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Archives by Month: January, 2011

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.

entry+from+backside
first+glance+was+dissappointing

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

first+look+front

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

http://www.whatisindia.com/inscriptions/south_indian_inscriptions/volume_22/part_2/parantaka.html
http://www.whatisindia.com/inscriptions/south_indian_inscriptions/volume_22/part_2/rajaraja_1.html

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 !!

inscriptions
inscriptions2
not+plain+walls

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.

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view+from+the+side+not+plain

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

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gana+row2
gana+row3

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

is+he+our+friend
no+false+alarm

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

oh+i+can+spot+something
oh+i+can+spot+something2
spot+tiger+belly

Not one but two Tiger belly ganas.

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tiger+belly+number1
tiger+belly+number2

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.

backwall
tiger+belly+number3
tigerbelly3

a jiving Tiger belly specially for us.

tiger+belly3

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.

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tigerbelly4

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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It was almost noon and despite my folks showing various signals that it was past their endurance point, I was lost amidst the treasures of kanchi kailasanthar temple, when the jolt of my ( ok loan from Dad) samsung handphone brought me back to my senses.

“Vijay, come over on Kanchipuram Arakkonam route, am waiting near Tirumalpuram railway station. ” It was heritage enthusiast K.S. Shankaranarayanan. We were to go and try and cover the Early Chola temple in Tirumalpuram. Little did i realise what the rest of the day held in store for me. Halfway through, the landscape got the best of my brother’s ford and my folks. Quick decision to send them on their way back to chennai and i shifted to shankar’s vehicle. The next two hours was an amazing experience but that post will follow shortly, as what we witnessed later on during that day, churned our insides out. The image has been haunting me every since, and i sincerely hope and pray that there can be something that we can all collectively do to save this astounding structure from crumbling to dust.

What and where is this structure that i talk of ? Its an area that has surprisingly witnessed two historic battles. ofcourse, the name Pullalur, wouldn’t register as a Panipet would do, however a little flashback - for those who have read Kalki’s Sivagamiyin sabatham - thanks to Pavithra for the online English translation - am sure Sivagami & Gundotharan along with Pullikesi and Narasimha Pallava would come back to refresh our memories.

Sivagamiyin Sabatham - Battle at Pullalur

The site also witnessed an astounding defeat of the British by Tippu and the french in 1780 - read more from Sri Muthiah’s -

The story of Two Obelisks.

Ok, enough of the location, what you are going to see below is possibly a ….

where+am+i

No self publicity here. You will understand the reason for me posing here after a couple of progressive longer shots ! Now, where am ?

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Hmm, lets zoom out a bit more.

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We were actually returning after visiting the temples in worship in Pullalur, when from inside these bushes Shankar spotted this structure. When we enquired around, the villagers mentioned ” Oh, that’s our tonsured Vimana ( mottai Gopuram)”

It was only when we went nearer, that we could gauge the actual scale of this beauty.

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fantastic+structure
scale

The lower base has been subject to parasitic activity - obviously the bricks have been put to ` better’ uses.

base+stripped+bricks
entrance

The towering tower really started overpowering us with its imposing presence, like an aged warrior, despite its visible marks of valor, it still held its head high in the skies. We counted six tiers capped by a beautiful shikara ( the top dome is missing now)

first+tier
second+tier
third+tier
third+tier
fourth+tier
fifth+tier
sizth+tier+sudai+narasimhar
sudhai+narasimhar
top+shikara

There were still a few Sudhai ( lime & mortar) sculptures on the Vimana.

narasimhar+sudai
who+could+it+be

Despite all the destruction around it, centuries of obvious neglect spawning a profusion of vegetation eating into it - the real beauty of this Vimana came to us. What we cannot delivery today, with the best of engineering talent, machines, science, technology, advances in materials - this lonely edifice proclaimed its mastery in silence, with a profound sense of grief and overpowering sadness that enveloped us, touching a raw chord in our hears was its core, which revealed itself to us in a powerful manner as we stepped inside the Vimana.

engineering+marvel
insideview+of+vimana

The engineering skill of the ancients - it was still picture perfect, the sacred geometry of the tiers were still doing their duty. But in that, they seem to place an appeal to us. Duty bound to their task, despite the main deity not being present, they conveyed the essence of the Omnipresent. The Tamil equivalent of the central core of a temple is called the ” karu varai” which essentially means a mother’s womb - such a profound significance for a name and the selfless dedication that is associated with it. Can we do something in return?

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