School teacher unravels history behind little-known temples

It is the Ramanathaswamy Temple that draws tourists but sadly many are unaware that this district is the home to 52 temples that are steeped in history.

When R. Usha Manivasagam, a primary school teacher, visited a clinic here five years ago to check her blood sugar, she had no clue that this visit would mark a turning point in her life. Dr K. Joseph Rajan told her to explore the hidden spiritual treasures in the district. An insulin-dependent diabetic and an M. Phil. degree holder, she rejected the suggestion outright, citing her poor health, but the physician-historian goaded her. When her M. Phil guide R. Kasirasan also prodded her, she embarked on the mission, guided by Prof S. Ebenezer of Government Arts College, Melur.

After five years of strenuous efforts, she came out with a 456-page thesis on five ancient temples which had ‘sthala puranams’ and 47 temples built by the Sethupathy Kings with no ‘sthala puarnam.’ For this, she was awarded a doctorate from the Madurai Kamaraj University in January last year. “I visited all the 52 temples. Some are uncared for and some don’t even have approach roads,” she told The Hindu.

Tales behind temples

As she began unravelling the mysteries of these temples, various facts came to light.

The Veyil Ugandha Vinayagar Temple at Uppur should have been a temple dedicated to Sun God before it became a temple for Lord Vinayagar, she says. The legacy has it that Lord Ram visited the temple before proceeding to Rameswaram. Some 400 years ago, devotees visiting Rameswaram began the ‘theerthavari’ from this temple.

The Kariamanickam Perumal Temple at Alambadi in Tiruvadanai taluk has another interesting facet. The 14-foot-tall Perumal granite statue was kept in a tiled-roof shed as it was said to “grow every year.” This myth was buttressed by a story that a Sethupathy king had tried in vain to build a temple. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) could explore the site, she suggests.

At the 13th century Adhi Rathneswarar Temple at Tiruvadanai, the Siva Lingam was made of ‘Neela Rathina Kal’ and “it’s a scientific marvel that sunlight falls on the lingam for an hour on the last five days of the Tamil month of Masi from 5.30 a.m.,” she says.

The Mangalanathaswamy Temple at Thiru Uthirakosamangai is considered the Kasi of the south. The ‘sthala virutcham’ in the temple is about 3,300 years old and this was proved in a research conducted by the State government, she says.

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