Lord Shiva granted ` ever 16′ to him. But what about the temple in Kamarasavalli?

” We got to do something about it Vijay! ” Its been almost four months since Arvind spoke to me about a visit to Kamarasavalli over a conference call with Shankar. The ruins of the Chola temple had upset even the normally tranquil Arvind. So when Shriram and Shashwath wanted to visit the place, i requested Shash to scout for themes to do a quest post. He picked up the theme when Shiva grants immortality to his devotee to contrast the crumbling beauties that frame the very legend. So here he goes…

We all know the story; it’s a repeating pattern in our literature. Mrikandu and his wife Marudvati don’t have children, and pray to Shiva. He offers them a choice between a short-lived but intelligent son or many long-lived dullards. Needless to say, being a rishi himself, Mrikandu chooses the first offer. The child is born, named Markandeya, and as promised, is an easy IIT aspirant. On his sixteenth birthday, Yama comes claim him, as his appointed life is now at an end. Immediately, Markandeya runs to hug a Linga. Yama lassos the linga along with him. Shiva comes forth, tramples Yama close to death, and grants his devotee that he’ll stay just 16, and never stray beyond his allotted span.

It’s this last part that the Shilpi has chosen to immortalise as a miniature at Kamarasavalli. Kamarasavalli is a village on the northern bank of the Kollidam, far from the main highways. To reach there, we had to travel several kilometers through what out of courtesy one might call “roads”. The trip was worth every bump. As desolate as it is now, the village has apparently enjoyed royal patronage in the past, and one of the most incredible examples of early Chola temples is to be found here. In this temple, on the northern wall, we find this:

See that miniature to the far right, near Ganesha? Let’s take a closer look.

Now, let’s see the miniature itself

The entire panel is no bigger than one’s palm, yet it shows enormous amounts of detail. Markandeya is shown embracing the Lingam, and turning around in surprise. Yama’s behind and below him, trying to reach him, and getting trampled by Shiva. Shiva himself is shown, four-armed and dancing as Kalasamhara murthy – the destroyer of Yama, with leg raised to stamp down once more. Both his anger and his benevolence shine through a thousand and more years in stone. Markandeya himself seems almost surprised to see his Lord. The entire scene is a perfect frieze of action, so cleverly done that you can almost see the figures in motion.

We have other depictions of this story, of course, and we can compare with those too. When we do, you can see how much precision is involved in these miniatures.

First, Shiva: Remember, the one in the Big Temple is approximately super-human-sized, while the miniature is about as big as your palm.

Yet, in my opinion, the miniature shows more life

Next, let’s compare Markandeya embracing the Lingam in the two depictions.

In the later depiction, he’s kneeling, while in the earlier one, he’s obviously standing. Yama occupies the left separate panel in tanjore while the three principal characters are inside the same frame In Kamarasavalli.

Markandeya is turning back, in the act of seeing that Shiva really has appeared, and is trampling Yama. Again, far more animation in the miniature. The format doesn’t offer place for the sculptor to depict facial features, but emotion is conveyed using posture, and by motion. Limited by physical constraints, the sculptor has chosen a more graceful means of presenting his subject. This is the hallmark of an artist.

The whole structure is filled with these depictions; we counted no less than twenty-five miniatures, all as wonderful as this one, and that’s to say nothing of the goshta structures around the sanctum. Happily, for us heritage enthusiasts, this place is off the main axis, has no known connection to lots of saints or miracles, and is thus untouched by modern hands. Sadly however, it is also truly in a ruinous state, with plants growing on the mandapams, collapsed sub-shrines, and a half-baked, half-done “renovation” which has plastered the vimanam with cement and done nothing else. I leave you at this point with pictures of neglect and ruin.

We got to do something about it !!

15 thoughts on “Lord Shiva granted ` ever 16′ to him. But what about the temple in Kamarasavalli?

  1. ஆகா! இந்த சிறிய சிற்பத்திலும் எத்த​னை உயி​ரோட்டம்! ஆனால் இத்த​கைய அரும்​பெரும் ​பொக்கிஷங்கள் தற்​போது உள்ள நி​லை​யை காணும்​போது மிகுந்த வருத்தமாயுள்ளது!

  2. I’ve always loved your blog – both the content and the language (which borders on humorous). It is heartening that some like you take an interest in such heritage issues, yet is sad that nothing is done about preserving them!

  3. Thanks Raji Madam.

    @ annapoorna – will try to feature the masterpiece from Moovar koil shortly…i owe you a call as well – its been hectic sch last two weeks. should be free by mid of nxt week.

    @Vardhini – Its really sad to see these beauties lying uncared for..

    @Shri…you are next in line..

    @ Padhma – thanks. Sugar coated Pills maybe…


  4. Dear Readers,

    I am proud of saying that this village is incidently my home town. We Sri Balambika Seva Samithi and Mahalaxmi Charitable Trust took over the the renovation of this temple with great great enthusiasm. We look forward the like minded people for renovation and restoration of this heritage temple. We had given the renovation job to REACH Foundation which is formed by Dr. Satyamoorthy & others. Mr. Sundar Bharatwaj is going to look after the renovation under the guidance of REACH Foundation.

    If any information you require you can feel free to contact me at 09867792299 / email. [email protected] or [email protected]

  5. I belong to a nearby village..This article reminded me painted image of markendaya in my village alagiyamanavalam temple which I have seen atleast 20 years back

  6. @above ,
    sir the painting of markendeya holding linga was on upper surface of temple in my village near kamarsavalli..I would share it when I visit next time (painting may be recent one)…also there is an old shiva temple near kamarasavalli in nadhiyanur village (called as nariyanur) and another at Periyamarai.(5 km from kamarasavalli)…I assume(suppose) all these temples belong to same era of big temple tanjore…
    from Germany

  7. I am samikkannu from ORIYUR near kamarasavalli. I also studyed in kamarasavalli school up to SSLC.Now I am settled at TIRUVANNAMALAI,also run a appalom manufacturing unit. our appalam name is SRI ARUNAI APPALAM.Iam very like this temple from my childage.

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