Explore the history of Thirunageswaramudaiyar temple at Kalvimadai

An arduous three km walk on a damaged road takes you to the hamlet that thrives in silence, interrupted only occasionally by the temple bell.

The 1000-year-old temple, however, has struggled hard to stand the test of time. Vagaries of nature and human neglect may have caused damage to the temple tower, pillars and reliefs, but what cannot be erased is its history.

Kalvimadai, 15 km from Tirupuvanam on Narikudi Road enshrines the temple full of history and certainly a wonder to explore though no one knows much about it.

The basement of the Thirunageswaramudaiyar temple remains intact. Its walls were apparently dismantled owing to the growth of a massive peepul tree. The temple has a sanctum sanctorum, a front mandap and a separate shrine for the female deity.

The swami, believed to be a swambu linga, is known as Thirunageswara while his consort is Thirunageswari Amman. “The original name of the village mentioned in inscriptions is Paalaiyur,” says C. Santhalingam, retired archaeological officer.

“A holy title ‘Thiru’ was prefixed to the village name and it came to be known as ‘Thiru Paalaiyur. The village was under the geographical division of Salanaadu or Sannaadu and the presiding deity of the temple earlier was referred to as Thirupalaiyur Devar,” he adds.

The temple has six inscriptions, of which two belong to the 10th century early Pandya period written in vattezhuthu while the remaining four belong to 13th century later Pandya period.

The first inscription describes a land donation made by a chief, Kerala Sinhamutharaiyan alias Madevan Marudan. He donated his land located at Melmukulam village. The inscription describes the presence of main section of people as warrior groups, working class people and Brahmins.

The inscription also states that the engraving was done by a group of Government officials known as personal assistants, executors, security forces and treasury officers who hailed from various parts of the Pandya country. The second inscription also refers to Kerala Sinhamutharaiyan and his donation of 25 cows to the temple for lighting perpetual lamps.

The later Pandya inscriptions found at the temple belongs to Maravarman Kulasekera Pandyan (1268 CE to 1310 CE). Villagers of Mutharayankottai and Kanmiyarkottai sold lands situated at Thiruvaiyaran Embal alias Thirugnanasambadhanallur. This inscription also has references to government officials of different cadres. During the same period, a group of security personnel belonging to the same villages sold lands to one Kaikola alias Devaram Alagiyan for 300 varahans. Kaikola lived at Vathu Seitha Varanapuram situated in northern part of Madurai.

The Zadavarman Vikrama Pandya (1245 CE) period inscription describes the presence of irrigation tank that was donated to the temple. The tank was owned by Malaimandalam Kannan Narayanan alias Kumara Narayana Devar, a native of Karkulam in Malaimandalam (present Kerala). “This might have been a well known temple of that period. It is evident with the presence of Kannan Narayanan who had migrated from Kerala and lived here,” says Santhalingam.

He says the temple was constructed during 10th century in early Pandya architectural style whereas the period of Amman statue dates back to 12th and 13th centuries.

The temple has statues of Dakshinamoorthy and Vishnu on the niches of the sanctum Sanctorum.

Seventeen years ago when a group of friends came to this village the temple was in ruins. They literally wriggled under the pile of stones and sand to dig out the Linga that was fully buried.

Now, Among them was priest Sakthivel who now serves the temple with the little money he gets from the devotees. When the roof collapsed, a thatched shed was constructed with the help of philanthropists and donors, who have also constructed a new shrine for Lord Vinayakar. Separate shrines for Amman and navagrahas are on the anvil.