Peraiyur (பேரையூர்), a palmyra-shaded fertile village contains a temple of great renown. The Naganatha-swami (நாகநாத ஸ்வாமி) temple is well known for Naga worship, and barren women have been making pilgrimage to this village for centuries and install stone image of Naga-s (நாகம்). The stone images installed over the centuries now accumulated to give a breathtaking site.
Peraiyur is on the south bank of the Vellaru (வெள்ளாறு). Hand-fans fashioned out of Palmyra fronds are an important product of this place. Men of the Isai-vellala (இசை வெள்ளாளர்) or Melakarar (மேளக்காரர்) community in the village make these hand-fans.
Peraiyur is about 15 km from Pudukkottai, which is just three kilometers from the Pudukkottai-Kuzhipirai-Ponnamaravathi (புதுக்கோட்டை-குழிபிறை-பொன்னமராவதி) bus route. Regular bus services and taxi facility is available from Pudukkottai.
The monument: Naganatha-swami Temple
Peraiyur contains a temple of considerable interest. Dedicated to Siva in his Naganatha-swami (lord-of-the-snake) aspect. A tall stone Nataraja dances at the entrance to the main shrine. The sculpture of Siva and Parvathi seated on their bull are excellent pieces.
The oldest extant portion of the temple is the western gopuram behind the sanctum. It is of the 10th century and is done in the Chozha style. The specific Chozha architectural features of the structure coupled with the presence of a Sapta-matrika (சப்த கன்னியர்) group in bas-relief on a single stone, and an inscription of Rajendra-chozha I (முதலாம் ராஜேந்திர சோழன்) (1012-44) on the rock near the tarn, show that the temple was originally a Chozha structure of the 10th century, but was later renovated in the 12th or 13th century. There are other Chozha and Pandya inscriptions belonging to the 13th century.
The present garbha-griham of the Naganatha-swami is a Pandya structure of the 12th-13th centuries. It stands on a moulded plinth with a vyala-vari (யாள வரி) at the top and a curved kumudam (குமுதம்) in the middle. The pilasters are octagonal with rectangular base but without nagapadam-s (நாக படம்). The palagai-s (பலகை) is large and square and the padmam-s (பத்மம்) has well-defined petals. There are niches on the wall and contains images of Dakshina-moorthi (தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி), Lingod-bhava (லிங்கோத்பவர்) and Brahma. The vimanam (விமானம்) is a modern brick structure.
There is in the precincts a subsidiary shrine for Goddess Brahadambal (பிரஹதம்பாள்) said to belong to the close of the 15th or early 16th century, and is in the Vijayanagara architectural style.
The eastern main gopuram is a Pandya structure, but the brickwork above is modern. The other mandapam-s in the prakaram (பிரகாரம்) are modern. The temple bears renovations, the last of which took place in during the reign of Ramachandra Tondaiman (இராமச்சந்திரத் தொண்டைமான்) (1834-1886).
Stone-images of Naga:
The village is famous for the worship of Naga. People install stone images of snakes in order to remove barrenness in women. The shrine faces an oval tarn that is filled seasonally by rainwater. Along the edge of this tank is a plinth on which are found snake-stones (நாகக்கல், nagak-kal-s, நாகக்கல்) row upon row. Each of these stones, one to two feet high, depicts, coiled five-hooded cobra.
Some of them show the common motif of two inter-wined snakes, one facing the other. These have been placed at the temple over the centuries as votive offerings and installed every time with suitable rites in the naga-pratishta (நாக பிரதிஷ்டை, snake-installation) ceremony. So large and overwhelming assembly of snake-sculpture is met with rarely.
Musical Sound from the Tank:
There is a baffling phenomenon noticed in the tank. The Gazetteer of Pudukkottai District reports: ‘From the tarn a musical sound is said occasionally to raise. The warblings, reported to resemble the sound of both stringed and percussion instruments, are held by the faithful to be the accompaniment of an invisible worship of Siva by Adisesha (ஆதிசேஷன், the serpent-king). The musical emanations are heard for a day or two when the receding waters of the pond touch a particular level. At its loudest, the music is said to be audible even outside the temple walls.’