I'm currently visiting India, and I may try to see the Adi Varaha Perumal temple in Mahabalipuram, more commonly known as the Thiruvalavendhai temple. It's a difficult temple to visit; it's closed most of the time, and only opened rarely by the priests of the nearby Sthalasayana Perumal Vishnu temple. It's a Lakshmi Varaha temple, featuring Lakshmi sitting on the lap of Vishnu's incarnation Varaha. That in itself is not unusual; for instance the Thiruvidandai Varaha temple which I discuss in my question here also fits that description. But what makes the Thiruvalaventhai temple unique is that unlike Thiruvidandai and other temples where Lakshmi sits on the left side of Varaha, in Thiruvalavendhai Lakshmi sits on his right.

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My question is, what is the story of the Thiruvalaventhai temple? Did some incident involving Varaha take place in this location? And is there a reason Lakshmi sits on his right?

Also, why is it called "Adi Varaha", meaning the first Varaha? There's an Adi Vaharaswami temple in Tirupati which I discuss in my question here. Does this bear some relation to that?

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    But the right side is reserved for daughters, according to Pratipa.
    – Surya
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 11:34
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    @Surya Yeah, traditionally wives sit on the left side and daughters and others sit on right side. That's what makes this temple so unusual. Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 11:56
  • In general, the consort's place is always on the left side according to shaastra. While this particular temple may have its own story, certain vaishnava practices (which I suspect came into play during/after the advent of Ramanuja) place the consort on the right. The original , older vaishnava temples don't have this. I would chalk it up to new procedures introduced by specific vaishnava acharyas.
    – user1195
    Commented Nov 11, 2017 at 5:17

1 Answer 1


I was able to visit the Thiruvalaventhai temple in that India trip, and this is what I learned from the priest (who is also a priest at the Sthalasayana Perumal temple). The Pallava king Harikeshava was a devotee of Vishnu who used to visit the Lakshmi Varaha temple in Thiruvidanthai, which I discuss in my question here. Everyday he would go back and forth between Thiruvidanthai and his capitol of Mahabalipuram, where he would give food to large numbers of Vaishnavas on a daily basis. As a reward for his Bhakti and Bhagavata Kainkaryam, Vishnu appeared before Harikeshava as Lakshmi Varaha in Mahabalipuram itself, that way he wouldn't have to keep going to Thiruvidanthai. That is the origin of the statue in the Thiruvalaventhai temple.

I also asked the priest why the Lakshmi deity is sitting on Varaha's right side, which is the strange feature of the Thiruvalaventhai temple. He explained that if you look at the story of the Thiruvidanthai temple, sage Galava's daughter Komalavalli was a young girl at the time Varaha married her, and young girls sit on the right side. And so the Thiruvalaventhai temple, since it depicts the same Lakshmi deity shown in the Thiruvidanthai temple, shows Komalavalli on the right side. The priest turned the question around on me: the strange thing is not why Komalavalli is sitting on the right side in Thiruvalaventhai, but why she is sitting on the left side in Thiruvidanthai!

I also found out that the reason why it's so hard to visit the Thiruvalaventhai temple is that regular rituals are not done in the temple. That's because it's an ancient cave temple, in fact it's commonly known as the Varaha cave temple, and it's a UNESCO world heritage site. So they're afraid that daily rituals would damage the ancient rock carvings in the cave.

In any case, this article from Anudinam confirms the basic story of Harikeshava that the priest told me:

A Pallava King made a daily trip to the Varaha Perumal temple at Thiru Vidanthai (15kms north of here on the East Coast Road). He would have his morning food only after this darshan. Also, it was his practice to feed a 1000people each day after coming back from Thiru Vidanthai. Lord Vishnu decided to put his devotion to test. One morning he appeared before the king as a hungry Brahmin carrying along with a child (Goddess in disguise). The king requested if he could first make his daily trip to Thiru Vidanthai and then offer them food as that was his practice. The Lord in disguise rejected this suggestion stating that he was dying of hunger and that it may be too late for the child by the time the king returned. Invoking the blessings of Varaha Perumal of Thiru Vidanthai, the king decided that feeding a hungry child was more important than his trip. Pleased with the king’s true devotion, the disguised Lord provided darshan to the king at the same place as Varaha Perumal with Agilavalli Thaayar on his right side (at Thiru Vidanthai, Goddess is seen to the left of the Lord). At this cave temple, the moolavar Varna Kala moorthy Aadhi Varaha Perumal is sculpted on the rock with his left leg placed on a Naga King and Queen and with his left hand on Thaayar’s lap.

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