The emerald hued Lord

Pavalavannar, Pachavannar Temple

By Sampatkumara Ramanuja Dasan(Adv.Ashwin.S)

Located in the temple town of Kanchipuram is the temple of the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is lovingly addressed here as Pavalavannar Pachavannar or the emerald and red hued Lord.

The Legend

The legend of this temple is much associated with the episode of Sage Bhrgu testing the Supreme Lord. The narration of this follows. This except is from the book KRSNA The Supreme Personality of Godhead, authored by Srila Prabhupada.

Long, long ago, there was an assembly of great sages on the bank of the river Sarasvati who performed a great sacrifice of the name Satra. In such assemblies, the great sages present usually discuss Vedic subject matters and philosophical topics, and in this particular meeting the following question was raised: The three predominating deities of this material world, namely, Lord Brahma, Lord Viṣhṇu and Lord Shiva, are directing all the affairs of this cosmos, but who among them is the Supreme? After much discussion on this question, the great sage named Bhṛgu, the son of Lord Brahma, was deputed to test all three predominating deities and report to the assembly as to who is the greatest.

Being thus deputed, the great sage Bhṛgu Muni first of all went to his father’s residence in Brahmaloka. The three deities are the controllers of the three material qualities, namely the qualities of goodness, passion and ignorance. The plan decided upon by the sages was for Bhṛgu to test which one of the predominating deities possesses the quality of goodness in full. Therefore, when Bhṛgu Muni reached his father, Lord Brahma, because Bhṛgu wanted to test whether Brahma had the quality of goodness, he purposely did not offer his respects to his father, either by offering obeisance or by offering prayers. It is the duty of a son or a disciple to offer respects and recite suitable prayers when he approaches his father or spiritual master. But Bhṛgu Muni purposely failed to offer respects, just to see Lord Brahma’s reaction to this negligence. Lord Brahma was very angry at his son’s impudence, and he showed signs which definitely proved this to be so. He was even prepared to condemn Bhṛgu by cursing him, but because Bhṛgu was his son, Lord Brahma controlled his anger with his great intelligence. This means that although the quality of passion was prominent in Lord Brahma, he had the power to control it. Lord Brahma’s anger and his controlling his anger are likened to fire and water. Water is produced from fire at the beginning of creation, but fire can be extinguished with water. Similarly, although Lord Brahma was very angry due to his quality of passion, he could still control his passion because Bhṛgu Muni was his son.

04 the ancient temple of pavalavannar, the vimana and gopuram

01 Narasimha in the vimana

After testing Lord Brahma, Bhṛgu Muni went directly to the Mount Kailasa, where Lord Shiva resides. Bhṛgu Muni happened to be Lord Shiva’s brother. Therefore, as soon as Bhṛgu Muni approached, Lord Shiva was very glad and personally rose to embrace him. But when Lord Shiva approached, Bhṛgu Muni refused to embrace him. “My dear brother,” he said, “you are always very impure. Because you smear your body with ashes, you are not very clean. Please do not touch me.” When Bhṛgu Muni refused to embrace his brother, saying that Lord Shiva was impure, the latter became very angry with him. It is said that an offense can be committed either with the body, with the mind or by speech. Bhṛgu Muni’s first offense, committed toward Lord Brahma, was an offense with the mind. His second offense, committed toward LordShiva by insulting him, criticizing him for unclean habits, was an offense by speech. Because the quality of ignorance is prominent in Lord Shiva, when he heard Bhṛgu’s insult his eyes immediately became red with anger. With uncontrollable rage, he took up his trident and prepared to kill Bhṛgu Muni. At that time Lord Shiva’s wife, Parvati, was present. Her personality, like Lord Shiva’s, is a mixture of the three qualities, and therefore she is called Triguṇamayi. In this case, she saved the situation by evoking Lord Shiva’s quality of goodness. She fell down at the feet of her husband, and with her sweet words she talked him out of killing Bhṛgu Muni.

After being saved from the anger of Lord Shiva, Bhṛgu Muni went directly to the planet Shvetadvipa, where Lord Viṣhṇu was lying on a bed of flowers in the company of His wife, the goddess of fortune, who was engaged in massaging His lotus feet. There Bhṛgu Muni purposely committed the greatest sin by offending Lord Viṣhṇu by his bodily activities. The first offense committed by Bhṛgu Muni was mental, the second offense was vocal, and the third offense was corporal. These different offenses are progressively greater in degree. An offense committed within the mind is a positive offense, the same offense committed verbally is comparatively graver, and when committed by bodily action it is superlative in offensiveness. So Bhṛgu Muni committed the greatest offense by kicking the chest of the Lord with his foot in the presence of the goddess of fortune. Of course, Lord Viṣhṇu is all-merciful. He did not become angry at the activities of Bhṛgu Muni, for Bhṛgu Muni was a great brāhmaṇa. A brāhmaṇa is to be excused even if he sometimes commits an offense, and Lord Viṣhṇu set the example. Yet it is said that from the time of this incident the goddess of fortune, Lakṣhmi, has not been very favourably disposed toward the brahmaṇas, and therefore, because the goddess of fortune withholds her benedictions from them, the brahmaṇas are generally very poor. Bhṛgu Muni’s kicking the chest of Lord Viṣhṇu with his foot was certainly a great offense, but Lord Viṣhṇu is so great that He did not care. The so-called brahmaṇas of the Kali-yuga are sometimes very proud that a great brahmaṇa like Bhṛgu Muni could touch the chest of Lord Viṣhṇu with his foot. But in fact when Bhṛgu Muni kicked the chest of Lord Viṣhṇu it was the greatest offense, although Lord Viṣhṇu, being greatly magnanimous, did not take it very seriously.

10 pavalavanna perumal and utsvar

Instead of being angry or cursing Bhṛgu Muni, Lord Viṣhṇu immediately got up from His bed along with His wife, the goddess of fortune, and offered respectful obeisance to the brahmaṇa. He addressed Bhṛgu Muni as follows: “My dear brahmaṇa, it is My greatest fortune that you have come here. Please, therefore, sit down on this cushion for a few minutes. My dear brāhmaṇa, I am very sorry that when you first entered My home I could not receive you properly. It was a great offense on My part, and I beg you to pardon Me. You are so pure and great that the water which washes your feet can purify even the places of pilgrimage. Therefore, I request you to purify the Vaikuṇṭha planet where I live with My associates. My dear father, O great sage, I know that your feet are very soft, like a lotus flower, and that My chest is as hard as a thunderbolt. I am therefore afraid that you may have felt some pain by kicking My chest. Let Me touch your feet to relieve the pain you have suffered.” Lord Viṣhṇu then began to massage the feet of Bhṛgu Muni.

03 the arthamandapam of the temple and the Bali peeda

The Lord continued to address Bhṛgu Muni. “My dear lord,” He said, “My chest has now become sanctified because of the touch of your feet, and I am now assured that the goddess of fortune, Lakṣhmi, will be very glad to live there perpetually.” Another name for Lakṣhmi is Chanchala, indicating that she does not stay in one place for a long time. Therefore, we see that a rich man’s family sometimes becomes poor after a few generations, and sometimes we see that a poor man’s family becomes very rich. Lakṣhmi, the goddess of fortune, is Chanchala in this material world, whereas in the Vaikuṇṭha planets she eternally lives at the lotus feet of the Lord. Because Lakṣhmi is famous as Chanchala, Lord Narayaṇa indicated that she might not have been living perpetually by His chest, but because His chest had been touched by the feet of Bhṛgu Muni, it was now sanctified, and there was no chance that the goddess of fortune would leave. Bhṛgu Muni, however, could understand his position and that of the Lord, and he was struck with wonder at the behaviour of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Because of his gratitude, his voice choked up, and he was unable to reply to the words of the Lord. Tears glided from his eyes, and he could not say anything. He simply stood silently before the Lord.

After testing Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Viṣhṇu, Bhṛgu Muni returned to the assembly of great sages on the bank of the river Sarasvati and described his experience. After hearing him with great attention, the sages concluded that of all the predominating deities, Lord Viṣhṇu is certainly the greatest.

Now comes the part of the sthala purana of the temple. After kicking the chest of the Lord, Bhrgu Maharshi was very upset and approached the Supreme Lord to beg pardon. The Supreme Lord asked Bhrgu to proceed to Kanchipuram and do penance there, which he did, following which the Lord appeared and blessed Bhrgu. He appeared in two forms, as red hued as well as green hued like an emerald.

The Lord who appeared as red hued is lovingly called as Pavalavannar, as pavalam means red pearl (coral).

The Lord who appeared as green hued is lovingly called as Pachavannar as pachai means green in Tamil.

There are two temples in the same complex but it is considered as one divya desam.

The Temple

The central shrine of the temple has the presiding Deity, Pavalavannar, in standing posture. The festive deity and that of Santhanagopala Krishna are located inside the sanctum. The west facing sanctum is approached through the flagstaff, pillared halls,  mahamandapam and the ardhamandapam. The roof of the sanctum is called Vedasara Vimana and it has five kalasams or golden pots in the vimana and stucco images of various pastimes of the Supreme Lord. The temple has separate shrines for the Alwars located to the north of the flagstaff. The pillars in the hall are sculpted with deities of Nammalwar, Ramanujar, Manavala Mamunigal and various avataras and legends of Vishnu. There are other shrines of Rama along with Sita and Hanuman and Garuda. The shrine of Mahalakshmi, known in this temple as Pavazhavalli, the consort of Pavalavannar, is located facing the central shrine, on the eastern side of the temple. The temple has two prakarams with the second prakaram enclosed by granite walls pierced by a five-tiered rajagopuram (gateway tower). The rajagopuram is studded with stucco images of various legends, with the notable among them being the representation of Narasimha, an avatara of Vishnu, slaying the demon Hiranya. A shrine of Manavala Mamunigal is located to the left of the gopuram from the entrance. The temple tank, Chakra Theertham, is located to the north east direction from the entrance.

Festivals

There are weekly, monthly and fortnightly rituals performed in the temple. Brahmotsavam celebrated during the Tamil month of Vaikasi (May – June) is the major festival of the temple. Pavitrotsavam celebrated during the Tamil month of Panguni (March – April) and Vaikuntha Ekadashi during Margazhi (December – January) are the other festivals celebrated in the temple

Thirumangai Alwar has sung a song about the Lord of this temple