A glorious Siva temple of Pallava vintage

It clearly resembles many of the Pallava era temples in Kanchipuram such as the famous Kailasanatha and Vaikuntha Perumal temples.
A glorious Siva temple of Pallava vintage
(Photos: Chithra Madhavan)

CHENNAI : Uthiramerur, originally called Uttarameru-Chaturvedimangalam, a village once peopled by Vedic scholars, was created in the 8th century by the Pallava king Nandivarman II Pallavamalla (c.731 – c.798 CE). One among the many ancient temples in this historic town is the Kailasanatha (Siva) temple situated in the heart of this place. It was constructed in the Pallava times when the kings were ruling from their capital, Kanchipuram.

It clearly resembles many of the Pallava era temples in Kanchipuram such as the famous Kailasanatha and Vaikuntha Perumal temples. The Cholas, who ruled over this area after defeating the Pallavas, also added to this temple by constructing the outer mandapa. The main deity was worshipped as ‘Sri Kailayam Udaiya Mahadeva’ as recorded in a Chola inscription found here. The Kailasanatha temple, which was in a dilapidated condition in the recent past, has been skillfully renovated and is now in worship.

This east-facing temple, sans gopuram, is entered through a doorway which leads to a large outer prakaram (enclosure) which has the bali-pitham and a small Nandi mandapam. In front are steps on the north and south with beautiful balustrades leading to the maha-mandapa. Situated here is a sanctum, facing south, for Goddess Parvati worshipped as Kamakshi with a Nandi in front instead of a simha (lion) as is most often seen.

A pair of dwarapalakas flank the doorway in this mandapa which leads to the smaller inner mandapa, which too has a small Nandi. The principal garbha-griha (sanctum) enshrines the large Siva Linga worshipped as Kailasanatha with a Somaskanda panel (Siva seated with Parvati by His side and son Skanda in between). The presence of this Somaskanda image clearly reveals that this temple is of Pallava vintage as most Siva temples of the Pallava times have the Somaskanda panel on the rear wall of the garbha-griha.

A narrow inner prakaram runs around this shrine, again a feature seen in some of the bigger Pallava temples. On either side of the main sanctum in the outer prakaram, are sanctums for Vallampuri Siddhi Vinayaka and Shanmukha with consorts Valli and Devayanai. Chandikeshwara, facing south, is also in worship in this temple. An attractive feature here, as in the Kailasanatha temple in Kanchipuram, are the row of cheerful Siva Ganas. While in the former temple they are seen on the base of the outer walls of the main sanctum, here they have been carved on top.

Many inscriptions have been etched on the base of the outer walls of the central shrine. One of them belongs to the reign of Rajendra Chola I and is dated 1015-1016 CE. It records the name of this Emperor as Parakesari Sri Rajendra Choladeva and registers a gift of land for providing rice, vegetables, ghee, curd, betelnuts and lamps for worship during the three services in the Kailayamudaiya Mahadeva temple in Uttarameru-Chaturvedimangalam. The gift was by the mahasabha or administrative organisation of this village. An inscription of the famous Vijayanagara Emperor, Krishnadeva Raya of the 16th century has also been found here.

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