Sri Rajagopalaswamy with Sri Rukmini, Satyabhama, and Senkamalvalli
The most beautiful and charming of deity is certainly that of Sri Vidya Rajagopalaswamy of Mannargudi. “Mannar” means king, and “gudi” means temple in Telegu. The Rajagopalaswamy temple is quite ancient, and is located in the Thiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu. The temple was reputedly built in 1000 AD. After the period of Rajathi Raja Cholan, this temple was renovated by his successor, Kulothunga Cholan during the period of 1074-1125 A.D. and because of this, later this sthalam is called with the other name “Kulothunga Chola Vinnagaram”. In the 1600s, the temple was patronized extensively by Sri Vijayaraghava Nayakar who built the seven prakarams/walls around the temple, making this temple much like the famed Srirangam temple. Sri Vijayaraghava Nayakar was the last in line of the Thanjavur Nayak kings, and he was beheaded after being captured in battle against the Nayak king of Madurai, Sri Chokkanatha Nayak. To honor Sri Vijayaraghava Nayak’s extensive devotion to Sri Rajagopalaswamy (the king even referred to himself as Mannarudasu – servant of Sri Rajamannar), the Lord gives darshan on Sri Vaikunta Ekadasi dressed as Sri Vijayaraghava Nayak, adorned with the typical Nayak-style hat…
Sri Rajagopalaswamy’s temple at Mannargudi
The deity of Lord in the main sanctum is Sri Para Vasudevar. The utsava murti is the celebrated deity of Rajagopalaswamy, with consorts Sri Rukmini and Sri Satyabhama devis. The sthala puranam of the temple states that Lord Krsna appeared here to bless two rishis, Sri Gopralaya, and Gopila. The two rishis travelled to Dwarka to have darshan of the Lord, but by the time they reached, Dwapara yuga had ended, the Lord had ascended to the spiritual world, and Dwarka was submerged in the ocean. The Lord, out of compassion for the sages, advised them to go south, and pray for His appearance a place called Shenbagaranyam (forest of Shenbaga flowers).
The Shenbaga flower (Sanskrit. Champaka, Latin. Michelia Champaca)
The Lord later appeared to these rishis in 32 forms, the first being Sri Paravasudevar, and the last being the charming form of Sri Rajagopala. It is said that even the bees in this place refrain from taking honey from the fragrant senbaga flowers, so that they remain pure for offering to the Lord in Mannargudi.
The Lord appears wearing a half dhoti, holding a whip (chendu) in His right hand, and in the company of cows and calves, all lovingly gazing at His lotus face. Recently, the residents of Mannargudi dedicated a 67 kg gold armor (kavacha) for this deity as a mark of their affection for Him…
Here is a video of this beautiful deity. I hope your heart is captured by His extraordinary beauty! Hare Krsna!