Koovam, originally called Thiruvirkolam, a small village in Tiruvallur district is home to a very ancient Shiva temple, known as the Tripurantaka Swami temple. It is a Devara Padal Petra Sthalam, which means that it is a Shiva shrine praised in the Tevaram hymns of the Nayanmars. It has been enumerated as the 14th temple in the Thondaimandalam region (the ancient territorial division comprising erstwhile North Arcot, South Arcot and Chengalpattu districts). The temple has two circumambulatory passages (prakarams).
The outer one is large and spacious and the sanctum for Goddess Tripura Nayaki is situated here. Inner prakaram is the sanctum for Tripurantaka Swami which faces east. However, the gopuram through which devotees enter the temple is located in the south. Among the inscriptions written in ancient Tamil script, the earliest is dated 1057 AD, that describes the reign of Rajendra Chola II who was the son of Rajendra Chola I. The Koovam temple must have been small, and made of brick and later enlarged into a bigger form built of stone. The sacred tree or the sthala vriksham is the Maha Vilvam, a species of Vilvam which is not commonly seen.
(The writer is a temple historian who focusses on architecture and iconography)