Hindu mythology is filled with fascinating tales of Gods and their incarnations. Gods transforming into animals is a common thing in Hindu mythologies. Similarly, Lord Vishnu has many avatars and one among the many is that of a tortoise. Yes, Kurma avatar or tortoise form is the second incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Legend has it that he had to transform himself during the time of Samudra Manthan (The Churning of the Sea). While the Samudra Manthan (churning) was happening, the mount Mandhara (which was used as a churning staff) got stuck and it couldn't move. Hence, Lord Vishnu transfigured as tortoise and went inside the ocean to give support to Mount Mandara.
Kurma Avatar of Lord Vishnu is a unique one and there are a very few temples where Lord Vishnu is worshipped in the form of tortoise. Let's see the three main temples where Lord Vishnu's tortoise avatar can be seen.
Sri Kurmam Temple
Sri Kurmam Temple
Shri Kurmam temple is one of the main temples in India where Vishnu is worshipped in the form of a tortoise. History says that Sri Ramanujacharya established this temple at Srikakulam. Legend tells us that in Kritha Yuga, Lord Vishnu appeared as Kurmanatha as he was pleased by the penance of Swetha Maharaja. It is believed that Brahma created this temple along with the holy pond. Sri Kurmam temple is one of the unique Vishnu temples in South India.
The idol of Lord Vishnu is a big Saligrama and it is one of the most revered deities in the region. Sri Kurmam Temple is located in the exteriors of Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.
Pictorial representation of Kurma Avatar
Gavi Rangapura is a small village near the town of Hosadurga in Chitradurga. This village is famous for Gavi Ranganatha Swamy where Lord Vishnu is in the form of tortoise. Yes, the main deity (idol) is a tortoise. Gavi Ranganatha Swamy Temple is actually a cave temple (the sanctum is a cave) which is now a well-developed temple complex. Here Lord Vishnu is worshipped in his Kurmavathara and hence it is one of the unique temples in Karnataka.
The village of Kurmai is known for Kurma Vadhiraja Swamy Temple in Chittor. In fact, the name of the place is derived from the name of Lord Vishnu. This holy place is also famous for a Shiva Temple which is known to have one of the biggest Shiva Lingas in South India. Sri Kurma Varadharaja Swamy Temple is one of the ancient temples which has stood the test of times. Hence, it is one of the well-known Vishnu Temples in Andhra Pradesh.
Sri Kurmam Temple in Srikakulam, Gavi Ranganatha Swamy Temple in Hosadurga and Sri Kurma Varadharaja Swamy Temple in Chittor are the three prominent temples where Lord Vishnu is worshipped in the form of tortoise.