Carving found on the base of ‘Garuda Sthambam’ outside Hanuman temple

A team of scholars and historians from the Pandya Nadu Centre for Historical Research have unearthed a sculpture of Rani Mangammal, the queen regent of Madurai from 1689 to 1704 and two stone inscriptions from the 12th century belonging to the Pandya era.

The two Pandyan-era inscriptions which were unearthed by the team at Vallanathapuram near Avaniapuram describe the existence of a Brahmin colony by the name of Sri Vallabha Chatur Vedi Mangalam and a Vishnu Temple Sri Vallabha Vinnagaram.

The inscriptions date back to the reign of Sadayavarman Sri Vallabha, a Pandyan ruler who ruled between 1101 and 1124 CE. The name ‘Rani Mangammal’ has been evoking curiosity among the public ever since her palace on North Avani Moola Street was demolished in July this year. Since then, there has been an increased effort to study the history of the queen and restore art and architecture associated with that period. The sculpture was unearthed by a team, comprising president of the Pandya Nadu Centre for Historical Research, P. Rajendran, secretary C. Santhalingam and Madurai Kamaraj University scholars B. Athmanathan, Muthupandi and Palanivel Raja, after R. Udhayakumar, a scholar from the village informed the team about its existence. The Rani Mangammal sculpture was found carved on the base of the ‘Garuda Sthambam’ outside a Hanuman temple at Mangammal Salai in Vallanthapuram.

The sculpture depicts Rani Mangammal worshipping Hanuman, the deity of the temple, in the ‘Anjali’ pose, adorned in a crown and a saree with a sword hanging from her waist. “This sculpture, which has been unearthed, is the first such depiction of Rani Mangammal as the queen regent. In sculptures at the Meenakshi temple and Tiruparankundram, she has been shown with her grandson, the king” said historian C. Santhalingam, the secretary of the Pandya Nadu Centre for Research centre. A stone inscription placed outside the temple throws light on its history, while referring to the queen as ‘Muththiyappa Nayak’s Puthiri’ or the daughter of Muththiyappa Nayakar. “This is a valuable evidence since historians always thought that the name of her father was Lingama Nayakar,” explained Mr. Santhalingam. The inscription mentions the construction of a temple for ‘Alankara Pillayar’ by the Queen which has not been traced and indicates that the Queen had donated lands to both the temples. “Additionally, the inscription also gives additional information about the priest, Srinivasaga Ayyangar, whom the Queen had appointed to manage the temple” said Mr. Santhalingam.

The inscriptions mentions the construction of a temple for ‘Alankara Pillayar’ by the Queen.