NAMMA MADURAI Siva Temple at Chokkalingapuram has survived due to involvement and contribution of the villagers
E ven a village temple in and around the city is replete with Centuries old history. One such temple that retains its regality is Arultharum Shenbagavalli Amman Samedha Arulmigu Azhagia Choleeswaramudaiyar Siva Temple at Chokkalingapuram near Kottampatti.
Located on a sprawling acre, it reflects the architectural splendour of the past. The temple has separate mandaps for Lord Vinayaga, Lord Muruga, Chandikeswarar, Dhaksinamoorthy, Amman and Bairavar apart from sanctum sanctorum where Lord Shiva resides in the form of Linga.
Architecture resembles later Pandya style, devoid of sculptures in the niches, says C. Shanthalingam, retired Archaeological Officer. It belongs to the period of Maravarman Kulasekera Pandian – I (1268-1310 AD). But during later Pandya period, the village was known by its name ‘Menmalaiyur' which was under the geographical jurisdiction of ‘Suranaadu.' Then the temple was known as ‘Azhagia Choleeswaramudaiyar koil.'
Mr. Shanthalingam shares another interesting fact about the village with its multiple water sources like ponds and tanks named as Vanchiyurkulam, Amudhaneri, Thuraiyurkulam, Puraverikulam. This fact is evident from the inscriptions found in the temple.
The temple has about 11 inscriptions written in Tamil and Grantham (written form of Sanskrit in Tamil Nadu). Mostly the inscriptions have recorded details of land donation and donation of worship materials.
One of the inscriptions has a reference to ‘devadhanam' – land donated to temple for performing daily pujas. Another inscription narrates that while Maravarman Kulasekera Pandian (1273 AD) was staying at Alliyur, (present day Valliyur situated en route Tirunelveli and Nagercoil) his chieftain Kalingarayan passed orders that tax derived from the nearby land should be donated to the temple. An inscription highlights land donation to Saiva Mutt in Madurai also.
The inscriptions also has details of individual devotees who donated their lands to the temple. A devotee established and donated a temple garden ‘Arasu kanda raman'. The temple has inscriptions belonging to 13th and 19th Century AD. From the latter period, inscriptions make a note of dedicated devotees like Katta Simba Ambalam, and Pitchai Ambalam and his wife Verayee, who performed pujas regularly.
How did the village get its name? Says Mr.Santhaingam: “During Nayaks regime, Chokkanatha Nayak (1659-1682), an ardent devotee of the Lord Siva, constructed fort wall besides desilting temple tanks. Moved by the service of the Nayak king, the villagers named the village combining the first name of the king ‘Chokka' and deity ‘Linga'.”
An unique aspect of the temple is the sitting navagrihas that are placed in separate mandap near the main entrance. "This is one the four temples in Tamil Nadu where navagrihas are in sitting posture," says villager M.A. Ganesan, heading the renovation committee.
When the villagers learnt about the antiquity of the temple, which was otherwise in dilapidated condition, they plunged into action collecting funds from devotees and constructing gopurams and mandaps in the front of the sanctum sanctorum of all deities.
"Now we are facing financial crunch and not able to complete the construction of the rajagopuram. We are trying to maintain the original structures and not meddling with the compound wall that is believed to be constructed 400 years ago," says S. Sivaramalingam, another villager.