Symposium for Heritage Wardens – Coimbatore
1st July 2012
Day 1 (30th June)
On Day 1 of the tour on 30th June
2012, a few members of the Reach Foundation along with the company of local
temple savers group headed by members S.R.Krishnaswamy, Yuva Senthil visited
two temples. The first stop is at Irugur Sri Neelakanteswara swami and
Soundareswara swami temple. This 8th Century Siva temple complex
houses two Siva temples and a newly annexed Vishnu temple. Many popular kings
and local chieftains have renovated this complex including Cheran Veerasenan
(835 A.D.), Uttama Cholan ( 1110 – 1117 A.D), Rajaraja Devan( 1120 A.D),
Karikal Cholan( 1152 A.D), Kongu Veera Pandian( 1265 – 1285 A.D) and none other
than Tipu Sulthan( 1782 – 1784 A.D). The Sivalingam here is said to be formed
as a ‘Suyambu’ murthi. It is said that a small dent in the lingam is formed due
to Kamadenu’s milk since it used to perform pooja by pouring it’s milk on the
This temple is currently being managed by
Sivasri N. Ramasamy Sivacharya who is 61st generation managing
trustee of this temple. Sri. I.R. Nagaeswarasivam who is the 62nd
generation trustee of this temple gave us a tour of the temple, explained the
history behind the temple. This temple is currently renovated by building a new
Rajagopuram and some repair works being done. The Sivacharya after hearing some
expert comments from REACH members have agreed to consult us before doing any
demolition or renovation work done in this temple.
Later in the day, the team had visited a dilapidated
1200-year-old temple Sri Venkateswara Perumal thirukoil, which is in
Parameswaran palayam, Devarajapuram. This temple is also called as “Kongu
Tirupathi”. Kongu Cholas, Kongu Pandyas and Kongu Cheras had maintained this
temple. Various natural calamities and the Muslim invasion has ravaged this
temple very badly.
The team had explored the possibilities of
renovating the outer corridor, which is currently built like a shed. The
damaged columns which contain beautifully carved Dasavathara images and beams
have been strewn outside the temple. The team felt that It could take up to a
year as all the columns and beams have to be sorted out, measured first before
the reconstruction could begin.
Photos from Devarayapuram
Day 2 (1st
Day 2 of started with the
‘Symposium for the Heritage wardens’ of Coimbatore city.
The symposium inaugural address was by Dr. T. Satyamurthy, Archaeologist and Founder, REACH Foundation.
Dr. T. Satyamurthy spoke about the importance of Temple for a town and the
conservation methods that would carry the temple for ages further on. He also
referred that with the infusion of funds, people were going for major repairs
that were unwanted and adopting methodologies that were needless. The very
conservation work could be done for a fraction of the amount being spent.
Referring to a case in Thandarai village,
near Chengalpattu in Kancheepuram district, Mr. Satyamurthy said that the
person tasked with protecting a Vishnu temple there had completely demolished
the heritage structure and proposed to construct a new one for around Rs. 80
lakh. Luckily, the people there along with the contractor had not done much
damage to the old, dilapidated Shiva temple there. The members of the
Foundation were able to restore the temple to its glory for a fraction of the
money that was proposed for the Vishnu temple.
aim of conservation should be to make the heritage structure or temple appear
old but fresh.” This was the philosophy that underlined the conservation work
in Thanjavur Periyakoil and a few other very old temples.
Mr. Satyamurthy also took on the argument
that the ‘Agama Sastras’ (traditional Indian codes) did not allow people to
innovate and that it curtailed artistic freedom. Such an argument was false
because the code for sculpting applied only to the central deity. The sculptor
was free to run riot with his imagination, which one could see in the hundreds
of thousands of statues/figurines on the several layers of temple towers.
Ravi Sam, Chairman, AASAI, said that the
committee the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had promised to constitute to
conserve should not just be made of bureaucrats but also archaeologists like
Mr. Satyamurthy. He appealed to academics/school managements to constitute heritage
clubs so as to create awareness among students and also parents.
Er. Rajendran, who runs an Architecture firm
along with his son in Tanjavur specializes in renovating the old houses,
mosques, temples using traditional methods, gave an excellent presentation
showcasing his mastery on the subject. He also showed some pictures of
beautiful old world Tanjavur houses, temple chariot resting places and an
excellent chatram built by Nayaks which existed even until 10 years ago. He
insisted on taking the heritage built over thousands of years to more
generations to come.
All the heritage enthusiasts who attended
the function have commented that they are enriched with the expertise the
foundation has in the conservation and preservation of heritage monuments.
While returning from Coimbatore, the team
had visited Avinasiappar and Perunkarunaidevi temple in Avinasi town. This is
one of the Padal petra sthalam sung by Sundarar. The Sthala puram of this
temple mentions about a child, which was swallowed by a Crocodile, was brought
alive after 3 years as a 3-year-old boy by Sundarar. The sthambam in front of
the temple narrates the story by an exquisite carving of a crocodile swallowing
On entering the temple, you see excellent
carvings on the wooden doors and the impeccable craftsmanship in the stones,
which are a delight to see. On the contrary, many of the temple inscriptions
have been covered with “Swastika” markings, uncared devotees ruining it with
markings in oil etc. Many beautiful carvings have been damaged by ruthless use
of Sand blasting, paintings neglected or white washed. After having a nice
prasadam with courtesy of the sivachariar, the team left the temple with a
Day 3(Aragalur and Koogaiyur)
Koogaiyur is a Village in Chinnasalem Taluk, Villupuram
District located 13.6 km distance from its Taluk Main Town Chinnasalem. This
town’s temple Swarnapuriswarar and Rajanarayana perumal temple complex which is
filled with sculptural beauty, 4 musical pillars producing various sounds and
loads of inscriptions. This temple is one of the Panchabootha sthalams on the
banks of river Vasishta. Of course, the purpose of our visit is to enjoy the
beauty of the temple and to familiarize the locals about the heritage
conservation of such excellent monuments of ours. This temple is yet another
temple in the verge of ruins due to years of neglect and improper maintenance
without having the basic knowledge of conserving such heritage structure. The
temple is kept in despair due to lack on popularity and access.
is a dilapidated Siva temple in a small village Aragalur ("six moat
place") is a village in Salem district. It is about 6 km from
Thalaivasal and 70 km from Salem. Aragalur was the capital of Magadai
mandalam ruled by the well-known Bana
Chieftains around 1190-1260 CE. Aragalurudaiya Ponparappinan Rajarajadevan
alias Magadesan was the greatest in this dynasty.
temple known as Solesvaran Temple, gives the old name for the village as
'Thayinum nalla chozhiswaram'. The temple is constructed using Granite stones
with no mortar. There are many inscriptions surrounding the Adhishtana. This
would give loads of information about this place and the temple if deciphered.
Not sure whether this is recorded anywhere in our government records. There is
a Nandi in a separate Mandapa in front of the temple. There is another small temple
for the goddess adjacent to the Solesvaran temple and the construction is
similar to the main temple. Locals believe that this was constructed by/in
honor of Kulothunga Chola III. The temple is covered with a lot of vegetation
and is being used as a dump yard for the cattle and it’s feed. It was really
painful to see the temple kept in such a pathetic condition. A water tank had
been built in front of the temple by the local authorities blinding the view of
the adjacent Devi shrine. This temple needs immediate attention. Most of the
temple surroundings have been occupied by locals and not cared for its well
being. With blood oozing out as tears, the team left the place heading to
Chennai earlier than expected, due to an unusual visitor, the rain.