Later Chola Temples
Temples in Tirundu-devangudi
About 1.60 km. north of Tiruvisalur of Rajaraja I fame, which in turn is about 6.5 km. east of Kumbakonam is a much neglected and dilapidated temple, locally called Nandan Koyil. It is far away from any habitation and surrounded by shrub jungle and cultivated land. The campus of the temple, about 120 metres by 60 metres, presents a pathetic spectacle of fallen glory and local indifference. The ruins with an intact gopuram are encircled by what once must have been a moat. From the inscriptions found in the temple, we learn that it was situated in the ancient village of Tirundu-devangudi, which no longer exists. This name however finds mention in Sambandar’s hymns.
Nandankoyil (Tiru-aru-marundu Deyar temple)
This temple is among the 275 sacred places sung by the Nayanmars. Sambandar (seventh century a.d.) visited the temple and has eleven stanzas composed in praise of the Lord of the temple.
The name of the deity of the central shrine is Aru-marundu-isar or Karkatakesvarar (Karkataka = crab) and the deity in the Amman shrine is known by the name of Aru-marundu ammai. The original names of the temple and the deity are lost and forgotten. The original name might have been Tiru-Nandu-devar-kudi, which in course of time got corrupted to Tirundu-devan-kudi.
According to local legends, the Lord of this sacred place was worshipped by a crab. This is depicted in a panel on a stone pillar where the crab is in the posture of paying adoration to the deity of the temple. A golden crab crawling on the crown of the linga is said to be visible to a devotee, when ‘he has offered sacred bath with milk drawn from a number of cows of the same colour’. Hence the name of Karkatakesvarar for the main deity—the Lord worshipped by the crab.
Another local tradition tells of a king who was visited by a fell disease, and finding no cure, resorted to severe penance at the feet of the Lord here. The Lord appeared before him in the guise of an old mendicant, and rid him of his disease; he also promised to reveal to him the medicine for other diseases and led him to the site of the temple; there he directed him to dig at the place where to-day the main deity is located and, as he dug, blood began to spurt and the old mendicant disappeared. This tradition is corroborated by the Linga, the main deity, being broken in the front at the top.
Thus this temple dates back to the age of Sambandar (7th century a.d.). It was possibly of brick and was converted into a stone temple in the reign of Kulottunga I. The Amman shrine (Aru-marundu-ammai) also should have come into existence almost at the same time. This is confirmed by a damaged inscription of the 47th regnal year (a.d. 1117) of this king, referred to as Rajakesarivarman alias Tribhuvanachakravartin Kulottunga Choladeva (obviously a reference to Kulottunga I). It mentions that the village of Tirundu-Devangudi was a devadana of Gangai-kondasolisvaramudaiyar, a reference to the deity of the main temple at the Chola capital (ARE 51 of 1910). A reference is made in this record to a hall called ‘Rajendrasolan’ in the palace at Mudikondasolapuram.
The temple consists of the garbhagrika, the ardkamandapa and the mukhamandapa. At the entrance to the ardkamandapa, on the lintel is recorded an inscription (ARE 53 of 1910) which reads: It-tiru-mandapam Kulottungasolan—“This hall known as Kulottunga-solan”—an obvious reference to Kulottunga I. The lintel bears a panel just above the inscription depicting Gajalakshmi in the middle and the ashiamangala-sutra images in the flanks viz., the lamp, the boar, the bull, the umbrella, the chair, the drum, the svastiha and the flag staff.
Vikrama Chola made a gift of money for a lamp in his fourth year (a.d. 1122, ARE 48 of 1910); and, in his sixth year (ARE 47 of 1910), there is a record referring to the gift of land to a private individual for playing on the vina (vinaik-kani) before the deity, which is referred to as Aru-marundu-udaiyar at Tirundu-Devangudi, in Milalai nadu, a subdivision ofVirudarajabhayankara valanadu. In a record (ARE 49 of 1910) of a few decades later found on the north wall of the ardkamandapa, dated in the 16th year of Rajarajadeva II (a.d. 1162) mention is made of a gift of money for a lamp by Araiyan Siraladevan alias Rajaraja Muvenda-velan of Sennimangalam in Tirunaraiyur nadu, a subdivision of Kulottungasola valanadu. Finally in the days of Rajadhiraja II a gift of lamp is made (ARE 50 of 1910).
Since then the temple seems to have gone into insignificance, and today, it is in utter ruin.
The temple is covered with vegetation (possibly of great medicinal value?). In its days of glory, it should have been a primary medical centre or hospital with an Ayurvedic dispensary; in the earlier volumes we have seen similar hospitals run by temples, viz. Sundarasolan atular salai at Tanjavur, the Tirumukkudal hospital etc. This place was also the site of a University (Ghatika), like Kanchipuram
Tiruvisalur, associated with Rajaraja I’s tulabharam ceremony, and Tirundu-devangudi deserve to be clubbed together and formed into a “Gandhi-gram” for social service and rural upliftment, and made into a Primary Health Centre with the divine grace of the Lord of Medicine and Healing (Aru-marundu-devar). It would be appropriate if an Ayurvedic or Siddha School of medicine is attached to this temple of great celebrity and rich associations.
Footnotes and references:
Alexander Rea, Superintendent of the Archaeological Department, Southern Circle, Madras visited this temple in 1909 and reported:
“This historical old temple now in ruins, is situated in the midst of paddy fields and surrounded by a tank on all sides. The temple is recommended to be placed in the list of monuments”. (Report of 1909-10).
The conservation of the temple and its inclusion as a protected State monument are overdue. In spite of many pressing commitments, this work should be urgently taken up by the State Department of Archaeology (Courtesy of N, Sethuraman, Indian Exprtss dated 4. 12. 1976).
Jagatguru Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti frtham desired that specific mention of this fact should be htade in the book.