Kothankulam residents plead with government for protection of the historic temple

The proposed widening of East Coast Road is threatening the existence of a more than 600-year-old temple at Kothankulam in Kadaladi block in the district.

Sri Sundararaja Perumal temple has the unique distinction of having a standing Manavala Mamunigal, a venerated vaishnavite saint, besides the main deity.

The temple built 640 years ago and maintained by the Tuticorin-based Vanamamalai Mutt and the Samadhi of Koorakulothama Dasar, who taught Vedas to Manavala Mamunigal, adjacent to the temple have to be demolished if the existing two-lane road on the east coast has to be widened to a four-lane highway as per the marked alignments.

A private company, which was surveying the road, was marking alignments 100 meters from either side of the middle of the existing two-lane road for widening and the temple and the samadhi, located within 25 meters from the edge of the road falls into the ambit. Enquiries revealed that a private company was undertaking survey and marking alignments for widening the 110km long road from Paravur bypass junction in Ramanathapuram to Tuticorin harbour. This was the Industrial corridor announced by the Chief Minister to expedite industrialisation of south Tamil Nadu.

Sources said the survey was only a preliminary work and the actual alignment and land acquisition would be decided at the highest level, but the villagers of Kothankulam were not ready to take any chance and they were up in arms to protect the temple.

Four bypass roads were planned at Sikkal, Erwadi and Sayalkudi to avoid demolition of houses and other structures, the sources said.

Appealing to the government to protect the historic temple, Thirukoshtiyur Madhavan, a disciple of the Mutt says that if the temple could be considered as an architectural monument, the Samadhi of Dasar, a vaishnavite scholar is considered sacred as he, along with Thiruvaimozhipillai taught Vedas and Nalayira Divya Prabandham to Manavala Mamunigal.

Residents and devotees who were regularly visiting the temple also pleaded that the authorities should not demolish the historic temple, which was renovated ten years ago and the Kumbabishekam was conducted in 2001.

Though Alwarthirunagari in Tuticorin was considered to be the birth place of Mamunigal, he was born at his mother’s place in Kothankulam.

This was evident that the saint was in sitting posture at all the other places and in standing posture here, Mr. ‘LIC’ Narayanan, who has arranged for the Kumbabishekam and daily pujas in the temple said.

The temple was unique that the main deity could be seen with his two consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi and it has “Sri Vatsam: (Sri Lakshmi sitting in Lotus) carved on the right side of the chest of Sri Sundararaja Perumal, he said.

“The ASI which is protecting the structures of more than 100 years should help us to protect the historic temple,” he said.

Mr. Madhavan said an ASI team, which had examined the stone pillars removed from the ruins of the structure, southeast of the temple, opined that the stones should be at least 800 years old. This showed that Manavala Mamunigal had lived in the village with his maternal uncle Thiruvaimozhipillai, he said.

The remains of the house of Pillai also could be seen near the temple, he added.

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