A resting place for travellers, the mandapam on the Kundrathur-Sriperumbudur Road takes you back in time

For a purposeful morning’s outing (particularly Sunday), you can’t beat this destination. It’s an ancient traveller’s bungalow, not far from the city limits. Drive down Kundrathur-Sriperumbudur Road and stop at the Amaranmedu junction and the pillared mandapam is to your right.

The mandapam is chipped, overgrown with ficus and weeds. But it is open to anyone looking for a place to sit and eat. Some kind soul, probably a local chieftain (or was it the king?) built it. Like all structures built in those times, this has helpful features carved on its walls.

Built in brick and packed in granite to withstand rain, storm and shine, the structure survived because the locals, realising its usefulness on a busy road, rebuilt it in 1951. Again, wisely, they retained the original structure, beautifully carved with gods and goddesses. They added two plain cement pillars for support. The figures and patterns on the stone pillars are clear indication the pavilion has seen people through many centuries.

“This was the trade route from Kancheepuram to Mylapore harbour,” said the locals who have watched the vazhipokku mandapam rise. Snakes and fish going different ways adorn the ceiling, presumably to show the routes in case the traveller was lost. Iron hooks fixed to the ceiling are in good shape, but the swing is long gone. The stream flowing behind eventually becomes the Adyaru.

It’s the pillars you can’t get enough of. One has four Vishnus on the four sides, each distinct from the others. You see Ulagalanda Perumal with sanku and chakram. The third has a mace and the fourth has both his hands raised. Other pillars have Krishna as Kalinganarthana, Andal, Anchaneya, Garuda, Mahalakshmi and Parasuram. Ramanujar is there too.

We tried to read the plaque on a pillar, failed, and packed up. Incredibly, a trader with a huge load of plastic goods on a bike approached, parked, came in, sat on the elevated floor and unpacked his lunch. He was using the old wayside structure exactly for what it was meant! “My grandfather stopped here to rest,” he said, “and so did my father and others in the Kancheepuram area. The only change is in what we sell.”