SUGANTHY KRISHNAMACHARI

Anoor has three ancient temples, rich in inscriptions.

In 1884, Mr. Fleet, Epigraphist to the Government of India, was entrusted with the task of preparing and editing texts and translations of all copper plate and stone inscriptions. Preserving inscriptions is not as daunting a task as that assigned to Mr. Fleet, but certainly requires on the part of the people pride in their heritage.

The villagers of Anoor, fortunately, are proud of their heritage, and they have every reason to be, for Anoor is home to three ancient temples, two of which are rich in inscriptions. Satyamurthy, a postal department employee, and Selvam, a data entry operator, say, “We were determined to repair our temples, but didn’t know how to go about doing it.”

Around this time, Devarajan, a retired government employee, formed the Anoor Village Development Trust. It was a happy coincidence, which has resulted in the Murugan temple being repaired, and the Siva temple being spruced up. But the Vedanarayana Perumal temple is in a state of disrepair. The ceiling above the garbagriha and the mantapa has leaks, that when it rains, all the idols get drenched. Roots of trees have penetrated the walls of the garbagriha, and threaten the structure. The temple has no electricity, and it’s quite a task negotiating in the dark. The villagers are busy removing thorny bushes from the pathway around the temple, when we arrive.

The period

The walls of the Perumal temple have many inscriptions from different periods in history. One of them, built into the back wall of the temple, is from the 15th year of the reign of Raja Raja I. It is an inscription, which, when recorded by S.Krishnaswami Iyengar in 1933, was complete and mentioned Raja Raja’s victory in Kandalur. However, the reference to Kandalur is now missing. Maybe that portion of the slab broke off during the repairs in 1933, which incidentally, was the last time such works were carried out.

Yet another inscription of Raja Raja I’s period mentions the appointment of a scholar, to teach the Vedas, Mimamsa, Vritthi, Alankara, Vyakharana, Adhyaayi. Adhyaayi must be a reference to Ashtaadhyayi, Panini’s work on Sanskrit grammar. The word Vakkaanithal is used, indicating that the teacher had to explain everything in detail.

“Every sale, agreement or donation by anyone had to be preceded by a reference to the king to be legally binding. If it were a direct grant from the king, then the inscription would carry the words ‘Konerinmai Kondaan,’ explains epigraphist S. Ramachandran.

Not only did the temple reverberate with Vedic chants, but with the sound of music as well. Again it is a Raja Raja I period inscription that mentions ‘Tirunaattu Perugachan’ and ‘Eesanan,’ as being the two appointees responsible for playing musical instruments during Tiruppalli Ezhuchi.

There is an inscription of the time of Ko Parthibhendradivarma, and Ramachandran says, he was a Pallava chieftain, who was one of those who avenged the assassination of Aditya Karikala, the elder brother of Raja Raja I. A 14th century inscription refers to the village as Adiyur, Satyasrayakulakala Chaturvedimangalam, and as Chitramezhi Vinnagaram.

The slabs with the inscriptions have all been jumbled up, maybe during the 1933 renovation, and some of them have been fixed upside down. “To avoid future confusion, we plan to number the inscriptions, and put them in order,” says Devarajan.

Ramanna (Ramaswamy) Bhattar says, “I’ve been here since 1972. This place used to be called Dakshina Prayag, because of its proximity to Mukkoodal, where there is a confluence of three rivers.”

Fall of Pallava dynasty

The earliest inscription in the Siva temple in Anoor is of the time of Kampavarma Pallava, the son of Nandivarma III. The defeat of Kampavarman’s son Aparajitavarman, by Aditya Chola I, towards the end of the 9th century, marked the end of Pallava dominance.

Although the deity in the Siva temple is now known as Astapurisvarar, inscriptions show that the original name was Vambankaattu Mahadevan. An inscription of the time of Raja Raja I, speaks of musical instruments used in the temple — padagam, thimilai, karadigai, kaalam, segandi.

There is a reference to a Karunakaran Mutt in the village, in an inscription. Ramachandran surmises that this mutt must have been established in honour of Karunakaran, the general of Kulottunga I. Karunakaran is the hero of the literary work — Kalingathupparani. Outside the Siva temple, on the roadside, is a slab that bears an inscription of the time of Parantaka Chola I.

There used to be a Rama temple in the village, on the banks of the River Palar. Now the temple has crumbled completely. One wonders what inscriptions the temple had! The villagers have managed to retrieve the idols of Rama, Sita and Anjaneya, and have installed them in the Vedanarayana temple. The Vedanarayana temple is under the control of the HR& CE board, which must take necessary steps to prevent this temple from destruction.

The villagers are keen to have the temple repaired and to preserve the inscriptions. Will the government lend a helping hand?

Those desirous of contributing towards repairs may contact Devarajan at 93825 55553.

Anoor is 13 kilometres from Chingleput.