Friday, 5 November 2010

Madambakkam Temple Walk: When Curd Meant Fortune.

Skanda at the entrance of Madambakkam Temple

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.
- Gautam Buddha

The above quote perfectly summarizes the topic on which I am going to touch upon today. A walk , an effort to reach out and conserve our heritage. A Walk which started with a single step that has now become an achievement of sorts for one person,Heritage Enthusiast Pradeep Chakravarthy.
The Date was 30th Oct 2010 and I was raring to participate in my first "Walk". But there were dark clouds looming large in the skies threatening to ruin my plan. The weather Forecast was also not any heartening. I was praying to rain gods to delay their plans if any for the evening.

The Walk was called "Temple Walk" arranged by the Pradeep. The walk mostly is mostly topical in nature. The walk I was going to attend was happening in Madambakkam Dhenupureeswarar Temple. The temple has a long history having got patronage from different dynasties starting from Cholas to Vijayanagar Empire. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is near to my place in Chennai so there was a strong reason to attend the Walk. (For More Info on the temple, please refer to Reference Section)

Beautiful Image of a Damsel at the Entrance of the temple

I reached the destination half an hour before so I don't miss on anything. There I met fellow Heritage Enthusiasts from different walks of life having a high pride and passion. Meeting fellow Enthusiasts was very pleasing experience and knowing that there are many who share you interest is a very satisfying experience. The meeting was more as ever special as that fellow enthusiasts who came were truly interested lot as they braved gloomy weather and not so heartening forecast.

Pradeep came before time and was raring to start the walk. His excitement was evident by his way of speech and expressions. His excitement rubbed off on us also in a way.

History behind the Temple

After a small introduction the Walk began with a nice recital of a verse from Arunagirinathar's Magnum opus Thiruppugazh in his Poetic voice. The Literary work has the oldest mention of the temple. This bit of information was bit surprising to me as I always thought this temple being revered as a Shiva Temple only. 

Figures which has the features of Far East 

Pradeep then dwelt upon the history of temple with specific mention of the Beautiful Pillars in the Mandapam. He informed us that temple was built by the minister  Anirudha Bramadhirajan of  Sundara Chola (10th AD) , father of Great Raja Raja Chola . The area was known as Anirudhamangalam during Chola's era.It was fascinating to know that Anirudha is the main character in Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan. . It was recommended that we read this great work of art to know more about Chola Empire .This great work of art has helped in igniting the minds of many on drawing attention to heritage.

The Madambakkam of today started as a small hamlet which prospered around this temple built during Sundara Chola's time. The interesting point to note is that in due course of time, the fortune of this temple reversed as it got the ownership of the whole province from the Vijayanagar Rulers. Thus having a meteoric rise in its stature.

An Epigraphist's Dream

Inscriptions were diligently employed by Chola rulers to record the history and what better place to store them than temples.These inscriptions acted as a sign post of King's Accomplishments and Records for the eternity to see. The story is no different in Madambakkam temple. 

The Present Sanctum Sanctorum  (Garbha Griha) enshrining the Shiva Linga , being the oldest structure in the temple  is shaped in the form of Elephant's Back commonly known as Gajaprishtam in architecture sense. The outer walls of the Sanctum Sanctorum and its adjoining walls are of great interest to the Epigraphists. 

Being as it the replete with inscriptions from different dynasties. Pradeep informed us that inscription were written from Bottom's Up i.e. Oldest inscriptions will be at the bottom.There is a also a small reference to Sundara Pandyan which is a rarity.

Vijayanagar Empire's Contribution

The Considerable built up around the Sanctum Sanctorun is supposed to have come up during the reign of Kulotunga Chola I which was enhanced by the later dynasties specifically the Vijayanagara Empire.It was pointed out to us that the construction during Chola Era seems to be have done with lot of time to spare whereas there is sense of hurried when it comes to that of Vijayanagar Empire Structures. Even then there was commendable job done by the Vijayanagar Sculptors. The Major addition being the Pillared Mandapam (Hall) and the outer Fortified Walled Perimeter.  

Vijayanagar Sculptors seemed to have had a tough time as the empire was in constant war with Muslim invaders who were bent upon destroying temples. A reminder of the hard times faced is the incomplete Gateway without a Gopuram topping it.

Even then the commitment shown by these artists even in the hard times is really commendable.One can only imagine how the temple would have looked in its complete form with enchanting Gopuram and Completed Mandapams. The explanation by Pradeep really took us back into the Chola Era.

Corporate Governance, Chola Style!

Even though Chola Empire at its zenith stretched till Vietnam, the Empire was held together in an ingenious way by the Chola rulers. It is amazing to note that in the age when there were no emails or faster transportation modes, Chola rulers kept the empire in good shape for a long period of time. We were enlightened on how the Chola rulers employed ministers purely on the basis of merit and delegated the complete authority to govern the provinces assigned to them under the governance of body called "Mahasabha".  

There is a reference of Madambakkam Mahasabha in one of the  inscriptions found in Varaha Swami Temple of Tiruvadandai, Chingleput Taluk, Chingleput District which show the coordination between various Mahasabhas. (Please refer to reference Section)

Pradeep underlined on how this implementation stands out as a Classic and Historic case of Modern Corporate Governance. A perfect example can be seen in the case of Anirudha who was Brahmin by caste. 

Flag Post at Madambakkam Temple

The highly developed Local Governance which existed at Chola times will put to shame the current setup. It was not only the set of rules but the way it was whole heartedly implemented made this setup a huge success and guiding factor behind the acclaimed rule of Chola Dynasty. The World Famous Uttaramerur inscriptions are the living example of the Legislative Assemblies that were employed in Chola times to govern the Local provinces.
One of the major duties of these provincial heads was to collect various types of  taxes and fill the treasury of the empire. In return Kings gifted these ministers with lavish titles and gifts to maintain motivation levels. It was highlighted that how these Kings employed the Modern Motivation Theories (Maslow) without going to any Business Schools in their day to day Governance. The policy of give and take was employed at the highest levels during Chola times. The Optimal implementation of Johari Window Principle had worked wonders during this era i.e. you are OK and I am OK 

The Strange case of the Curd

Inscriptions in the temple show that the donors to the temple who mainly took the responsibility of maintaining the Oil lamps were asked to help in generation of Curd and upkeep of the Cattle. The Generation of Curd was given the highest importance and given a status of a Fortune. It is amazing to note that how the importance of simple items like curd in today’s time played such a important role in ancient times.

Taxes Galore!

Inscriptions in the temple shed a good amount of light on the taxes that were existent during the times of different Dynasties. These taxes also give a fair amount of idea on the type of commerce that was prevalent.

Some of the taxes that are mentioned in the inscriptions are:
  • Fishing Tax (Erri Meen Pattam)  
  • Farming Tax
  • Market Tax (Sandhai Mudhal)
  • House Tax (Vasal Vari)
  • Weaver Tax
  • Tax collected for Village Watchman
We ended our walk with a message from Pradeep that we should be proud of our heritage and contribute in conservation of our rich heritage which is getting lost due to ignorance and unscientific restoration.

Once a highly influential province, Madambakkam of today is now a outskirt of Chennai city but in some ways it has helped the place mantain its erstwhile charm. We left the place energized and with the exciting thought of joining Pradeep in his next walk which is scheduled to take place at Velacherry's Ancient Dhandeeswarar temple.

Interested in joining us! Please Contact Pradeep (

As always your feedback is highly appreciated ! Your feedback will help me in giving you better info.


It is interesting to note the Origin of the names of the vicinity:

Madam Originated from the word for Cow in Tamil and also due to the Dhenu from Dhenupureeswarar, which means Cow in Sanskrit.

Rajakilapakkam or Rajakizhapakkam
Supposed to have come up because the Chola kings seem to have to come to village to visit the temple which he saw in his dream and met the common people. that is why Raja (King) + Kizha (Came Down to meet public).


Below is the Extract from Thiruppugazh (Courtesy:

701 Thodurung Kuzhai 

Thodu Urum Kuzhaiyale Kol Valai Cudu Sem Kaikalale: With Their Ears Wearing The Stud Called Thodu And Swinging Ear-Studs, With Their Reddish Arms Wearing Robust Bangles, 

Yazh Tharu Keetha Men Kuralale Thu Mani Nakaiyale: With Their Sweet And Soft Voice That Sounds Like The Music From Yazh (A String Instrument), With Their Pure And Sparkling Teeth, 

Thumam Men Kuzhalale Uriya Then Ilangu Ithazhale Ala Vilosanangalinale Sopitha Azhakale: With Their Silk-Soft Hair Dried In The Smoke Of Fragrant Incence, With Their Moist Lips Tasting Like Honey-Drip, With Their Eyes That Look Like Alakala Poison, With The Radiance From Those Eyes, 

Padakam Punai Thalale Mika Veesu Than Pani Neerale Valar Para Kongaikalale Koliya Vilai Mathar: With Their Feet Adorned By The Anklet, Padakam, And With Their Huge Bosom Spruced Up By Smearing It With Aromatic Rose Water, These Whores Hook And Pull (Men) Towards Them; 

Pavakangalinale Yan Mayal Muzhki Ninru Ayarathe: Lest I Am Enticed By Their Treacherous Acts And Drown In Delusive Passion, 

Nupura Patha Pangayam Meethe Alvathu Karuthayo: Will You Not Kindly Consider Taking Me On Your Lotus Feet Adorned With Anklets? 

Nada Arum Sudar Thana Othu Siva Akamangkalin Nana Petha Anatha(Ne): In The Treatises Of Siva Agamas Which Describe Lord Siva As An Effulgence Beyond Comprehension Of Any One Who Seeks To See It, You Are Praised By Several Diverse Principles As The Supreme Lord Who Does Not Have Any One Superior To Him! 

Thanthra Kala Ma Pothaka Vadivaki Nal Vitham Tharu Vetha: He Is Of The Form Of Pure Knowledge As Described In Scriptures On Meditation (Manthra) And Mysticism; He Is Lord Brahma Who Preaches The Four Vedas, Namely, Rigg, Yajur, Samam And Atharvanam; 

Vethamum Nadi Ninrathu Or Maya Atheetha Manolayam Tharu Natha Ariru Puyavele: He, Along With The Vedas, Seeks You As The Lord Who Transcends Beyond The Reach Of The Matchless Delusion And One Who Gives Tranquility! You Are The Lord With Twelve Hallowed Shoulders! 

Val Thayangiya Velale Poru Cur Thadinthu Arul Veera Ma Mayil Eru Kantha Vinotha Kuru Ena: "Oh Valorous One, You Destroyed The Battling Demon Suran With Your Bright Spear! You Mount The Great Peacock As Your Vehicle, Oh Kandha! You Are Full Of Miracles! Please Teach Me!" - 

Aranar Mun Vasakam Piravathor Njana Suka Uthayam Pukal Vasa Thesika: So Said Lord Siva To Whom You Preached The Meaning Of Pranava Manthra That Generates A Bliss Of Knowledge That Cannot Be Created Through Description By Words, Oh Great Master! 
Madaiyam Pathi Vazhve Thevarkal Perumale.: You Have An Abode In Madambakkam*, Oh Great
 Treasure; And You Are The Lord Of The Celestials, Oh Great One!


vj said...

great post, hope you would put some photos of the tour or walk members as well.


Swami said...

Thanks for the Comment VJ.. I couldn't take much photograph inside as it was prohibited within Vicinity

Saurabh Saxena said...

Good post, good in the sense that you not only wrote about the walk but went further to do some research and telling us about the history of the temple. This extra effort is most appreciated.

Subanesh said...

Nice and informative narration...good work

injamaven said...

Dear Swami, The murthis you show [ganas & Shiva]at Velachery look really excellent, any more photos of ones from Pallava/early Chola times? The Lingod bhava is gorgeous!!

Swami said...

Thanks for your comments Kathie . I am in the process of collecting more photos . Will share the same.

Thank you

Mitr Friend - Bhushavali said...

Just came up with my post on the very same place... Do visit...
Dhenupurishwarar Temple

Malavan said...

Selva said...

Nice work!. I am planning to visit the temple today and was looking for some useful information. Thanks a lot!.

durga jyothidanilayam said...

xcelant article jee...u also prove that u have divine camera always

Prabhakaran G said...

Very good research work done by your team.