Thiruvarangulam

Thiruvarangulam (திருவரங்குளம்) – A big temple, which has been expanded down the ages, dedicated to Hara-tirthesvara (ஹரதீர்த்தேஸ்வரர்) and Brahadambal (பிரஹதம்பாள்). The main shrine dates back to 12th century. A Nataraja bronze of superlative quality from this temple is now on display at the National Museum, New Delhi. This temple of Hara-tirthesvara and is held in high veneration by devotees far and near. There are a number of inscriptions here. There are a few mythological stories associated with this temple.

Approach

Thiruvarangulam is about 15 kilometers from Pudukkottai, which is well connected with Pudukkottai, Alangudi (ஆலங்குடி), Pattukkottai (பட்டுக்கோட்டை), Peravurani (பேராவூரணி) and Karambakkudi (கறம்பக்குடி) by frequent bus services. Taxi facilities is available from Pudukkottai, Pattukkottai and Peravurani.

The monument: Hara-tirthesvara temple

Thiruvarangulam is noted for its fine ancient temple dedicated to Hara-tirthesvara (ஹரதீர்தேஸ்வரர்) and Brahadambal (பிரகதம்பாள்). A Nataraja bronze of superlative quality from this temple is now on display at the National Museum, New Delhi.

The place was once a centre of iron-ore mining and contained in outcrop of ochre on the bunds of one of the temple tanks, called the Brahma-kundam (பிரம்ம குண்டம்).

The main shrine of the temple, which has been expanded down the ages, was built in the 12th century Chozha epoch. The earliest inscription in the central shrine is dated in the fortieth year of Kulottunga Chozha III (மூன்றாம் குலோத்துங்க சோழன்) (1218-19). The temple may have been built either in the reign of Raja Raja II (இரண்டாம் இராஜராஜன்) or early in the reign of Kulottunga III – the reign of Raja Raja II is considered to be more probable judging from the architectural features.

The Temple Architecture

Sundaresvara temple, Thiruvarangulam

Sundaresvara temple, Thiruvarangulam

The garbha-griham (கர்பகிரகம்) of Hara-tirthesvara is having the Chozha style of architectural features. The pilasters over the plinth have simple idhazh-s (இதழ்) without petals, large palagai-s (பலகை) with two vyali-s (யாளி) over each palagai-s as if supporting the architrave above. Above the pilasters a line of bhutha-gana (பூதகணம்) supporting a convex moulded cornice. The kudus (கூடு) are formed of foliage scrolls with figures of human heads within. There are niches on the wall, that on the south has a very finely carved figure of Vina-dhara Dakshina-moorthi (வீணாதார தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி), that on the west one of Lingod-bhava and that on the north one of Brahma. The niches are surmounted by makara-torana-s (மகரத் தோரணங்கள்).

The ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த மண்டபம்) and maha-mandapam (மஹா மண்டபம்), which are in front of the shrine, are also of the Chozha style.

The main shrine, ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த மண்டபம்) and maha-mandapam (மகாமண்டபம்) are surrounded by a hundred-pillared mandapam, the construction of which the Statistical Account of Pudukkottai attributes to Gopulingam, a Chozha minister. Along the walls of the southern cloister are large figures of the 63 Saiva saints. In this mandapam are sub-shrines of Ganesa, Lakshmi, Subrahmanya, Bhairava, etc. In the front part of this mandapam are the processional (உத்சவ மூர்த்தி, utsava-moorthi) images, which are fine specimens of late Chozha or early Pandya bronze.

From this mandapam one passes out through the second gopuram erected by a Gangaiyaraya (காங்கேய ராயன்) chief. It is in the Pandya style. Between the second gopuram and the first or main gopuram is a large corridor with massive monolithic pillars (anivetti-k-kal, அணிவெட்டிக்கால்) with carved lions on top supporting the roof. The pillars are elaborately sculptured with figures of donors, like, the Vallanad Chettiyar-s (வள்ளநாட்டுச் செட்டியார்), local chieftains, etc. In the middle part of the ceiling are sculptured the signs of zodiac. To the north of the mandapam are the sabha-mandapam (சபா மண்டபம், hall of dance) and a separate enclosure for the Amman shrine, which is much simpler than that of the God.

Architectural features of the Amman shrine mark the transition from the Chozha to the Pandya epoch. The vyali-s (யாளி) and bhutha-gana (பூதகணம்) found in the central shrine are absent here. The earliest inscription on this shrine says that the structure was built by Kannudaya-perumal (கண்ணுடைய பெருமாள்), queen of the Nishada-raja (நிசதராஜா) chief of Piranmalai (பிரான்மலை) and daughter of the Nishada-raja chief of Ponnamaravathi (பொன்னமராவதி).

The main gopuram may be assigned to the late Pandya epoch and has the decorative pilasters motif.

Mythological stories:

There are a number of myths and legends associated with this temple.

About the origin of the temple

The following account of the legendary origin of the temple is taken from an old Tamil prose manuscript.

A Rishi who was doing penance in the forest near Thiruvarangulam happened one day to restore to a hunter his wife whom he had lost in the woods. Out of gratitude, the hunter brought him everyday some tubers and fruit to eat. The hunter was in turn amply rewarded for his service, for a Palmyra tree sprang up miraculously in the jungle, and dropped a fruit of pure gold every day at the hunters feet as he brought food to the hermit. But unaware of the value of the fruit he sold them all to a Chettiyar of Vallanad for some rice, salt, chilly, and tobacco. A dozen years passed, and the Chettiyar had amassed thousands of these gold fruits.

At this time the Chozha king who held sway over these parts had built a fort near Thiruvarangulam. The hunter finally discovering his stupidity one day demanded additional payment for his fruit from Chettiyar, and when this was refused he appealed to the king who made inquiries. The king examined the miraculous fruits and found them to be pure gold. They then sought for the hermitage of the sage, but both he and the Palmyra tree had vanished, and in their place stood a lingam.

It also happened that a shepherd who carried milk for the king’s use from Kadayakkudi (கடையக்குடி) stumbled every day at this hallowed spot and broke his milk pot over the lingam, thus unintentionally performing the daily ablution of the God with cow’s milk. When the shepherd one day examined the spot with pickaxe and spade, he inadvertently cut the top of the lingam and the cut may have seen to this day – and was horrified to see blood issuing from the cut. The king decided that a temple must be built to the God, and he was pleased to find that the Chettiyar of the golden fruit was himself willing to build one at his own expense in six months. After completing the temple in this manner and providing it with a car and some jewels, 3000 of the gold fruits were still left and they were locked up in the temple cellars.

Other stories

The temple is interesting for the small temple, which contains a male and a female figure.

The story is that an untouchable, who had disguised himself, was appointed as peshkar (பேஷ்கார், manager) of the temple and having been detected, was done to death. A deva-dasi lover of his, out of grief, committed suicide. The couple is now worshipped by the Isai-vellala community (மேளக்காரர்க, Melakarar-s) of the village, at this temple.

The main temple has another association with the once ‘untouchable’ community. According to an old Tamil prose manuscript, the temple car on an occasion broke down. When an attempt was made to move it, legend has it that the Lord appeared and decreed that the car ‘should not be moved unless a paraiyan (பறையன்)’ had broken the first coconut on the wheels of the car and touched the car ropes. The practice is observed to this day.

Pudukkottai

Pudukkottai Pudukkottai.org

Capital of the only princely state of Tamilnadu during the British time (1686 to 1948) and presently district headquarters. One of the planned towns of India. Home of one among the earliest cave temples (about 1300 years old) with a continuous traditions till date. A notable centre for arts and temple architecture during the period of royalty. The Government Museum, the palace and impressive public buildings are a few other attractions.

Approach

This town is located on Tiruchirappalli (திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி) – Rameswaram (இராமேஸ்வரம்) NH210, about 50 km south-east of Tiruchirappalli and about 60 km south of Thanjavur (தஞ்சாவூர்). Pudukkottai is connected with Tiruchi, Madurai (மதுரை), Thanjavur (தஞ்சாவூர்), Karaikkudi (காரைக்குடி) with Regular bus service. It has a notable station of southern railways which connects Pudukkottai with Chennai, Chidambaram (சிதம்பரம்), Thanjavur, Tiruchi and Rameswaram. It is situated in the valley of the Vellaru (வெள்ளாறு) – 6½ km to the north of the river. It stands on a ridge that slopes gradually towards the south.

Geography

Pudukkottai town was originally surrounded by an impenetrable jungle that formed a natural defence. Parts of this old wood are still to be seen in what are called the Kasba east ‘forests’. In former times the approaches to the town were through these jungles along three roads on the north, south and west. On these roads stood gateways called vadi-s (வாடி) in Tamil. Each of these was under the charge of a commander with a detachment. These outposts are still commemorated by the place-names Machuvadi (மச்சுவாடி), Kummandanvadi (கும்மண்டான்வாடி) and Puliyavadi (புளியவாடி). The town is skirted on the west, along the area known as Thirugokarnam (திருக்கோகர்ணம்), by low rocks that supply granite.

Historical background

Early History

Of the founding and early history of the town, there is very little hard evidence. ‘Pre-historic’ burial sites in Sadaiyap-parai (சடையப்பாறை), west of Thirugokarnam (திருக்கோகர்ணம்) and on either sides of Thirukkattalai (திருக்கட்டளை) ‘cart-track’ indicate that this region of the town, as other parts of this tract, was the home of early men. When and how such a megalithic settlement crystallized into a populous town (mangalam or nagaram, மங்களம்/நகரம்) is not quite clear.

According to ‘A Manual of the Pudukkottai State (1944)’, the megalithic settlements may have grown into a populous town of Kalasa-mangalam (கலசமங்களம்), which became an important settlement of the Chettiyar-s (செட்டியார்) and Karala-Vellalar (காராள வெள்ளாளர்) communities. The mercantile part of this town grew into a nagaram (நகரம்), called Senikula-manikka-puram (சேனிகுள மாணிக்கபுரம்) with a merchant-guild. With the accession to power of the Pallava-rayar-s (பல்லவராயர்) of Vaiththur (வைத்தூர்), Kalasa-mangalam (கலசமங்களம்) became the capital of a Palayam (பாளையம்).

To the west of Kalasa-mangalam, was Singa-mangalam (சிங்க மங்கலம்). Parts of these two mangalam-s became the eastern and western halves of the modern Pudukkottai town. Near them grew up another nagaram, Desabala-manikka-puram (தேசபால மாணிக்கபுரம்) by name.

Medieval History

How these towns mangalam-s and nagaram-s were transformed into Pudukkottai town is not clear nor is it known when exactly the kottai (கோட்டை, fort) after which Pudukkottai takes its name, was built. The earliest mention of the name of Pudukkottai occurs in an inscription on the basement of the Santha-natha Swami temple (சாந்தநாத ஸ்வாமி கோயில்) in the town. The inscription is dated to the regime of the Chozha king, Kulottunga III (மூன்றாம் குலோத்துங்கன்), and can be ascribed to the 13th century. The name ‘Pudukkottai’ occurs in a 14th century inscription in the temple at Thiruvarangulam (திருவரங்குளம்), a short distance from the town. Again in the famous temple of Gokarnesvara (கோகர்ணேஸ்வரர்) in Thirugokarnam, a suburb of the town, two inscriptions, one belonging to the 14th century and the other to the 15th century, refer to the name of the town as Pudukkottai. It has been inferred that Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (இரகுநாத ராயத் தொண்டைமான்), who built the town in 1686, must have also fortified parts of it within about ten years of his reign. It is probable that the fortification was destroyed between 1732 and 1734 by Chanda-sahib (சந்தா சாஹிப்) or Ananda Rao (ஆனந்த ராவ்) or both during their invasions of the town. This cannot, however, be maintained categorically.

It is believed that Chanda-sahib destroyed the Tondaiman’s palace that is said to have stood at the northern end of the town. After its demolition, a new palace was built at Siva-gnana-puram, (சிவஞானபுரம்) south-east of the town, which the then Raja used as a palace and a hermitage and where, it is believed, the 18th century sage and composer Sadhasiva-brahmendra (சதாசிவ பிரம்மேந்திரர்) came to initiate him.

Modern History

Major Blackburn

Major Blackburn

In 1812 the town was burnt down and rebuilt, at considerable expense, by Raja Vijaya Raghunatha (விஜய ரகுநாதத் தொண்டைமான்) at the instance of the Resident, Major Blackburn. The streets were laid out so as to intersect at right angles with the Raja’s palace in the centre. In 1813, the town contained three palaces, six terraced houses, 300 tiled houses and 700 thatched houses, besides 21 tiled and 700 thatched houses at Thiruvappur (திருவப்பூர்), and 320 thatched houses at Thirugokarnam (திருக்கோகர்ணம்), the two suburbs of the town. It is said that there were three chatram-s (சத்திரங்கள், choultries), one kept open only during Dassara in the town near the Pallavan-kulam (பல்லவன் குளம், a tank), one, on the Kundaru (குண்டாறு, about 2 km south of the present bus stand) and one at Thirugokarnam.

Even in those early days the town was attractive. Hamilton’s East India Gazetteer (1820) refers to ‘its wide, regular, and clean streets intersecting each other at right angles,’ and to its stuccoed, whitened and tiled’ houses. Pharaoh’s Gazetteer of Southern India (1855) speaks of Pudukkottai as ‘a populous town’, and eulogizes its ‘handsome pagoda’, its ‘grand high mosque’, its ‘tanks and wells of excellent water’ and the ‘large and commodious houses in the principal streets, with tiled roofs, several of them terraced’.

 Dewan Sashiah-sastri


Dewan Sashiah-sastri

The expansion of the town since its rebuilding in 1812 has been steady and continuous, and received considerable impetus during the administration of Sir Sashiah-sastri (சேஷையா சாஸ்திரி) (1878-1894). During his tenure new suburbs were built, the streets were re-laid, tanks were deepened and cleaned, and many public buildings were constructed.

Mythological story of origin

There is also mythological story about the origin. A General History of the Pudukkottai state (1916) recounts the following story. According to this, one Muchu-kunda-chakravarti (முசுகுந்த சக்கரவர்த்தி), a Chozha king, who had his capital Thiruvarur (திருவாரூர்) in the Thanjavur (தஞ்சாவூர்) district, in one of his tours through his dominions was so struck with the beauty of the tract to the north of the Vellaru (வெள்ளாறு) that he thought of building a town there. The Rishi Parasara (பராசரர்) fixed an auspicious hour for commencing operations, and Kalasa-mangalam, consisting of ‘nine cities’, (blocks) was brought into existence. The king Muchukunda applied for inhabitants to the God Kubera (குபேரன்), who sent him 1,500 families.

The story was probably invented, after the town had become rich and its merchants were found to be very wealthy. In this account fact and fiction are inextricably mixed.

The Town

Roughly speaking, Pudukkottai may be considered as divided into the following blocks:
The town proper, a densely populated block, consists of wide straight streets running east to west and north to south, and intersecting one another at right angles. In the centre are now the ruins of the ‘fort’ with thick and high ramparts (only part of the western wall remains.). Within it at the centre stood what was called the ‘old palace’ containing a shrine to Dakshina-moorthi (தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி), a Durbar Hall that was used on state occasions by the former Rajas of Pudukkottai, and the palace stable. State functions and ceremonies, including the Dassara, were conducted here.

Pallavan-kulam, Pudukkottai

Pallavan-kulam, Pudukkottai

 

Santha-natha swami temple, Pudukkottai

Santha-natha swami temple, Pudukkottai

Abutting on the inner fort on its eastern side are situated the temple of Santha-natha-swami (சாந்தநாத சுவாமி), and the picturesque Sivaganga tank (சிவகங்கை குளம்), popularly known as Pallavan-kulam (பல்லவன் குளம்), with its central mandapam, flights of steps and substantial parapets.

Outside these run the four main streets, called Raja Veedhi-s (இராஜவீதி) in Tamil. Thus there are four main streets (Raja Veedhi-s); East Main Street (Keezha Raja Veedhi), West Main Street (Mela Raja Veedhi), North Main Street (Vadakku Raja Veedhi) and South Main Street (Therku Raja Veedhi). Beyond these the naming of the street is regular, like East Second Street, East Third Street, etc. South Main Street is the bazaar street, and is the commercial centre of the town.

Originally the North Main Street housed the families of the priests appointed for service at the Dakshina-moorthi (தக்ஷிணாமுர்த்தி) temple within the palace. They were Andhra-s who wielded much spiritual influence in the palace. The Sirkile, the name by which the Diwan was originally called, and the other principal officers lived in the North and East Main Streets, and for a long time the courts were held in the East Main Street near the Ariyanachchi Amman Koil. Many of the officers were then Marathas and there are still some Maratha families in these two streets.

The temple, where the queen performed 'sathi', Pudukkottai

The temple, where the queen performed ‘sathi’, Pudukkottai

Karaitope (காரைத்தோப்பு), an old suburb to the south of the town, contains the Malai Idu (மாலையீடு), or site on which in 1807 the widowed queen of Raja Vijaya Raghunatha (ராஜா விஜய ரகுநாத தொண்டைமான்) performed the sati (சதி). A temple has been built on the site.

Suburbs

Pichchathanpatti (பிச்சத்தான்பட்டி) was a suburb, south of the town where the Railway Station is located now. It is chiefly important for an old bungalow for long used as a presidency by the political agents of the British government during their visits to the capital. It is more than a century old and is mentioned in Hamilton’s Gazetteer (1820), which says, “About a mile and a half to the south-west of the capital, Tondaiman has an excellent house built and furnished after the English fashion – where every respectable European traveller is sure of meeting with a hospitable reception”.

 The British Guest house, Pudukkottai

The British Guest house, Pudukkottai

Machuvadi (மச்சுவாடி), Rama-chandra-puram (இராமச்சந்திரபுரம்), Ganesh Nagar, Gandhi Nagar, Marthanda-puram (மார்தாண்டபுரம்), Santha-natha-puram (சாந்தநாதபுரம்) and Lakshmi-puram in the south, and Rajagopala-puram near the railway station were residential suburbs.

Sandhaippettai, to the west of the town proper, was and is, as its name implies, the market place. The market, which was formerly held on the roadside, has been shifted to an open space to the south of the road where permanent sheds have been erected for the sale of commodities. The market, which is held every Friday, is the largest in the district. Also there is an ‘farmer’s market’ (உழவர் சந்தை) where the farmers sell their produce without the middlemen, in the west fourth street.

Amman-kasu (அம்மன் காசு), Pudukkottai

Amman-kasu (அம்மன் காசு), Pudukkottai

To the west of the town lies Thirugokarnam (திருக்கோகர்ணம்) at the foot of a rock. Here is the famous temple of Gokarnesvara (கோகர்ணேஸ்வரர்) and Brahadambal (பிரகதம்பாள்). The Goddess was the tutelary deity of the former Rajas of Pudukkottai, who consequently styled themselves ‘Sri Brahdamba-dasa’ or the ‘servants of Sri Brahadambal’. They were ceremonially installed on the gadi and anointed at this shrine. It is in the name of this deity that the coin called the Amman-kasu was struck.

Thiruvappur is another suburb. This suburb was once a centre of silk weaving and was mostly inhabited by the silk-weaving Sourashtrian community called Patnool (பட்டுநூல்). According to the Statistical Account of Pudukkottai (1813) there were 30 looms in the place in 1813, and according to Pharaoh’s Gazetteer, it was an emporium with an ‘extensive weekly market’, and ‘numerous bazaars in which cloths of various qualities and the best in the province’ were sold. The weekly market referred to here, was subsequently transferred to Sandhaippettai. The dyers of the place prepared pink dhotis (saya veshti, சாய வேஷ்டி), which had a wide reputation, but at present their craft is moribund. Near is the Kavinattuk-kanmai (கவிநாட்டுக் கண்மாய்), the largest tank, in the district.

Koilpatti is to the north to Thirugokarnam. Originally a straggling hamlet, it was laid out afresh by Sashiah-sastri (சேஷையா சாஸ்திரி). According to a legend, the men of this village formerly lived at Ettarai-kombu (எட்டரைக் கொம்பு), which they deserted in a body because the local Palaya-karar (பாளையக்காரர்) attempted to outrage one of their girls. The girl committed suicide, becoming after death a goddess worshipped in temple built for her at Koilpatti. There is also another temple in the place called Malukkan-koil (மளுக்கன் கோயில்), at which a Malukkan or Muslim is worshipped in compliance with his dying request. The Manual (1944) states: “His antecedents were by no means such as to render him worthy of canonisation, for he had been in the habit of secretly riding down nightly from Tiruchirappalli (திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி) to meet his concubine at Thiruvappur. One day he was slain (it is said) at the foot of an icchi (இச்சி, Ficus tsiela or F. Indica) tree by the God Malai-k-Karuppar (மலைக் கருப்பர்), whose repeated warnings to discontinue these clandestine meetings he had disregarded”.

Pudukkottai town proper is connected with all the suburbs by good roads.

Sri Gokarnesvara – Brahadambal koil (ஸ்ரீ கோகர்ணேஸ்வரர்-பிரகதம்பாள் கோயில்)

Occupying an important place among the ancient classical monuments of Pudukkottai, the Thirugokarnam temple, popularly known as Brahadambal Temple, lies in the foot of a rock. This is one of the oldest temples in South India, with its history dating back to early 7th century AD and still in use.

The deity is known as Gokarnesvara, and is associated with the sthala-puranam (ஸ்தலபுராணம்) of this temple. It goes on the following lines. The celestial Kama-dhenu (காமதேனு) happened to arrive late one day at Indra’s (இந்திரன்) court. She was banished from the heaven and condemned to live the life of an ordinary cow on earth until such time as she should have expiated her sins by worshipping the God Siva. On reaching earth, she sought the hermitage of the sage Kapila (கபிலர்) situated in the jungle at this place. Under his guidance she performed daily worship to the Siva lingam under the bakula (vakula) tree. Everyday she tramped to far away river Ganga and brought its sacred water in her ears for the God’s abhishekam (அபிஷேகம், ablution). Hence the god is called Gokarnesvara or the ‘Lord of the cow’s ear. In due course she had a she-calf, but stifling motherly instincts, she still performed her daily journey leaving her calf at the temple gate. But soon the time came for her salvation, and as she retuned one day at nightfall with the sacred water in her ear, the God taking the shape of a tiger stood across her path at a place since called Thiruvengaivasal (திருவேங்கைவாசல்) and threatened to devour her. On her remonstrating that it was time for the ablution of the God, she was allowed to go on condition that she returned immediately after the worship was over. When the cow came back, according to her promise, the seeming tiger changed its shape, and Siva and Parvathi manifested themselves and carried the cow to heaven. According to a variation of the story the tarn on the top of the hill, was cut by the cow with her horn and stored with the Ganga water from her ear, and a cleft on the top of the lingam is said to be a hoof-print that she left as she bathed the idol in the sacred water.

Locally the temple is better known as Brahadambal temple. A shrine for Brahadambal constructed later at the ground level. The goddess Brahadambal was the tutelary deity of the Pudukkottai Tondaiman rulers. They proudly called themselves ‘Brihadamba-dasa’ or ‘servant of Brahadambal’. They ruled the kingdom in the name of the goddess. The Tondaiman rulers even minted coins featuring the portrait of Brahadambal. The temple was, thus, intimately associated with the ruling families of the region.
There is also another presiding deity, Vakula-vanesvara (வகுளவனேஸ்வரர், ‘God-of-vakula-forest’) and is named after the sthala vriksham (temple-tree) of the temple, namely, Mahizha Maram (the Bakula tree, Mimusops elengi).

The temple was constantly being renovated and additions made till the last century. Because of this continuous history over a very long time the temple acquired some special features.

  •   The cave temple has more architectural technical features compared to other cave temples of this region
  •   The relief sculpture of ‘Sapta-matrika’ (சப்தகன்னியர்) of this temple is important from the point of view of iconography
  •   It contains about 30 inscriptions. Some of them are Grantha inscriptions of the 7th century AD
  •   There are two main deities: Gokarnesvara and Bakula-vanesvara
  •   There is no shrine for Nava-graha (‘the-nine-planets’)
  •   The temple has five ther-s (temple-cars), which is a large number comparatively, with marvellous craft work, architecture and of noteworthy features
  •   Because of the benevolence of the royalty the temple was the centre of dance, music of great repute

Because of its exquisite architecture and noteworthy sculptural and artistic features, this is an excellent temple for study of temple architecture and iconography starting from early Pallava – Pandya (7th century) period till Nayak period (17th century).

The temple architecture

One enters the temple complex from the south. Beyond the customary Ganesa at the entrance, one passes through a long corridor leading to the shrines on the ground level. This corridor is exquisitely decorated with carved pillars and sculptures. These carvings exhibit unsurpassed piece of art and workmanship of the Nayak period. There are shrines for Kasi Visvanatha (காசி விஸ்வநாதர்) and a vasantha-mandapam (வசந்த மண்டபம்) on the left before reaching the Raja-gopuram (இராஜ கோபுரம்) at the end of the corridor. The Raja-gopuram is guarded by dvara-palaka (துவாரபாலகர்). On the right side a big Drum or Murasu (முரசு) is placed to beat in morning and evening, when pooja-s are performed.

 The temple Raja-gopuram, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

The temple Raja-gopuram, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

Leaving Raja-gopuram, we enter into the Silpa-mandapam (சிற்ப மண்டபம், Sculptural mandapam) also called Rasi-mandapam (ராசி மண்டபம்). The ceiling of this mandapam is adorned with sculptures of the Rasi-s. On the colonnades are found some exquisite portrayals of Rathi-Manmatha (ரதி மன்மதன்), Durga (துர்கை), Karnan (கர்ணன்), Arjunan (அர்ஜுனன்), Raman (ராமன்), Dasaratha (தசரதன்) and Kaikeyi (கைகேயி), etc. On the left side of this is the Golu-mandapam (கொலு மண்டபம்), a large mandapam, which has seen very colourful Nava-rathri (நவ ராத்திரி) functions in the past. On the right side are the oonjal-mandapam (ஊஞ்சல் மண்டபம், swing hall) and the kitchens.

 

Rathi-Manmatha sculpture, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

Rathi-Manmatha sculpture, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

Crossing a door we reach the Brahadambal shrine. The present structure of this shrine seems to be a very late structure, probably added within the last two centuries. The absence of any inscription on its wall bears out this conclusion. The large mandapam in front of the Amman shrine, like the corridor leading into the temple from the street belong to the Madurai Nayak (மதுரை நாயக்கர்) style. On the pillars of this mandapam are figures in high relief of chiefs and nobles who have not yet been satisfactorily identified. During the Tondaiman (தொண்டைமான்) period daily worship included dance and music recitals in this mandapam.
The east-facing Brahadambal shrine consists of an ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த மண்டபம்), beyond which is the garbha-griham (கர்ப கிரகம்). The statue of the Goddess of extraordinary beauty, adorns the sanctum.

The pradakshina (perambulation) starts with the 63 Nayanmar-s (நாயன்மார்கள்) on the left and then the east-facing shrines of Maha-Ganapathi, Rishabha-rudha (ரிஷபா ருடர்) and Kasi-lingam (காசி லிங்கம்). Ahead of this if the beginning of the excavation of the original cave temple. There are a few minor deities like Kuzhandai-vadivel (குழந்தை வடிவேல், முருகன், Murugan) and Sapthalingam (சப்த லிங்கம்), in the niches on the left approachable through a flight of stairs.
On to the left of the entrance to the Gokarnesvara shrine on the rock face to the south of the cave are figures the Sapta-matrika (சப்தமாதர்), Ganesa and another deity who may be identified as Veerabhadra (வீரபத்திரர்).

The rock cut shrine, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

The rock cut shrine, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

In the rock-cut garbha-griham is Gokarnesvara in the form of a lingam.
The ardha-mandapam has two large relief sculptures, Ganesa on the south
wall Gangadhara (கங்காதரர்) on the north wall. All these are typical 7th
century Pallava-Pandya sculptures.

The maha-mandapam and the other mandapam-s in front of the central rock-out shrine belong to the Chozha and Pandya (11th to 13th century AD.) periods. Some beautiful bronzes, kept under lock, are found in the maha-mandapam. Facing the shrine are the bali-pitham (பலி பீடம்), dhvaja-sthambham (த்வஜஸ்தம்பம்) and nandi (நந்தி) installed on a rock-clearance. It is likely that the passage to enter the Gokarnesvara shrine must have passed through this.

The sunai, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

The sunai, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

To the north of the nandi is the exit to reach the shrines of the upper level. Immediately on the left is an inscription belonging to the Raja Raja III (மூன்றாம் இராஜராஜன்) period (1226 AD). A short flight of steps takes one to the sunai (சுனை, tarn) from which the suburban population took drinking water in the past. A view of the tarn and the rocky outcrop is a pleasing sight.

On the left to the exit, situated almost above the Gokarnesvara shrine, are the shrines for Subrahmanya (சுப்பிரமணியர்), Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswathi, Annapurani (அன்ன பூரணி) and Rudrashalingam (ருத்ராக்ஷலிங்கம்). And on the right to the exit are that of Brahma, Jvara-haresvara (ஜுவரகரேஸ்வரர், ‘destroyer of fever’), Bhairava, Surya, the four Saivait saints, Appar, Sundarar, Gnana-sambanthar (ஞானசம்பந்தர்) and Manikka-vachakar (மாணிக்கவாசகர்), Chandra and Dandayudha-pani (தண்டாயுதபாணி).

Mahizha-maram, the sthala-vriksham, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

Mahizha-maram, the sthala-vriksham, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

From this vantage point one can have a view of the surroundings: the Mangala-kulam (மங்களக்குளம், tank) in the east and rocky out crops all around. From here one can see the Raja-gopuram, which is nor visible from elsewhere, the vimanam (விமானம்) of the Brahadambal shrine and of Vakula-vanesvara (பகுளவனேஸ்வரர்). Not to be missed is the grand old mahizha-tree (மகிழமரம், Mimusops elengi or Vakulam in Sanskrit), which is the sthala-vriksham, with its extensive crown. The trunk of the tree can be seen at the ground level.

Nataraja with his consort, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

Nataraja with his consort, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

Returning to the ground level, and continuing the pradakshina (பிரதக்ஷனம்), we come to the mandapam, which houses bronzes of Nataraja, His Consort, and the four Saivait saints. These idols are of exceptional beauty. Beyond this is the shrine for Mangalambikai (மங்களாம்பிகை), built in 13th century AD. It has an ardha-mandapam (அர்த்தமண்டபம்) (15th century AD.) also. To the west of this is the sannidhi (சந்நிதி) of Vakula-vanesvara. He is worshiped in the form of a lingam. The shrine, in its present form, belongs to 18th century AD. On the northern wall of this shrine are sculptures of Vinayaka and Dakshina-moorthi (தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி). One can see these sculptures from the outer corridor itself.

A hexagon shaped Sukravar-mantapam (சுக்ரவார மண்டபம்), dhvaja-sthambham and mahizha-tree are seen within the premises in front of the Brahadambal shrine. At the base of the tree is a small idol of Sadhasiva-brahmendra (சதாசிவ பிரம்மேந்திரர்). The reason for worshipping Sadhasiva-brahmendra in this temple is because he happened to be the guru of Tondaiman (தொண்டைமான்) Rajas and the sage blessed the Raja with Dakshina-moorthi slogan-s and mantra-s.

Mangala-theertha-mandapam (மங்களத் தீர்த்த மண்டபம்)

Soldiers on horse-back, Mangala-kulam, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

Soldiers on horse-back, Mangala-kulam, Gokarnesvara temple, Pudukkottai

The gate to the east of Sukravar-mantapam leads to the Mangala-theertha-mandapam and the Mangala-kulam (tank). Now badly neglected the tank has seen better days. The last Maharaja, Rajagopala Tondaiman was crowned on the steps of this tank. Two exquisitely carved pillars are found on both sides of the steps flying down to the tank. They look as if two horses are bearing the pillars and exhibit a fine piece of art. One Rasi-Chakra (ராசி சக்கரம்) is also seen on the ceiling of this mandapam. The northern part of this mandapam is built by late Pandya-s (13th century) southern part by Tondaiman-s (17th century AD).

Other temples and worshipping places

Periya-kulam, Thirugokarnam, Pudukkottai

Periya-kulam, Thirugokarnam, Pudukkottai

Adjoining the Brahadambal temple (பிரகதம்பாள் கோயில்), on the east bund of the Periya-kulam (பெரிய குளம்), is a small temple dedicated to Meenakshi (மீனாக்ஷி) and Sundaresvara (சுந்தரேஸ்வரர்) and supposed to be built in the reign of Raja Ramachandra Tondaiman (இராஜா ராமச்சந்திர தொண்டைமான்). On the south bund of the Periya-kulam tank is a shrine containing figures of the sixteen forms of Ganesa.

Meenakshi Sundaresvara temple, Thirugokarnam, Pudukkottai

Meenakshi Sundaresvara temple, Thirugokarnam, Pudukkottai

Among the minor deities at Thirugokarnam (திருக்கோகர்ணம்), Karuppar (கருப்பர்) on the Tiruchirappalli (திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி) road is the most important.

Malai Karuppar, Pudukkottai

Malai Karuppar, Pudukkottai

At Thiruvappur (திருவப்பூர்) is the Rajarajeesvaram (ராஜராஜீஸ்வரம்) temple. The earliest inscription in this temple is dated back to 1202 AD, by Kulottunga III (மூன்றாம் குலோத்துங்கன்). It was probably built in the reign of his predecessor Raja Raja II (இரண்டாம் இராஜராஜன்) (c. 1146-63 AD). Its architectural features are those of later Chozha structures. The temple is having a garbha-griham (கர்ப கிரகம்), ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த மண்டபம்) and maha-mandapam (மகா மண்டபம்) of the same period. The temple is in ruins and is not used for worship any more.

 Mariamman temple, Thiruvappur

Mariamman temple, Thiruvappur

The Mariamman temple (மாரியம்மன் கோயில்) of Thiruvappur is very popular in Pudukkottai region. The Poochchorial (பூச்சொரியல், ‘flower-showering’) festival in summer draws hundreds of devotees from all over the district.

Kalyana-prasanna-venkatesa-perumal temple, Thiruvappur

Kalyana-prasanna-venkatesa-perumal temple, Thiruvappur

In Thiruvappur, south side of the railway gate, there are two temples for Lord Vishnu. One is Kalyana-prasanna-venkatesa-perumal temple first built during the reign of the late Pandya-s (13th century AD.) and the other is a modern temple, a shrine for Venu-gopala-swami.Within the Dakshina-moorthi temple (தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி) in the old Palace is preserved the holy sand on which Sadhasiva-brahmendra (சதாசிவ பிரம்மேந்திரர்) wrote his instructions to Raja Vijaya Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (ராஜா விஜயரகுநாத ராயத் தொண்டைமான்).

Santha-natha swami temple, Pudukkottai

Santha-natha swami temple, Pudukkottai

The Santha-natha swami temple (சாந்தநாத சுவாமி கோயில்), which is in the middle of the present town, is next in importance to the Brahadambal temple. – The annual festival of this temple is held in Ani (ஆனி) month (June-July).There are three Vishnu temples within the town proper – those of Varadaraja, a 13th century temple in east third street, Venkatesa and Vitoba near to the Pallavan-kulam (பல்லவன் குளம்).

The Bhuvanesvari temple (புவனேஸ்வரி கோயில்) at Pudukkottai is a great attraction to pilgrims. It is recent temple and has an interesting origin. In the early years of the present century there was a judge in the State of Travancore. While trying a murder case he was faced with a dilemma. Though the evidences pointed to the guilt of the accused, his heart felt otherwise. He, then, decided to lay down his office and became a sanyasi. It was in Pudukkottai where he finally shook off his mortal coil. He was buried in a vacant land close to the cremation ground. After a few years one of his disciples, himself an avadhutha-swamigal, came in search of his guru’s samadhi and succeeded in locating it. With the help of local devotees he erected a modest shrine and was known as Adhishtanam.

Sixteen years later a disciple of the avadhutha, Sri Santha-nantha-swami, came to Pudukkottai and established himself at the shrine. He first installed an idol of Bhuvanesvari, and later built subsidiary shrines for Ganesa, Subrahmanya (சுப்பிரமணியர்), Dattatreya (தத்தாத்ரேயர்) and others. The annual homam conducted according to vedic prescription draws devotees in thousands from all over the state and from outside. During this religious discourses and music concerts are also conducted.

Ariyanachchi Amman Temple, Pudukkottai

Ariyanachchi Amman Temple, Pudukkottai

To the south of Santha-natha swami temple is a popular Ariyanachchi Amman Koil (அரியநாச்சி அம்மன் கோயில்). Minor shrines are those dedicated to Hanuman, one within the precincts of Santha-natha swami temple and another near the old bus-stand, Manonmani Koil (மனோன்மணி கோயில்) on the East main Street, Kamakshi Koil (காமக்ஷி கோயில்), Porpanaian Koil (பொர்பனையான் கோயில்), Thadikonda Ayyanar Koil (தடிகொண்ட அய்யனார் கோயில்) and Singa-muthu Ayyanar Koil (சிங்கமுத்து அய்யனார் கோயில்).

Singa-muthu Ayyanar temple, Pudukkottai

Singa-muthu Ayyanar temple, Pudukkottai

MOSQUES

Mosque near Fish Market, Pudukkottai

Mosque near Fish Market, Pudukkottai

There are two mosques, one in the town and the other in Thiruvappur (திருவப்பூர்). The town mosque is about a hundred and fifty years old, and is ascribed to one Mandra, who is also credited with having built some mandapam at Pallivasal (பள்ளிவாசல்) in the Thirumayam (திருமயம்) Taluk.

The Darga of Hazrat Syed Shah Parhezi Auliya is held in great veneration by the Muslims of the town. Auliya, a prince of Yemen in Arabia, renounced the world and wandered about the countries of south-west Asia and India and at last settled in Pudukkottai in the first half of the 18th century. Many miracles were attributed to him. His sanctity attracted the notice of the Tondaiman (தொண்டைமான்), who held him in high esteem and had a tomb risen in his honour after his death. It is believed that his nephew and disciple also lies buried by the side of the Auliya.

The tomb to the north of the Nainari tank (நைனாரிக் குளம்) is that of Jatcha Bibi, a Muslim lady who led an ascetic life.

CHURCHES

The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an elegant and spacious edifice in the gothic style, east of Marthanda-puram (மார்தாண்டபுரம்) is the principal church of the Pudukkottai Catholic parish. The foundation stone was laid in January 1908, the nave was completed in April 1911 and it became the parish church in 1922.

The Protestant church at the north end of the town is a simple and austere lime-washed building. It was built in 1905 and consecrated in 1906. The pulpit’s stained glass backdrop is quiet impressive. The churchyard contains, among others, the tombstone of the former administrator and Diwan of Pudukkottai, Sir Alexander Loftus Tottenham, who died in the town on 13th December 1946, after a service of nearly fifty years in India, twelve of which were spent in Pudukkottai. The flat marble slab bears the word ‘Write me as one that loves his fellow men’.

CSI Church, Marthanda-puram, Pudukkottai

CSI Church, Marthanda-puram, Pudukkottai

Other interesting places and attractive buildings

The Public Office building to the south of the town is wide two-storied structure of exposed brick, pointed neatly with arched gothic windows and spiral staircases. The building, which in the days of the Darbar housed the offices of the Diwan, the Darbar Office and the Chief Court, is now occupied by the office of the revenue divisional officer and the civil courts along with several departments of district administration.

Public offices, Pudukkottai

Public offices, Pudukkottai

To its front stand a bronze statue of Marthanda-bhairava Tondaiman (மார்தாண்ட பைரவ தொண்டைமான்) and elsewhere in the compound a sculptural symbol to mark the formation of the new district. Contiguous to it is the residence of the collector, set in spacious grounds.
The Government Hospital, the residences of the British officials and the Raja’s College also belong to the same architectural style. These buildings are of red brick uncovered by mortar and belong to a style popularised by Robert Chisholm and vaguely called ‘Indo-Saracenic’. The Raja’s College is an imposing building with a large playground, where under the last Tondaiman, a keen cricketer, many important cricket matches were played. A brother of the last Tondaiman represented the state on a few occasions.
In another part of the town are the offices of the collector housed in the New Palace.

The New palace (Present Collectorate building), Pudukkottai

The New palace (Present Collectorate building), Pudukkottai

The New Palace, designed and built by the late Nilakanta Sastriar, whose daughter was Tmt. Rukmini Devi Arundale, the founder of Kalakshetra in Chennai. Sastriar was the special Engineer for the Palace construction and later State Engineer. The Palace has a handsome appearance, with its well dressed stonewalls and Moorish cupolas and is surrounded by a large park, with lawns and gardens. There were tennis, cricket and football grounds, and a riding course. The building was first occupied in 1930 and the Raja lived here with his family. A bungalow in the compound was occupied by the Raja’s Aide-de-camp. To the south of the New Palace is a bungalow, once occupied by the Raja’s English tutor.
There is a Government Museum in Tirugokarnam. It was opened in 1910. It consists of different sections like

  •   Arts and Industries-representing local arts and industries with specimens from outside the State for comparison and study
  •   Economic section containing a representative collection of local cereals, fibers etc-
  •   The Natural History section
  •   Ethnology-with a fine selection of arms and armour and of musical instruments
  •   Numismatics-a fairly representative collection of Indian coins
  •   Archaeology-illustrative of the large field of ancient monuments and sculpture for which the State is famous
  •   Paintings
  •   Zoology
  •   Reference library

The museum has developed largely in recent years and is well worth visiting. It is open to the public on all days except Sundays and State holidays.

Environment

Position, Area & Boundaries

The original princely state of Pudukkottai was a land-locked territory, with Tiruchirappalli (திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி), Thanjavur (தஞ்சாவூர்) and Ramanathapuram (இராமநாதபுரம்) as its neighbours.

At the time of being made as a separate district in 1974 the coastal strip of Aranthangi (அறந்தாங்கி) was added to it.
Presently, the boundaries of the Pudukkottai District are the Bay-of-Bengal in the east, Thanjavur and Tiruchirappalli in the north, Tiruchirappalli in the west and Sivaganga (சிவகங்கை) and Ramanathapuram in the south. It is having a 36 km. of seashore in the east.
Area: 4661 square kilometers

Geography

Terrain

The terrain of the district is generally flat. Dry open lands with cultivation as well as semi-barren wastelands form the basic Pudukkottai (புதுக்கோட்டை) country. On the western surface of the plain emerge rocks of low and middle elevation. The scrub jungle, once plentiful, is to be met with now in a few pockets only. The terrain is divisible into two broad portions with distinctive physical aspects, eastern and western. The dividing line may be taken as a north-south line passing through the town of Pudukkottai. The lands west of this line comprise the greater portion of Kolattur (குளத்தூர்) and Thirumayam (திருமயம்) taluk-s and are rocky. In the east are Alangudi (ஆலங்குடி), Pudukkottai, Aranthangi and part of Thirumayam taluk-s, and are bereft of hard rocks. Alluvia and soft rock are found here.

Hills

Though the Tamil word used for the hills of Pudukkottai is malai (மலை) , that is mountain, none of the outcrops would meet the requirement of the definition. There are numerous hills and lofty rocks are to be found in Pudukkottai. The important among them are the Narttamalai hills (நார்த்தாமலை மலைகள்), Sevalur hills (செவலூர் மலைகள்) and Annavasal hills (அன்னவாசல் மலைகள்). Fine quality granite is available in plenty. Names of a number of places bear malai as suffix or prefix like Narttamalai (நார்த்தாமலை), Viralimalai (விராலிமலை), Malayadippatti (மலையடிப்பட்டி), Malaiyakkoil (மலையக்கோயில்), etc.

Plains

The Pudukkottai terrain studded with hills and knolls in the west of the district, gently slopes towards the flatland, estuaries and seacoast in the east. The plains of east Pudukkottai consist of miles of open country, ploughed fields and tidal mudflats. The presence of alluvial soil on the east Pudukkottai surface makes it fertile and suitable for agriculture.

Tanks

The district s tanks are ubiquitous. Irrespective of the geology, tanks, called kanmai (கண்மாய்) in Tamil, can be seen distributed over the entire district. These tanks irrigate the district s agricultural fields.

Rivers

Rivers in Pudukkottai are only jungle streams that themselves take their rise from tanks. Since the tanks have surplus only for a short period around the monsoon time, most rivers are dry for most part of the year. The most significant stream is Vellaru (வெள்ளாறு). The other streams or rivers are the Pambaru (பாம்பாறு, ‘Snake-river’), the Agniyaru (அக்னியாறு, Fire-river ), the Ambuliyaru (அம்புலியாறு), etc.

Seacoast

The length of seacoast in the district is about 36 kilometers. Where the rivers of the district enter the sea, estuarine islets have been formed. The point off Mimisal (மீமிசல்), where Kolavanaru (கொலவனாறு) joins the sea, is one such islet. The Pudukkottai seaboard, like the rest of the Coromandal coast, has a simple structure.

Environment

Climate

The district has a hot tropical climate, humid near the coast. The summer season is from March to May, May being the hottest (Temperature about 37 deg C). South-west monsoon lasts from June to September. October and November constitute the retreating monsoon season. The north-east monsoon is over by the second-half of December.

The relative humidity is between 50 and 80 per cent, but during February-July the air is drier. The annual rainfall is in the vicinity of 950 mm.

The sky is generally cloudy during the monsoon. In the rest of the year it is mostly clear.

Recorded history of Pudukkottai lists a succession of years that have witnessed drought and the consequent famine.