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Exquisitely carved sculptures at the Sri Kothanda Ramasamy temple at Ayothiapattinam near Salem, which is in a state of neglect.
Exquisitely carved sculptures at the Sri Kothanda Ramasamy temple at Ayothiapattinam near Salem, which is in a state of neglect.

R. Ilangovan

The maha mandap has four musical pillars and 28 ornate ones

SALEM: Sri Kothanda Ramasamy temple, built during the Nayak dynasty, at Ayothiapattinam, near here, is in a state of neglect.

It is now administered by the Hindu and Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR and CE) Board of Tamil Nadu Government. It is a treasure-trove for connoisseurs of temple architecture with its intricate sculptures and paintings that depict the life of Lord Rama.

Its ‘sthala puranam' says that Rama stayed in the jungles of Salem – later came to be known as Ayothia pattinam – after the war with Ravana. He re-enacted the coronation ceremony to the delight of Bharathvasa and Vibheeshanan.

“Rama is seen seated on his coronation throne with his consort,” says temple priest Raja.

Bharathvasa constructed a small temple at the site where Rama stayed. During the 16th century, the first human settlement was formed around the temple during the Nayak rule in Madurai. Villagers approached local chieftain Masinaicker on instructions from King Tirumalai Naik, to build the temple.

Though no inscriptions could be found, a team of members from the Salem Historical Society, led by its general secretary J. Barnabas, says the stone carvings and sculptures resemble the Nayak style of architecture. “The temple expansion might have taken place some 350 years ago,” he says.

The temple's ‘maha mandap' is rich with 28 ornate pillars with statues depicting the life of Rama and many ‘Yalis.' The sculpture of Rama with bow and arrows in one of the pillars looks majestic. Lakshmanan, Dwaraga Balars and many chieftains also could be seen in other pillars. The mandap has four musical pillars similar to those at Madurai Sri Meenakshi Sundareshwarar Temple. Horsemen and hunters chasing wild animals, Dasavaratham too are sculpted on pillars. Paintings on ‘Ganjendra motcham,' ‘Krishna leela' using herbal colours on the ceiling too need urgent attention.

The Society members say that the 150-feet and 5-storeyed temple tower with statues made of lime and mortar, its high fort like wall and wooden car with carvings are in a dilapidated condition. Land sharks have encroached upon the vast tracks of temple land. The members have asked the HR and CE to retrieve the temple land and maintain it properly.

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