The Parthasarathy Temple is an 8th-century Hindu Vaishnavite temple dedicated to the god Krishna, located at Triplicane, Chennai, India. The temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Alvar saints from the 6th–9th centuries CE and is classified as among the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu.The name 'Parthasarathy', in Sanskrit, means the 'charioteer of Arjuna', referring to Krishna's role as a charioteer to Arjuna in the epic Mahabaratha.It was originally built by the Pallavas in the 8th century by king Narasimhavarman I. The temple has five of the incarnations or avatars of Vishnu: Narasimhar, Ramar, Varadaraja, Ranganathar and Krishna.
The temple is one of the oldest structures in Chennai. There are shrines for VedavalliThayar, Ranganatha, Rama, Gajendra Varadharaja Swamy, Narasimha, Andal, Anjaneya, Alvars, Ramanuja, Swami Manavala Mamunigal and Vedanthachariar. The temple subscribes to Vaikhanasa agama and follows Thenkalai tradition. There are separate entrances for the Krishna and Narasimha temples. The gopuram (towers) and mandapas (pillars) are decorated with elaborate carvings, a standard feature of South Indian Temple Architecture.
The temple was originally built by the Pallavas in the 8th century, subsequently expanded by Cholas and later by the Vijayanagara kings in the 15th century. The temple has several inscriptions dating from the 8th century in Tamil and Telugu presumably from the period of Dantivarman, who was a Vishnu devotee. Thirumangai Alvar, the 9th century alvar also attributes the building of temple to the Pallava king. From the internal references of the temple, it appears that the temple was restored during 1564 CE when new shrines were built. In later years, endowments of villages and gardens have enriched the temple. The temple also has inscriptions about the Pallava king, Nandivarman of the 8th Century.
The temple was extensively built during the Chola period and a lot of inscriptions dating back to the same period are found here. The outer most mandapam is replete with sculptures of various forms of Vishnu, especially the avatars. One can also see inscriptions of Dantivarma Pallava of 8th Century, Chola, Pandiya and Vijayanagara in the temple. The first architectural expansion of the temple took place during the reign of the Pallavas (Tondaiyar Kon) as vividly described by Tirumangai Azhwar. Reminiscent of this is the inscription of the Pallava King Dantivarman (796-847 A.D.), which is preserved in the temple. The temple witnessed a major expansion during the rule of the Vijayanagar kings like Sadasiva Raya, Sriranga Raya and Venkatapati Raya II (16th Century). Many subshrines and pillared pavilions (mandapas) like the Tiruvaimozhi Mandapa were added.Tiruvallikeni may not be as serene as Tirumangai Azhwar described it, but the aura remains because of the Parthasarathy Swamy temple.
A Pallava king built the present temple in the eighth century. The gopuram was also built by a Pallava king - Tondaiman Chakravarthy. There are inscriptions that record the contributions of the Chola kings Raja Raja and Kulottunga III, Pandya King Maravarman and many rulers of the Vijayanagar dynasty including Ramaraja Venkatapathiraja and Vira Venkatapathy. For a while the East India company administered the temple. The pushkarani is called Kairavani and five sacred teerthams are believed to surround the tank - Indra, Soma, Agni, Meena and Vishnu. Seven rishis - Bhrigu, Atri, Marichi, Markandeya, Sumati, Saptaroma and Jabali - performed penance here. All five deities in the temple have been extolled by Tirumangai Azhvar.Tiruvallikeni is noted for its colourful festivals throughout the year. The recitation of the 4000 hymns of the Azhwars is a great tradition preserved in this temple for generations.
Darshan, Sevas and Festivals
The temple is administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu. The temple follows the traditions of the Thenkalai sect of Vaishnavite tradition and follows vaikanasa aagama. The temple has grand brahmotsavams (big festival) for Sri Parthasarathy swami during the Tamil month of Chittirai (April–May),on the same month Udayavar uthsavam is also celebrated.In the month of Vaigasi, Sri Varadarajar uthsavam, Sri Nammalwar uthsavam (vaigasi-visagam) and Vasanthothsavam are celebrated. Sri Azhagiyasingar (Lord Narashimha) during the Tamil month of Aani (June–July). So uniquely two Bhrammotsavams are performed here annually. There are also festivals for Sri Ramanuja (April–May) and Sri Manavalamamunigal (Oct-Nov) besides festivals for Alwar and Acharyas. Vaikunta Ekadesi and during the Tamil month of Margazhi (December–January) draws lot of pilgrims.
These take place round the year in Parthasarathy temple. Urchavams (or utsavams), as these are termed, take place for a particular god at a particular period of time in the year. It's a religious practise to carry the different gods of the temple through the mada veethis of triplicane during some of these festivals. The Gods will move in different religiously built temple vehicles (vaghanams, as these are termed in Tamil), like Elephant, Garuda, horse, Yaali (a mythical animal), temple rath (ther in Tamil, chariot or ratham, alternative terms), etc.
The following are the various festivals or urchavams or utsavams or utsav in Parthasarathy temple in different parts of the Tamil Calendar year. During festival days the place is given a new look and accompanied by various traditional rites.
1. Chithirai (April–May): Shri Bhrahma Utsav (Brahmotsavam)- Lord Shri Bhrahma himself will perform this most important festival. Seer Shri Udaiyar's Utsav and Vidaiyaatri (Concluding and Leave-Taking Ceremony).
2. Vaigasi (May–June): Vasanthoutsavam- Spring Festival Shri Gajendra Varadaraja Swamy Utsav Shri Ranganatha-Shri Vedavall Thayaar Utsav
3. Aani (June–July): Shri Narasimha Swami BhrahmoUtsavam and Kodai Utsav (Summer Festival)
4. Aadi (July–August): Shri Gajendra Motsham (Salvage for Gajendra-King of Elephants) Shri Parthasarathy .Jyeshtabishekam. Jyeshta-means Chief-in-Brethren: Abhishekam means pouring of selected Holy Liquid and Solid Items (like milk, honey, etc.) on the Lord Thiru Paavadai Utsav Anointing of Epicurean Offerings on the Holy Physique. Thiru Aadi Pooram - Birthday of Shrimadh Aandal on Iler Birth Zodiacical Star Shri Parthasarathy .Jyeshtabishekam.
5. Aavani (August–September): Pavithroutsavam (Thiru Pavithra Utsav) - Santification ceremony. Shri Jayanthi or Krishna Jayanthi (Birthday of Lord Krishna)
6. Puratasi (September–October): Navarathiri -Festival of nine lights Shri Vedavalli Thaayar Laksharachana
7. Iypassi (October–November): Shri Manavaala Mamunigal Utsavam Deepavali or Diwali - Festival of Lights Anna kooda utsavam- offering variety of rice
8. Karthigai (November–December): Thir karthigai Deepam - Various and Varied Lights Thaila Kaapu - anointing of several medicinal oils or his/her corporal
9. Margazhii (December–January): Maargazhii Pagal Pathu (Days-Ten) Shri Vaikunta Ekaadasi (Entering into Heaven) Raa Pathu (Night-Ten)
10. Thai (January–February): Laksharachana of Shri Parthasarathyswamy Rathasapthami (Ratha-Car, Sapthami- Seventh Lunar Occasion) Visiting Festival to Ekkatuthangal
11. Masi (February–March): Masi Magam (Magam-star day) Theppam or Thepotsavam (Float Festival in Temple Tank) Dhavana Utsav (Spring Festival)
12. Panguni (March–April): Panguni Uthram (uthram - a star day) Shri Rama Navami (Birthday of Lord Ram)
The most important among these festivals are the Vaikunda Ekadesi - as huge crowds from not only chennai, but also various parts of Tamil Nadu and India come to the temple on this day; Theppam or Thepotsavam - the colourful float festival, and the utsavam for the main deity lord Parthasarathy.
Theppam (Float) festival
Also known Teppothsavam (= Theppam + urchavam), this pictorial and colourful festival takes place on 7 days in the Tamil month of masi, 3 days for Lord Parthasarathy, one each for Sri Narasimhar, Sri Ranganathar, Sri Ramar and Sri Gajendra Varadhar. The seven-day event attracts a large number of devotees and onlookers from different parts of Chennai and Tamil Nadu.
A floating structure made up of drums, timber would be constructed and would be beautifully decorated with lights, flowers, religious paintings, silken buntings, etc. which serves as a visual delight. For better ambience, lights were also installed in the garden around the tank and additionally, focus lights were placed on the corners of the neerazhimandapam (the mandapam (structure) in the center of the temple tank). Perumal (God) would come to the temple tank in purappadu (departure) and be placed majestically inside the float. On all the days, the float completed five rounds around the neerazhimandapam. After this, the deities were taken in a procession around the four Mada Streets. Devotees in hundreds would converge and sit everywhere on the steps of the temple tank to have darshan of the Lord on theppam. The speciality of the third day function ‘Thirumanjanam' was performed to the deity inside the float. Other than the bhattachariars (temple priests), no one was allowed inside the float. A Rescue team of about 10 swimmers is usually provided by the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services.
This theppam festival exhibits one of the aspects of the richest cultural heritage aspects of triplicane, age old culture which one could not see anywhere else in chennai, other than mylapore or triplicane.