Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Vepathur - Village Vishnu temple
“Among the Educational and philosophical centers of Ancient India, Prayag, modern Allahabad in UP and Veppattur in Tamil Nadu stand as contemporary centers of par excellence during the early Pallava period” says the Kanchi Seer Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati. Besides other literary evidences, he bases his research on the ancient temple remains “Vittirunda Perumal Koil”(Vishnu temple) in the village datable to pre Mahendra Varman period (560CE). This brick temple constructed with out the use of stone indicates its earlier phase and remains of Pallava Paintings are still traceable in the main sanctum here. It was one of the well established Chaturvedi Mangalams that flourishes during Pallava, Chola and Vijaya Nagara period.
This may be the only known Pallava period brick temple in Chola mandalam as the Cholas converted all earlier brick temples to stone ones during their rule. Cholas and the Vijayanagara rulers also patronized the temple by embellishing the temple with mural paintings of their period. A lithic record Rajendra Chola datable to 1021 CE inscribed over the Ardhamandapa walls of Vedapurisvara temple at Thirukazhitittai, located in the adjacent village mentions this place as Vempattur, alias Sri cholamartandachadurvedi Mangalam.
(Deivatin Kural Part IV, pp 302-303 (1985) ,Chennai) & ARE 292 of 1908
Originally stucco seated Vishnu adorned the sanctum, but subsequently during 17th CE probably it was found to be destroyed and replaced with a stone seated Vishnu. The reason for abandoning the temple is not known but in spite of even no care it survived all the natural calamities and vandalisms and stand in skeletal remains of the Pallava period.
It is remembered by the villagers that during the beginning of the last century the stone sculpture of Vishnu was brought down from the top of the sanctum to prevent its destruction from the falling temple. Sri Chandrasekhara Saraswati who visited the temple sometime during the middle of the last century wishes that the temple should be rebuilt. Again during 1990 there was another attempt to shift the stone sculptures to another temple and Mahaswamiji asked the villagers to shun away from such proposal and felt that it will be rebuilt with ancient glory and asked them to try all possibilities.
Recently the temple Renovation committee requested the REACH FOUNDATION to take up the conservation of this ruined temple. The HR& Ce department has given permission to the village committee headed by Shri.Srinivasan. On inspection it was found that the temple remains cannot be re conjectured as the original plan. Elevations are not traceable. As a preliminary step the debris are being cleared more scientifically to expose the remains. It is stupendous task as the debris are subjected to natural calamities like rain and heat and completely got buries under a blanket of accumulated earth. Very skillful digging only will bring back the original shape of the temple.
Initially even laborer was not ready to approach the temple and carry out retrieval operation as they scared that the overhanging bricks of the shrine may collapse. However the presence of archaeologist like us has encouraged them and now the ancient balustrade steps and front mahamandapa with the balipita Gardhasana etc.
A close observation of the Vimana remains indicate in the inner core for binding the bricks lime was used and for the outer core mud plaster was applied. The mud plaster was so thin like a filmy layer that it cannot be seen from outside. This made the outer brick façade look like joint less metal-mould finish appearance. The present status of the temple indicate that whenever there were external shear thrust on the Vimana the outer core moved with out transforming the force to the inner core. The embellishments like Karnakuta etc have collapsed but the inner core survived all calamities and vandalisms. This technique protected the Vimana for the past 1500 years. We bow down to the knowledge of ancient Indian Architects.
See the beauty lying before your eyes...
Stage 4 in July 2010 most of the outer prahara walls excavated and the shrine dug down another 2 meters almost! The outer most wall is almost 50 x 50 meters...!
Stage 5 in July 24th/25th to find out the real soil level and digging out stone age artifacts...
What other all-brick temples in Tamil Nadu do we know of other than the one that was tsunami-induced one?
In the photos, it appears to me that the bricks are in two varieties - clay unfired and clay fired? Does close examination shed any light on this.
In one of the pictures where there is a front wall of bricks (uneven size) and on top the temple has uniform size, I am reminded of the pictures of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro walls. Regards, Raj Mutharasan
Links to this post: