Semponsei Perarulala Perumal Temple

Located about 5 miles from Sirkali is the modest yet highly energetic temple of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Narayana

The Legend

This temple is intimately associated with the pastime of Lord Sri Ramachandra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Following the killing of the rakshasa King Ravana, his saintly brother Vibheeshana was crowned the king of Lanka. Sri Ramachandra, Supreme Personality of Godhead, asked the new king and the surviving rakshasas to properly cremate their dead king, who was a great being worthy of respect and admiration. Initially, Vibheeshana refused to perform the last rites, but when Sri Ramachandra, convinced him, he began to perform the funeral of Lankapathi Ravana.

While returning to Ayodhya, Lord Sri Ramachandra stayed at the hermitage of Dhrudanetra Muni. As suggested by the sage, to cleanse Himself of the sin of having killed Ravana who was a brahmana, Lord Rama made a big golden cow, entered into it and performed penance for four days. He donated the golden cow to a brahmana on the fifth day, who sold the cow and used the proceeds to build this temple. As the temple was built with sale proceeds of the golden cow, the place came to be known as Sem Pon Sei Koil. In Tamil, sempon means pure gold and koil means temple.

Lord of Semponsei

The Temple

Of the 108 divya desam, this is the only temple the Lord Himself raised funds to build. The Lord faces the east here and is praised by many names such as Semponarangar, Herambar and Perarulalan. The vimana above the sanctum is known as Kanaka Vimanam.

In the main sanctum sanctorum, the Deity of Semponarangar is seen with Sridevi and Bhoodevi.

The festival Deity is called Semponarangar. There is a separate shrine for Mother Lakshmi who is called Alimlar Nachiyar or the Lakshmi in a jasmine groove.

Festivals

As at other Vishnu temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Pancharathra agama. The temple rituals are performed four times a day. During the worship, religious instructions in the Vedas are recited by priests, and worshippers prostrate themselves in front of the temple mast. There are weekly, monthly and fortnightly rituals performed in the temple.

During the new moon day of the Tamil month Thaai, the festival deity of Thirumangai Alwar is brought from Thiruvali-Thirunagari. The Thirumangai Alwar Mangalasasana Utsavam is celebrated in the Tamil month of Thaai (January–February). The highlight of the festival is Garudasevai, an event in which the festival Deities of the eleven Thirunangur divya desam are brought on Their mounts like Garuda Vahana, to Thirunangur. The festive deity of Thirumangai Alwar is also brought on a Hamsa Vahana and his pasurams (verses) dedicated to each of these eleven temples are recited during the occasion. The festival deities of Thirumangai Alvar and his consort Kumudavalli Nachiyar are taken on a palanquin to each of the eleven temples. The verses dedicated to each of the eleven temples are chanted in the respective shrines. This is one of the most important festivals in the region, which draws thousands of visitors.

Thirumangai Alwar Songs

Thirumangai Alwar sang this beautiful poem for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord:

I saw Him—who is like dark rain cloud – standing with Sridevi and Bhoodevi on either side—in Semponsei, which lies in the middle of Thirunangoor. He is called Perarulalan since He gives boon to all who worship Him. He is worshipped by all the people and I too worshipped Him and found my life purposeful.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is beyond all changes like birth, growth, old age, death, etc. He exists as an ocean of Ananda. He exists in three kalas – past, present and future; He is very enjoyable like the notes of music; He is the subject matter and meaning of the Vedas; He is the chief of the nitya sooris and—worshipped by the devotees of Sempon Sei.

Alwar says he saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ocean-hued one in Semponsei, where brahmanas who are like Brahma live. (They have the capacity to create but don’t execute their powers) He is the antaryami to the five bhootas, the sun and the moon and all other objects—sentient and insentient in this world. He resides in Semponsei where Alwar worshipped Him.

He is the peerless Vamana who measured the worlds with His feet. He is the Supreme who is worshipped by nityasooris—the ever young devas—in the milk ocean. He is the one who is worshipped by the devotees—who are like Brahma in their knowledge and tapas—in Semponsei where He is seen wearing a precious-gem-studded crown.

He is Sri Ramachandra, the son of Dasharatha, who takes pity and fulfils the wishes of those who go to Him and praise, ‘Oh Supreme Personality of Godhead! You destroy the evil-minded rakshasas in order to protect dharma.’ He takes compassion like a mother for her pleading children. He is the father of Pradyumna (Manmatha avatara) who resides in Semponsei, where there are flowering tress full of honey and where there is always the sound of devotion heard.

Sri Rama was happy that He built a bridge across the roaring sea with huge boulders, to cross over to Lankapuri. He destroyed that city which was well-protected by forts and built on a mountain (Trikoota). He resides in Semponsei where devotees consider Vedas as their only wealth and where the Supreme Personality of Godhead reveals His love with Mahalakshmi near him. He has removed the miseries of material world as soon as I saw Him—says Alwar.

He is a Krishna who with anger killed the angry wild elephant Kuvaalayapeeda, broke the great bow and crushed the powerful wrestlers. He is the Lord of the colours of a dark cloud, who in Semponsei, where the devotees who never fail to chant Vedas, reside.

I worshipped this Supreme Personality of Godhead who looks like an anjana mountain and got rid of my sins—says Alwar.

He is a lamp of devotion known by Vedas and self-effulgent, who cut off the thousand arms of Banasura. He resides as top of the Thirumala. He resides in Semponsei where there are devotees who are like tilaka of the southern region. He enjoys seeing the Sri Vaishnavas who come to worship Him.

Oh Supreme Personality of Godhead! You are like ever-flowing honey in the minds of devotees who call Your names, ‘Oh! Krishna!. Oh Rama!’ and meditate on Your qualities. He resides in Semponsei where clear-minded devotees live. Thus, is He who is the very nature of bliss, whom I worshipped and now live purposefully.

Those who read and meditate on these ten slokas which Thirumangai Alwar has sung on the Supreme Personality of Godhead at Semponsei of Thirunangoor, will certainly rule over this vast world and finally reach Vaikunta to become one of the nitya sooris. 

Photo courtesy:
Santhanakrishnan, Srirangam