Articles

Temple as a powerful medium

T emples today are oases of peace and calm in the rush of today's society. This is of course when they are not blaring music through loudspeakers in festival times! Present day appearances can be deceptive. Sleepy villages today were hotbeds of activity in the past just as much as barren land of the past have become thriving settlements today. The walls of many such temples of the beaten track record stormy disputes of the past that have long been forgotten but give us fascinating glimpses...

Temple above a royal sepulchre

The cool breeze at dusk strikes a discordant note in the landscape, parched and full of thorn bushes. The Gundar river is a trickle that negotiates the clumps of flowering Nanal grass. Our vehicle comes to a halt outside a temple that is not very different from the thousands of other temples found in the villages of Tamil Nadu. Two temples, each simple two or three-room constructions, are set amidst a grove of trees with an incomplete gopuram doorway, in Pallimadam, a village near...

Let the temples keep their secrets

I am not on the cocktail circuit but if I was, I would have a great story on something that is a hot topic now – exploring temple vaults. A decade back, when the renovation of a Vishnu temple on the Thamirabarani banks was happening, I had a chance to see the subterranean vault. The strong room had just had new metal doors fixed and a thick plank was slowly moved for a few steps that went underneath. The chamber was small — perhaps 6 by 6 feet and enough room for someone to couch....

Storehouse of information

P ersistence pays with visiting temples off the beaten path. While crossing Cheranmadevi, an hour from Tirunelveli, I had been intrigued by the Ramaswamy temple in the outskirts. The pillars outside had beautiful 16 {+t} {+h} Century images of Lord Rama affectionately resting on the shoulders of Hanuman. The area had interesting connections between the Pandyas, Cheras and Hoysalas. With a bit of persuasion we were able to gain entry and I had epigraphist Dr. Santalingam with me to share his...

Cleaning is his mission

Santhanam looks like your average retired person, sitting in front of the TV or playing with his grandchildren and perhaps doing the mandatory temple visit daily. Hear him speak and you are amazed by the extraordinary thing he is doing, at an age when people will be maintaining a calendar for doctor's appointments or complaining about how the present is not as good as the past. Uzhavaram is a small spade that Tirunavukkarasar is depicted with. The saint was revered for his habit of keeping...

Treasure trove for art lovers

The square temple tank and the pillared corridor were an elegant sight at the Bhoominadha Swami temple, Thiruchuzhi. The clouds in the sky and the setting sun cast a warm glow on the pillars. A cursory glance revealed several conventional 18{+t}{+h}/19{+t}{+h}century Saivite images, some erotic images and floral designs. A long pillared corridor, within the main precincts of the temple, sets off two smaller shrines, one for the Lord and the other for the consort. The entire pillared corridor...

Every stone has a story here

A place that can delight passionate supporters of art and sculptures is tucked away deep in southern Tamil Nadu not very far off from Kerala, 47 km from Palayankottai (Sri Vallabha Chaturvedimangalam in the old days). This massive 18-acre temple for Nambi Rayar Perumal, in Tirukurungudi, has held its secrets well. Even the senior scholars, relentless in their fieldwork and reach have forgotten to write a monograph. The Chitra gopuram and the main gopuram have more than 3,500 sq.ft of wooden and...

Inscriptions tell tales

T he towering heaps of granite dominate the barren lands on the right side of the road as we speed across Sankarankoil (near Tirunelveli) to reach Tenkasi Road. Several small village god shrines dot the road. One which even has a Tirthankara, now revered as a Hindu sage! The winding road from Subramaniapuram brings us closer to our destination, the village of Darukapuram. A chance epigraph had stimulated my curiosity and the Madhyasthanatha temple's porch, promises more interesting stories....

Primitive mode of communication

Dismissed as scribbles on the wall, the inscriptions on the walls and floors of temples in Tamil Nadu have a precarious existence because they are considered useless by pilgrims and temple authorities. Their only hope for survival are the history and economics teachers in the state but they are the ones who are probably most oblivious to the stories that these ‘scribbles’ tell. Every inscription has a message to us – about a historical, economic, administrative or legal...

A powerful mode of communication

Heritage awareness in schools is slowly picking up with central and south Madras continue to be the focus. North Madras is really where Madras, as we know it today, existed, and it has a temple well worth a one-day field trip which shows on what Madras was like in the mediaeval period. The Siva temple at Tiruvottriyur dedicated to Tyagaraja is the temple within Madras that has the maximum number of inscriptions. Varied topics The quantity of inscriptions is equally matched by variety and...