Lord Vishnu, the supreme God of protection, is worshipped with great faith and fervor by people not only in India but also in many countries of the world. There are innumerable temples for Vishnu, of which 108 are held as particularly sacred, as the deities enshrined here have been sung about the Azhwars, the great Vaishnavite saints. These are known as Divyadesams. In these, the deities can be worshipped in different postures, that is, as sitting, standing and reclining. Of them, there are 24 Divyadesams in which the Lord can be worshipped as lying down.
Now, let us take a tour of some of the important temples of Lord Vishnu, where he is in a reclining posture and offer worship to him. This is believed to be all the more auspicious, when done on the occasion of the scared Vaikunta Ekadasi festival.
Srirangam is regarded as the greatest of the Vishnu temple on earth. This holiest of the holy abodes of Lord Vishnu also remains as the prime among the Divyadesams. Here Vishnu, as Ranganatha, is lying majestically on the couch of the great serpent Adisesha in the 15 foot long sanctum. Resting his head on the bent right hand and stretching the left to his thighs, and well adorned with a crown, the divine gem Kausthubam, ornaments and garlands, he is in the Bujanga Sayanam posture and is facing south. Glorified by the sweet hymns of the Azhwar saints, he is hailed as Periya Perumal, the great Lord. His divine consort is Ranganachiar, who is enshrined separately in the same temple complex. The Lord is believed to have descended from his heavenly abode of Vaikuntam and is lying here in the fertile patch of land formed between the two strands of the scared river Kaveri, for showering the world with his divine grace. The processional deity of Ranganatha is worshipped as Namperumal, our dear Lord.
Location: The island of Srirangam is located in the northern part of the Trichy town in Tamil Nadu.
It is Lord Adikesava Perumal who is lying on his serpent couch in the sacred temple in Thiruvattaaru. He is said to have subdued the notorious demon Kesan in a wrestling bout, threw him down, unfolded his Adisesha bed over his body and reclined comfortably on top of it. The Lord’s idol here is truly massive, stretching to a length of as many as 18 feet and the full form can be worshipped only through three entrances. It is also made not of stone, but of a mixture of mustard seeds and sugar. He is in an unusual posture too, lying right to left in Anantha Sayanam and is facing west. The great Vaishnava saint Nammazhwar has sung the praise of not only the Lord here but also of the scared place. Goddess Maragadhavalli Nachchiyar is his consort.
Location: Thiruvattaaru is in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, close to the Kerala border and is about 50 kms from Thiruvananthapuram.
Thiruvananthapuram can be regarded as the most sacred Divyadesam in Kerala. In the grand temple located here, Lord Vishnu is reclining with great elegance on the couch of serpent Anantha, as Anantha Padmanabha Swamy. Here too, the 18-foot long image of the Lord looks colossal and one has to look through three adjacent entrances alternatively, so as to worship his crowned head, the midriff and the holy feet. This idol is also made of 12,000 sacred Saligrama stones and a special composition, known as ‘Kadu Sarkara’. As per an interesting legend, this east facing Lord originally remained so massive that only the middle portion of his body was at the present place, while his head and feet were lying far away at Thiruvallam, 8 kms to the south and at Thiruppaappur, 12 kms to the northwest respectively. It was at the request of sage Divakara that the Lord shrunk his physique to the present size so that people could enjoy his complete darshan at the same place. This Lord has been sung by saint Nammazhwar. His consort Sriharilakshmi can also be worshipped in the temple.
Location: Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of Kerala and is well connected with all parts of the country.
Srivillippuththur is very famous as the birth place of the great saint poet Kodhai or Andal. The temple of Lord Vishnu here is also held sacred. Mythology claims that Vishnu put an end to the mighty demon Kalanemi by using his powerful discus and then he cleaned it by dipping it in sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi. Later he rested under a banyan tree nearby, reclining on Adisesha in Bujanga Sayanam, in the midst of his consorts, other divinities and sages like Bruhu and Markandeya. Banyan is known as Vata in Sanskrit and this Lord lying under the Banyan tree came to be known as Vatapatra Sayee. The presiding deity is east-facing and is also called as Ranga Mannaar. While one portion of the temple is dedicated to Vatapatra Sayee, the other remains the abode of Andal Nachchiyar, who is accorded great importance here. It is only in the garden that exists in between, that Andal is believed to have been born. This is also a well-known Divyadesam sung by the Azhwars.
Location: Srivillippuththur is in Tamil Nadu and is about 45 kms south-west of Virudhunagar and about 76 kms from Madurai city.
Vishnu here bears a strange name Appkkudaththaan, the Lord with a pot of Appam. ‘Appam’ is a sweet dish and ‘Kudam’ is a pot. It is said that once, Lord Vishnu came to the doors of king Uparisaravasu in the guise of an old man and sought cooked rice. When the king asked for time for preparing rice, the hungry old man asked him to give him Appam, which was readily available and consumed it with relish. Accordingly, the Lord here is still seen with the pot of Appam in his right hand and hence is called so. He is lying here on his serpent couch in Bujanga Sayanam facing west, while Goddess Kamalavalli remains his consort. Called variously as Indragiri, Pancharangam, and Appalaranganatha temple in the legends, this Divyadesam is located in the place called Thirupper Nagar or Koviladi, between the rivers of Kaveri and Kollidam, just like Srirangam temple.
Location: Thirupper Nagar is also in Tamil Nadu state, about 16 kms from Trichy on the route to Thiruvayyaru/ Thanjavur.
This is believed to be the place where Lord Vishnu took the form of the bewitching Mohini during the great churning of the ocean and distributed the divine nectar to the Devas. It is also said that a drop of that Amrut fell in the tank here and that the Lord settled just to the south of it, in a reclining posture on serpent Sesha. This particular style of his lying down is called ‘Prarthana Sayanam’, which cannot be seen anywhere else. His consort can also be worshipped here as Mohanavalli. This is a big and very old temple with an impressive tower at the main entrance and is referred to in many of the well-known ancient literary works like Silappadhikaram, Aganaanooru, Padhitruppatru and Madurai Kanchi. This also remains a sacred Divyadesam, sung by the Azhwars.
Location: Thirumogur is about 12 kms to the north-east of Madurai city, in Tamil Nadu.
One can worship perhaps the world’s biggest reclining God Ranganatha idol in the temple of Singavaram Kundru. This massive figure of the Lord is 20 feet long and 9 feet wide and looks remarkable both in terms of architecture and divine grace. This temple has its own place in history too as it was this Lord who was worshipped with devotion by Raja Desing, the heroic ruler of the nearby Senji fort. This is an ancient cave temple carved by the Pallava rulers, in which Vishnu is lying, stretching him fully on Anantha, the great serpent.
Location: Singavaram Kundru is about 4 kms from the famous Senji fort and is in the Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu, about 160 kms south-west of capital Chennai.
Thiru Anbil or Anbil is another Divyadesam of Vishnu, where the Lord is in the reclining posture of Bujanga Sayanam. Called as Sundararajan and also as Thiru Vadivazhagiya Nambi, he is east facing and is enshrined in the temple along with his consort Azhagiyavalli Nachchiyar. While he is said to have appeared in person in front of Lord Brahma and sage Valmiki here, king Sundara Chozha, who ruled over this land, is believed to have achieved many victories in various battles by the grace of this Lord and hence, made a lot of contributions to the temple. This temple lies on the northern banks of Kollidam river.
Location: Thiru Anbil lies just to the east of the Trichy town on its outskirts, on the Kallanai – Kumbakonam route.
The legend about the Lord of Thiruvekka is an extremely interesting. It is said that once, Kanikannan, the disciple of saint Thirumazhisai Azhwar refused to sing the praise of the Pallava ruler and was hence banished from the place. The upset Azhwar, through a hymn, then requested this Lord also to leave the place along with them and the Lord obliged them. The repentant king then sought the pardon of Kanikannan and pleaded with him to return. His Guru Thirumazhisai Azhwar once again requested the Lord and this time too, he did just as he was asked to by his devotee and returned to his abode in this temple. This amazing act of the Lord itself became the cause of his name and he came to be called as Yathothkari or Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal, that is, the Lord who did as he was told. This Perumal is lying right to left in his snake bed in the sanctum, while his consort Goddess Komalavalli can be worshipped in a separate shrine in this Divyadesam.
Location: Thiruvekka is located in the famous temple town of Kanchipuram, about 72 kms to the west of capital Chennai, in Tamil Nadu.
Parimala Ranganathar is the name of the Lord of Thiru Indhalur temple. ‘Parimalam’ means good fragrance. He is said to be lying here with a pleasant aroma after blessing the sacred Vedas who took holy bath in river Kaveri here. This Lord who has taken his abode on the banks of Kaveri is believed to have given equal, exalted status to both the sacred rivers Ganga and Kaveri and hence, they both are sitting at his feet and head respectively, in the sanctum sanctorum. The Lord is reclining on Adisesha in a posture known as Veera Sayanam and is facing east. Lords Surya and Chandra are also there near him. Goddess Parimala Ranganayaki alias Pundarikavalli is his divine consort. This place is close to the mouth of the Kaveri river, where it flows into Bay of Bengal and is held sacred as Kadai Mukam. People in very large numbers take holy bath in the river here and worship the Lord of this Divyadesam.
Location: Thiru Indhalur is part of the Mayiladuthurai or Mayavaram town situated in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu.
Once there was a tiff between Lord Brahma and his consort Saraswathi and in a fit of anger, the Goddess took the form of a river and tried to spoil the sacrifice performed by Brahma. On the request of the God of creation, Lord Vishnu is said to have stretched himself down right across her path and thus ensured the successful conduct of the sacrifice. This river is said to be Palar, and this temple of the Lord is located on its banks. The big and beautiful image of Vishnu is lying on serpent Adisesha here in the sanctum along with his consorts Sridevi and Bhoodevi. He is called in the name Uthara Ranganatha, that is, the Ranganatha of the north, perhaps taking Srirangam Ranganatha as the Lord in the south.
Location: Palli Konda is a small village in Tamil Nadu on the Chennai – Bengaluru highway, about 24 kms from Vellore town, which is about 135 kms west of Chennai.