CHENNAI: Poonamallee, about 25 km from Chennai, has an ancient Siva temple dating back to Chola times. There is an inscription here of the reign of Rajaraja Chola I. The main deity is Vaidheeswarar and Goddess Parvati is worshipped as Thaiyyal Naayagi. In ancient times this village was known as Poondamalle, Puvirundamallinagaram, Uyyakondan-Solapuram and Chera Pandya Chaturvedimangalam.
This temple is one among the Navagraha temples around Chennai for Angarakan (Planet Mars or Chevvaai in Tamil). It is said that Angarakan worshipped the deity at this place and got back his power which was once taken away by Siva. This temple is similar to the Vaidheeswaran Koil near Kumbakonam, which is one of the Navagraha sthalam for Angarakan.
The Poonamallee temple is therefore also called Uthara (northern) Vaidheeswaran Koil. The east-facing temple has two gopurams and two prakarams. A modern mandapam on the outside has a sculpture of Angarakan worshipping a Siva Lingam, while the larger mandapam inside has pillars of the Vijayanagara type. The neatly-maintained temple tank on the eastern side near the gopuram is called Vinai Theertha Kulam.
There are three chakras installed by Adi Sankara in this temple called Sri Chakram, Subramanya Chakram and Shanmuga Chakram. There is an idol of Shani (Planet Saturn), worshipped as Viduthalai Shani. Before him are the idols of Nala and Damayanti since Nala is believed to have been relieved a curse at this place.
A few inscriptions are found here, the earliest of which belong to the reigns of Rajaraja Chola I and Rajendra Chola I (11th Century). An epigraph originally dated Saka 1700 corresponding to 1778 AD, mentions the construction of the kalyana mandapa of the temple by a person named Swaminathan.
(The writer is a historian who focuses on temple architecture)