Road under the Thanjavur-Vikkiravandi four-way project to be expanded

A 1,000-year-old Siva temple at Manambadi village near Kumbakonam is facing the threat of demolition for expansion of a road under the Thanjavur-Vikkiravandi four-way project of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

The State government's Archaeology Department declared it a protected monument 30 years ago but neglected it, leaving the temple’s vimana in a dilapidated condition and enveloped by creepers. The stone structure below the vimana, with intricate sculptures, and the sanctum sanctorum with a Siva lingam are intact.

The temple has an entrance without a gopuram. The prahara has flower plants. A broken compound wall is also around the temple.

The NHAI has now decided to demolish this temple for widening the highway and has already marked the portion to be demolished. While the compound wall on the northern side, the Amman temple and the Chandikeswarar temple will be demolished, the road will come very close to the main structure, which may result in its falling apart once the road is put to use.

The people of the village, historians and archaeologists have opposed the move and appealed to the State government and NHAI to divert the road project to the extreme northern side of the temple, sparing the structure and protecting the monument.

According to Kudavayil Balasubramanian, epigraphist and historian, this temple was constructed by Rajendra Chola (1012-1044 AD). During Chola rule, the village was called ‘Elaichikudi’, and ‘Veeranarayanapuram’. The temple’s name was ‘Sri Kailasam’.

“This temple possesses more than ten inscriptions of the Chola period. Some of the sculptures on the walls of the main structure are those of Nataraja, which is an outstanding one. Another sculpture depicting Rajendra Chola worshipping the Lord with his wives is seen. Other sculptures depict Ganapathi, Dakshinamurthy, Ligotpava, Vishnu, Brahma, Gangadharamurthy, Durga and Arthanari. Among Chola sculptures, they are the unique ones,” Balasubramanian said.

In a memorandum to the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and NHAI, Mr. Balasubramanian pleaded for steps to stop the demolition of the temple. “The irony is that the 1,000th year celebration of the coronation of Rajendra Chola, son of Raja Raja Chola, will take place in 2014. The demolition of a temple constructed by him will be shameful for the entire Tamil community,” Mr. Balasubramanian said in his letter.

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