Happy Pongal wishes to all readers ( our harvest festival)
One of our avid readers Kavitha had placed a request for sculptures from Avudaiyar temple - and my friend Sivaram Kannan had been good enough to send me his photos of the temple while on assignment in the US. So thanks to them we are going to see some wonderful sculptures.
Before we go into the sculptures as such, there is an interesting story associated with the temple which gains prominence in today’s context ( Satyam Computers 7000 Cr scam) - this temple could also technically qualify as such. Though how much has not been quantified, the fact that temple, in the 8th Century, was built out of state funds misused by a minister is startling.
Known as Tiruperunthurai in ancient times, Avudaiyar Koil, situated in Pudukottai, is 45 km from Pudukottai via Aranthangi. The story goes thus, An young boy, Vadhvuraar from the town of Thiruvadhavur near Madhurai exhibited amazing intelligence and mastered all by the time he was sixteen. The Pandya Kind Arimarthana Pandiyan heard of his fame and promptly took him in as his minister - naming him Tennavan Brahmmaraayan. In due course he grew in ranks to become the prime minister. All was well, when the King heard of a shipload of excellant Arabian Horses destined for a Chola port - the King desirous of having the steeds in his stable, sent his Prime Minister with a huge cache of gold to secure them.
Enroute Vadhuvurar reached Tiruperundhurai, a miracle happened and he saw Shiva sitting in the form of a shaivite sage under a tree elucidating the pupils. Immediately he was taken in by the site and all his senses were immersed into shiva - he sung his first verse hymns to the Glittering Feet of the Lord offering his body, belongings and soul - his first thiruvAchakam song shivapurANam starting n^amachchivAya vAzka ). Shiva heard the songs and blessed him with the name mANikka vAchakar ( Maanikka - Gem, vaachakar - speach). He then ordered mANikka vAchakar to build an abode and disappeared.
The divine sanction was enough for the devotee, who (mis) used all the Kings Gold and built this splendid temple for the Lord. (The temple has no Lingam in the sanctum. Instead it only has the base, (Avudayar), which has a metal cover placed on it. This represents formlessness, the absolute ultimate. Swami’s name is Atmanathar. This is a south facing temple ( which is very rare )the legend is Brahma was taught the Gayatri Mantra here by Atmanathar, when all the four Vedas appeared before Him. Hence, this place is also called `Chaturvedapuram”.In south indian historical texts and manuscripts this place is called Chatur veda mangalam.
So lets see how the King’s gold was spent ( what happened when the king came to know of this misappropriation is more interesting and we shall see that in a subsequent post) but since it bore the supreme’s assent it is money well spent ( apologise for the reference to current Satyam Debacle but its just of topical interest) - there are some interesting threads from this - did God want the funds to be diverted away from military pursuits towards a spiritual cause and the fact that there was active trade between the middle east and south India in the 8th C ( while it may surprise some of you, the trade has been on from much earlier - infact there are Greek accounts of trade with India as early as the 3rd C BC)
For a more topical sculpture post on the episode check
Before we go out and see the actual sculptures, i wanted to present to you some of my favorites - the lesser ones, often neglected, going unnoticed, yet would have required the masterly skill of the sculptor. Even stone in this temple is a treasure trove of stone craft, very unique to this temple. Some of the structures dwell on the realm of impossibility, only a magician could have even attempted to sculpt them, but when they stand in front of us, we have to believe. Ok, dont want to keep you all waiting any longer. Here come the magnificent stones of Avaudaiyar Koil.
Lets start with this long short of a corner ceiling - can you make out something ( vaguely similar to thalakkad), ok, lets go closer. Yes, its a fantastic snake carved complete with its undulating coils into the ceiling stone.
Ok, we have seen similar before, so whats so special about this? you may ask. Hang on, see this - a ceiling sculpted, well - let me give you the photos first. Watch the rods and the variety in them.. Well they are stone. Cant beleive, see this twisted rod - How on earth did they even try to visualise something of this scale and complexity. Seems the sculptor wanted to showcase this as a veritable explosion of his skills. Wait that’s not all
Here come the crowning pieces in the ceiling and the pillar and ceiling decorations.
Stumped. hang on for the piece de resistance…
Here they come - a ceiling, sculpted into stone - with hanging chains.
Sorry, i got to take a break now and catch my breadth.