Returning from Lanka, Sri Rama is said to have halted here.

The architecturally-rich temple of Sri Kothandaramaswamy at Ayothiapattinam, near Salem has been taken up for renovation. The temple, built during the Nayak dynasty and maintained by the Hindu and Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR and CE) Board of the Tamil Nadu Government, is a treasure-trove with its intricately carved sculptures and excellent paintings that depict the life of Lord Rama.

Its ‘sthala puranam’ says that Rama on his way back from Lanka, stayed a day at the request of sage Bharathvaja in the Salem jungles, which later came to be known as `Ayothiapattinam.’ There He reenacted the coronation ceremony to the delight of the sage and Vibhishana. The Lord is seen seated on the throne with his consort.

The sage erected a small temple at the site where Rama stayed, which remained in the deep woods for long. After the 16{+t}{+h} century the first human settlement was formed around the temple during the Nayak rule in Madurai. Villagers approached the local chieftain Masinaicker, who on instructions from King Tirumalai Naik, built the temple.

The temple’s `maha mandap’ has 28 ornate pillars with exquisite statues depicting the life of Rama. One of them has the Ayodhya king looking majestic with the royal dagger on his left.

The mantap has also four musical pillars similar to the ones in the Madurai Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. Horsemen and hunters chasing wild animals look life-like. The Dasavatharam on one pillar is unique. The ceiling looks vibrant with beautiful paintings of `Gajendra Moksham, Krishna Leela, etc.

Consecration was last performed a century ago and the temple, including the 150-ft and five-storeyed tower, fortress like wall and wooden car with carvings, is in a dilapidated condition. The Tamil Nadu Government has formed the Temple Renovation Committee to carry out the repair works at a cost of over Rs. 30 lakhs.

According to the committee chairman, ‘Selvamaligai’ S. Manickam, contributions are welcome and cheques and demand drafts should be drawn in favour of the Tirupanikkuzhu, Arulmigu Kothandaramaswamy Tirukkoil payable at Ayothiapattinam, Salem district. The Savings Account number at Indian Bank is 887459599.

Further details can be had either from Mr. Manickam, Chairman, Temple Renovation Committee, (94432 44567) or from P. Chandraprakash, Executive Officer and Secretary cum Treasurer, Temple Committee, (94435 60839).

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