History & Culture

Historical temple in ruins

The carvings of a sage worshipping the linga and a dancer are seen on the wall at the Kambarajapuram temple. (Right) The Siva temple in ruins. Photos : K. Sridaran  

A small, beautiful temple in ruins, with novel architectural features and perhaps with many concealed inscriptions, has been found in a village called Kambarajapuram, about 20 km from Vellore town, in Tamil Nadu. Several of its architectural members have been dislodged and have fallen down. The basement of this Siva temple has sunk and is buried in sand. K. Sridaran, who retired as Deputy Superintending Archaeologist, Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, located the temple. It is built of black granite and the villagers call it ‘black temple.’

A temple at a village called Tiruvallam, celebrated in Tamil hymns, is located in the Coromandel country, about 20 km from Vellore. There are more than 30 inscriptions in this temple. These lithic records belong to the Pallava rulers and their contemporaries such as the Ganga ruler Prithvipathi, the Banas, the Cholas and the Telugu Chodas. The inscriptions call the temple ‘Theekkalivallam.’

There is another village called Kambarajapuram, south of this Tiruvallam temple. One of the inscriptions in the Tiruvallam temple mentions the Ganga ruler, Vijayanandi Vikravarman. Sridaran surmised that the village could have been originally named ‘Gangarajapuram’ after the Ganga ruler but now people call it Kambarajapuram.

Broken sculptures of Dakshinamurthy and Nandi can be seen lying outside the temple. The sanctum is in ruins. The mantapam outside the sanctum has beautiful pillars topped with ‘taranga podhiga’ architecture (that is, resembling the sea waves).

The temple has small, beautiful carvings showing a sage offering worship, a dancing woman, a man playing a musical instrument and a devotee worshipping a linga. In the niches on the outer wall of the sanctum, there are sculptures of intricately designed ‘makara thoranas.’ Inside the makara thoranas are carvings, perhaps those of Indra or Agni, worshipping the linga. There are no sculptures in the niches. Nearby is a pilaster.

“A peculiar architectural feature here is that ‘makara thoranas’ are also found above the pilaster,” Sridaran said. There is an exquisite carving, inside the makara thorana, of a woman dancing and two men playing musical instruments.

Just outside the temple are found two fragmentary inscriptions of Vikrama Chola (regnal years 1118-1135 CE), mentioning the donations he made towards the temple maintenance. These inscriptions are documented in page 74 of the book titled ‘The Inscriptions of the Madras Presidency’ (volume I), authored by V. Rangacharya.

Sridaran said, “There are beautiful sculptures, carvings and inscriptions in this temple. But it is in complete ruins. Its architectural members are found scattered all around it. The temple basement is found buried in sand. If the sand is removed, more inscriptions may be exposed and may provide more information on the temple history. Either the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department or the Archaeological Survey of India can do this.”

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 12:02:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/kambarajapuram-temple-in-ruins-near-vellore/article7403260.ece

Next Story