GEETHA VENKATRAMANAN

Built by a Chola king, it nestles in picturesque Nemam.

Nemam is an oasis just outside the concrete jungle that Chennai is fast becoming. After an hour’s drive through the congestion of the city’s traffic, one is rewarded with the sight of green fields and prancing calves. Houses are typical with open front yards, thinnai and mutram. Taking shape in this village is a temple for Aavundiswarar, Siva who drank the milk of cows. His consort is Amrithambigai.

Said to have been built by Jayamkonda Chola in the 13th century, the temple was in ruins with the idols buried. Inscriptions reveal historical details. There are references to the Nemam temple in Tamil literary works such as Seevaga Sintamani, Tirumurugatrupadai and Pathitrupathu. “Worship at the temple will bring immense benefit such as compatibility in marriage, birth of children,” says the family of Kumar, which is coordinating the renovation works taken up by the Nemam Sri Amritambigai Trust.

Poor maintenance

After 80 years of closure, the temple was opened with the blessings of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam in 1999. Poor maintenance and dwindling resources left the premises in disrepair, with the walls almost collapsing. “We just couldn’t be indifferent to the state of a temple, which once upon a time was glorious,” says a villager. The trust was formed and the thick overgrowth around was eliminated with the help of service-minded groups. Balalayam was performed and the idols, except the Sivalingam and Ambigai, have been shifted to a room.

The lingam, swayambu, rises majestically and Kumar, a picture of dedication, shows the marks, which he says are the welts caused by the whip of the cowherd. The Lord took the lashes as the boy lashed the cow that showered milk on the lingam. The roof of the sanctum sanctorum is hexagonal as prescribed by the Agama, he says.

The Ambal is a tall figure, head slightly inclined to the right, one foot forward. “She is lending an ear to our problems,” explains Kumar. His simplicity is touching. “The temple, according to scriptures, is special for women,” he adds. And there are so many other unique aspects connected to it. Niches are coming up for other deities — predominant being Bhairava — such as Bala Vinayaka, Subramanya, Sri Chandrasekhara, Dakshinamurti, Kasi Viswanathar and so on. Half-brick and the rest in stone originally, the temple is now being constructed in granite.

Another ambitious project of the Trust is the restoration of the huge tank attached to the temple. Work is dogged by rain and dearth of funds. “Yes, money is only trickling in,” says a Trust member. “It is 18 months since renovation started and we have not made much progress. Every rupee counts and that is how we have collected money. But we will complete the task. This was a temple where, once upon a time, Navaratri and other festivals were celebrated with great fanfare. The glory will be restored. It is only a matter of time,” he asserts.

Those who wish to help may send their contributions to Nemam Sri Amritambigai Trust, No. 73, Vellalar Street, Nemam Post, Nemam, Chennai 602107. For details contact N.G. Kumar: 651260200. Other numbers 9840770248/9840760019/9444122680. Website: www.aavundeshwarar.com

Location

About 10 km from Pooonamallee on the Chennai- Poonamallee-Tirumazhisai-Vellavedu-Tiruvallur route. Also can be reached via Sriperumbudur.