With the familiar brand of Indian politics being played out regularly, its time to hit the rewind button and head towards one of Chennai’s best kept secrets, on a journey to find out, the sanctity that is accorded to the ruling of King. To start with, the very mention of Thirukalukundram would cause many of our local readers to frown, for reasons already mentioned in the previous post.. But, please read on, as there is a much more important and beautiful rock cut cave excavated just below Vedagireerswara shrine on top of the hill which we saw earlier. We are going to see the best kept secret of the town.
Half way up when those extra helpings of Deepavali sweets begin to give their attendance and you rest, you are met with a steep flight of stairs. This is the new route, there exists an older route which goes around hill. Take it and you will come to the Oru Kal Mandapam.
Though being under ASI care, there is no one around and is locked ( do not know if i have to thank them or curse them for that)
The cave is stylistically dated to just after Mahendra Pallava’s period – post 630 CE. The first indications are the relatively smaller size of the pillars. The general layout of the cave is as below
We begin with the main Shiva Linga, an imposing edifice in the main sanctum ( note there is no somaskanda relief carved in the back of the Sanctum)
The Sanctum is flanked by our usual door guardians in slightly lower relief than normal
What is interesting is the placement of Brahma ( four faced – 3 showing- with a very unique headdress) and Vishnu with their attributes, on the two sides of the main sanctum in the Ardha mandaba ( inside hall) This is a new feature not found in caves of Mahendra Pallava.
Now, we come to the operative part – the inscription ( Epigraphica Indica Vol 3 )
(Line 1.) Hail! Prosperity! In the twenty-seventh year (of the reign) of King Rajakesarivarman ( Aditya Chola – 870 – 907 CE)
(L. 2.)Whereas Skandasishya had given (certain land) free from taxes to the feet of the God of the holy Mulasthana (temple) at Thirukalundram in Kalattur-kottam (and) in the subdivision called after itself, (and) as, accordingly, Narasingapottaraiyar ( Narasimha Pallava),the conqueror of Vatapi, had confirmed (the grant) in the same manner – I, Rajakesarivaraman, at the request of Puttan, the son of Gunavan of Andurai, have maintained ( the grant ) as the former Kings had maintained it. The feet of one who protects this charity, shall be on my head .
The greatness of one King to not only honor a previous King, that too of a different clan, but to state that he did so as the former King had done to another person – is indeed a lesson in ethics for today’s rulers. Not only that he addresses his predecessor ( of 267 years) with his title as the one who conquered Vatapi. True greatness or truly great.