Narasingapuram, 21 km from Arakkonam

Narasimha temple in ruins

The Moolavar idols of Maragathavalli Thayar and Sri Lakshminarasimhar.

A CLASSIC example of the kind of neglect that relics and ancient structures suffer in this part of the country can be found in Narasingapuram, 21 km from Arakkonam on the Chennai-Tandalam-Perambakkam Road, where the over 500-year-old Lakshmi Narasimha Perumal Temple is located. One is greeted by the once majestic tower, with only its basement and two tiers remaining, that too covered by bushes and well-grown trees. The floor and ceiling of the spacious Thirukkalyanamandapam are also covered by overgrowth. Very little of what used to be the Andal shrine remains. The vimanams again are shrouded by vegetation and the shrines of the Lord and the Goddess have cracks in all their walls. If the present state of neglect continues all the shrines may disappear the way the Andal shrine has.

The temple, a fine specimen of the Vijayanagar style of architecture with delicately sculpted and carved pillars, is said to be under the control of the HR and CE Department, but no sincere efforts seem to have been made to remove the plant growth in the superstructures and also inside the temple and prevent their decay. The lone man guarding what remains of this treasure of art and architecture is the temple priest, Ramanathan, who is assisted by a band of dedicated village youth who clear the plant growth now and then. But they have little time at their disposal as they have to go from place to place in search of work. Though the architecture in the temple made one think that it belonged to the Vijayanagar period, there are inscriptions dating back to the reign of Chola kings. There are in all 14 inscriptions — seven in the sanctum sanctorum of the Lakshmi Narasimha Perumal shrine, six in what remains of the basement of the Andal shrine and one at the entrance of the Rajagopuram. Of these, archaeologists consider those in the Andal shrine basement as more ancient and belonging to the period of Kulothunga Chozha I and Vikrama Chozha I. They speak about their constructing the Madurantaka Vinnagar temple in Madurantaka Nalloor (the present Madurantakam?) and installing the idols of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana in it and the grants made by them for the daily conduct of poojas.

The inscriptions of the Vijayanagar kings belong to the reign of Achuthadeva Maharayar and Veeravenkatapathy Rayar. They mention that Theertharapillai gifted the village of Periya Puliyara or Narasimhapuram to Brahmins so that they could live there and look after the temple. Another inscription says that various gifts were made to Brahmins to recite Vedas for the welfare of Narasanaicker, father of Achuthadeva Rayar. Yet another inscription speaks about the installation of the Utsava idol known as "Prahlada Purandarar" by, again, Theertharapillai. It also says that the Narasimha Perumal Temple is located in Koovam Thiagasamudhra Nallur, which was also known as Narasanaickerpuram. It is in the Manavilkottam of Chandragiri Rajyam in Jayamkonda Chozha Mandalam. The period of these Vijayanagar rulers has been determined by historians to be 14th to 15th centuries and that of the Chola kings to be much earlier. All these go to show that the temple was one of the ancient worshipping places in this part of the country.

The damaged tower of the temple with bushes all over it.

The temple has two entrances, one in the south and the other in the east. The latter is the main entrance and it must have had a gigantic tower in the past though what remains of it are only the "Kalkaram" or the basement and two or three tiers over it. Only the Peedam of the Dwajasthambam remains with the flag post missing. Garudazhwar here is in a rare posture, with his right leg kneeling offering obeisance to the Moolavar. He is kept in a separate shrine. The Utsava Mandapam, Mahamandapam, Artha Mandapam and the sanctum sanctorum complete the picture.

The presiding deity is Lakshmi Narasimhar with the Goddess sitting on His left lap. According to legend the slaying of Hiranyakasipu took place here and to pacify the Lord, Goddess Mahalakshmi came and sat on His lap. The Lord, who is seven feet high, is magnificent. (The idol found in the Pazhaiyaseevaram Temple on the Chengalpattu-Kancheepuram road is equally majestic.) In the Mahamandapam the idols of Azhwars are enshrined. The idol of Anjaneya, for whom a separate shrine was said to have existed in the past, is kept in the Mahamandapam. The Utsava idols of the Lord with Sridevi and Bhoodevi and the Goddess are kept in a far corner of the sanctum sanctorum.

The Utsava Mandapam in front of the Mahamandapam is full of pillars, with intricate carvings, which have escaped the ravage of time. There is a separate shrine for Goddess Maragathavalli Thayar, whose idol is five feet high, just to the right of the main shrine. The Kalyana Mandapam, to the north of the main shrine in the outer Prakaram, is a superb structure containing many fine sculptures. The different incarnations of the Lord are found sculpted on the pillars. The ceiling of the Mandapam also contains images of dancing women and musical instruments. It is now being used as a cattle shed as the temple's entrances have no doors.

The temple owns 15 acres of land but gets no big income from them. It does not get any grant from the Government. The money given by a couple of villagers who cultivate the land helps with the conduct of the puja once in a day. Narasimha Jayanthi (which this years falls on May 15) is the only occasion when the temple is agog with activity. A special "Thirumanjanam" is conducted in the month of Karthigai. Sri Narayana Yathindra Mahadesikan, 45th Jeeyar of the Ahobila Math, visited the temple on February 2, 2003, and offered Mangalasasanam to the Lord.

The temple is urgently in need of repairs and those who want to associate themselves with this holy task can contact Mr. Muralidharan (phone no. 28341404 or 28342229) or send their contributions to the president, Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swami Seva Sabha, Lakshmi Narasimhar Temple, Narasingapuram-631402, (via) Perambakkam, Thiruvallur district. Buses with numbers 86A, 91, 91B, and 107 from Chennai pass through Narasingapuram and Perambakkam.