Namma Madurai: The birth place of a modern saint and a 7th century temple make Thiruchuli famous
The southern bank of river Gundar, 12 kms off Aruppukkottai, hides history which dates back to the microlithic age, roughly 4,000 years ago.
The village Thiruchuli by the river bank radiates calm and serenity much as the great man who was born here in the last century -- Ramana Maharishi. People say the house where he was born is as beautiful as a temple.
There is also a 7 century A.D Siva temple here that adds to the historicity.
It is one among the 14 sanctified Shaiva temples in the Pandya country boasting of a garbhagriha, arthamandapam, mahamandapam and a sabha mandapam.
Thirumeninathaswamy alias Boominatha Swamy with his consort Thunai Malai Amman was enshrined in this well patronized temple of the past.
The village is known by different names such as Vayalur, Mukthima Nagar, Mukthipuram, Soolapuram, Thirusulapuram, Arasavanam, Bodhivanam, Sulihapuri, Thiruchuriyal and Thiruchuliyal. But now Thiruchuli stays on.
According to a legend, a deluge occurred at the end of Dwapara Yuga. The king prayed to the Almighty to save his country. Answering his prayers, the God made a hole with his trident that sucked away the flood, hence the name Thiruchuli.
As a record, on the north of Thirumeninathar temple is another Shiva shrine known as Pralaya Vindangar. Vanamaiyan Kuthiraikarai Kattiya Thumbichi Nayak (1562-1573 AD) had constructed the shrine for Lord Pralaya Vindangar.
A big tank named ‘Kavvai kadal’ is situated in front of the temple. It had the privilege of being mentioned by Sundaramoorthy Nayanar in his Thevaram hymns as ‘Oli punari.’
Pradhani Muthu Irulappapillai constructed the parahara wall. The kambathadi mandapam was constructed by pradhani Muthukaruppan Servai, brother-in-law of Vellaiyan Servai who served as pradhani of Chelappa Devar, a Setupati king.
A picture portrait of Muthukaruppa Servai is found in one of the pillars found at the kambadi manadapam.
Queen Managaleswari Natchiyar and Chinnasamy Raja also contributed for the temple renovation. The present day parahara wall was built by Ramanad Muthuramalinga Setupati.
On the doorjamb of arthamandapam, a 10 century AD inscription of Pandya king Maran Sadayan is engraved in Vattezhuthu character. Thiruchuli is mentioned as a part of the Paruthikudi Naadu an ancient geographical division and also as a Devadhana village. It also mentions God’s name as “Arikesari Eswaram.’
“Arikesari might be a reference to the Pandya king Nindra Seer Nedumaram of 7th century who is more known as Koon Pandiyan,” says C. Santhalingam, retired archaeological officer. “Arikesari Maravarman alias Nindra Seer Nedumaran is a contemporary of Thiruganasambanadar.”
“It is presumed that the temple may have been there since 7th century AD,” he says.
In the inscription belonging to Raja Raja Chola the great, the temple is mentioned as Suyambu Linga. During his period, one carpenter Saathan Sathan and a goldsmith Chenthan from Iripaikudi village (now Irukankudi near Sattur) jointly donated for lighting a perpetual lamp.
The first prahara mandap is named as Nayaka Manadap prahara. Thirumalai Ragunathan Setupati (1642-1672) constructed the wall.
On the southern side of the main shrine lies the shrine of Goddess Thunai Malai Amman. The goddess is known by different names such as Manickamalai Amman, Sahayavalli Amman, Muthumalai Amman and so on.
One Venkatapathy Nayak donated three villages – Suchaneri, Naadakulam and Vadapalai – to the temple during 1708 AD for the merit of Vijayamuthu Chokkanatha Nayak, son of Krishna Muthu Veerappa Nayak, chieftain of Nayak kingdom.
Though it is a Shiva temple, the Thirumeninatha temple has three 8th century stone sculptures of Lord Vishnu, Goddesses Sridevi and Boodevi. This information and the photo are mentioned in books of State Archaeology. Now, the whereabouts of the sculptures are not clear.
Among the Thevaram trio, Sundaramootrthy Nayanar visited the temple during 8th century and sung in praise of Lord Shiva. Besides, the temple has been mentioned in Sundaramootrthy Nayanar’s ‘Thevaram’, Manickavasagar’s ‘Thirukovaiyaar’ and Sekkilar’s ‘Periyapuranam.’
The other literatures about the temple include the Thiruchuliyal Venba Andhathi, Thiruchuliyalpuranam, Thiruchuliyal Kombila Venba Andhathi, Thunai Malai Amman Pillai Tamil, Thiruchuliyal Kuravai Paatu, Thiruchuliyal Pallu, Thiruchuliyal Kaiyitru Pinnal, Thiruchuliyal Valinadai Sindhu.
“Thiruchuli was a well known mercantile centre,” says Santhalingam and adds that “an inscription found at Kazhugumalai refers to Thiruchuli as a mercantile centre and one Brahmin trader Sankaranarayanan by name has offered donations to the temple.”
Five years ago, officials from State Archaeology department unearthed stone sculpture of a Jain thirthankara belonging to 10th century AD on the banks of river Gundar. It is now placed at Government Museum in Virudhunagar district.
Similarly, they also collected a stone ‘Nava Kanda sculpture’ of 11th – 12th century AD which is housed at Thirumalai Nayak Palace Museum, Madurai. Nava kanda is a form of self sacrifice in which body is cut into nine pieces either for the merit of the King or for Goddess Kali.