The amazing statues, rare motifs and interesting inscriptions found at the Thiruchuzhi temple are a visual treat.
The square temple tank and the pillared corridor were an elegant sight at the Bhoominadha Swami temple, Thiruchuzhi. The clouds in the sky and the setting sun cast a warm glow on the pillars. A cursory glance revealed several conventional 18/19 century Saivite images, some erotic images and floral designs.
A long pillared corridor, within the main precincts of the temple, sets off two smaller shrines, one for the Lord and the other for the consort. The entire pillared corridor has geometric designs painted in the 19 century with strategically placed ventilators to let in a flood of light.
The monotony of sculptures of the ‘later period' was broken on seeing the rare statues on the pillars. The sculptor had some imagination which was evident in the combination of a parrot and a monkey, which was an interesting variation from the usual cow-elephant theme.
Another had a winged apsara, from heaven, showering flowers on a Ganesa image. Others included scenes from the Sivapuranam, executed with grace and finesse, though the characters were formal to some extent.
One cannot miss out on the unusual lotus-bud shaped motifs on some of the floor slabs, which are the handles for the slabs that covered the storm water drains.
Such attention to detail in such mundane matters was indeed enchanting.
The temple for the consort had several pillars with grim looking warriors, each competing with the other, in sporting fierce moustaches. The shrine is part of the many temples that the Ramnad princes maintain and is in good condition though some of the walls seem to be cracking up.
The shrine for the consort also had pillars with many sculptures of women. One wonders whether they were queens of the palace but the explanation for each one being a ‘devadasi' attached to the temple was surely more romantic.
The Thiruchuzhi temple inscriptions, many of which got jumbled up or even set upside down during successive renovations, were recorded in 1914 and 1935. The temple has two fragments of inscriptions from Raja Raja I.
One proclaims his victory at a battle in Kaandalur and is evidently a part of a longer inscription. The other mentions the gift of a lamp that burns perpetually.
The Madurai Nayaks are represented by an inscription from Saka year 1630 (1630+78) that is AD 1708. Vijaya Muthu Chokkanatha Nayaka, son of Rangakrishna Muthuvirappa Nayaka, gifted lands, near Nadakulam, to the temple. The deity has been hailed as Thirumeninathaswami. It is possible that much of the temple as one sees it today dates back to this year.
The temple finds mention in the Thevaram verses among those sung by Sundarar. The hymns are religious in nature but he does mention the town having many trees and women with full red lips playing with joy.
Like in other Siva temples, the circumambulatory passage had many images of saints and Gods. It is easy to pass by a small Vishnu image seated with His consorts and it would be a loss for the devotee if he misses it. The image belongs to the Pandya times, probably the 10 century.
The Lord is seen here with his characteristic ‘Prayoga Chakra.' The crowns of the three deities were also well carved.
Subsidiary shrines within the temple complex also have images of Chettiyar donors who had contributed much to enlarge the temple.
The temple seemed to be moderately active and the size of the town and its association as the birth place of Ramana Maharishi has certainly helped. Thankfully no coats of paint or tiles have marred the beauty of the temple.
Location: Thiruchuzhi is a town close to Arupukottai and Virudunagar.
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Keywords: Thiruchuzhi temple