Referred to as ‘Then Gokulam’ and dating back to the Chozha period, the Kalinga Narthana temple in Oothukkadu, built by Nalankonda Chozha and believed to be the only temple dedicated to Lord Krishna in his Kalinga Narthana posture, has a unique music connection for it was here that Venkata (Kavi) Subba Iyer composed many of his unforgettable songs including ‘Swagatham Krishna,’ and ‘Alaipayuthey Kanna.’ Venkata Kavi’s ‘Omkara Siddhaiga Kalinga Narthana’ is a specific reference to the Lord of Oothukkadu.

Venkata Kavi also composed seven songs referred as Saptha Rathna Keerthanai. These songs are being presented every year on Krishna Jayanthi by the students of PSBB, Chennai. The temple is hoping that leading Carnatic musicians who present the Pancharatna kritis of Tyagaraja every year at Tiruvayaru will come forward and present Venkata Kavi’s Saptha Rathna Keerthanai at this temple.

Legend has it that Nandini and Patti, calves of Kamadhenu, had made it a practice to offer milk to Lord Kailasanatha of Aavoor, about two km from here on the north-eastern side. Also, every morning, the two would collect flowers for the Lord from the garden. On one such occasion, they happened to listen to Sage Narada’s narration of the story about five-year-old Krishna taking on the deadly snake Kalinga and the child dancing on its hood.

Child’s play

Moved by the hardship young Krishna was subjected to, the calves plunged into sorrow. A worried Kamadhenu approached Krishna for solution and the latter appeared at the Pushpa Vanam in Oothukkadu and presented Kalinga Narthana to convince the two that it was child’s play for him.

Narada requested the Lord to provide darshan as Kalinga Narthana and installed the idol (utsavar) with Nandini and Patti standing on either side of the Lord. Moolavar is called Vedanarayana Perumal, his consort being Mahalakshmi.

This temple is a favourite destination of aspiring artists. Also devotees throng the shrine to pray for offspring. Sculptures

Renovation Efforts

Neglected for many years, the temple is in a state of disrepair. It has been 25 years since it has been renovated. The outer walls have developed cracks. The entire complex, except the sanctum and the Rajagopuram, has been taken up for reconstruction. Plans are afoot to erect a new shrine for Venkata Kavi. Also, a Carnatic music and dance stage is being set up with plans to organise programmes to mark Venkatakavi’s birthday in the Tamil month of Aippasi. Renovation of the temple tank and a garden is planned too. Work is progressing at a slow pace for lack of funds although philanthropists are helping.

Those interested in supporting the cause may contact 94426 99355/96656 75102/04374-268549 or the trust in Chennai (Ph: 98846 20129). Donations may be sent directly to the temple at Oothukkadu Sri Kalinga Narthana Krishna Kainkarya Trust, 2/210 Sri Krishna Vilasa Agraharam, Oothukkadu – 612 701, Avoor Via, Valangaiman Taluk, Tiruvarur District.

Also donations may be directly transferred via NEFT at Oothukkadu Sri Kalinga Narthana Krishna Kainkarya Trust, TN Mercantile Bank, Govindakudy Branch, Account No. 085100710400133 IFSC TMBL0000085.

Unique Posture of Kalinga Narthana at Oothukkadu

An interesting feature at the temple is the unique posture of Kalinga Narthana (see picture). His left leg is on top of Kalingan, but not touching the snake. His left thumb alone is holding the tail of the snake with none of his other four fingers in contact with the tail. His four fingers are in Bharatanatyam Abhinaya Kolam. His right leg is poised in a dance posture. A closer look reveals abrasions said to be scars caused in the fight with the serpent. His left foot is on top of the hood but not quite touching it. It is explained that Kalinga surrendered and Krishna refrained from stamping on its head.

Quick facts

Moolavar: Veda Narayana Perumal

Goddess: Mahalakshmi

Utsavar: Kalinga Nardhana flanked by Rukmini and Satyabhama

Time: 9.30 a.m.-12 noon and 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Contact: Jayarama Bhattar@04374- 268549

Festivals

Uriyadi Utsavam on Gokulashtami

Special Alankara and Abhisheka on Rohini star every month

Special Features

There are sculptures at the temple that date back to the Chozha period.

Chozha period The temple is referred to as Then Gokulam.

Only temple where Lord Krishna is seen in a unique posture of exclusively dedicated to Kalinga Narthana.

Unique Posture of Kalinga Narthana

Legendary Venkata Kavi Subba Iyer composed many of his great songs on Lord Krishna only at this place.

Prarthana Sthalam for many budding upcoming music and dance artists.

At the altar of poetry

They sing and dance to Venkatakavi’s tunes, but how aware are artists of the temple’s plight?

By Geetha Venkatramanan

Chitravina Ravikiran, who conducts workshops on the poet’s compositions, is aware of the temple’s condition. “The issue has been taken up and efforts are on to give it heritage site status so that the State’s support is assured. Yes, it is the duty of the artists to protect the temple that has inspired so many beautiful songs which are presented in concerts, both music and dance,” he says.

Dr. Padma Subrahmaniam has been campaigning for the renovation of the temple for the past few years. “It is not a big temple but has such aura,” she says. It was in a pathetic state when I visited it. I made a request for State funds to the then Commissioner of HR and CE, who promised to look into the affair. There is a Trust but who are the members? Recently, presenting a programme at TTD, Chennai, she appealed to the Devasthanam to help with the renovation and maintenance of the temple. The Devasthanam has responded by saying it will include it in the list of temples that need attention. “I dedicated a performance in Bangalore to Venkatakavi, who was senior to Tyagaraja,” the exponent informs. “He has written beautiful Pancharatnam, which could have influenced the Tiruvaiyaru bard. Legend goes that child Krishna kept Venkatakavi company even as the poet was singing in ecstasy. The temple is part of our rich heritage and has to be restored.”

Aruna Sairam, whose concerts are not complete without a song of Oothukkadu Venkata Subbaiyer, speaks with feeling. “Dr. Kris Yogam, a friend of mine in the U.S., was so moved by the dilapidated state of the temple that she offered the seed money to start the work. Everyone should pitch in to save the treasure,” Aruna grew up listening to Venkata Subbaiyer’s songs thanks to Needamangalam Krishnamurthi Bhagavathar, a descendant of the Kavi. “He stayed in our house whenever he visited Mumbai and taught my mother a number of songs to which I caught on. We had bhajan sessions on Wednesday and these included four or five of Oothukkadu’s songs,” she explains.

It is the thillana that keeps the listener riveted. Percussion and vocal combine in a jubilant expedition, beginning on a low key to reach a rousing crescendo, bringing alive Krishna’s rhythmic steps on the serpent’s head. “Again Needamangalam Bhagavathar was the inspiration,” informs Aruna. “His rendition was awesome. I improvise here and there to give it a personal touch.” The happy news is that Aruna will soon dedicate a concert to Oothukkadu and the proceeds will go to the renovation of the temple.