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.