Read this as a prelude to the previous post on Pullalur…

It was well past lunch time, but Shankar showed no signs of even vaguely harboring any thoughts of lunch !! We had been in touch for quite sometime, ever since he sent some wonderful miniatures my Mondays have been filled with anticipation - of where Shankar would be visiting that weekend and what new beauties he will unearth. Such is the enthusiasm of this wonderful heritage enthusiast from Chennai. So it was a quick exchange of pleasantries over phone and we drew a short program - the highlight would be to get to the famed early Chola temple - vaguely mentioned in ASI references as ” North Arcot District. Walajapet Taluk, Tirumalpuram, Ruined Vishnu Temple”

With no further references for the actual location, but confident that we are in the right locality thanks to the train station with the same name, we started our ride on what could at best be called a cart track. The Landscape suddenly turned greener and we saw the familiar ASI green fence. Must have been repaired recently for it was in very good condition ( the fence n gate i mean) and it was locked. At a distance, we could see a very small central shrine bereft of any towering Vimanas. We chanced our luck and placing our bets on the ASI contractor’s ` work’ went around the site, but looks like the ASI picks its contractors well. There was not a inch hole ( not that we could squeeze through a ` hole’). There were quite a few village folk working the farms around the site and we tried our luck if anyone had the keys ( as is the case with many ASI sites). Finally, our patience ran out and having driven in motorcross fashion from Kanchipuram to here, we decided to rough it up. Somehow scaling gates was so easy when you were young and a ` few’ stones lighter. I made it much to delight of a group of young girls and a crowd had already gathered to witness our circus. ( I was quite taken aback at the vocabulary of these children especially with the choice tamil unspeakables they uttered. Always thought Kathi overdid it in Ayirathil oruvan !!). Some good Samaritan produced a cycle with which shankar too jumped in ( the cyclist was gone and then Shankar asks how do we go out ?? - thankfully someone produced a stool later)

Ok, back to the site. as we walked the long walk to the Shrine - the manicured lawns showed us a very very simple structure from a distance. We approached from the rear side.


Not too impressive and how soon we jump to such conclusions ! We walked up to the front and stepped in closer.


Now, the Inscriptions references were so many right from Parantaka Chola times ( 907 - 955 CE) and even our beloved Sri Raja Raja as well.


The simplicity of the shrine defied the sheer volume of gifts and endowments given to it. So we decided to go near and see - every inch was covered with scripts !!


There was some cheer for me as well - we did find many miniature sculptures , two splendid thoranas and some real rare gems ( warrants a sequel post), but to me the greatest interest was finding the Boota gana row lining the lintel.


Could i get lucky and spot our favorite Tiger belly in this row, i scanned each of the charming dwarfs for the familiar one..


Towards the center of the side wall, for a second i thought i had got him


No, it was a false alarm. it was actually one of the guys turned upside down !!

But then, towards the extreme left, yes, we were in luck. Jackpot


Not one but two Tiger belly ganas.


Maybe, if we had seen only one, we could have stopped, but since we found two of this ( which is by the way a first - we have never seen more than one of these guys in one site so far !) , we went around to try and see if we can spot more. The back wall didn’t disappoint.


a jiving Tiger belly specially for us.


Three so far, can we find a fourth ? yes on the other side, we spotted a fourth tiger belly. A rich Haul for the day.


The indulgence in Tiger belly ganas finally getting over, we can focus on the main items in part two of the post shortly.

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27 Comments so far


Hi vj,
any story or tradition behind these tiger belly ganas?

January 10th, 2011 at 13:07

hi Saurabh

That’s what i have been searching for - no references till date


January 10th, 2011 at 13:24

Haa Vijay… Ur back to the gana with the tiger belly :-)
Btw, any idea when these ganas started appearing with the tiger bellies? Pallava or from Chola?


January 10th, 2011 at 13:26

@ Mouli,

The earliest found is the one next to Shiva in the Mallai Penance panel


January 10th, 2011 at 13:31

Cute ones! they are very happy as well!! simling, dancing, turning, laughing etc :)

January 10th, 2011 at 14:06

ஏகாந்தமான கோவிலில் துணைக்கு மற்ற கணங்களுடன் ஆடிப் பாடி கொண்டாடிக் கொண்டிருக்கும் புலித் தொப்பை கணங்கள் மிகவும் அருமை.

January 10th, 2011 at 15:43

Dear Vijay

I was searching for the ruined vishnu temple in thirumalpuram. thought that it was lost for ever.

In the mean time Dr Rajavelu sir suggested me to visit this temple which is called locally as Komar koil and we finally found this is the same as the thirumalpuram we are searching.

all credit to Dr Rajavelu sir



January 10th, 2011 at 17:05

Hello VJ ..

Great Research as usual… I believe these tiger belly gana is called keertimukha !

Saw a similar Kind of gana during my visit to Velacherry Temple !


January 10th, 2011 at 19:03
Kathie B.

what a treat! Aren’t they a ‘hoot’. I have quite a collection now. What’s “Ayarathil oruvan”? since I’m accused of it. . . . ‘Kabanda’ or Udaramukha. ‘Kirtimukha’ is a stand-alone face, I think. Bravo!

January 10th, 2011 at 20:16

hi swami

Keerthi muka is different concept. Normally represented on the sides of the Gopuram - seen in madurai here : http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=472389&l=a63433c99d&id=1806006874

January 11th, 2011 at 7:23

Hi Kathie - Aayirathil oruvan ( one in a thousand) was a popular movie of yesteryears - the name was taken by a recent movie loosely based on the chola/pandya closing years - the unlikely hero was a bad mouthed coolie - whose lewd tongue was unpalatable.

January 11th, 2011 at 9:15

I met someone who had done some research on the shivagunas - wonder abt the significance of these

January 11th, 2011 at 10:21

Belly Gana’s are more available in Coastal AP temples. Since situated amidst thick forests, the Kings olden days used to fix Crystal in the belly for lighting purpose. In Pancharamam’s temples built during 9th/10th c, these are available.

But very gud series Vijay.. keep it up in same tone..

January 11th, 2011 at 15:42
Kathie B.

really, Dhivakar sir? Do you have any photos of those in AP? I’d love to see, or names of the temples?

January 12th, 2011 at 6:08

crystals for lighting….wow!! are we getting closer to the verdict..??? and the false alarm gana…he is super cute too. sticking out his tongue pulling his mouth wide open and hanging upside down…for a second you can almost see him swinging :-) great post vj

January 12th, 2011 at 14:31
Pradeep Chakravarthy

another nice one in Velachery as well…

January 12th, 2011 at 16:21

yes, Pradeep - got the photos from our friend :-)

January 12th, 2011 at 16:23
Srinivasan Varadarajan

I,m a Game Producer and Director. Researching about chola period when i came across this blog. How do we go to this place..any suggestions.

January 13th, 2011 at 16:40

Dear Mr Varadarajan

Welcome to poetryinstone. we have written extensively about cholas and pallavas as well. Please explore by searching inside the site with relevant tags. Need to focus this year on Pandyas !!

Tirumalpuram is a railway station between kanchipuram and arakkonam. it will be on your left if you are driving from kanchi. once you go past the station, after about 300 yards, the road will curve to the right. At that place, turn left - there is no road, but a via duct that goes under the railway track - will join a road on the otherside - about 3kms on that track you will get to this site


January 13th, 2011 at 16:50
Srinivasan Varadarajan

Thanks Vijay, Will try to go there for a few photo sessions in near future. Well planning a mystery adventure game with ponniyin selvan as a reference. so photosessions are important for modeling the Backgrounds in game.

January 15th, 2011 at 20:00

Great - But these predate the period of PS. Best choices would be Nageshwaran Koil in kumbakonam and temples around kudantai, udayarkudi etc

January 17th, 2011 at 11:30
Ayyampet J.Balachandran

Hi vj,
Thirumalpuram tiger belly ganas quiet different to pullamangai belly ganas.

February 14th, 2011 at 21:48

Tirumalpuram must be slightly earlier than Pullamangai and hence the differences


February 15th, 2011 at 7:01
Ayyampet J.Balachandran

Dear Vj,
How long earlier Thirumalpuram to Pullamangai? Please answer.

February 15th, 2011 at 22:24

dear balachandran,

Pullamangai is a padal petra stalam - so it is contemplated that the temple existed in some form prior - you can read more here http://www.varalaaru.com/Default.asp?articleid=647. But the current stone structure is during the period of Parantaka.

similarly Tirumalpuram also has inscriptions of Parantaka.

However, in terms of the stylistic improvements and advanced orientation of the kosta figures, we can infer that Pullamangai ( as it stands today) follows tirumalpuram.


February 16th, 2011 at 7:45

excellent site.You have put in a lot of hard work (both online and offline) and the results are visible.

all the best

June 10th, 2012 at 21:02

Yours are among the cutest. The search continues!

July 30th, 2012 at 20:42

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