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In memory of gallant brothers

Ponnar Shankar Temple at Vadivelkarai

Photo: S.James

Compact The Ponnar-Shankar Temple on the banks of Nilayur Channel

Absence of authentic document often makes it difficult to trace history of any ancient structure.

One such place in the Temple City is the Ponnar Shankar Temple at Vadivelkarai. But as is the case with every other place, the story that revolves around the temple is that of two valourous princes — Ponnar and Shankar.

Interestingly, the story of the brothers, who lived in Kongumandalam, is spread through word-of-mouth among the villagers of Vadivelkarai to ascertain their roots. People here worship them even today as their family deity for the brothers’ sheer hardship and perseverance which fetched an identity for their community.

The Temple

The small temple, located at Vadivelkarai on the banks of Nilayur Channel, is filled with mythological stories about the heroism of the brothers.

Measuring 10x10 feet, temple got its structure only in 1987. It has a mandap in front guarded by ‘dwarabalakas’ while ‘Periyakandiamman’ (a form of Goddess Parvathi) is the main deity.

‘Ponnar-Shankar’ sculptures can be seen on the top in a sitting posture while the walls of the temple are beautifully decorated with the figurines including Mayan Perumal (a form of Lord Krishna) and Lord Karuppanasami.

“Though there is no proper evidence, it is said that Ponnar-Shankar came to this place every year to worship their family deity (kula deivam),” says K. Raja of Unify Trust, who is in the process of collecting documentary evidence on history of Madurai.

According to him, the brothers were the Chera chieftains of Valanadu and were well received and honoured by the Vijaya Renga Chokkanathar, who ruled Madurai between 1706 and 1732 A.D.

In remembrance of the brothers, even now people from Kongu region especially from Verappur, Coimbatore and Valanadu visit the temple to offer prayers.

A retired teacher, K. Pitchai, who claims to be one of the descendants of the family, narrates how his ancestors moved to Madurai following famine in Veerappur near Manaparai.

They reached Koodakovil, a village near Madurai, and settled there for some time before moving out to Thenur and Vadivelkarai villages.

“After tracing our first settlement in the Temple City, our family members took a handful of sand from Koodakovil to construct the temple at Vadivelkarai,” says Mr. Pitchai, who was part of the team involved in temple construction.

The myth

According to mythology, Ponnar and Shankar were born to Periyakaralanaka Mannudaiyak Kounden and Thamaraiyal of Manamadurai. After a series of hardship, the brothers established themselves as chieftains with the help of the King of Uraiyur. Irked by the popularity of the brothers, ‘Thalaiyur Kali,’ a Vaettuva (hunter) king, hatched a conspiracy to kill the brothers with a help of a goldsmith Sembakulan, wherein Ponnar was separated from his brother and taken away to prove his innocence in a deal. Unable to bear the loss of his brother Shankar, who preferred death of bravery by falling on the sword following divine intervention, Ponnar followed suit. Their sister Thangal with the help of Goddess Periyakandiamman resurrected her brothers. But citing reason that their duties as human beings were over, the Goddess sent them back to the land of the Lord. “The spot, ‘Padu kalam’, where Shankar committed suicide can be seen even now near Veerappur. As Goddess Periyakandiamman resurrected the brothers, she was made the presiding deity of the temple as per the request of the brothers,” Mr.Pitchai adds.

Locals perform pujas on Tuesdays and Fridays at the temple.

S.S.KAVITHA

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