Athivaradhar of Varadaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram - wooden idol taken out from temple tank every 40 years!!

Athivaradhar, Kanchipuram
Moolavar idol Varadaraja perumal temple, Kanchi.
Since last week of June, 2019 there has been a spate of news items on Athivaradar - Sri Vishnu at Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram, about 75 km from Chennai city. What is so special about Athivaradar and why is much importance given  to this deity? Athivaradar, a form of Mahavishnu is made of ''Athi wood'' (fig tree) and he is kept for darshan from first of  July till 17 August - 48 days on the temple premises - the Vasantha Mandapam   To take the idol out from the depths of temple tank, twelve feet of water is drained out far before the start of the event. Later the priests had spent time to clean up the idol to prepare it for daily darshan and nithya alangarams (daily decorations). Taking out the huge wooden idol from the water tank is a tedious and emotional task for the Bhatters. After reaching the surface of the pond in poor light, one has to descend 12 steps deep further and the idol  lies a nine feet tub brimming with water.  It is said the Ahivaradhar was first submerged in the temple tank in the 1700s during Muslim invasion. 
Varadaraja perumal temple, Kanchipuram
Above image: Varadharaja Perumal Temple originally built by the Cholas in 1053  was expanded during the reigns of the great Chola kings Kulottunga Chola I and Vikrama Chola. In the 14th century  Chola rulerd added another wall and a gopura.  Located in part of Kanchipuram called the Vishnu Kanchi that is a home to 18 divyadesam shrines. this temple is a huge one standing on a 23-acre (93,000 m2)  complex and  has fine rock sculptures of ancient vishwakarma sthapathis. It is foremost among the 108 divyadesams glorified by the Azhwar saints of 7th and 8th centuries. Ove the sanctum one can see beautifully carved gold-platted lizards .............................
It is an once-in-forty-years temple ritual  in which the deity  is retrieved from the waters of temple tank AnanadasarasIt was on July 2, 1979,  he came out last  to give darshan and earlier on 12th July, 1939.  This time, in a span of  three weeks, lakhs of people have  visited this temple to have darshan. It is reported in the media that in 18 days roughly 20 lakhs (two million) devotees from Tamil Nadu and across India came to this temple to be blessed by the lord. The temple authorities never expected  that a huge crowd of this magnitude would descend on this temple and they thought 20000 to 30000 devotees a day would visit till the end of this rare event. The lord will be kept in Ananthasayanam (reclining) posture for the first 24 days and for the rest of the period he will be in a standing posture.  Each day the deity  has impressive alangaram - decoration with flowers, clothing, etc. Simple ''Deepa Aradhani'' will be shown to the lord every now and then for the benefits of devotees. The reasons for this huge crowd sometimes reaching 100000 plus a day  are Athivaradar will emerge from the Ananadasaras only after 40 years  from now and, as he has emerged from the water tank after 4 decades, it is strongly believed that  he brings with him  positive energy and prosperity, dispelling negative thoughts and darkness - within and without. His emergence from his  water abode  is an assurance that bad elements in the society will be driven out for good. Peace and faith will be restored.  After darshan, it is said, the devotees will have  good things going in their lives; it is a sort of rejuvenation for them. Here, trust matters much.
temple tank, Varadaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram.
This 9 - foot long  Athivaradhar  idol is carved out of the divine fig tree (in Tamil 'Athi' means fig), botanically identified as Ficus Racemosa Linn falling under the Moraceae family.  Agama sastras say that wooden idols made from 'athi' wood will have good durability and  won't  fall apart or get  damaged even if it is in the water for years. 
Varadaraja perumal temple,
According to legend, Goddess Saraswathi, consort of Brahma, the Creator, had a  serious argument with him and, in the wake of it, with resentment, she left him  with his divine wand in a rage.  Brahma, without  the wand could not continue his Aswamedha yagna  in the forest  that was full of 'athi trees (Fig forest; later this place came to be known as Kanchipuram). Anyway, Brahma decided to go ahead with his Yagna despite impediments caused by his consort.  Enraged Saraswathi, in association with  the Asuras (demons),  wanted to stop  the ritual  and took the form of a river  called  Vegavathi  river (now it is called Palar river)Brahma, having no other recourse,  prayed to Vishnu who had lain across the course of the river and stopped its flow. Then he  emerged from the holy  sacrificial fire with brilliance of  one thousand Suns as Devarajaswamy (Athivaradhar).  Vishnu  pacified Saraswathi and the yagna was finally completed  with out any hitch. Grateful as he was, Brahma requested Lord Vishnu to stay in the Athi forest (Kanchi) and had  Viswakarma carved out an idol of  Athivaradar from a divine well-grown  fig tree. Lord Vishnu  agreed to stay in Kanchipuram atop the Elephant Hill.

Those people who have no interest in our culture and age-old tradition, the wooden idol of Athivardhar may not cause any excitement. Nor does it induce reverence because they only look at the face value of the simple-looking wooden idol. That his emergence from Anandasaras after 4 decades  has caused wide spread sensation not only in Tamil Nadu but also across India will bear testimony to his mystical power that drives away the negative elements in our society and his divinity that has an aura about him. This is because he was worshipped by innumerable pious people and by some great  Vaishnava Acharyas - Ramanujacharya, Vedanta Desikan, Manavala Mamunigal, et al  in the past eras. For countless devotees who witness this event for the second time, they are fortunate to have been blessed twice and the present event may get them to go nostalgic.  This particular wooden idol is more than 1000 years old as confirmed by the worship of Sri Ramanujar.

This idol was once the ''Moolar'' centuries ago, because it had minor damages for unknown reasons, as per Agama sastras, it was unfit for worship. Hence, the idol  was immersed in the temple tank.,_Kanchipuram