Kunnandarkoil

Kunnandarkoil (‘kunn-naN-daar-kO-yil’) has a rock-cut temple belongs to
8th century AD, which in course of the centuries developed with
structural addition in to a big complex. Unlike other temples this
temple has a number of portraits sculptures. The hundred pillared
mandapam is of the Vijayanagara style,

A view of the temple complex, Kunnandarkoil

A view of the temple complex, Kunnandarkoil

and is designed to the present a
chariot on four wheels drawn by a pair of horses. A temple has a number
of important inscriptions also.

Kunnandarkoil is about 35
kilometres from Pudukkottai in Pudukkottai-Andakulam-Killukkottai
(புதுக்கோட்டை-அண்டக்குளம்-கிள்ளுக்கோட்டை) route. Also It can be reached
from Kiranur and Adhanakkottai. Frequent city bus and taxi services are
available from Pudukkottai.
A view of the temple complex

The monument: cave temple

Kunnandarkoil,
referred to in inscriptions as Thiruk-kunrak-kudi (திருக்குன்றக்குடி),
has a rock cut temple, which may be assigned to the time of Nandi-varman
II Pallava-malla (நந்திவர்மன் II பல்லவமல்லன்) (C. 710-775 AD). In the
course of the centuries, it developed, with structural additions, into a
big complex. In plan it is similar to the Gokarnesvara temple
(கோகர்னேஸ்வரர் கோயில்) at Thirugokarnam (திருக்கோகர்னம்).

It is a
fascinating monument to study. Its main artistic gifts are a hundred
and one pillared ‘ratha’ (ரதம், chariot) mandapam, and two splendid
portrait sculptures doing duty as dvara-palaka-s (துவாரபாலகர்) before
the main shrine.

The temple has some fine bronzes also.

The Temple Architecture:

The
rock has been excavated in two sections. In the bigger is the shrine of
the principal deity, Parvatha-girisvara (பர்வத கிரீஸ்வரர்). To the
left, separated by wall, is a smaller section in which there are three
shrines dedicated to Thandavar (தாண்டவர்), Subrahmanya (சுப்பிரமணியர்)
and Ayyanar (அய்யனார்). Facing them, on the side, is a fourth small
excavation containing an image of Chandrasekhara (சந்திரசேகரர்). These
images of sub-deities are later additions.

Valamburi Ganesa, Kunnandarkoil

Valamburi Ganesa, Kunnandarkoil

In
the main shrine, on the rock face, to the south of the cave is a figure
of Ganesa with his trunk curled to the right, and to the north is a
Somaskanda group (சோமஸ்கந்தர்) in which Subrahmanya, who is generally
placed between Siva and Uma, is placed to the left of Uma. The
Dvara-palaka-s are portrait-sculptures. The figure to the south is that
of a chief, probably the Pallava king himself, or a Muttaraiyar
(முத்தரையர்) vassal of his.

Dvara-palaka, Kunnandarkoil

Dvara-palaka, Kunnandarkoil

A
small oblong ardha-mandapam (அர்த்தமண்டபம்) fronts the shrine. The
facade has not been worked upon. Nor there is a prakaram around the
shrine. The structural Maha-mandapam, of later construction, contains a
number of portrait sculptures. The image of a Pattavan (பட்டவன்) here
represents a man who lost his life fighting some robbers, while watching
the temple property, and offerings are occasionally made to him.

Beyond
the gopuram stand several structures. The shrine of the Goddess
Umayambigai (உமையாம்பிகை), is here. Opposite to it, and facing the
shrine of the Lord, is a nandi mandapam (நந்திமண்டபம்). Adjacent to it
is a small mandapam with four pillars.

Ratha mandapam, Kunnandarkoil

Ratha mandapam, Kunnandarkoil

A
little farther off is the striking Ratha (chariot) mandapam. It is of
the Vijayanagara style. On an elevation stands a big hall with hundred
and one pillars in six rows. To the basement are added stone wheels to
simulate a running chariot.

The Inscription

There are nearly forty inscriptions in the temple.

The
two oldest inscriptions in the temple belong to the reigns of
Nandi-varman (நந்திவர்மன்) and Danti-varman (தன்டி வர்மன்), and refer to
the feeding of Brahmins and other persons during the Aardra festival
(ஆருத்ரா தரிசன விழா). The other inscriptions belong to the reigns of the
Chozha-Chalukya after Pandya-s and Vijayanagara kings. One of the
Pandya inscriptions is a royal order instituting a daily service in the
temple called Rayarayan Sundara Pandyan Sandhi (இராயராயன் சுந்தர
பாண்டியன் சந்தி). Another relates to a sale of lands to Vyapaka Siva
(வியாபக சிவன்), a disciple of the spiritual head of the Naduvil-matham
(நடுவில்மதம்) at Tiruvanaikovil (திருவானைக்கோவில்). There is a record
here, which related to a covenant among Araiyar-s who agreed not to
cause any damage to the villagers, and not to molest wayfarers and
tenants whenever they were engaged in internecine feuds. An undated
inscription on the unfinished gopuram in modern script relates to a toll
of 1/16 panam levied for the benefit of the temple on every package of
goods coming from or going to Thanjavur (தஞ்சாவூர்) and Tiruchirappalli
(திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி).

Kunnandarkoil is one of the earlier
Karala-Vellalar (காராள வெள்ளாளர்) settlements in the state. It is also
an important Kallar settlement. It is said that the northern part of the
village belongs to the Kallar of the Vadamalai-nadu (வடமலை நாடு), and
the southern to those of the Temmalai-nadu (தெம்மலை நாடு). The joint
meetings of the Panchayats of the two nadu-s are held in the
Kunnandarkoil temple. An inscription in the temple dated about 1394 AD
tells of a joint meeting of assemblies, artisans and agriculturists to
which learned and influential men were invited from Srirangam
(ஸ்ரீரங்கம்) and Tiruvanaikovil (திருவானைக்கோவில்) to consider the loss
of life and property that the Kallar-s (கள்ளர்) had caused and to afford
protection to the people, who in return were asked to make to the
temple an annual payment, and an offering of a ring for every marriage
celebrated.

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