- 4th temple in 108 divya-deshams
- Around 14 km from Shrirangam main temple.
- The temple is on a white rock hill of 50 feet height. Vellarai means white rock hence the name Vellarai with a prefix Thiru denoting respect.
- The beautiful deity is of Lord Pundarikaksha.
- This is the place where the famous verse “Om pavitra pavitro va…” had its origin.
- This is a very beautiful temple, built by great king Shibi 7 generations before Lord Rama.
- Pundarikan, a great devotee established a garden here and worshipped the Lord with Tulsi leaves grown here. The Lord pleased with his worship gave darshan to him and came to be known as Pundarikaksham.
- There are 18 steps to the temple representing the 18 chapters of Bhagavad Gita. The next 4 steps to entrance represent the Four Vedas. Then after worshipping the Bali-peeta, one has to cross five steps representing the panchabhutas called earth, water, fire, air and ether.
- Then there two entrances to view the Lord representing the two ayanas (six months of the year). One entrance would be open from Adi to Margazhi month : July-August to December-January, while the other is open in Uttarayana covering the months Thai to Ani :January-February to June-July.
- It is said that Surya and Chandra come here and performs chamara seva to the Lord.
- Legends say that the eyes of the Deity of Hanuman in the temple complex are growing bigger and wider each year. This can be known from unusually big eyes of Hanumanji compared to the size of deity.
- Another belief is that no Sri Vaishnava can achieve perfection without visiting Thiruvellarai. Hence, there is this tradition at the temple to call Thiruvellarai Kandeero- Thiruvellarai Kanden Aiyyaa (the devotees informing the Lord that they have seen Thiruvellarai and that they are now ready/eligible for going back to Godhead), a voice that is said to echo to the Lord up there in Vaikuntha.
Once, Lord Visnu being pleased with Laxmi requested Her to ask for a boon. Being fully satisfied to get a place on Lord’s heart, She did not ask for anything. On being persistently asked by the Lord, She then requested that She be granted the leading rights at some temples, as she felt that the Lord gets priority over her in all the temples.
Meanwhile, Markandeya was destined to die at age 16. When Yama came to take him, he clutched on to the Siva-lingam at Thirukadaiyur. Pleased with this, Lord Shiva blessed him that he will remain there forever as 16. After enjoying life to the full, Markandeya once again prayed to Lord Shiva asking for deliverance. He was guided by Siva to go to Thiruvellarai to invoke the blessing of Lord Vishnu.
King Shibi (Lord Rama’s ancestor) came here with a big army with the intention of killing the Lankan King Ravana. While here, he encountered a white pig which gave the army a fight. Angered at this, Sibhi chased the white pig. After stopping at 5 places, the pig disappeared into a pit. The king soon realised that the white pig was not an ordinary one.
King shibi then approached Markandeya Rishi who was performing penance here. He asked Sibhi to pray to Lord Vishnu. The Muni told the king how lucky he was to see the lord in the form of the swine while he himself was waiting long for Lord’s darshan and so he advised the king to perform milk abishek to an anthill near the pit. The Lord in this Deity form of Pundarikaksham appeared before the Muni and the King.
Answering Shibi’s prayers, an invisible voice asked him not to pursue his quest to defeat Ravana and that he go back to his kingdom as time had not come for Ravana to be defeated yet and that he himself will be born later to defeat Ravana. A disappointed King Shibi pleaded with the Lord that he could not possibly go back empty handed, without fulfilling the purpose for which he had come. The Lord asked Shibi to fulfill the wishes of goddess Lakshmi by building a temple here that would give Her the first rights at all festivities. It is also here that Lord Vishnu then gave darshan and deliverance to Markandeya.
Only in three divya-desam temples does the Goddess get the first rights over the Lord – Nachiyar temple in Thiru Naraiyur, Aandal temple in Srivilliputhur and here at Thiruvellarai.
This temple dates back to a time much before Shrirangam temple as can be seen from the fact that Shibi, the forefather of Rama, built this temple.
As per the boon of the Lord, Mother Shenbagavalli (Lakshmi) took the premier place in the temple and comes before the lord in palanquin during the festival occasions.
Temple Timing: 9am-1pm and 3.45pm- 7.45pm