The very mention of the name Cheranmadevi seemed to take us back in time and the sites that greeted us on the 16 odd km drive from Thirunelveli complimented the thought process, for the visual imagery seemed to indicate that time had in some mysterious way stood still as the world rolled on for many centuries. Along the banks of the Tambraparni river nestled this very unassuming town or rather village which Pradeep kept insisting we visit on our Pandya Tour, and when someone with his flair and passion recommends, we were sure that we were in for a treat.
A bountiful monsoon had already metamorphosised the semi arid belt around Tirunelveli, spreading a soothing green blanket on both sides of the road with the river bringing her shades of brown, black, green and at times blue. A new bridge disoriented our driver but eventually we did reach the spot. There were many items on the agenda in Cheranmadevi but Arvind and me headed for the one under the care of the ASI – the Bhaktavatsala Perumal Temple, right on the banks of the river. We did stop every few meters to seek directions and double check if the previous guide was indeed correct, since the progressively narrowing path had no boards, a profusion of thorny scrubs that were intent on claiming back the road and were being ably aided by the village folk with their daily supply of vital essential nutrients ( yuk !!! – our driver wanted to drive straight into the Tambraparni for a cash wash right after !!!). At long last we did see a board but it was not the usual ASI patented rusty grilled blue board ( you know what i mean !) but a shiny metallic transformers inspired board. Our hearts skipped a beat ( non ASI sites are a pain to procure photography permits !!), but the board was indeed an ASI one ! a new avatar maybe.
The entrance tower was incomplete but what was on display was classy.
The temple has many inscriptions and as per the board, Rajendra Chola 1 figures prominently. The artistry on display was splendid, despite the intricate ornamentation they were not garish or over cooked.
There was this really cute slim pillar which made me break my own rules to pose in front of it
The piece de resistance ofcourse was the relief of an unique seated Narasimha with a high Sesha crown.
We went in and our good fortune the priest was such a darling. We had a fantastic darshan of the presiding deity Sri Bhaktavatsala perumal.
In continuing our education into architecture of the temples in Pandya region, we realised that the Vimana was the next place to cover,we wanted to climb on top of the Artha Mandapa, but it soon proved to be a daunting task – we grossly underestimated the height and climbing up a frail steel ladder that even at its precarious incline did not quite reach the top. But before that a mystery unfolded inside the temple, for i could not spot the ASI man nor Arvind. They seemed to have vanished into thin air inside a granite block built mandapa right in front of the Sanctum !! To add to the suspense, i seemed to be hearing voices from beneath the floor ! Aha, there is the secret ….
to be continued…