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The Vallalar Temple lies in Vadalur, Cuddalore district, Tamil Nadu. The temple is called Sathya Gnana Sabha (Hall of True Knowledge).
The temple was established by Sri Arutprakasa Ramalinga Vallalar, a great spiritual and social reformer. The Vallalar Temple is the Temple of Wisdom and defines spirituality in a new way.
Sri Arutprakasa Ramalinga Vallalar was born on October 5, 1823. His parents Ramayya Pillai and Chinnamai were Shaivites and took the five-month-old baby to worship Natarajar at the Chidambaram Temple. The father passed away a month later, and the family moved to Madras, where Sabapathi, the elder son, took over the family responsibilities. Ramalinga was prodigious as a child and was being educated by his brother Sabapathi's teacher, but he delighted in writing poems sitting in the temple of Kanthakottam. Sabapathi ordered his wife Pappammal never to allow Ramalinga inside the house for food, but the compassionate sister-in-law fed him secretly. Her compassion moved Ramalinga, who became determined to study. He was given a room at the top of the stairs, a mirror, and a lamp.
Ramalinga lavished praise on the Divine, and the Arut Jyothi (Eternal Light) came through the mirror, spilling God's abundant Grace onto him. Thus, Ramalinga obtained Omniscience power directly from God. This divine incident took place in the house at Madras when Ramalinga was nine years of age.
In later years, after establishing the Sathya Dharamshala in Vadalur, Sri Vallalar lived in a hermitage called Siddhivalagam in a village called Mettukuppam. He gave sermons, and people regarded him as a spiritual teacher and guide. During this time, his disciple Velayuda Mudaliar compiled all the poems written by Sri Vallalar in his earlier days into five parts. The collection was printed and published in a single volume. Instead of stating the editor's name as Chidambaram Ramalingam, which the saint used to sign in all his letters and poems, the disciple had noted it as Thiru Arutprakasa Vallalar.
The volume was presented to the saint in the thought that it would receive appreciation, but the situation proved otherwise. The saint questioned the change in editor's name, to explain the significance of the new name and with whose permission the volume was printed. The disciple stood shivering in fear with folded hands, afraid he had angered Sri Vallalar. Seeing how frightened the disciple was and understanding his plight, the saint came forward and explained to him that God is bountiful, and since he is the Giver of All, the name should be that of God's and no one else’s. The disciple understood and left the place with a peaceful mind. He narrated the incident to his fellowmen, and from then onwards, the saint was called Thiru Arutprakasa Vallalar, as his disciples desired.
Sri Vallalar established the Sudha Sanmargam that refers to a society that practices purity of heart and goodness that leads to knowledge and compassion manifested in the world. He changed the face of religious history when he advocated a casteless society. He forbade the killing of animals for food and advocated vegetarianism. He said that feeding the poor was the highest form of worship.
Sri Arutprakasa Ramalinga Vallalar emerged from Tamil Nadu to educate people on religion, and to be inclusive of other faiths. He taught people to have tolerance, stay united, and taught communities to live in harmony. He inclusively defined spirituality and worked towards one world and united souls.
Sri Arutprakasa Ramalinga Vallalar opened a temple in Vadalur on January 25, 1872, called the Sathya Gnana Sabha. His mother, Chinnamai, had the habit of feeding one poor devotee before she sat for her meal. Sri Vallalar established the Satya Dharma Sala on May 23, 1867 and followed this practice religiously. The oven in the Dharma Sala that was lit by Sri Valallar in 1867 has never been extinguished and 153 years later, is still burning. He initiated the Annadhanam, feeding the poor. This practice continues to this day.
Sri Vallalar hoisted the Sanmarga flag (flag of righteousness) in 1873 at Siddha Valaga, in Mettupakkam near Vadalur. He later lit a lamp at Siddha Valagam and advised people to worship it. There is a locked room called Tirukkapitta Arai. Sri Vallalar entered the room on the 19th day of the Tamil month of Thai (January-February) in 1874 and united with the Arut Jyothi. He attained Samadhi in this room.
The room is opened on the second day of Thai Poosam. The book of hymns Thiru Arutpa composed by him is brought in a palanquin to the room, which is opened at 12.00 a.m. Devotees can have darshan through the window of the room till 06.00 p.m.
The temple called the Sathya Gnana Sabha has been built in an octagonal shape. It resembles a lotus. The Arutperunjothi Agaval is engraved here. Sri Vallalar had lit a lamp in the Sathya Gnana Sabha, which is still burning bright. There are doors and windows through which one can see the light in the altar. Five steps are leading to the altar from all sides. There are seven colorful curtains hung before the light. When the curtains are moved aside, the Jyothi can be seen through the mirror.
Sri Vallalar maintained that God helped devotees like a guiding light. Seeing the Jyothi in the mirror was akin to a man seeing the light within himself as his seven negative traits were removed. There is an outer wall, and the entire area has been cordoned off with iron chains in duplicate. The dome is constructed in such a way that it attracts everyone's attention as they pass by.
The temple symbolizes the different stages in life. First is the physical stage, where the senses are heightened. To reach a higher stage and to attain Divinity, a person must pass through the gross, subtle bodily stages and later take shelter in the soul, the casual bodily stage.
The first stage of living the eight spans of the gross body is represented by the octagonal structure of the temple and the iron chain fencing surrounding it. The human body measures eight spans, and the duplicate chains in the outer iron fence contain, 21,600 knots, the number of times a human breathes a day through his nostrils.
The second subtle bodily stage is represented by the inner octagonal space covered with twenty-four openings of doors and windows.
The third stage is the casual bodily stage, where the Divine Light is in the central altar with five steps on each of the four sides that represent the Penta (five) forces of God.
The seven curtains in between the second and third stages, act as a bar to perceive the inner light by ordinary men. During worship, one must stand before the central spot of the main door, from where one can perceive the Divine Light in front of him, From this spot, one can see the golden and silver Sabhas (Chirchabai and Porchabai) on either side of him. This is to experience the inner Divinity within us from the center of the eyebrows.
Sri Vallalar created the Theenchuvai canal on the Karunguzhi-Metupakkam highway to manage during times of water scarcity. The Theertham associated with the temple is the Theenchuvai Theertham.
The Sathya Dharma Sala, established by Sri Vallalar in 1867, had the oven lit by the saint around 153 years ago. The fire in the oven has never been extinguished and burns even to this day. The temple does not use matchboxes, and although no cooking is done at night, a staff of the temple puts firewood to keep the oven alive. Sri Vallalar started the Annadhanam, and the feeding is continued even today and takes place five times a day. The devotees give the provisions. The feeding is done irrespective of the numbers. Even the birds are fed, and initially, the feeding is done for the crows.
Devotees sprinkle the Theenchuvai water (from the Theenchuvai canal built by Sri Vallalar) on their heads, and it is said to cure diseases.
The temple also has a home for the aged. The elderly come here to spend their last days, and they are taken care of by the temple.
Sri Vallalar started the Jyothi Darshan (sacred view of Divine Light) on Thai Poosam in January-February of 1872. This event is celebrated with devotion and fervor until today. The devotees view the Jyothi only on this day after the seven curtains are removed in the Gnana Sabha (Hall of Wisdom). The curtains are removed six times, at 06.00 a.m., 10.00 a.m., 01.00 p.m., 07.00 p.m., 10.00 p.m., and 05.30 a.m., the next morning.
On Poosam star days, the devotees have three darshans shown at 08.00 p.m. removing only six curtains.
The temple remains open between 06.00 a.m. and 06.00 p.m.
The nearest airport is the Pondicherry Airport that lies 42 kilometers away.
The nearest train station is Panruti, that lies 26 kilometers away.
Vadalur is well connected to other towns and cities by buses.
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