Etched in stone
NAMMA MADURAI Thenkarai village and its mythological mysteries
TELLING WOES Of the past.
Sometimes, reality is stranger than fiction. But, we are forced to believe the facts and events that happened Centuries ago with unearthing of sculptures and inscriptions – either accidentally or deliberately.
There is no dearth of such historically important factors in Madurai and periphery . Thenkarai village near Sholavandan is no exception. Situated on the other bank of river Vaigai, the village has a Shiva temple – Moola Natha Swamy Temple - that was built in 946-966 A.D. during the reign of Cholan Thalai Konda Veerapandian, according to a book titled ‘Madurai Mavatta Tholliyal Kaiyedu.'
Exactly opposite to the temple, is a sculpture of man chopping his head off with a weapon. Neither the seniors nor the youth are able to recall the history and its related incidents.
According to Archaeological sources, such structures are known as ‘Navakandam Kal.' It is a form of self-sacrifice where people cut themselves into nine pieces and present to Goddess Kali.
Similar kinds of structures are found in various places in Tamil Nadu. The Kotravai Rath in the Monolithic Temple at Mahabalipuram has similar sculpture belonging to 7-8th century A.D. while Madapuram Temple in Sivaganga district also has two sculptures with inscriptions belonging to 9-10th century A.D. It is usually done for a noble cause, the archaeological sources state, adding that reasons can range from offering prayers to win a battle or protect the country from the enemies.
K. Raja of Unify Trust, who is in the process documenting less-known history, says that the Pandya Kingdom was razed by Muslim rulers. People prayed Goddess Kali to protect their country from the atrocities inflicted by Malik Kafur's army, the general of Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji and to put an end to the rule of Madurai Sultanate (1332-1378 A.D).
Mr. Raja says that people were so patriotic that they offered prayers to God saying they would sacrifice their lives for the sake of the country if they were allowed to live in peace. As an answer to their prayers perhaps, Vijayanagara rulers led by Kumara Kambanna in 1371 A.D. established the Hindu rule in the areas.
To keep their promises, youths, on the night of the new moon (aamavasaya), performed pujas. They held their long locks in their left hand and dagger (kutthuvaal) in the other, and chopped of their heads.
To commemorate the prayers and penance performed, a stone sculpture was erected in the village. Among the locals, the stone structure is known as ‘Saava Kal'. Shenbagamoorthy, a septuagenarian, claims that two decades ago he saw leaves, flowers and leftovers around the sculpture indicating that pujas were performed during nights.
Thenkarai village gains historic importance. Archaeologists have unearthed stone weapons belonging to late Stone Age and burial urns belonging to megalithic period which corresponds with Sangam period or Iron Age.
In earlier days, the village is known by many names usually based on the names of the rulers. Initially, the village was Kallur. As the feudatories ruled the area was named as Katti, it gained its name as Katti Kallur.
During the reign of early Pandya ruler Chezhiyan Sendhan, a lake ‘Sendhan lake' was dug. Henceforth, the village was known as Sendhaneri Katti Kallur. It also gained another name called Parakirama Pandiapuram when medieval Pandya King Parakraman, reigned between 1087 A.D and 1104 A.D. In 1190 A.D. Jada Varman Kulasekaran – I ruled the area and christened it as Kulasekerapuram. During the regime of Thirumalai Naicker, the village got its name – Thenkarai as it is located on the southern bank of river Vaigai.
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