Saturday, April 16, 2011


Kamarasavalli temple renovation now not in REACH's hands

Sorry for not keeping the update. This temple even though was considered to be renovated by REACH, was later controlled and managed by the Mahalakshmi Trust itself. Many of our sthapathis were engaged and the renovation was completely done by the Mahalakshmi Trust, and REACH has nothing to do with the renovation of this temple

News in Times of India dated 21st April 2011

We are happy to announce that the famous Kamarasavalli temple renovation work has been given to REACH FOUNDATION by Sri Balambika Seva Samithi and the Mahalakshmi Charitable Trust of Chennai, who are known for their renovation efforts. Our stressing the temple renovators to maintain the heritage values and aesthetics have now borne fruits and now both the trusts are joining hands. The effort is spear headed by none other than Dr T. Satyamurthy on the technical front and on the execution and planning by our own Sundar Bharadhwaj @ SPS!

His company would take up the construction work and anything which comes beyond the budgeted estimate by the Mahalakshmi Charitable trust would be hopefully done by REACH and other heritage enthusiasts and lovers.

A puja is to be performed in Kamarasavalli on 20th by noon 11 AM. Those who wish to join this coconut breaking ceremony may please do attend and we all together pray the almighty to give us strength and wealth to sustain and complete this land mark goal.

Thanks to Mahalakshmi Charitable Trust for entrusting this conservation work to us. Civil engineers, structural engineers and architect members who want to join this effort for some decent earnings which also would give you an opportunity to work on heritage conservation may write a private email to REACH to: reach.foundation.india@gmail.com, showing their consent for this work, and also explain their skill set.

A brief with photographs is given below, on and about Kamarasavalli.

Kamaravalli Chaturvedimangalam which is now known as Kamarasavalli is located in Trichi District on the northern bank of the Coleroon (Kollidom), 22.5 km from Kilappaluvur, in Lalgudi-Tanjavur route.

Located in Ariyalur taluk, via Thirumanur. Pin code – 621715. The Temple must have existed during the period of Aditya in brick structure and in stone during Rajaraja period.

  • Latitude
  • :11.177
  • Longitude
  • :78.83949
  • Pin Code
  • :621715
  • District
  • :Ariyalur
  • State
  • :Tamil Nadu

The presiding deity is known by different names in different periods. If he was called Tirunallur Mahadeva in the 10th century, later he came to be called Karkotakesvaram Udaiya Nayanar. The Godess is Balambigai.
According to the sthala purana, Karkkodga worshipped the Lord here. The legend also says that King Parikshit cursed the Great Serpant,Karkodaka. Suffering from serious illness worshipped the
The temple faces east. The main temple has a tri-tala vimana with round sikhara. Its adhistana (basement) and garbha grha are of stone. The superstructure is of brick and mortar. The garbha griha is 4.9 M square in area.
The ardhamandapa projects 7.3 M forward. There is a later mukha mandapa as well. On the external walls of the garbha griha are panels of miniature sculptures (friezes) of fine workmanship.
There are sculptural representations of various deities in the deva koshtas of the temple.These include Ganapathy, Agasthya, Ardhanareeswara, Lingodbhavar, Kankalamurti, Bhikshatanar, Brahma, Durga .
There are sub-shrines for Ganapathy, Subrahmonia and Chandeswarar. There is an Amman Sannidhi in the forecourt which is a later addition during the Pandya hegemony in 14th century.
The temple has many palm sized miniatures representing sivalila.
In the north-east corner adjoining the main mukhappu (facade) of the temple, there is a Koothambalam stage, beyond which there is a tunnel (which is closed now).
Kamarasavalli Epigraphs:

  1. ARE 61 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the north wall of the central shrine in the Karkotakesvara temple. Records in the seventeenth year of the Chola king Parakesarivarman alias Rajendra Choladeva ( AD 1039) gift of land to the temple of Tirunallur Mahadeva.

  1. ARE 62 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the same wall. An incomplete record of the Chola king Rajakesarivarman alias Rajarajadeva I, dated in his twentieth year, Kanya, Wednesday, Krittika, corresponding to 20th September, A.D. 1004. Mentions an assembly of eighty persons.

  1. ARE 63 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the same wall. Records in the twenty-ninth year (AD 1014) of the Chola king Rajarajakesarivarman alias
Rajarajadeva I gift of fifteen kalanjus of gold for a lamp to the temple of Tirunallur Mahadeva at Kamarasavalli-chaturvedimangalam, a brahmadeya in Mirai-kurram which was a subdivision of Vadagarai-Rajendra-sirhha-valanadu.

  1. ARE 64 /1914. (Tamil.) On the same wall. Records in the twenty-sixth year of the Chola king Rajaraja-Rajakesarivarman (Rajaraja I) gift of ten kalanjus of gold to the temple treasury for a lamp to Mahadeva of Tirukkarkotakisvaram at Tirunallur in Kamaravalli-chaturvedimarigalam, a brahmadeya in Virai-kurram.

  1. ARE 65 /1914. (Tamil.) Sakkiyar Koothu on Thiruvadhirai:
On the same wall. Dated in the reign of the Chola king Parakesarivarman alias Udaiyar Sri Rajgndra-Choladeva I. Records in his twenty-ninth year, Rishabha, Wednesday, Ardra, RY 21 corresponding to May 6, A.D. 1041, gift of land by the great assembly of Kamarasavalli-chaturvedimarigalam to Sakkai Marayan VikramasOlan for performing the dance (Sakkai kuttu) thrice on each of the festivals Margali-tiruvadirai and Vaigasitiruvadirai.

Interestingly Margali Thiruvadhirai is also the natal star of Rajendra 1.

  1. ARE 66 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the north, west and south walls of the same shrine. A record of the Chola king Rajakesarivarman alias Tribhuvanachakravartin Kulottunga-Choladeva I. Records in his twenty-seventh year, Tula, su. di. 10, Sunday, Satabhishaja, corresponding to(18th October 1097), gift of land for a flower garden by the assembly of Kamaravalli-chaturvedimarigalam, a brahmadeya in Viraikurram which was a subdivision of – Jaya vindoha Chola valanadu. The land had been waste and it was now given for the garden tax-free, and the assembly resolved to bear the burden in case the tax (irai) was levied.

  1. ARE 67 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the west wall of the same shrine. Records in seventeenth year Chola Rajaraja III( Ad 1213) a sale of land in Vannam alias Madhurantakanallur, a devadana village belonging to the temple of Karkotisvaram-Udaiyar, in Virai-kurram, a subdivision of Vikrama-sola-valanadu.

8 . ARE 68/1914. (Tamil.) Akkaradilai On Thiruvadhirai: On the same wall. Records in the fifteenth year of the Chola king Rajaraja-Rajakesarivarman (Raja raja I) gift of land for the offering of akkaradalai on the festival day of Margali-tiruvadirai.

  1. ARE 69 of 1914. (Tamil.) Margahzhi Archanai with Lotus:On the same wall. A record of the Chola king Rajaraja-Rajakesarivarman alias Rajarajadeva 1 records in his twenty-second year, Dhanus, su. di. 9, Monday, Revati, gift of tanks and ponds by the Mahasabha for supplying red lotuses daily during the month of Dhanus to the Mahadeva temple. The date corresponded to December 2, A.D- 1006.

9.ARE 70 of 1914. Sandal paste for every Kala Puja: (Tamil.) On the same wall. Records in the twenty-fourth year of Rajakesarivarman alias Raja-Rajarajadeva I gift of 4 mas of land for sandal paste (l pala every sandi) to Tiru-
nallur-Mahadeva of the temple of Tirukkarkotisvaram at Kamara (sa0 valli-chaturvedimarigalam by a native of Priyadhlramarigalam.

10.ARE 71 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the same wall. Records in seventeenth year and thirty-seventh day of king Rajarajadeva (III) a sale of land. .

11.ARE 72 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the west and south walls of the same shrine. A record of the Chola king Parakesarivarman alias Rajendra-Choladeva I, dated in his eighth year, Tula, Friday 9, Sravana, corresponding to October 9, A.D. 1019. Records gift of land. The assembly is stated to have met at the temple of Sri-
Kayilasamudaiyar in this village.

12. 73 /1914. (Tamil.) On the same walls. A record of the Chola king Rajakesarivarman alias Tribhuvanachakravartin
Kulotturiga-Choladeva I, dated in his twenty-sixth year, Makara, su. di, 13, Thursday, Ardra (=January 10, A. D. 1096). The assembly makes provision for festivals and sri-bali in the temple of Sri- Kailasa alias Rajendrasola-Isvaramudaiyar. It resolved that one kuruni of paddy from irrigated fields, one kuruni from lands grow-
ing varagu and sesame one nut from every kamugu and one lamp-oil from the owners of every manai was to be collected from the village.

13. 74 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the south wall of the same shrine. Dated in the reign of the Chola king Rajaksarivarman.
Records in his fifth year, Makara, Friday, Punarvasu, gift of land for Chitari, Akil, Sandal, camphor Neriyasam for fumigation,by Balasiriya-Bhattan Sllan Kuttan of Adanar, a devadana and brahmadeya in Innambarnadu.

14. 75 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the same wall. Records gift of two stones by Kadan Adigal of Arunalur.

15. 76 of 1914. Samaveda during Abhishegam during Margazhi thiruvadhirai.(Tamil.) On the same wall. Records in the thirteenth year of the Chola king Rajaraja-Rajakesarivarman, " who destroyed the ships at salai " (Rajaraja I) gift of fifteen kalanjus of gold, the interest on which was to be given to those who recited the Talavakarasamaveda on the day of Tiruvadirai in the month of Margali before the God's bath. Details of the
method of recitation given.

16. 77 of 1914. (Tamil.) Amavasya Bhojanam:On the same wall. Records in the seventeenth year of the Chola king Rajaraja-Rajakesarivarman (Rajaraja I) gift of gold for the midday offerings by the madhyastha of the village on the new-moon days. Kamaravalli-chaturvedi mangalam is mentioned as a brahmadeya in Vadagarai Rajaraja-

17. 78 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the same wall. A record of the Chola king Parakesarivarman, dated in his ninth year, Dhanus, Thursday, Krittika. Registers gift of land for conducting the services of sribali and tiruppalli eluchchi. Mentions Kodandarama vaykkal.

18. 790/1914. (Tamil.) On the north wall of the mantapa in front of the same shrine. Records that the mantapa was constructed by Araiyan Tiruvararigamudaiyan Appaninum-nalla Sembiyadaraiyan of Pudukkudi.

19. 80 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the same wall. A record of the Chola king . . . Chakravartin Vikrama-Choladeva(
1135). Records in his fourteenth year gift of land. Built in at the end. Mentions that Venkadan Pandararigamudaiyan alias Neriyudaichchola Pallavarayar, a native of a village in Marudadunadu, a subdivision of Venkunrakottam in Jayarigondasola-mandalam, was also present in the assembly.

20. 81 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the same wall. A record of the Chola king Parakesarivarman alias Tribhuvanachakravartin
Vikrama-Choladeva (11 35) in his fourteenth year, relating gift of ten kalanjus of gold for a lamp to the temple of Tirukkarkodaisvaramudaiya-Nayanar at Kamarasavalli-chaturvedimarigalam in Viraikurram, a subdivision of Vikramachola-valanadu.

21. 82 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the south wall of the same mantapa. An incomplete record of the Chola king Tribhuvana-
chakravartin Kulothunga Choladeva (I), dated in his fiftieth year. Records gift of money for three lamps. States that Kamarasavalli- chaturvedimarigalam was a brahmadeya in Viraikurram, a sub-division of Vadagarai UlaguyyavandasOla-valanadu.

22. 83 /191 4. Thamboolam for Ardha Jamam:Tamil. On the same wall. Records in the tenth year of the Chola king Tribhuvanachakravartin Kulotturnga Choladeva (III), " who was pleased to take Madurai (Madura), " gift of money for a lamp and midnight offerings and for betel- leaves, areca-nuts, a knife (kilikatti) and a pair of scissors to the
God and Goddess by a native of Alarigudi.

23. 84 /1914. (Tamil.) On the same wall. Records in the fiftieth year of the Chola king Rajakesarivarman alias Tribhu-
vanachakravartin Kulotturiga-Choladeva I, gift of land for worship by the assembly to the temple of Ti ruvagattisvaram udaiya - Mahadeva at Valavan-Puliyarigudi *in Vadagarai-Ulaguyyavan- dasola-valanadu. Mentions the irrigation channels Kodandarama- peruvaykkal and Avanigandharva-vaykkal.

24. 85 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the same wall. Records in fourth year of the Chola king Vikrama-Choladeva gift of money
for a lamp to the temple of Tirukkarkoti-lsvaramudaiyar at Kamadavalli-chaturvedimarigalam in Miraikorram, a subdivision of Jeyavinoda-valanadu.

25. 86 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the same wall. Records that Araiyan Tiruvararigamudaiyar alias Sembiyadaraiyar of Pudukkudi covered this mantapa with flat tiles.

26. 87 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the same wall. Dated in the reign of the Chola king Rajakesarivarman alias Tribhuvana-
chakravartin Kulottunga-Choladeva II. Records in his third year, Simha, su. di. 12, Thursday, Sravana (= August 22, A.D. 1135), gift of land for two lamps.

27. 88 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the east wall of the first prakara of the same temple. Records in the tenth year of the
Pandya king Jatavarman Tribhuvanachakravartin Vira-Pandya- deva assignment of certain customs duties on articles of merchandise for repairs to the temple of Tirukkarkotisuramudaiya-Nayanar at Kamadavalli-chaturvedimarigalam, by the people of the eighteen countries and the seventy-nine valanddits.

28. 89 of 1914. (Tamil.) Saturday Oil Bath: On the entrance into the gopura of the same temple, right side. Records in the twenty-second year of the Chola king Tribhuvanachakravartin Rajarajadeva, gift of oil by the oil merchants for bathing the God with it, on Saturdays.

29. 90 0/1914. (Tamil.) In the same place. Records in the sixteenth year of the Chola king Tribhuvanachakravartin Raja- rajadeva, gift of a silver forehead-plate by a native.

30. 91 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the same entrance, left side. A record of the Chola king Tribhuvanachakravartin Rajarajadeva, III. Records in his nineteenth year, Vrischika, su. di. II, Wednesday, Satabishaj, corresponding to October 4, A.D. 1234 , gift of oil for lamps.

31. 920/1914. (Tamil.) On the east wall of the Ganapati shrine in the same temple. Records in the eleventh year of the
Chola king Tribhuvanachakravartin Rajarajadeva that the assembly of Kamadavalli-Chaturvedimarigalam arranged to have the village administration (grama-karya) attended to by those who consented to vacate their seats by the year, according to the old custom.

32. 93 of 1914. (Tamil.) On the north wall of the same shrine. A record of the Chola king Tribhuvanachakravartin
Rajendra Choladeva II. Records in his fourteenth year, Vrischika, ba. di. 5, Thursday, Punarvasu ( = November 6, A.D. 1259), gift of land for maintaining a flower-garden to the temple of Kamadavalli-chaturvedimarigalam in Virai-kurram in Vadagarai-Vikrama Chola-valanadu.

33. 94 /1914. (Grantha and Tamil.) On the same wall. Records in the fifth year of the Hoysala king Pratapachakravartin Vira-Somesvara that the king in settling the dispute between the temple managers and a private individual regarding the ownership of the village Vannam alias Madhurantaka-nallur, decided that it should be enjoyed as a temple property.

34. 95 /1914. (Tamil.)Sambandar Madam: On the east, north and west walls of the Chandikesvara shrine in the same temple. A record of the Chola king Tribhuvanachakravartin Rajendra-Choladeva, dated in his twelfth year . . . su. di., Friday. Registers gift of land to the Tirujnanasambandan-tirumadam by Kunrarikilan Tiranavukkarasu- devan, a native of Urrukkattu-kottam .

35. 95 1914. (Tamil.) On the east, north and west walls of the Chandikesvara shrine in the same temple. A record of the Chola king Tribhuvanachakravartin Rajendra-Choladeva, dated in his twelfth year . . . su. di., Friday. Registers gift of land to the Tirujnanasambandan-tirumadam by Kunrarikilan Tirana vukkarasudevan, a native of Urrukkattu-kottam in JayarigondasOla-nianda- lam and a devotee of the temple.

Gurukkal stays in the temple. No Vahanam.

Contact person – Mr V Raghunathan of Sri Balambika Seva Samithi, who stays in Mumbai. 09867792299.

Special Info:Appar Bronze with cymbals in hand – dated to 10th Century by DR R Nagaswamy.

Photos taken by member Shriram during his visit there.

Contact person in REACH FOUNDATION: J. Chandrasekaran: 944444 1181

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Andhra Pradesh Temple visits - 2

February 17, 18 and 19 -2011.

Visits to Dharmalingeswara group of Temples in Darupalam, Vishnu temple at Srikurmam, Narasimhaswamy temples at Simmachalam and again to Mangalagiri.

The Dharmalingeswara group of temples are totally neglected temples belonging to the late 11th to 14th centuries and are in constant threat due to the illegal mining happening in the hillocks that surround the temple valley.

Floors have moved away, pillars falling apart and the inscriptions gleefully white washed for ages. All this were highlighted during the joint visit done with the local Dharmalingeswara trust personnel and the endowments department officials.

Thanks to Chilkur Rangarajan and Shri. Vizag Dhiwakar deserve praises and thanks for bringing this temple to our attention and to that of the AP endowments department. The Commissioner had shown special interest and has promised help soon.

Here are the photos of Dharmalingeswara temple Dharupalam.

The problems were common feature in other temples we visited. Srikurmam, Mangalagiri etc. Heavy weather coarse, white wash and heavy usage of modern materials. If these are removed and original structures brought back to life, we can save all these temples.

In Srikurmam, the murals of Oriyan style exist only in this temple, not even in Orissa! They must be at least 300 years old and electrical wiring and white wash all around were marring the beauty of this temple. The mandapa also had heavy weather coarse.The Roads department were to renovate using modern materials and God sake, we went there a day before, to stop the tendering process of the modern renovation! We thank Srikurmam Vishnu for this endeavour. The star turtles also are bred in this temple vicinity and the forest department was forcing few enthusiasts to send the turtles to the forest. Luckily a recent court order has made the tortoises stay back in this temple, having the typical Oriyan style of temple architecture.

Shri. Dhandapani the ASI engineer, and the team climbed atop the mandapa to dig and expose a small portion of the heavy weather coarse to prove that the dead lime is still inside, cement had not blend with the weathering and worst, vegetation roots have spread inside and were playing havoc in breaking away the structures!

Srikurmam photos are here to see

Simhachalam temple is well maintained except for the heavy weather coarse we explained earlier. Some stitching of the North Western pillars of the sanctum also needs to be done. Otherwise, we can proudly say that this is one of the well maintained temples in AP, with minimum alterations and modernization.

Here are the Simhachalam photos.

During our Tirupathi workshop we had visited the Vakulamma temple in the Tirupathi Bangalore Highway, just located at the outskirts of the Tirupathi town. Sad plight and the temple atop a small granite hillock is left hanging, as there is no way to climb up and reach the temple. The Vimana and the Gopura seen from below show the masterly work done by the Vijayanagara craftsmen in lime which is still intact, in spite of abandonment and growth of vegetation. heavyquarrying is going on all around and like a rat eats away all the crumbs around a big bun, the merciless quarry men have broken and chipped of huge chunks of granite from all around, and the temple is left high and dry, literally. When Venkateswara is happy in Tirumala and Tirupathi, his hapless mother Vakulamaligai alias Vakulamma is left sobering in this temple atop this cliff, always surrounded by the hounding 'click click sound of chisels and hammers all throughout the day and night :( Will the endowmenys board save this temple, make a way to go atop and start poojas there?

Photos of Vakulamma Devi temple, Tirupathi

Hope the trips, reports and the action to be taken by the endowments department will save the temples mentioned above.


The Andhra Pradesh temple visits -1

Moopidevi, Machilipatnam and Mangalagiri visits:

January 26th Dr T Satyamurthy the founder and PRO Chandrasekaran visited the Moopidevi Subrahmanya temple, another devi temple at Machilipatnam and the Mangalagiri Narasimhaswamy temple.

In Moopidevi temple, modernization was done to the maximum way and the temple plinth has sunk below the ground level of the current tar road on its front. So the tiles has not allowed the rain water to seep through and normally stagnates.

REACH suggested that the plinth around the sanctum at least be exposed and a bridge like entry point be given around to go into the sanctum. Water should be allowed to seep into the ground and not stagnate.

In the devi temple, the renovation is done by utmost care by the temple authorities, the royal family from Machilipatnam, related to our REACH AASAI Chairman, Shri. Ravi Sam.

In Mangalagiri temple, the front tower at the temple blow the hillock, needs to be exposed, by removing the additional weights like cement flooring of each tier, the huge sign boards and the signage done at the footage of the tower. This would save the Gopura, as old as that of the ill-famed Kalahasti temple.

The front mandapa also needs rectification. The heavy weather coarse wrongly done needs to be removed and relaid using lighter lime mortar and to a minimal level.

We again visited Mangalagiri temple on the 19th of February along with ASI staff who are honorary advisors in REACH too. They studied the Gopura and strictly recommended removal of additional materials and expose the original wooden structure with which the whole Gopura has been built. Plans are also afoot to build the Gopura on the East side too with the help of structural engineers consulting from the IIT.

Here are the photos.

Moopidevi temple

Devi Temple, Machilipatnam


Monday, April 11, 2011


Heritage Symposium 2011 in Tirunelveli

The symposium on dos and don’ts of temple cleaning and conservation, restoration, to educate and create an awareness among the temple cleaners (Uzavarappani members) from various parts in and around Tirunelveli was conducted on 27th March 2011, in Tirunelveli, Tamilnadu.

The venue was Sri Sringeri Sharadha Kalyana Mandapam, at Sivapuram Street near the Tirunelveli Railway Station. This Mandap, run and maintained by the Sringeri Mutt had a good ambience and the facilities were good. The Mandapa’s Dharmadigari, Shri. Nataraja Iyer and Shri. Kasi Viswanathan the coordinator from the Mutt charged us a very nominal fee for electricity and cleaning, informed to all the media men and had sent invitations for their members to utilize this opportunity to know more on temple conservation. They had also put a huge digital banner for this occasion.

REACH members hailing from this region popularly called as Tirunelveli Seemai in Tamil, Shri. Kalakkad S.S. Mani and Shri. R.Ramsundar @ Chandru (who also showed us his ancestral house in Kallidaikurichi) were the coordinators for planning and executing this function with precision and élan.

25th night we had the right starter to unfold more interesting things to come. Trustee P.N. Subramanian and his wife, Mrs. Anu Subramanian were relaxing in their home misreading the return ticket time and hardly had 20 minutes to reach the station. Quick brain storming made us tell them they better reach Tambaram, as the train would be there in half an hour’s time, after leaving Egmore. As luck would have it, or call God’s golden hand (like Maradona’s Golden hand in the football world cup match) somebody had pulled the emergency chain in the compartment to make a running couple join their kid who was in the train! So, the train started from Egmore some 7 minutes late, which was good enough for our leading pairs of this story to catch up in Tambaram!

The driver of Mr. PNS was more confident and he drove like the auto rickshaw driver seen in the James bond Advertisement in Manila driving an auto rickshaw through mad crowds!

PNS was praying that his new car does not incur a huge bill for that race driving and other experienced members who own cars assured Toyota makes would never wear down that badly and he can cherish his moment of thrill and suspense and not worry about the car! Anu was feeling like she enacted an unbelievable climax scene and never thought she could make it to the D-day!

26th March, Saturday morning we reached Tirunelveli junction and were accommodated at the Kalyana Mandapam itself. We had planned for a one day heritage trip to cover both important temples as well as some dilapidated temples which need care.

We first went to Chermadevi, (as spelt by history enthusiast Muhammad Ali, a retired teacher who is spending his life on such temples and their history, a native of this small hamlet). There is Bhaktavatsala Temple, well maintained by the ASI, belonging to Chola (Rajendra -1, 1012- 1041), patronized by later Pandyas as well as the Vijayanagara and Nayaks as well. We spent some time analyzing the structures and epigraphs in the temple. As usual Epigraphist Ramachandran was at his best reading out some rare epigraphs for us. The deity, standing alone is a rarity and had the sure marks of a late Nayaka sculpture, but locals say the sculpture would have been replaced later. The standing Vishnu has a serpent hood above his head. The Maha Mandapa has a safe room on its floor, and members Chandra, Ramsundar, Ramnath and Gopalan braved to go in and come out. Epigraphist Ramachandran, as ever, young in mind, also went in. The height of the safe room was hardly 2.5 feet and the width by length some 8 x 6 feet. As people keep telling that there is a tunnel leading to another temple or city, which is mostly untrue, normally such rooms were made to save the jewels and main deities from invaders, which were nothing but ancient locker rooms!

Dr. T. Satyamurthy reminded his earlier days, when he and K.K. Ramamurthy used to walk a long path and struggle through the ruins of this temple to locate parts and pieces, for restoring them. Today it is remains a temple worth the visit and has all the typical ASI trademark, spick and span. While coming from Tirunelveli to Chermadevi, another temple just opposite to the location of this Bhaktavatsala temple, a Vishnu temple stands out for showing as an example, of HOW NOT TO RENOVATE A TEMPLE! Funded by some local corporate, the renovators were using all materials that are taboo for heritage stuff, like acrylic paints, heavy cementing and finally a gory look. We did not have hearts to go into the temple, fearing we may get into fist fights with those who were renovating. So much for the passion of our REACH members on preserving heritage with all its original ingredients!

After this visit, we went to Ramasamy Temple located in Chermadevi itself, which Mr. Muhammad Ali was talking about. Liberally coated with white wash and renovated some years ago with loads of heavy cemented brick bats and weather course, this temple needs immediate cleaning and then documenting. The ceilings of the Mahamandapa have all the scenes of Ramayana sculpted in granite and those were also not spared, with white wash! There is a single pillar with Rama, Seetha and Hanuman sculpted within itself. The front fascia of the temple dwara also has some interesting sculptures like calf and cow, frog, snake etc. Wonder why these were carved atop at such vintage point!

By noon, we proceeded to Thirupudaimarudur which stands majestically besides the river Tamirabarani. Photographs inside the temple were strictly not allowed, which makes enthusiasts not get an opportunity to share the beauty of this temple in full through internet. But the seven tiered Gopuram has plenty of mural paintings which have many interesting paintings starting from mythology till recording the trading of various countrymen through Indian seas. The colours, the shades used to show different races, men, their clothing and style is mind boggling.

Among the wooden carvings seen in this tower, one may miss out the famous mysterious siddha if one does not see the miniatures carved atop carefully. Men, animals, gods and apsaras all in one go need more than a day to understand and assimilate the beauty into our minds.

The noon lunch was ready at the spacious guest house of retired Chief Justice Shri. Ratnavel Pandian, the first REACH Heritage awardee, who hails from this village. Tress of all shades and fruits abandoned painted storks nurtured and bred here are a sight to see. We had hands full of Gooseberries picked from the farm house.

After this we went to Kallidaikurichi to see the streets were the shooting of the anniyan song, “Andan kakka kondai kari”, in which the first house belongs to the family of our member Ram Sundar.

Then we proceeded to Adichanallur where remains to get excavated further to unearth the sites enormity of size and civilization, once existed. The site predominantly was a burial sites, which had three tire of burial done. After Alexander Rhea in 1906 it was our founder T.Satyamurthy who excavated this site during his service with the ASI, to find out many remnants of bye-gone civilization. The dates are similar to that of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. He and Mr. Ramachandran lamented that the huge site, across the road also needs to be unearthed and also some 54 other sites in and around this region to expose fully the antiquity of this region. Unfortunately neither the central nor the state archaeology departments force the Government to fund for such projects of international importance. Just before leaving the site, we saw the upper rim of a buried pot, but due to paucity of time, we had to rush further. One day may be one group of REACH members would excavate this site!

Then we went to Sri Venkatachalapathy Temple at Krishnapuram, known for its famous pillar sculptures. Sad part, the watchman acted very peculiar, opposing us taking snaps of the famous pillar sculptures, but we were wondering how come the photos are very much available in the internet!

The mythology the watchman was pouring out was mostly fictious and had nothing in tune with the real facts from the figures. After persuaded efforts and giving him our credentials and contacts, including the HR&CE commissioner himself, he relented and allowed us to photograph.

The front Mandapa also has some beautiful sculptures of Rathi, Manmatha and warriors. Sand blasting done recently had its own loss, as well as thick oil was smeared on the sculptures to mask the ill-effects the sand blasting.

The night was spent by few members by arranging chairs, tying banners and a fortunate few who had their forty winks intact!

There was a press note on Saturday 26th March in the vernacular Tamil Dinamalar, detailing about proposed heritage wardens’ meet.

Again the in the morning, few went to the Nellaiappar temple and few served around to make last minute arrangements. Heritage wardens started to turn up as early as 8 a.m.

The reception and registration was taken by the Tirunelveli conveners. Registration of new members and data on old dilapidated temples in and around the district were also recorded in separate papers.

After lightening the kuthivilaku by the chief guests, the meeting started off with an invocation by Shri. Senthilandavan Ayya, a senior Uzavarappani member from Nagercoil.

Dr. T.Satyamurthy, REACH founder welcomed all members on behalf of REACH and gave a brief on how REACH is imparting knowledge to the rural folks and creating awareness on how to restore and maintain heritage temples. He also emphasized that if the old building materials were available, the cost also would be minimal, only involving skilled ASI trained workers to re-lay the stone structures. On making lime sculptures around the Vimana one has to study the period, the style and replace them with similarly looking ones. He mentioned Tirunelveli as Purna Bhoomi and hence close to his heart.

The Nellai Chapter of REACH was opened officially by Sri Nambirajan in presence of other chief guests.

Sri Nambirajan, the Superintendant, of ASI Trichur Circle, also a native of Tirunelveli district was the Chief Guest. He shared his experiences in conservation by presenting a PowerPoint and also extended his help in giving consultation for those who sought his office’s help in technical expertise. The representatives of Sringeri Mutt, Shri. Natarajan and Shri. Kasi Viswanathan also addressed the gathering. They reminded us that the Sashtiabhdapoorthi of the Sringeri Seer, Shri. Bharathi Theertha Swamigal is being celebrated all across the globe and it was a coincidence and the almighty’s wishes that they had to collaborate with REACH to start the Tirunelveli Chapter to attend to dilapidated temples and monuments.

Shri. Kasi Viswanathan assured all his help and said that he had a list of temples in need, almost some 7000 temples, and was interested in sharing the data with REACH. He also had identified Sthapathis from local areas who work adhering to the Sastras and old architectural practice, and also at an affordable cost.

There was power point presentation by Shri J. Chandrasekaran, the secretary and P.R.O of REACH on the start and the current growth of REACH. He said it was a coincidence that the first Heritage wardens’ symposium was also conducted at Tatvaloka, again another body of the Sringeri Mutt, Teynampet, Chennai. His PowerPoint showed how negligence and official apathy spoilt the very basics of heritage conservation.

Shri Ramachandran, REACH historian and epigraphist, an authority on epigraphs insisted on how inscriptions depicted in various temples highlighted by him clearly explain the stanzas of the history and the deep knowledge the makers had in as well as in the temple history. He requested the restorers to at least appreciate the real methodology and the hard work the workers had put in those days, and not re-arrange the stones with which the temples were built.

Dr Padmanabhan, reminisced how at the instance of Dr T Satyamurthy, had started an information centre in Nagercoil. He lamented that the Pandya history is not well projected compared to the other famed Cholas and Pallavas.

Mr. Aravind Neelakanthan the editor of tamilhindu.com and the author of a twelve year researched book on fault line of Aryan Invasion, spoke how temples centric town planning were done and his powerpoint was bedecked with ancient texts and sketches.

Mohammad Ali of Chermadevi spoke of his interest in Hindu temples and their art and architecture marvels. Sri K.K. Ramamurthy Ex ASI Tirunelveli region shared his experiences

Sri Naveethakrishnan, an Uzavarappani enthusiast, from the village Eral cautioned the propaganda done by other religious heads and insisted the importance to prevent conversion to evolve a temple centric activity in all villages.

Shri. Kalakkad Chandrasekaran shared is experiences and invited Uzavarappani members to further do cleaning of their huge temple.

Sri Nellai Nedumaran could not make it to the function but had sponsored for the food expenses of this event.

In his concluding address, Dr T Satyamurthy on behalf of REACH thanked everybody who had made arrangements for the meeting, the participants and the guests of the function. He wished every member collect the data of all dilapidated heritage structures in this region and start working on them to enable us find out how best we can find solutions to renovate them. Shri. Durai, the member of Tamil Heritage Foundation, having their deep presence in the net, as a Google group called Mintamil, observed the proceedings along his enthusiastic wife. When we talked to them later, they revealed that this meeting opened their eyes in many fronts, and would surely chip in, being a civil contractor, on temple conservation more actively in days to come. He was the one to report on Manimurthiswaram Ganesh temple, as soon as we were back to our places!

Sri S.S. Mani of Kalakkad made the vote of thanks thanking everybody for their participation

After lunch, most members attended the live reporting on the dilapidated conditions, the reasons and the methods to renovate duly explained by K.K. Ramamurthy, Shri. Dhandapani, Shri. Nambirajan, all from ASI, Trichur, as well as by Dr. T. Satyamurthy himself.

The return on the same night by train to Chennai also had its share of climax! Mrs. Satyamurthy had not brought her ID card, but the Ticket examiner was generous enough to glance at passport of hers, got through the email of her daughter. Ramnath and SS Mani punched their laptops and wireless net cards to get the same in their emails, thanks to the frantic call of Dr T Satyamurthy to his daughter in US! Communication is the key to development and we saw that in real life experience! Did someone say 2G? We just heard it as 3 cheers, when the Ticket examiner agreed and walked away!

The photos taken by PRO Chandra, of the 26th heritage trip are here to see.

Bakthavatsala Temple

Ramaswami Temple





The photos of the function are here to see, courtesy Kallidaikurichi, "oye" Shri. Ramsundar@ Chandru :)

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