Madappuram (Inde): Centuries-old stone pillars unearthed

T. Saravanan

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The meikeerthi stone. Photo: Special Arrangement

A pair of stone pillars recently discovered in Madappuram near Madurai bears inscriptions dating back to the period of Raja Raja Chola I.

The casual labourers working on road extension at Madappuram near Madurai never realised the importance of the pair of stone pillars they unearthed. But they informed Shanmugavel, a local resident and Sankar, former trustee of the Madappuram Badrakaliamman Temple, along which the road work was on. The duo acted on the information and a team from Pandya Nadu centre for Historical Research visited the spot and discovered the inscriptions date back to 11th century A.D.

The team comprising P.Rajendran, president, C.Santhalingam, secretary, B.Athmanathan, assistant secretary and R.Udhayakumar, research scholar, found out that the pillars had inscriptions written in ancient Tamil script engraved on the sides. “The stone pillars were fragmented and the inscription on one pillar talked about the ‘meikeerthi’ of King Raja Raja Chola I,” says Athmanathan.

In those days there was a general practice to praise the valour of the King and the places he captured before writing any document. This was referred as ‘meikeerthi’,” he adds. The inscription also mentions about the 25th year of King Raja Raja Chola’s reign and refers the Pandiya land captured as Raja Raja Mandalam. The unearthing of a Chola inscription in the land of Pandiyas is seen as one of the important discoveries in recent times.

The other stone pillar talked about the existence of ‘Thirumetrali’, which means a Vishnu temple, Tiruppuvanam. “It is news to us. Tiruppuvanam is a Saivite heartland where the popular Tiruppuvananathar Temple belonging to the 7th century A.D. is located on the southern bank of the River Vaigai. The temple finds mention in the works of Thevaram trio, Appar, Sundarar and Thirugnanasambandar,” says Santhalingam.

Madappuram village is known for its Kali temple where archaeologists discovered ‘navakandam’ (self-sacrifice) hero stones. It also has a 1,000-year-old Ayyanar Temple. “Madappuram had a Saivite mutt belonging to the Thiruppuvananathar temple. The lands around the mutt were donated by the Kings for temple maintenance,” he says.

Information about the existence of a Vishnu temple among orthodox Saivites and creation of an endowment with six gold coins to light the perpetual lamp in the temple (nandha vilakku) and donations in the form of lands for the temple maintenance has generated a lot of interest among archaeologists as it speaks volumes about Raja Raja Chola’s religious tolerance.

The inscription also records the contribution of a Brahmin Maha Sabha and two individuals, Vasudevan and Narayanan of Odaanoor which might be the Odathoor Village near R.S.Mangalam in Ramnathpuram District,” points out Athmanathan.

There is also a mention about raising a flower garden in the temple premises. According to archaeologists, lands around the Vaigai River banks such as Tiruvedagam, Thenkarai, Sholvandan and Tiruappanoor are good catchment areas as they find centuries-old vestiges scattered around.

Construction of temple on the river bank, Brahminical settlement and temple workers colony are part of our civilisation. Take for instance, the Brahadeeswara Temple, there were more than 1,100 workers in service. Temples functioned as a mini corporate body in those days,” notes Santhalingam.

As the road extension work is still on, experts are expecting that more history might be buried in Madappuram.