CHENNAI: Thiruninravur has two famous temples, one for Hridayalishwarar (Siva) and another for Bhaktavatsala Perumal (Vishnu). Not known to many is another small temple for Rama worshipped as Eri Katha Rama, situated close to the Bhaktavatsala Perumal temple.
The very popular Eri Katha Rama temple in Madhuranthakam in Kanchipuram District, approximately 85 km from Chennai, is thus called as this deity is known to have protected the people of this town from flooding by safeguarding a breach in the bund of a lake in Madhurantakam. Similarly, the Eri Katha Rama in Thiruninravur is believed to have safeguarded the people here by preventing the large lake called Varuna Pushkarini which is immediately behind the temple from overflowing.
In the main sanctum are enshrined Rama, Lakshmana and Sita which are very rare images. They are extremely tall and majestic icons, with Rama being approximately eight feet tall. This deity is seen with the left arm raised and holding a bow, and the right hand holding an arrow, the tip of which rests on the ground. Sita stands to Rama’s right, holding a lotus in the left hand with the right hand hanging down. Lakshmana is to Rama’s left and is in a unique pose.
His hands are extended forward at waist level as though holding a bow horizontally. It is said that these large images of the three deities are made of Athi Maram (wood of the fig tree). The images are safeguarded by the application of oil with special herbs such as Sambrani Thailam and Chandanadi Thailam.
There is a sanctum for Hanuman facing the central sanctum while the large mandapam in front of the main shrine has a very unique image of Hanuman carrying Rama and Lakshmana on either shoulder and holding a mace and a shield. Writhing under Hanuman’s foot is a demoness identified as Lankini.
The writer is a historian who focuses on temple architecture