Temples of Ancient Tamil Nadu

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Research article written by London Swaminathan
Post No.1214; Dated:- 4th August, 2014

Ancient Tamil Nadu had lot of Temples. Though Sangam literature mentioned about temples, images, painting of Gods etc. we did not have any archaeological evidence for temples. The reason is that all he old temples were constructed with bricks, wood and mortar. They could not have withstood the onslaught of time and weather. Only from the Pallava period we have temples built of stones. Today, Tamil Nadu can boast of 38,000 temples, big and small. Most of them belong to the later Chozas and later Pandyas.

Tamil epic Silappadikaram gives a better picture of temples that existed in second century CE in three major towns Pukar, Madurai and Vanji. It also mentioned other temples at Srirangam, Alagar koil, Lord Skanda shrines and Tirupati. It is very interesting to get all the information from one book. Ilango, author of the epic gives the lists at least in four places. Some of the temples have disappeared. Some of the worships (such as Balarama,Vajra,Indra) are also gone into history books! Nowhere Ilango mentioned the temple or worship of Lord Ganesh. It shows the antiquity of the epic.

Silappadikaram is an encyclopaedia of Hinduism. It gives details about Vahanas of gods (mounts of Gods), flags of gods, folk dances of gods and goddesses, Punya Theerthas/holy waters and the methods of worship.

Alakarkoil near Madurai

First List of Temples
Let me give some lists as produced by Ilango:-
The first list comes from ‘Indra Viza Uretutta Katai’. Joy prevailed everywhere on account of Indra’s festival in the temples of

1.Lord who was never born (Siva)
2.Temple of Six Faced Red Lord (Skanda)
3.Temple of Valiyon (Baladeva), with the complexion of conch shell
4.Temple of Netiyon (Vishnu)of the dark colour
5.Temple of Indra of the victorious umbrella and the pearl garland
6.Jaina Temples
7.Dharma institutions (Buddhist or Jain or Hindu)
(These are the temples of Pumpukar)

srirangam kuthirai veera

Temples of Pumpukar
In the Kana Tiram Uraitta Katai, Ilango gives a list of 11 temples of Ancient Tamil Nadu:
1.Temple of Kalpaka Vriksha (Divine Tree)
2.Temple of white elephant (Indra’s Airavata)
3.Temple of beautiful white god (Balarama)
4.Temple of the Sun
5.Temple of City God (one interpretation is Shiva Temple)
6.Temple of Vajra (Indra’s shrine or temple for his weapon)
7.Temple of Spear (of Murukan/Skanda)
8.Temple of Deity who dwells outside the city (Ayanar/Sastha)
9.Temple of Nigranthas (Jaina Temple)
10.Temple of the Moon
11.Temple of Sattan learned in the Pasanta sastras
12.Temple at Cremation ground (may be Yakshini or Chakravala Kottam of Manimekalai)
13.In the Natukan Katai Kovalan and Kannaki circumambulated the temple of Manivannan (Vishnu) at Srirangam and they passed by
14.Seven Viharas made by Indra (Buddhist Viharas).

Srirangam, Tirupati,Alakarkoil Ujjain (Madya Pradesh) and Madurai are mentioned.
15.Madurai temple is mentioned in Purancheri Irutta Katai.
temple side view

Temples of Madurai
Urkan Katai gives another list of Temples in Madurai:
1.Temple of Siva with the forehead eye
2.Temple of Vishnu with Garuda flag
3.Temple of Baladeva with plough
4.Temple of Subramanya with cock flag
5.Jain centres

Temples of Lord Skanda Kartikeya
In the chapter Kundrakuravai, he gives the list of Murukan (Skanda) temples:
1.Sentil — Tiruchenthur
2.Senkotu_- Thiruchengotu
3.Venkunram – Swamimalai
4.Erakam – Tiruverakam

lepakshi multihead
From Lepakshi Temple

Temple at Tiruvananthapuram

1.Adaka madam (Anantha Padmanabha Swamy Temple)
–Kalkot Katai,Silappadikaram
2.Buddha vihara
3.Indra vihara (Buddhist) in Neerpadaik Katai

One must remember that Silappadikaram is not a religious scripture and yet we find so much information about religion, particularly about Hinduism. For the first time, places of worship of Jains and Buddhists are also described in detail.
தங்க கோபுரம்

Contact swami_48@yahoo.com

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