Thiruvengaivasal

Thiruvengaivasal (‘Sacred place of gate of the Tiger’) is a well-known and ancient place of worship. Mythologically linked to Gokarnesvara temple (கோகர்ணேஸ்வரர் கோயில்) of Thirugokarnam (திருக்கோகர்ணம்), the temple has both Chozha and Pandya styled structures. The sculptures of Gnana Dakshina-moorthi (ஞான தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி) and Yoga Dakshina-moorthi (யோக தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி) are of iconographic interest. There are a number of important inscriptions here.

Approach

Thiruvengaivasal is about 10 kilometers from Pudukkottai town and 2 kilometers from Pudukkottai-Tiruchirappalli (புதுக்கோட்டை-திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி) highway.

The monument: Vyaghra-purisvara temple

Thiruvengaivasal is a well-known and ancient place of worship. The name means the ‘Sacred place of gate of the Tiger’, and refers to the story of the God Gokarnesvara (கோகர்ணேஸ்வரர்) of Thirugokarnam (திருக்கோகர்ணம்) who here took the form of a tiger, to terrify and finally grant salvation to a cow that daily brought the sacred water for his ablution. (See: Gokarnesvara Temple for the story)
The main shrine, which has been renovated, perhaps in the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries, must have been originally an early Chozha (9th – 10th century AD.) structure. The earliest inscription in the temple is dated back to reign of Raja Raja Chozha I (முதலாம் ராஜராஜ சோழன்) (1011AD). The present structure is of Pandya style of the 13th-14th centuries. Thiruvengaivasal had both a Sabha (சபா), or Brahmin assembly, and an Ur (ஊர்), or common village or town assembly, during the centuries of Chozha and Pandya rules.
There are 15 inscriptions in this temple; six are Chozha inscriptions, seven Pandya, one of the Vijayanagara period and one of the Pallava-rayar-s (பல்லவராயர்).

Temple Architecture

The temple, Thiruvengai vasal

The temple, Thiruvengai vasal

At the entrance to the temple is a mandapam with massive pillars supporting carved lions. The base of the gopuram is of the late Pandya style, but the upper part has been reconstructed in first half of 20th century.

To the north of the antarala mandapam (அந்தரால மண்டபம்) is the shrine of the Goddess Sri Brahadambal, which is a late Chozha or early Pandya structure with square pilasters, simple idols, square palagai (பலகை) and tenoned corbels (போதிகை). The southern part of this mandapam contains modern bronze idols now carried in the temple-processions. The maha-mandapam (மஹாமண்டபம்), in which are kept some old bronzes, is a Chozha structure with pilasters supporting large palagai-s and corbels with tenors.

The vimanam, Thiruvengai vasal

The vimanam, Thiruvengai vasal

The main shrine, which faces east, has lost its original Chozha features having been renovated subsequently. The present structure is of the Pandya style of the 13th-14th centuries. The pilasters are polygonal in section with square bases having nagapadam-s (நாகபடம்); the padmam-s (பத்மம்) are drawn out into idhazh-s (இதழ்), and the corbels are of the puspa-podigai (புஷ்ப போதிகை) type with rudimentary buds.

Gnana Dakshina-moorthi, Thiruvengai vasal

Gnana Dakshina-moorthi, Thiruvengai vasal

The idol of Gnana Dakshina-moorthi (ஞான தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி) in the southern prakaram has rare iconographic features. The figure is seated in the utkutikasana posture-a posture suitable for concentration. Within the cloister in the southern prakaram, there is an old idol of Yoga Dakshina-moorthi (யோக தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி).

Murugan, Thiruvengai vasal

Murugan, Thiruvengai vasal

In the southern prakaram there is a shrine facing west containing an interesting sculpture of Subrahmanya in bas-relief in the virasana pose; the upper right hand holds a rosary, and the upper left a sakthivel or spear; the lower right hand is in the abhaya-mudra and the lower left hand rests on the thigh. Another old sculpture of Subrahmanya kept in this prakaram has only two arms.

Near the southern entrance is a shrine built in the reign of Raja Ramachandra Tondaiman (இராஜா ராமசந்திரத் தொண்டைமான்) in which is kept a mutilated idol of the Amman. It is said that when a new idol was installed, the old mutilated one was about to be thrown into the tank to the south of the temple, and that the Amman appeared before the Raja in a dream and directed him not to cast it away but to preserve it in a shrine, which the pious Raja did.

Thirukkattalai

Thirukkattalai (திருக்கட்டளை) – The Siva temple is a good specimen of early chozha architecture of the second half of the 9th century. This is a parivara complex type with sub-shrines around the main shrine. The inscriptions in the temple help to understand the history of the temple.

Approach

Thirukkattalai (‘thi-ruk-kat-ta-lai’) is about 15 kilometers from Pudukkottai town. Taxi service and Town bus services is available from Pudukkottai.

The monument: Early Chozha Temple

The Siva-worshiped as Sundaresvara (சுந்தரேஸ்வரர்)-temple seen in the village is a good specimen of early Chozha architecture of the 9th century and is of special interest. The dating of this temple is based on an inscription taken as of in the reign of Adithya Chozha I (முதலாம் ஆதித்த சோழன்) (874 AD) relating land grants for the temple.

This place seems to have been an important pre-historic centre. There are traces of pre-historic burials and stone circles nearby.

The Temple Architecture

Sundaresvara temple, Thirukkattalai

Sundaresvara temple, Thirukkattalai

The Thirukkattalai temple is a typical structural temple of the parivara complex type with sub-shrines for the relevant divinities found abutting against the prakaram wall. The scheme is different from the freestanding scheme, as at Narttamalai (நார்த்தாமலை) that carries the original sculptures of the respective divinities inside them. This is perhaps one of the few extant examples of an early temple unit with ashta-parivara shrines, meaning, a temple around which are eight sub-shrines, standing intact.

The garbha-griham and ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த மண்டபம்) belong to the second half of the 9th century and are among the earliest structures in the district. The former is built of stone from basement to finial, and has a square vimanam (விமானம்). Below the stupi (ஸ்தூபி) and simha-lalatam (சிம்ம லலாடம்) and in the tier below are two rows of niches, one above other; those on the south contain seated figures of Dakshina-moorthi (தக்ஷிணா மூர்த்தி) and Bhikshatana-moorthi (பிக்ஷாடணமூர்த்தி), those on the west figures Varaha (வராகம்) and Vishnu and those on the north two figures of Brahma. The corbels are fluted and above them is a line of vyali-s (யாளி). The niche in the southern wall contains an idol of Vina-dhara Dakshina-moorthi (வீணாதார தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி), a rare and interesting specimen, that in the western wall a figure of Lingod-bhava (லிங்கோத்பவர்) and that on the northern wall a figure of Brahma. The dvara-palaka-s (துவாரபாலகர்) have only two arms.

The Amman shrine belongs to the late Chozha period. Round the central shrine are seven sub-shrines dedicated to Surya, the Sapta-matrika (சப்த கன்னியர்), Ganesa, Subrahmanya (சுப்பிரமணியர்), Jyesta (ஜ்யேஷ்டா), Chandra and Chandikesvara (சண்டிகேஸ்வரா) a feature peculiar to early Chozha temples.

The Inscriptions

There are number of inscription. In some of the inscriptions the place is mentioned as Thiruk-karrali (திருக்கற்றளி) meaning “the sacred stone temple” and also as Karkurichchi (கார்குறிச்சி).