MADURAI: A Madurai-based archaeologist has claimed that the idol of the main deity at the famous Pandi temple near Ilandaikulam was that of Buddha in meditative posture dating back to 10 AD and not Jadai Muniyandi as claimed by a section of subaltern community members.
C Santhalingam, a retired officer of the State Archeological Department, said the the statue of Buddha was a crucial evidence to understand the prevalence of Buddhism in the southern part of Tamil Nadu during 10 AD. Explaining the features, he said, “The Buddha statue found sitting in a padmasana posture with curly hairs at Pandi temple was similar to the sculptures found in other sites in the State.”
Santhalingam said the Madurai district archaeology guide book published by the State government has also recorded the statue found at Pandi temple as that of Lord Buddha.
“The present administrators of the temple have added a mustache to the Buddha statue using some chemicals and also covered the head with a thalappa and claim it as Jadai Muniyandi,” claimed Santhalingam.
While admitting that the main deity Jadai Muniyandi was a vegetarian god, the temple trustee P Shivaji Poosari claimed that their great grandparents excavated the deity five generations ago. “One of their great grandmothers Valliammal in a dream saw that their family deity was buried at the spot. When the place was dug the next day, they found the Jadai Muniyandi in a meditation posture.”
The Jadai Muniyandi was a vegetarian god and devotees offer rice and milk only to the deity. Animal sacrifices, such as cocks, goats, liquor, and cigarettes were offered only to Samaya Karuppar (guardian spirit) located at the far end of the temple, he explained.
However, Santhalingam said many villagers near the Pandi temple spread different legends.