A temple born off a scam ! or is it

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.

34 thoughts on “A temple born off a scam ! or is it

  1. It would be unfair to call it a scam.
    I would rather call it an Investment. It would have achieved twin objectives, given the kingdom its own wonder( Just imagine how this temple would have looked back then.) and also won the hearts of the people, which according to me is much more important than a bunch of Arabian horses.

  2. வர்ணிக்க வார்த்தைகளே இல்லை
    நம்முடைய மூதாதையர்களில் எப்படிப்பட்ட கலைஞர்கள் இருந்திருக்கின்றனர் என்பது நம்முடைய பாரம்பரியத்துக்கே மரியாதை தரும்
    சிற்பக்கலைகளின் பெருமையை உங்கள் வர்ணனை மிகவும் பெருமையுடையதாக்குகிறது அருமையான கலைச்சேவை


  3. aha..Vijay/Siva without the pillars with Soldiers on the horse back, Avudayar Koil is incomplete. Hope you bring out another article on those specially…


  4. When we say our ancestors were great artist, lets also pray that atleast the remaining art work is left untouched without being vandalized by Govt agencies in the name of renovation. The colours they apply to the temples in the nameof renovation is really painful to see.


  5. I have worked as Manager for 3 years in a nationalised bank in this area i.e. Thiruppunnavasal (A Punnai Maram which is 2000 years old and living even today giving its name to the village!), which is about 42 kms from Aranthangi and 30 kms from Avudayarkoil, and on the way to Rameswaram (90 kms) is supposed to be a sacred Shivasthalam. Paramacharya Swamigal whenever he visits this temple, he used to walk bare-footed (without paadha raktchai) from the entrance to this village. claiming that the entire land is sttrewn with thousands of shivalingas! This temple is reported to have a secret passage constructed during the Pandya period and there is also a village by name Sundara Pandian Pattinam ( S P Pattinam) where even today thousands of Muslim families live, who have their business interests in Chennai, Madurai and other parts of Tamilnadu. This temple also has the Second (?) Biggest Shivalingam/Aavudai – next to Periyakoil. Tanjore. Unfortunately, this area is not covered in the toursim map of Tamilnadu due to its geographical disadvantage as the area is not connected to National/State Highways like Avudayarkoil – which is at least accessible at 12 kms from Aranthangi. Besides the above, more uncared for temples are located on the way from Avudayarkoil to Thiruppunnavasal, with excellent masterpiece architecture, some of the places boasting with connections to Ramayana period as Sri Rama is believed to have travelled through this route to reach Sri Lanka.

  6. hi prasad, thanks – ofcourse he had divine sanction, which clears all

    Dear தமிழ்த்தேனீ sir, thanks for your lovely comments.

    dear satish, yes, the horseriders along with the koravan korathi to follow shortly.

    dear mr gopal

    thanks for sharing so much info, if possible please do send us some photos and some base data, so we can all enjoy


  7. hi vijay,
    the first 13 pics is the style of pandiyas, the tamil name for the roof is “kondugai” In thiruvathavur temple separate mandapas is delicated for these kondugai .In nowdays it is difficult to create like these roof. The second set of photos is belongs to nayakar style , the same chain stone also seen in perur temple in coimbatore. no words to praise .

    thank you vj.

  8. I hear that the jewel makers go there (Avudayarkoil)to take paper prints of statue jewels, Most of modern jewel models prints are taken from the temple statue, ( i hear these news jewel makers) the temple is famous for its staute.

  9. I hear that the jewel makers go there (Avudayarkoil)to take paper prints of statue jewels, Most of modern jewel model prints are taken from the temple statue, ( i hear these news from jewel makers) the temple is famous for its staute.

  10. Vj, for the first time you made me feel proud for my photos. Thanks for the post, it was like going to the temple again.

  11. Avudayarkoil is known for its stone Kodungai (canopy). The Temple itself is a museum of Art. I wish more people visit this wonderful Temple to enjoy the grace of Sri Athmanatha swamy.

  12. Intersting….
    comparing with Stayam….
    I can guess your level of serious sense of
    After reading and seeing the images…
    now Avudaiyar koil…is added in my triplist.
    And I am enjoying the way of your writting…

    anyway thanks for everything!

    Asso. Art Director
    India Today- Regional Editions
    Chennai – 4

  13. there is a place called ‘pariyamarudhupatti’, located south of pudukkottai dist. 2kms from ponnamaravathi… here is where exactly the horses started howling like foxes, the place is named after that… but the temple here in ‘pariyamarudhupatti’ is not that rich in scultures. but, i think you peole can figure out some finer details…

  14. ஆஹா! அற்புதமான கோயில், அருமையான சிற்பங்கள், ஆயிரத்தி இருநூறு ஆண்டு கால பொக்கிஷம் – மிகச் சிறப்பான பதிவு. நான் காண வேண்டிய ஆலயங்களின் பட்டியிலில் இதையும் சேர்த்து விட்டேன்.

  15. thank u so much…
    the pictures posted inspired me to visit the temple n so on the 6th of this month i had been there ..
    wonderful art on stones.. feel sorry ’cause it is not been maintained as expected….

  16. Dear stupid!
    Thanks for your information about Thiruperundurai – the place blessed with the touch of my guru Manivasakar. I beg you not to compare thiruvilayadal with any of such (defaming) human activities.
    Sorry for calling you as stupid. (like you apologized for comparing my guru’s completion of His divine act with —–.
    With tears

    • Dear Shiva Priyai – The greatest aspect of Hinduism is in its understanding of core tenants. Seeing your outburst i only feel that you still have a long way to progress to understand it. I wish you all the best.


  17. Here after don’t compare shiva leela with disgraced human activities. Do you think yourself superior than manivasagar to comment on His activities. Human faults without knowing what to do can be forgiven but not wounding comments without knowing what is done for what, why and how.

  18. dear Banumathi

    thanks for the feedback – i think i have clarified inside the post itself, what the saint did was not correct under the strict definition of the rule of the land – consider if this were to happen today – funds are allocated to a central minister for buying an army tank and he were to build a temple in his hometown instead, worse still he hasnt informed the PM of his diversion, nor does he come to the parliamentary committee appointed to look into this. But then the hand n will of god are above that of the land and King.

    there are more such to talk off and we have to open to talk about these. take the case of few of our nayanmars – the post is there as well – cutting off a queen nose and another her hand. they have been made nayanmars for that !! but then if you read the post in detail you will understand how i have explained it.

    further .. He refused to even see the kings emmisaries:::If I were him my olai to
    king would read

    Stop press
    Hv seen god
    No more material life for me
    I hv become one with the jothi

    P.s: don’t expect any horses
    Funds used for building temple here at perunthurai
    Will inscribe ur name along with meikeerthi as donor


  19. How do we know our father? We trust what our mothers say.
    Why you have left out Seeralan pillai kari amudhu from Siruthundarpuranam. We are not even worth to pronounce their names because they loved God more than their lives. What will be do if someone hurts our lovable one?
    That’s why they are nayanmars and we are nothing. Shivaleelas were done to show the love and bhakthi of His follwers to this world.
    Hope you would have read Thillai vazh anthanar pathigam by Emperman Sundarar.
    We should never go for right or wrong in what the nayanmars did. Here we should apply empathy to understand the feeling of their love towards the Almighty.
    Well, Let us come to Emperuman Manivasagar. It was the Lord Himself who appeared before Him and aroused the feeling of the highest stage in bhakthi. He was ordered by the Lord Himself to construct the temple there. We can understand this in His pathigam which says,
    Kommai Varimulai kombanaiyal kooranukku
    Semmai manathal thiruppanigal seivenukku

    He never refused to see the kings emmisaries as you said, He consoled by the lord Himself (Nari – pari thituvilaiyadal)He was arrested by them and was given severe punishments.(made to roll on the hot sand bed of river Vaigai), then the time to know the value of
    Him came and Madurai was flooded, our Lord
    worked for Vandhi ammai who was given taken to heaven in a pushpak plane witnessed by Arimarthana Paniyan and his citizens.

    Lord will accept Kal as well your sol(word) in the same way.

    Thanks for considering my comment.

  20. whether you have clarified or not, I never mind. I just asked to stop pass comments like this.

    Why you have left Seeralan Pillai kari Amudhu thirivilaiyadal? How you would have reacted if you had been in the place of Siruthondar. That’s why we are here and they were all sung by Emperuman sundarar in His Thillai Vazh pathigam. They were awarded including the maid , Shiva Dharshan and when they called Seerala, the boy came as if from his school.
    We must see with empathy the value of their love on God.
    Go through the lines Thavaramal kal Erindha Saakiyarkum Adien Naan. What is the meaning of this sentence.
    Your sol and kal are equal to God.
    Carry on with your comments and later on with your explanations.

  21. dear banumathi.

    ” We should never go for right or wrong in what the nayanmars did” – please do share with us where you came across this? Hinduism is a way of life where you can question anything – do not reduce it to such a state


  22. விஜய்,
    அற்புதம்.. இம்முறை விடுப்பில் வரும் போது என் முதல்ப் பயணம் ஆவுடையார் கோவிலுக்குத் தான்.. பகிர்வுக்கு நன்றி.-பத்மநாபபுரம் அரவிந்தன்-

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *