I am reading "108 Vaishnavite Divya Desams" by Miss Dr. M.S. Ramesh this spring.
You can find this edition (in 5 Volumes) at http://ebooks.tirumala.org/
Brilliant book with a brilliant chapter about one of my most adorable Mandirs - "Shree AshtaBhuja Perumal Temple":
SRI ASHTABHUJA PERUMAL TEMPLE KANCHIPURAM
This temple is about 2 kms from the temple of Lord VaradaRaja.
It is in Little Kanchipuram.
It is opposite to the temple of Yathoktakari.
The Lord is seen beneath a chakragosha vimana, in a standing posture, facing the west.
As the very name explains, the Lord here is seen with Eight Hands ("Ashta" means eight, "Bhuja" means hands).
The Four Arms ofLord Vishnu on the right are seen holding Sudarsana Chakra (The Celestial Discus), a sword, a lotus flower and an arrow.
The Four Arms on the left are seen holding the celestial conch, a bow, a shield and a mace (gadai).
Sthala-Purana of Shree AshtaBhuja Perumal Temple
The SthalaPurana of this Temple relates to yet another attempt of Goddess Sarasvati to disturb the penance of Lord Brahma.***
***Note by Vishnudut1926: A number of 108 Divya Desams SthalaPuranas (not only Shree AshtaBhuja Perumal Temple) are based on the stories about Goddess Saraswati bewildered by rajo-guna and trying to create various obstacles for tapasya and etc.
On this occasion, she let loose an army of demons. All these demons were killed by Lord Shree Vishnu. She then sent Sarabha, which was a peculiar type of a ferocious beast.
To defeat this beast, Lord Vishnu assumed an unusual form with eight arms equipped with eight weapons, (already referred to above) and destroyed Sarabha. The Lord here is therefore known as Ashatabhuja Perumal.
Some others believe that this is the place where Lord Shree Vishnu rushed to the rescue of Gajendra, the elephant, when a crocodile caught its leg.
It is believed that everyday, an elephant by name Gajendra used to visit the tank in the Ashtabhuja Perumal temple, pluck a lotus and offer it in worship to the Lord.
One day when the elephant was trying to pluck the lotus from the tank, a crocodile caught hold of its leg and was dragging it inside. The elephant cried out in despair to Bhagavan Shree Narayana for succour.
Lord Shree Narayana used His Chakram and killed the crocodile and released Gajendra from the clutches of the crocodile. The tank in this temple is said to be the place where this incident took place.
A unique feature of Ashtabhuja Perumal temple is that it is the only Vaishnavite shrine in Kanchi having a paramapadavasal, that is the gateway to paramapadam which is Vaikuntham, where the Lord Vishnu stays and which is the place which all the human beings try to reach, so as to become on with the Supreme Lord Narayana.
The Goddess of the Temple is known as Pushpakavalli Thayar. The practice here is to worship the Goddess MahaLakshmi first before worshipping Bhagavan Shree Narayana.
Alwars Stavas and Divya Prabandhas
Thirumangai Alvar and Pey Alvar have sung 11 pasurams in praise of Bhagavan Shree Narayana in this Divya Desam.
Thirumangai Alvar in his "Periya Thirumozhi" pasurams number 1118 to 1127 and in 128th line in "Peria Thirumadal" has sung in praise of AshtaBhuja Vishnu.
Pey Alvar sang in praise of AshtaBhuja Narayana in his Third Thiruvanthathi in pasuram No.99.
One pasuram of each of these Alvars is given below and a free translation is attempted so as to convey the meaning of the praise showered by these Alvars on Ashta Bhuja Perumal at Kanchipuram.
Thirumangai Alvar 2-10-8 Thirumozhi
Thirumangai Alvar here adopts the language of a lovelorn lady (Nayika) who is suffering from the pangs of love towards the lover, who, in this case happens to be Shree AshtaBhuja Narayana.
Very often, the Alvars adopted the language of the romantics in order to convey a high level of esoteric principles of absolute surrender and sublime submission so as to attain salvation.
Finding the nayika heartbroken, her mother and her friends tried to comfort her. The nayika saw in her mind’s eye the Effulgent Form and noble qualities of Bhagavan Shree Narayana and was lost in admiration.
She carries on an imaginary conversation with the Lord, and queries Him. The Lord replies to her and she conveys it to her mother and friends.
The pasuram number 8 in Periya Thirumozhi reads:
"Oh! who is this Hero
Who has taken the role of a lion man?
The Great Narasimha,
Having hair which, is glowing like fire and
Sharp mighty teeth has killed Hiranya.
By tearing his chest into two pieces
When all the three worlds in grip of fear
Were bowing to Him with great devotion
While Brahma the God on lotus
and Siva who burnt Tripura
Were in a mood of utter wonder and thrill.
"Hiranya was done to death By whom"? I questioned;
At once came the answer from Him.
"It is I, the Lord at Ashta Buyakaram".
In another pasuram Thirumangai Alvar goes into raptures and is lost in The Majesty of AshtaBhuja Perumal Narayana.
In this pasuram he describes the weapons held by the Lord Shree Vishnu in His Eight Hands, sees the Lord bedecked with flowers and points out how the Lord as Krishna had pulled out the white tusk of a rogue elephant (Kuvalayappidam) and killed the animal.
He also describes the Lord as having a black and beautiful Form, having the charm of a thick rain bearing cloud.
The nayaki asks as to who will satisfy these requirements. The Lord replies that it is He who is staying at Ashta Bhujagaram temple.
"Oh! who is this utter thick Black Beauty?
Like a heavy rain bearing cloud!
Is He that valiant, who once fought
with the mighty elephant, filled with wrath,
and smashed it down by breaking its tusk?
Who is He, who shines with eight hands,
of which the right has golden arrow,
the strong bow, gada, conch and sword
Who is He who has the ever sparkling disc
Together with the shield and lotus flower?
Who is He, I asked? Then came the answer
I am, the Lord, at AshtaBuyakara".
Pey Alvar sings:
"The Lord who has eight weapons in His Hands
The Lord who never at any time tasted defeat (i.e. ever victorious)
The Lord who is a Jeyaseelan (winner)
The Lord who hurled the Chakram in such a manner
as to kill the crocodile which troubled His devotee Ganjendra, the elephant;
The Lord who without fail protects and saves all those who approach Him
Our Unfailing Support and Solace is the Lotus feet of that Lord at AshtaBujaKaram".
Pey Alvar so effectively conveys to us the sublime thought that the Lord at Ashtabhujakaram is The Sole Protector and Succour for all of us to attain salvation.
DivyaKavi Pillai Perumal Iyengar 108 Thirupathi Anddadhi:
"Those who are worried all the time, please firmly believe that the Two Feet which danced on the head of Kalinga, the demon, are your Only Saviours.
Therefore surrender yourselves at The Feet of AshtaBhuja Perumal.
You will then be able to gambol about in a carefree manner just like a young calf which knows no fear".
"108 Vaishnavite Divya Desams" by Miss Dr. M.S. Ramesh,
Volume 01, pages 73-78
OCR by Vishnudut1926, April 2018