Ancient Chola temple at Madambakkam
The Siva temple near Tambaram... an example of architectural excellence.
THE SMALL and little-known suburb of Madambakkam, situated close to Tambaram, is home to a very ancient temple dedicated to Lord Siva, known here as Lord Dhenupureeswarar.
This temple, dating back to more than a thousand years, was built during the reign of the Chola king, Parantaka II, also known as Sundara Chola (956-973 A.D.), father of Rajaraja Chola I, who constructed the famous Brihadeeswara temple in Thanjavur. This temple was probably rebuilt of stone during the reign of Kulottunga Chola I.
The main sanctum of this temple, which houses the presiding deity Lord Dhenupureeswara in linga form, faces east. Unlike most shrines, which are square or rectangular in plan, this one is apsidal in shape (called gajaprishta vimana in Sanskrit), a feature found in some Chola temples in and around Chennai.
There are beautiful sculptures of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Goddess Durga in the niches of the outer walls of the sanctum. Also seen nearby are shrines for Lord Ganesha, Sri Varadaraja Perumal with Sri Devi and Bhu Devi, Sri Kapilanathar and Annapurani and Sivasubrahmanya with Valli and Deivanai.
The sanctum of Goddess Dhenukambal, situated close to the main shrine, faces south and has a separate entrance in front. There are a number of cylindrical pillars in front of this shrine with beautifully carved bases.
Beautifully carved deities of a bygone era...
The walls of the main shrine and the Ambal shrine have numerous ancient epigraphs neatly etched in ancient Tamil script belonging to the reign of the Chola kings like Kulottunga III and Rajaraja III. There are also some epigraphs of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya and rulers of the Vijayanagara age like Kampana Udaiyar, Devaraya II and Sadasiva Raya.
These epigraphs record the gifts of land, lamps and livestock to this temple and also various other services rendered for conducting festivals and daily worship. The inscriptions reveal that the original name of Lord Dhenupureeswarar was Sittreri Udaiya Nayanar and that of Goddess Dhenukambal was Nampirattiyar.
The Vijayanagara rulers also contributed to the architectural expansion of this temple. The front mandapa, through which visitors pass to reach the shrine of Lord Dhenupureeswara belongs to this age. The exquisite sculptures found on the pillars here are a treasure house of Vaishnavite and Saivite iconography and reveal the talent of the sculptors of this period.
Noteworthy among these sculptures are a four-armed Vishnu, Narasimha in a standing posture, Garuda, Siva and Parvathi, and Muruga.
There is an unfinished gopuram over the main entrance. Adjacent to it is a large temple tank now brimming with water. Saint Arunagirinathar of the 15th Century A.D., author of the `Tirupugazh,' has composed a hymn on this temple.
This ancient village, now called Madambakkam, was once known as Ulaguyyavanda-Chola Chaturvedimangalam. It was part of the ancient territorial subdivision called Nedugunra Nadu in Puliyur-Kottam situated in Jayamkonda-Cholamandalam.
Many important festivals like Pradosham and Panguni Uttiram are celebrated in this temple. During Navarathri, which begins from September 26, many devotees visit this shrine to offer special pujas. This beautifully maintained temple-complex, situated in serene surroundings, is a protected monument under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India.
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