It was built during the reign of Rajendra Chola I

The ancient Panangatteeswarar temple at Panayapuram, 12 km from here, is facing the threat of being pulled down to facilitate the work on National Highway 45 linking Vikkiravandi with Thanjavur.

The National Highways Authority of India has placed border stones and painted markings on the compound wall of the temple, dating back to the Chola period. Built about 1,500 to 2,000 years ago by Rajendra Chola I, the temple finds a place in the hymns of Thirugnanasambandar. King Shibi Chakkravarthi (who offered his flesh to save a dove) had offered worship here.

The structure bears testimony to the architectural marvel of the Chola Kings and artisans. On the first day of the Tamil month Chithirai (April 14), sunrays fall on the presiding deity (Shiva Lingam) and, later, on Goddess Sathyambigai.

The temple administration claims if the NHAI goes ahead with the work, the sanctum sanctorum of the presiding deity Panangateeswarar and His consort Puravammai or Sathyambigai will have to be demolished. A palm tree, which is the ‘sthala vriksha' (panai maram in Tamil and hence the name Panayapuram), will have to be uprooted.

When contacted, NHAI Project Director D. Athipathi told The Hindu that it was proposed to lay the 165-km highway at an estimated cost of Rs.1,157 crore.

On the temple structure being affected, Mr. Athipathi said that since the works were at the preliminary stage it was premature to make a statement. The road alignment could always be reviewed but it was for the higher officials to take a call.

Executive Officer of the temple, A. Balaguru, has written to the NHAI conveying the sentiments of the residents of the nearby Panayapuram, Pappanapattu, Kappiyampuliyur, Mundiayampakkam and Thuravi villages, who have offered to donate their lands to facilitate re-alignment of the highway. He has also detailed the illustrious history of the temple.

The residents of the villages have also made a joint representation before District Collector V. Sampath urging him to protect the temple.

The Collector has assured them that measures would be taken to find an amicable solution.

Mr. Sampath told The Hindu that he had convened a meeting of officials of the NHAI and the HR & CE Department to discuss the issue.

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