considering Him her own ordinary child, bound Him to the wooden mortar with a rope.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.9.13-14)
He also remembered another verse from Sri Damodarashtaka by Satyavrata Muni:
Realizing that the boy was none other than the Supreme Lord Krishna, sage Vasishtha paid obeisance to Him.He pleaded forgiveness for his mistake, and begged for krishna-prema. Sage Vasishtha knew that only love could bind Krishna. He then requested the Lord to reside in that place. Hence this place came to be known as Thirukannangudi and the Lord of this temple is glorified as Sri Damodara Perumal or Sri Lokanatha Perumal.
This temple is very peaceful and tranquil. As we enter the temple, the huge five-tiered rajagopuram is first. The temple has two prakarams. The main balipeetha where the prasadam of the Lord is offered to the demigods has beautiful intricate carvings.
The deities of Jaya and Vijaya, the gatekeepers of Vaikuntha, guard the temple. A beautiful pond called Nithya Pushkarani is also in the temple. In the main sanctum sanctorum under the utpalavaktha vimanam stands the majestic Sri Damodara Narayana Perumal, holding a conch, chakra and mace in His hands and is accompanied by His consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi. He faces towards the east.
The utsava Deity known as Lokanatha Perumal, stands on a peetha in front of the mulavar Deity. A small Deity of baby Krishna sucking His toes is seen next to the main Deity.
In the second prakara of the temple is the small shrine dedicated to the consort of the Lord, Aravindavalli Thayar. There is a separate shrine for Sri Sita-Rama-Lakshmana. Unlike other divya deshams Garuda is seen here with his hands around his body.
In the temple complex, one can also have darshana of the same bakula tree to which Krishna was about to be tied up.
Apart from the ten day long Brahmotsava, other festivals of this temple are Pavitrotsava, Vasantotsava (conducted in the month of June), Sri Krishna Janmashtami and Sri Rama Navami. During the procession, people of this village welcome the Lord with fruits and flowers and with colorful rangoli decorations in front of their houses.
Tamarind tree as Devotee
Thirumangai Alwar, a great devotee of the Supreme Lord, was building huge walls for the temple at Srirangam. A merchant donated a pot of gold for this service of Thirumangai Alwar. Thirumangai Alwar accepted it and was on his way back to Srirangam. He took darshana of Sri Damodara Narayana Perumal and decided to rest in the temple for that night. Thirumangai Alwar placed his bed underneath a tamarind tree. He requested the tree to wake him up early in the morning so that he could perform his morning sadhana.
Thirumangai Alwar was skeptical about the thieves and warned the tree about it. He instructed the tree to keep a watch. The next morning the tamarind tree woke up Thirumangai Alwar by nudging him with its branches. Due to this Thirumangai Alwar was happy and blessed the tree.
The Lord quenches Thirumangai Alwar’s thirst
Once, Thirumangai Alwar was very thirsty and asked for water in the houses nearby. The ladies of the houses thought Thirumangai Alwar was there to mobilize funds for the Lord’s temple work and shut the doors. Thirumangai Alwar cursed those households which did not give him water.
Then suddenly the Lord of Thirukannangudi came to an exhausted Thirumangai Alwar with water and food. Due to being exhausted completely, he could not recognize his fortune of receiving the food and water from the Lord.
After he regained himself from fatigue, he tried to focus on the personality who gave him the food. The Lord just gave the Alwar one glimpse and then ran away, just like little Krishna.
To this day these households near the temple have dried up wells that never get filled even when there is torrential rainfall. Thirumangai Alwar sings about the Supreme Lord:
“He lies on a milk ocean. His body is brilliant.
Oh! I see the huge lotus from where Brahma emanates.
You took the form of a fish!
Sometimes He would swallow all the water in the scales of the fish,
Sometimes He would release the water and play in it.
Where brahmanas reside and recite the four Vedas,
Where young brahmanas perform yaga,
There my Lord Damodara stays.
The city that He resides in is beautiful, with plenty of lotus ponds.
Oh! Lord of Thirukannangudi, I fall at Your feet!!