This temple is also known as ” Dakshina Dwaraka “. Here Lord Krishna is worshipped as Rajagopalaswamy and there is a big statue of Krishna in the sanctum . The large temple premises consists of majestic gopurams, seven halls along with several small shrines .
As per the legends, Lord Krishna appeared in the dreams of sages Gopillar and Gopralayar. This led to the creation of this beautiful temple.
The Lord appears here as a shepherd boy with whip on one hand and butter on the other hand wearing dhothi and turban . Wearing earrings bangles and ornaments in his hip and key bunch with a cow and calf near his legs .
Rajagoplaswamy temple has not been glorified by Alwars, though it is classified as one of the Abimana Sthalam which are considered holy temples in Vaishnavite tradition .
When cruel Kamsa put his own sister Devaki and her husband Vasudeva in prison , Lord Vishnu appeared before them and assured that he would be born to them .This is his first Leela-divine play Krishna Leela .
The procession deity is also called Rajamannar, hence the name of the place Mannargudi.
Kamsa engaged a wild elephant named Kuvalaya Peetam to kill Balarama . Lord Krishna killed that elephant . Remembering the event, Lord is holding a tusk in his left hand.
Lord Krishna arranged a competition among the Gopikas bathing in Yamuna River . The contest was that they should dress properly and wear the jewels after the bath . One Gopika could not find one of her ear ring . They found it at last in the ear of Krishna and were excited with joy to see its beauty in his ears . Based on this event, Lord in the temple has a Thadanga – ear ring in one ear and Kundalam – ring in the other ear .
During the Krishnavatara , there were two sages in the south named Gopilar and Gopralayar . Hearing the Leelas of Lord Krishna they set out to see him in Dwaraka . Maharshi Narada met them on the way and told them that Krishnavatara had ended and Lord had returned to his abode . The sages fell fainted on hearing this news . Maharshi Narada woke them up and consoled them . As advised by Narada, they began penance to have lord’s darshan. Lord appeared before them as Krishna in all his 32 Leelas . As requested by the sages , Lord stayed in this place .
These 32 forms are displayed in a colourful form around the main Sannidhi at this temple .
It is said that Thirumangai Azhvaar did visit this place . He came up to the entrance of the temple , lifted the Dwaja Sthambam (Flag Post) at the entrance of the temple that was lying on the floor and went away .
It is said that the Lord gave darshan to Brahma , Brighu Maharishi and Goddess Mahalakshmi in Tretha Yugam , to Agni, Gopila and Gopralaya Rishi (children of Rishi Vahnimugar) in Dwapara Yugam and to King Rajasekhar in Kali Yugam .
In the Mahabharata , Pulasthya tells Bheeshma that anyone staying for a night at Mannarkoil earns the merit of having gifted a 1000 cows , such is the significance of this .
This temple elephant Shengamalam is famous for its hair do .