Azhakar Kovil (Thirumaliruncholai or Azhakar temple), is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu situated 21 km from the city of Madurai, which lies in the Tamil Nadu state of India.
When some historic and original facts surface, people tend to treat them with reverence as it seems to be happening in Thenur, a village in the interiors, 20 km off Madurai city.
This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu in his avatar as Goddess Meenakshi's brother, Alagar (or Sundararajan). Legend has it that Lord Alagar was unable to attend his sister's wedding to Sundareshwar (an avatar of Lord Shiva) and had turned back from the banks of river Vaigai.
This event is re-enacted every year through a procession of the idol of Alagar from this temple till the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, during the Chitra Festival that celebrates her marriage.
The main deity of this temple is called Paramaswamy and the processional idol is called Alagar or Sundararajan. The stunning idol is made of pure gold and is an exquisite example of craftsmanship.
There is shrine of Kalyana Sundaravalli, the divine consort of Alagar, in the southern enclosure. There is another shrine in the north dedicated to Andal. Other important shrines are of Sudarshanar and Yoga Narasimha.
Alagarkovil, a village situated very near Madurai at the foot of the range of hills called Alagarmalai, is famous for its ancient . Vaishnavite temple, and the beauty of exquisite sculptures in the hall and other 'mandapams' of the temple. The Alwars have sung in praise of the deity of the place and the hills.
In addition, Nakkirar, the Tamil poet has composed several popular poems about this deity. As the place itself suggests, the temple is dedicated to Alagar who is popularly known as Sundararajar. It is said that Alagar kovil attracted pilgrims even in the early days of the Sangam age.
The temple is built on an extensive area in a very picturesque spot, surrounded by the ruins of a historic fort. The impressive main tower at the entrance, believed to have been built by the Pandyan Kings, has some beautiful sculptures depicting scenes from the epics.
According to historical records, Malayadhwaja Pandyan, son of Kulasekhara Pandyan, who is said to have established the Pandyan kingdom, appears to be the earliest known monarch who patronised this temple.
Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan, who reigned during the period 1251-1270 A.D., beautified the 'vimana' of the 'sanctum sanctorum' with gold plates. Later, during the reign of the Vijayanagar king Krishnadeva Raya, the temple was endowed with revenues from two villages for conducting regular festivals.