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108 Vishnu Temples (Architectural Splendour, Spiritual Bliss)

Item Code: NAJ208
Author: Avey Varghese
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9789385285370
Pages: 520 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.5 inch X 9.5 inch
Weight 1.90 kg
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Shipped to 153 countries
Shipped to 153 countries
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Book Description
About the Book

108 Vishnu Temples: Architectural Splendour, Spiritual Bliss is a pictorial journey into ancient architecture and the art of temple construction and sculpture with interesting trivia about 106 Vishnu temples across the length and breadth of India; a devout Vaishnavite is expected to complete a pilgrimage of these sites to gain access to the two temples in the mystical realm. These temples are collectively known as the 108 Divya Desams amongst Vaishnavites, more particularly Vaishnavites from South India and are distributed across India - eighty-four in Tamil Nadu; eleven in Kerala; two in Andhra Pradesh; eight in North India and one in Nepal. Laden with historic, religious and architectural eminence, these temples often remained concealed in the folds of history.

With detailed images and wholesome information on the temples' history, architectural brilliance, art forms, rituals, beliefs and landscapes, the book is aimed at connoisseurs of art, architecture and literature. The temple legend (the Sthala Purana), deity positions and other significant mythical specifications are also built into the text. Miniscule details ranging from directions to reach the temple, proximal towns, festivals celebrated at the temple, the sacred ponds and trees associated with it, to details of the associated Azhwar(s) are also incorporated in the text.

The book opens up an incredibly fresh experience of knowing these veiled jewels from the pages of the past. The photographs elucidate the author-photographer's mastery over his craft, making the images seem life-like, touching the soul of the beholder.

About the Author

Hailing from a traditional Christian family in Kerala, Avey Varghese was born and brought up in Ahmedabad, where he did his schooling. Later he completed his Engineering from Bangalore where he worked for ever a decade in the ITES. In early 2011, he shifted his base to Chennai when he discovered his innate veiled love for photography.

Avey stepped gingerly into the realm of framing moments with a simple point and shoot camera. The vivid colours of nature, azure skies and candid portraits found place in his frame in his initial days.

In no time, he advanced into portfolios and celebrity shoots. Photography consumed a greater space of his life and it escalated from being an ardent passion to an earnest profession. Avey’s snaps elucidate his eye for details and impeccable framing, making them seem life-like and touches the soul of the beholder. His cosmopolitan stance and love for travelling made him an avid voyager, exploring many lands and capturing exquisite frames.


India is a country that illustrates a rich amalgamation of diverse elements in various spheres ranging from religion, tradition, languages, festivals, cuisines and much more. Religion prominently surfaces as a quintessential part of Indian life. Hinduism, one of the major religions in the country, can be broadly classified into two major sects - Shaivism and Vaishnavism - where the former refers to the followers of Lord Shiva and the latter, the followers of Lord Vishnu. This book intends to unearth the grandeur of the magnificent temple structures dedicated to Lord Vishnu. These temples are a cluster of 108)106 in the earthly realm and 2 in the mystical abode) which are collectively known as the 108 Divya Desams amongst Vaishnavites, more particularly Vaishnavites from South India. A Vaishnavite is believed to attain salvation or moksha if he pays homage to Lord Vishnu at these 106 earthly abodes and will thereby be granted access to the two heavenly ones. The Divya Desams are distributed across India - eighty- four in Tamil Nadu; eleven in Kerala; two in Andhra Pradesh; eight in North India and one in Nepal.

The construction of temples in India can be traced back to about 2000 years when there occurred an evolution of Hinduism from the Vedic religion. The prime reason that led to the birth of a temple structure was the awakening in' people for the need of a sacred place to converge and revitalise their spiritual energies. Over the years, temples evolved as comprehensive institutions where people congregate for discourses, cultural performances and festivals, besides offering prayers. A temple structure is revered as a symbolic representation of God's form where the topmost point of the temple is the head; the sanctum sanctorum is the heart; the front hall is the stomach and the main gate is the feet of the Almighty. The idol of the deity in the sanctum is the pivotal point akin to the soul of the being. Another theory equates the temple to a miniscule exemplification of the universe with the deity image as the moving spirit and the peripheral areas of the temple structure as encircling layers containing the universe. The third perception of a temple is its comparison to a lotus pond where the sanctum is a representative of the water; the presiding deity idol, of the lotus root and the festival deity, of the lotus bloom itself.

Initially with austere shrines made out of bricks and mortar, usually around trees, temple structures have exceedingly evolved over the years. The sequential array of the Gupta, Pallava and the Chalukya dynasties and the Chera, Chozha and Pandya empires of south India have immensely contributed to temple construction. Temples are considered to be storehouses of past history, architecture, art and the like. Engravings, inscriptions and such epigraphic details from these temples have thrown light on many facts of life in the years gone by. Many temples have retained copper plates bearing inscriptions which have been of great use later. The Divya Desams across the country unveil many such historic details.

Owing to geographical influences and varying styles of the dynasties that prevailed, the opulence and architectural facets of temples differ from region to region. But nevertheless the basic structure of all temples remains invariable. According to the ancient Sanskrit texts, the ideal spot for temples are beside naturally formed water bodies such as ponds, rivers or lakes. In the absence of such a water body, a temple pond is to be ideally constructed in front or to the left of the structure. The Hindu temple architecture is a symmetrically set structure deployed with precise concentric squares and circles. The four cardinal directions form the axis in temple construction. In a temple structure of concentric squares, each layer is significant in its own way. The outermost layer known as the Paisachika Padas is considered a realm of the evil powers. Proceeding inwards after this layer is the Manushya Padas which is meant for human beings. The precinct for circumambulation is usually positioned here. Further in is the Devika Padas which signifies the aspects of the Gods and goodwill. All these three concentric realms surround the Brahma Padas which signifies creative energy. At the very centre of the Brahma Padas is the cardinal position known as the garbha griha or sanctum sanctorum housing the deities in the idol form. The sanctum sanctorum is capped by a tower known as Vimana or Shikhara. The sanctum generally houses two idols - the immobile idol of the presiding deity and an idol of the procession deity which is taken out during festive occasions. In temples with larger area and superior structures, the three outer layers are adorned with sculptured pillars, inscriptions and artwork. The Divya Desams being temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu have each a shrine for Garuda or the humanoid bird creature, considered as the vahana or carrier of Vishnu according to Hindu mythology, invariably facing the sanctum. A sthala vriksham is a monumental tree that is indigenous to every historical Hindu temple. This forms a prominent feature of kovils, Hindu temples of the Dravidian style. Besides the dominant feature of a temple's architecture comprising the gopuram, vimanam and the sanctum, the temple tree is also considered holy. Some of the temples and historical places derive their names from such trees.

Vaishnavism can be traced back to the ages of the epics and the Sanskrit era. The twelve Azhwars ) the saint poets who were devotees of Lord Vishnu), who are believed to have existed between 4200 BCE and 2700 BCE propagated Vaishnavism in the form of hymns. The Azhwars are said to have visited these 106 temples of Lord Vishnu and written hymns or pasurams praising the Lord. Their extolling eulogies for Lord Vishnu written in chaste Tamil and counting up to 4000 verses are collectively known as the Nalayira Divya Prabandham referred to commonly as the Nalayiram.

In Tamil Nadu the Divya Desams are spread across its major towns - Chennai, Chidambaram, Cuddalore, Kanchipuram, Kumbakonam, Madurai, Mayiladuthurai, Seergazhi, Thanjavur, Tirunelveli, and Trichy. Temples in Tamil Nadu are examples of intermingled styles of Dravidian, Chozha, Pallava and Vijayanagar types of architecture. Most of the temples have pyramidal towers or gopurams with progressively smaller tiers and one or several domes on the top known as vimana - a feature typical of the Dravidian style. Porches preceding the main sanctum and pillared pavilions are also notable traits of this style of architecture. Temples chiselled out of a single rock were a speciality of the Pallava dynasty which reigned from 600 AD to 900 AD. The Thiru Kadalmallai temple at Mahabalipuram is a striking example of Pallava architecture. Contrary to the popular belief that it was the Chozhas who excelled in constructing massive temples, it was actually the Pallavas who indulged in colossally large temple structures sans bricks and mortar as well as gigantic rock cut images of Lord Vishnu. The massive, life-size images of the Lord at the Thiru Padagam and Thiru Ooragam Divya Desams at Kanchipuram are examples of this. The Vijayanagar Empire which reigned between 1343 CE to 1565 CE resorted to a style of architecture which was an amalgamation of all the styles that prevailed before. Due to its durability factor in a kingdom under constant threat of invasion, the artisans largely used granite in the construction of its structures. The lion-horse combination pillars known as Yali and ornately pillared pavilions are salient contributions of this empire. Beyond the architectural highlights, each temple holds mysteries and fascinating details unique in its own way, for instance - a jackfruit tree bearing the conch symbol at Thiru Koodaloor, an enormous Kal-Garuda )stone Garuda) which increases in weight during the festive procession, the salt-less offering at the Oppiliappan temple and the ball-tree bearing the image of Narasimha on its trunk. The book includes an enigmatic image of the main gopuram, the Rajagopuram of the Sri Rangam temple at Trichy which is considered the tallest in India with its eleven tiers.

The Divya Desams in Kerala are different to the ones in Tamil Nadu, both in architecture and customs. Temples in Kerala are fashioned out of a mixed medium of wood, stone, brick and laterite. The shape of the roof is in congruence with that of the sanctum; conical roofs for circular sanctums and pyramidal roofs for square sanctums. The central sanctum of a Keralite temple is known as Srikovil. A cloistered precinct which houses the other sub- shrines runs around the sanctum with a pavilion preceding the sanctum. The koothambalam or a pavilion for artistic performances of traditional art forms is a structure found exclusively in the temples of Kerala. Thus, this structure plays a vital role in educating the visitors on the rich heritage and cultural fabric of India. Kerala temples portray a stunning blend of extensive woodwork, intricate stone carvings and stucco paintings. Unlike the temples in Tamil Nadu, shrines for the Azhwars and Garuda are seldom found in Kerala. Most of the temples in Kerala cater to a separate shrine for Sastha, the son of the Rig-Vedic fusion deity of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The book captures various striking elements from the Kerala architecture - tiled roofing, copper plates and the array of oil lamps or Vilakku Madam on the outer structure of the temple. Intricate wooden carvings and traditional brass lamps and mural paintings, a trademark of Kerala temples have also been refreshingly presented.

Another south Indian state, Andhra Pradesh, houses just two Divya Desams - the much famed Tirumala Tirupati temple and Thiru Singavel Kundram. Images of these glorious temples including the nine Narasimha shrines of the Thiru Singavel Kundram temple, also known as Ahobilam, are offered as visual treats.,p> Moving to northern India, in Uttarakhand, images of the geometrical towers and square shaped sanctums, typical to north Indian temples, are clearly presented in the book. The temples in northern India are noted for their beehive shaped progressively tapering towers. Despite being a square-shaped base plan, the tower is broken at various levels to give it a circular impression. A top view shot of the merging point of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi at Devaprayag, considered the origin of Adi Ganga has been included. A sacred stone bearing the footprint of Lord Sri Rama and another one where he is believed to have sat in meditation have also been featured. Images of the yellow and red coloured Badrinath temple set in the enchanting setting of snow-capped mountains, is a magnificent sight.

Images of the four temples in Uttar Pradesh include the huge, green temple pond at Naimisaranyam and the roof-top sculptures of Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhana Mountain at Mathura known in the south of India as Thiru Vadamathura'. The evening worship with lighted lamps )Aarti) by the banks of Yamuna - an exquisite sight adds to the charm of the temple. Though now only remains of the ruined Ayodhya or Thiru Ayodhi temple exist, a top-angle panoramic image of the surviving structures has been included.

The Thiru Dwaraka Divya Desam at Gujarat is one splendid structure. Varied angles of the towering beige colour temple with a red flag fluttering on top can be found in this book.

The Sri Moorthy temple at Muktinath, Nepal, is the only Divya Desam situated outside India. Constructed in the Pagoda style of architecture, the book contains numerous images of the Hindu- Buddhist temple. Images of the exquisite snow-clad mountains, landscape and the lady priest at the Sri Moorthy temple find a well deserved place inside the book.

With detailed images of the temple structures and wholesome information on the temples' history, art and architecture, the book secures a place of its own in this realm. It encompasses pertinent elements from allied spheres such as temple history, architectural brilliance, art forms, rituals, beliefs and landscapes. Text detailing the temple legend or sthala purana, deity positions and other significant mythical specifications are also included. The book aims at putting forth every relevant miniscule detail ranging from directions to reach the temple, proximal towns, festivals celebrated at the temple, the sacred ponds and trees associated with it, details of the associated Azhwar)s) )to the extent available) making it a first-of-its-kind collector's edition.

Introduction 7
1Sri Rangam 13
2Thirukkozhi 25
3Thiru Thanjai Mamani Kovil 31
4Thiru Anbil 37
5Thiru kkaram banoor 41
6Thiru Vellarai 47
7Thiruppullam Bhoothamkudi 53
8Thirupper Nagar 57
9Thiru Adhanoor 63
10Thiruvazhunthoor 69
11Thiru Sirupuliyur 73
12Thiruccherai 79
13Thiru Thalaicchanga Nanmathiyam 83
14Thirukkudanthai 87
15Thirukkandiyur 91
16Thiru Vinnagar 97
17Thirukkannapuram 103
18Thiruvali Thirunagari 107
19Thiru Nagai 113
20Thiru Naraiyur 117
21Thiru Nandipura Vinnagaram 121
22Thiru Indaloor 125
23Thiru Chitrakoodam 131
24Thiru Seergazhi 135
25Thirukkoodaloor 139
27Thirukkannamangai 149
28Thiru Kapisthalam 157
29Thiru Velliyankudi 161
30Thiru Manimada Kovil 165
31Thiru Vaikunta Vinnagaram 169
32Thiru Arimeya Vinnagaram 173
33Thiru Devanar Thogai 177
34Thiruvann Purushothamam 181
35Thiru Sempon Sei Kovil 185
36Thiru Thetri Ambalam 189
37Thiru Manikkoodam 193
38Thiru Kavalampadi 197
39Thiruvellakulam 201
40Thiru Parthanpalli 207
41Thiruvaheendirapuram 211
42Thirukkoviloor 215
43Thiru Kachi 219
44Ashtabuyagaram 227
45Thiruthanka 231
46Thiru Velukkai 235
47Thiru Padagam 237
48Thiru Neeragam 241
49Thiru Nilathingal Thundam 243
50Thiru Ooragam 247
51Thiru Vekka 251
52Thiru Karagam 255
53Thiru Kavrvanam257
54Thirukkalvanoor 259
55Thiru Pavala Vannam 263
56Thiru Parameswara Vinnagaram 267
57Thiruputkuzhi 271
58Thiru Nindravoor 275
59Thiru Ewalur 279
60Thiru Neermalai 283
61Thiruvedanthai 287
62Thiru Kadalmallai 291
63Thiruvallikeni 295
64Thiru Kadigai 299
65Thiruvenkadam 303
66Thiru Singavel Kundram 307
67Thiru Ayodhi 313
68Thiru Naimisaranyam 317
69Thiru Salagramam (Nepal) 321
70Thirubadhari Ashramam 329
71Thirukkandam 335
72Thiruppiridhi 341
73Thiru Dwaraka 347
74Thiru Vadamathura 351
75Thiruvaipadi 355
76Thiruvanananthapuram 359
77Thiruvan Parisaram 365
78Thirukkakarai 369
79Thirumoozhikkalam 373
80Thirupuliyoor 379
81Thirucchenkundroor 383
82Thiru Navai 387
83Thiru Vallavazh 391
85Thiru Vattaru 399
86Thiru Vithuvakkodu 405
87Thirukkadithanam 409
88Thiruvaran Vilai 413
89Thirumalirun Cholai 417
90Thirukkotiyur 421
91Thirumeyyam 425
92Thiruppullani 431
93Thiruthankal 435
94Thiru Moghur 439
95Thirukkoodal 445
96Sri Villiputhoor 449
97Azhwar Thirunagari 457
98Thiruttholai Villimangalam 461
99Thiru Sreevaramangai 465
100Thiruppulingudi 469
101Thirupperai 473
102Thiru Vaikuntam 477
103Thiru Varagunamangai 483
104Thirukkulanthai 487
105Thirukkurungudi 491
106Thirukkoloor 495
107Thiru Parkadal 499
108Thiru Paramapadam501
Major cities close to the Divya Desams 503
108 Divya Desams as special Kshetras 504
Acknowledgements 505
Glossary 506

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