History & Culture

Legend meets arts here

One of the paintings on the walls inside the Kalinga Narthana Krishnar temple at Oothukkadu. Photo: S. Prabhu  

The first phase of renovation of the ancient temple for Lord Krishna at Oothukkadu (on the Kumbakonam-Aavoor-Thittai road) is nearing completion - thanks to the munificence of the devotees. The consecration is slated for October 26. The last renovation of this Nalankonda Chola period temple took place in 1988. The article that appeared in this supplement soliciting donations on August 26, 2013 (www.thehindu.com/...and...oothukkadu-temple.../article4952355.ece) has fetched handsome results, according to temple sources.

This is an exclusive temple dedicated to Lord Krishna in his Kalinga Narthana posture and is referred to as ‘Then Gokulam.’ The eastern temple tower now sports a grand look with new sculptures depicting the Kalinga Narthana episode. The spruced up work includes the vimanams and the new outer walls in place of the older ones. At the entrance on the main road off the Kumbakonam-Thiru Karugavur highway, a grand arch beckons the devotees.

The highlights in this phase of renovation are the collection of artistic paintings, in the maha mandapam, depicting Krishna’s pranks as a child including his Kalinga Narthana episode; the refurbished kitchen (madapalli) and the yaga salai, where prarthana homams will be conducted every month on the Rohini star.

The temple has a historical connection with the music world for it was here that the music legend Venkata (Kavi) Subba Iyer composed many of his memorable kritis including ‘Swagatham Krishna,’ ‘Alaipayuthey,’ ‘Aadadhu Asangadhu,’ and ‘Thaaye Yashoda.’ Venkata Kavi’s ‘Omkara Siddhaiga Kalinga Narthana’ is a specific reference to the Lord of Oothukadu. He has also composed seven songs referred to as Saptha Rathna kirtanai. A separate niche has been erected for the composer, adjacent to which a new hall is constructed to feature the concerts of musicians and dancers (musician Aruna Sairam, who had contributed significantly to the renovation efforts, will present her concert here on October 25.)

It is heard that in centuries gone by, plays used to be presented through the night in front of the temple during Vasantotsavam (May-June). The temple is planning to initiate similar concerts/plays at the newly erected stage starting with the Krishna Jayanti festival in Avani next year. The stage is also expected to be a platform for arangetram for up and coming artists.

It was here at this location (when Krishna emerged from the spring) that there used to be an annual float festival with an enactment of the Kalinga Narthana episode through a puppetry show. The Lord used to be taken to the Neeraatal mandapam (now defunct) at the centre of the tank and puppets would emerge out of the tank with their heads masked as hoods displaying a serpent with five heads and (puppet) Krishna would dance atop them. This was an integral part of the temple festivities, celebrated every year in memory of this historical episode.

In the second phase post the consecration, the festival committee of the temple is looking to rebuild the mandapam in the middle of the tank and to revive the float festival and the enactment of this episode. Building walls around the garden is also on the anvil.

The temple, which is said to be a prarthana sthalam for aspiring music and dance artists, is open between 9.30 a.m. and 12 noon and 5-8 p.m. Contact: 04374 268549.

In Kalinga Nardana pose

An interesting feature at the Oothukadu Perumal temple is the Kalinga Nardana posture of Krishna. His left leg is seen on top of Kalinga, the snake, but it does not actually touch the snake (there is a hairline gap). Since Kalinga realised his folly and requested for forgiveness, it is believed that Krishna did not step on his hood with too much force. Krishna is shown holding the tail of the snake with only his left thumb. The other four fingers are in a Bharatanatyam Abhinaya Kolam. His right leg is folded in a dance posture. On closer look, one can see scars on the right leg below the knee, due to his fight with Kalinga.

How to reach

Oothukadu is 14 km from Kumbakonam on the Avoor-Thirukarugvur –Thittai road. Buses ply every half hour between Kumbakonam and Avoor. From Aavoor, auto charge will be Rs. 50. Those interested to support the annadhanam, renovation of temple tank and garden may call 94426 99355 / 73737 99355.


- Samprokshanam on Oct. 26 (9-10.30 a.m.)

- Aruna Sairam's concert on Oct. 25, 6.30 p.m.) at the new stage.

- The renovation of the temple tank and nandavanam are still pending.

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 12:57:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/krishna-as-kalinga-narthana/article7765888.ece

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