Kunnandarkoil – Temple of the Lord of the Hill

Kunnandakoil is a small village in Pudukkottai village of Tamilnadu. The etymology behind the name is explained as Kunru-Andar-Kovil meaning “temple of the lord of the hill”1. The gazetteer2 mentions that the village is one of the earliest Karala Vellalar settlements in the state as well as an important Kallar settlement. It is told that the northern part of the village belongs to the Kallars of the Vadamalai nadu and the southern part to the Kallars of the Tenmalai nadu. The Kunnandarkoil temple used to be the place holding joint meetings to the two panchayats of these two nadus. As fighting between Kallars used to result into damage of various properties, an inscription dated 1394 CE mentions an agreement to provide protection to common people from Kallar fights. As per the agreement, the Kallars were asked to make the temple an annual payment and an offering of a ring for every marriage celebrated.

About thirty-seven inscriptions have been found in Kunnandarkoil providing glimpse on its bygone past. As the earliest inscription is dated in 8th century CE and it is not a foundation inscription, it is evident that the cave-temple came into existence prior to it during the Pallava-Mutharaiyar rule. The temple has got various extensions in different periods and continued to be an important shrine receiving patronage from successive rulers of the Pandyas, Cholas, Vijayanagara and Nayakas. In its inscriptions the deity is referred as Mahadevar, Nayanar and Udaiyar of Tirukkunrakkudi. It appears that the Tiruvadi festival was an important celebration as few donations were made for the same before and during the Pallava period.  During the Cholas, the Chithirai festival gained much importance. Chithirai is the annual festival of Madurai and it being the capital of the Cholas, the festival also gained popularity across the empire.

It appears that there were regular internal feuds and communal fights during the Chola and Pandya rule, and therefore various agreements were made between the communities and villages and registered in the temple. As per an agreement, in case one commits any offense against a person or property in the village of Ambanavar-nadu, the temple will collect a portion of land as fine. In another agreement, the araiyars (chiefs) of Irandumalai-nadu gave assurance to the headman of the temple that in case of any injury or destruction caused to a tenant or resident, they will pay a fine of 100 panam (coins). Meanwhile, the araiyars continue to protect the village.

A treasury was in existence at the temple and transactions were made on the same in the name of Chandeshavara. Inscriptions also mention establishment of specific services in the name of  the donors, one such service was “Rajarajan Sundara Pandya Sandi”, started by the Pandya king Sundara Pandya after making an endowment.

Devdasis or temple dancers of that time used to possess many assets and were counted among the riches. One such instance is found in this temple where an inscription states a gift provided by a devdasi. This inscription is dated in the reign of Kumara Viruppanna Utaiyar. V Latha3 suggests that this Kumara Kampana of Madhuravijayam fame who recovered the Tamil country from the Sultans of Madurai in 1371 CE. An another instance of a gift from devdasis is found in the temple of Kudumiyanmalai where she gifted money to repair and maintain the temple.

There are few inscriptions of Vijayanagara kings. V Latha suggests the Telugu influence in inscriptions after the advent of Vijayanagara dynasty as she finds words Somavara and Shukravara for Monday and Friday respectively. There are few Nayaka inscriptions as well. One Nayaka chief, Kunnai Nayakkar, granted money from his land to the temple. Probably it meant that the land was granted and the money earned by the usage of the land should be kept with the temple. The temple sees extensions during Nayaka period as mention of construction of mahamandapa and nrittamandapa is mentioned in the inscriptions.

<strong”>Parvatagirisvarar Cave-Temple – This eat facing cave temple has been excavated on a low hill situated  in the middle of the village. The north-east scarp of the hill was prepared for the excavation. The front facade has two pillars and two pilasters resulting into three aisles with almost equal intercolumniation. Pillars and pilasters have cubical base and top (saduram) with intervening octagonal section (kattu). Over these runs a corbel with curved profile decorated with taranga (roll) molding with a median patta (band). The rock face, in the front, above the pillars is left undecorated. The base of the rock is now hidden by the levelling for the floor of a later period structural mandapa. Dayalan4 mentions that from what remains visible suggests that there were rock-cut steps provided to reach to the cave-temple floor.

Umasahitamurti

The lateral side walls of the mandapa are prepared as niche-shrines. The northern niche is prepared as a proper shrine with its own adhisthana and top moldings. On the corners are placed two pilasters and in between these a niche is prepared mounted on an adhisthana (base) composed of five regular moldings; upana, jagati, vrtta-kumuda, kantha sandwiched between two kampa courses, and a pattika. On the top are found regular moldings to kapota, vajana and uttira. Inside the niche is carved an image of Shiva seated with Parvati or Shiva-Umasahitamurti. Shiva and Uma are shown seated in maharajalilasana-mudra. Shiva is shown with four hands, carrying a pharashu (axe) in his upper left hand. His upper right hand appears to be holding his tresses, similar to how he is seen in Gangadhara icon. This led Dayalan propose that this murti incorporates theme of Umasahita as well as Gangadhara. However, absence of Ganga and Shiva being shown seated, it is really doubtful if this is a composite image of two different themes. Uma is shown with two hands. A lady attendant is shown on her left, standing with holding a plate of offerings.

Valampuri Ganesha

The southern niche is prepared in rather simple manner, bereft of any adhisthnana, and top moldings.  It has an image of Ganesha with his trunk turned to his right, in valampuri style.  He is shown with four hands, seated cross-legged. In his upper hands, he holds a broken-tusk and a lotus-bud. In his lower right hand he holds what appears to be a round fruit or modaka.

On the rear wall of this mandapa, a shrine has been craved out in the middle, leaving some empty space on its north and south. This shrine is protruding forward about 2 feet from the back wall. The adhisthana (platform) is raised about 2 feet from the ground and two stairs are provided in its middle to reach the cell inside. The adhisthana has six moldings; upana, jagati, vrtta-kumuda, kantha sandwiched between two kampa courses, pattika and a prati. On the eastern wall are provided four pilasters resulting in two side niches and a middle opening into the cell inside. Dvarapalas are provided in the front niches. Inside the cell is a rock-cut cylindrical shiva-linga placed inside an octagonal pitha.

Southern dvarapala
Northern dvarapala

The dvarapala in the south very much resembles to the dvarapalas seen in the early Pallava cave-temples. He is standing with one leg straight and other bent at his knee and placed behind his right feet. He is standing with support of his club. The club is entwined with a snake. Behind is headdress are seen two protruding horns, suggesting him representing the ayudha-purusha of Shiva’s trishula. The dvarapala in the north is very different and is standing in an interesting posture, not otherwise seen very often. He is standing with his arms held crossed in front of his chest. If the other dvarapala represents the ayudha-purusha of Shiva’s trishula, this dvarapala should represent the ayudha-purusha of Shiva’s pharasu (axe). However, this dvarapala does not carry a protruding axe-blade over his headdress but it has a protruding usnisha-like crest. Dayalan suggests that if we take other dvarapala as a representation of Nandi then this dvarapala may be taken as a representation of Chandishvara.

The cave-temple has been extended and expanded at different periods. There is a mahamandpa constructed in front of the cave temple. There is a Nandi shrine within this mahamandapa. This mahamandpa is enclosed by a wall encasing the cave. There is a gopuram on eastern side of this entrance which is used as the main entrance in the present time. There is another enclosure encasing this mahamandapa. There are two monuments of interest within this second enclosure. One is an unfinished rock cut shrine carved on the north side of the main cave but outside the mahamandapa complex. This cave has few stray images inside it’s cell. On its northern side is an image of Chandeshvara which faces south. He is shown seated on a platform and holding a danda (stick) on which an axe blade is fixed. Chandeshvara is seen as the guardian of Shiva temple and many of the transaction were carried on his name as supported by many inscriptions. It is believed that Shiva granted him the permission to guard his shrines.

Ratha-mandapa

There is a ratha-mandapa (chariot-mandapa) as well inside. This is called hundred pillared hall however there are only ninety pillars inside. There are two wheels and two horses driving this mandapa. There is a Murugan (Skanda) shrine on top this hill. This seems to be a recent structure. In the south of mahamandapa, sapta-matrika images are placed. They are shown in company of Veerbhadra and Ganesha. V Latha suggests that these images belong to 8th-9th century. The arrangement of Ganesha and Veerbhadra is probably interchanged. Usually Veerbhadra lead the gang however here Ganesha is placed first and Veerbhadra in the last.

Inscriptions – There are about 37 inscriptions in this temple. Details of few provided below:

  1. On a pillar inside the cave-temple5 – Language Tamil, written in archaic characters – assignable to 8th century CE – “Prosperity! (Gift) by Kodai Mayindan, on behalf of Mayindan Virakadaiyan of 220 naligai of rice to be cooked and distributed to 110 brahmans on (the) Tiruvadirai day (Ardra festival) – a day scared to Shiva) in honor of the god of Tirukkunrakkudi (Kunnandarkovil)”
  2. On the wall of the cave-temple6 – Language Tamil – assignable to 8th century CE – mentions Kadavarcheni, wife of Singan
  3. On the northern end of the cave-temple7 – dated in the fifth regnal year of the Pallava king Dantivarman, corresponding 801 CE – records the construction of a tank called ‘Vali-eri’ by Vali-Vadugan alias Kalimurkka-Ilavaraiyan, a servant of Marppiduvinar alias Peradi-Araiyar
  4. At the south end of the cave-temple8 – dated in the third regnal year of the Pallava king Nandivarman III (846-869 CE), corresponding to 849 CE – Registers a gift of 200 nali of rice by Ganavatiman alias Pagaiccandra-Visaiaraiyan of Vaduvur in Mipulainadu to meet expenses of feeding hundred persons (in the temple) on the day of Tiruvadirai.
  5. On the wall of the southern cave-temple9 – dated in the twenty-seventh regnal year of the Chola king Sri Rajadhiraja Devar also called Kovirajakesari-panmar, the king may be Rajadhiraja I or Rajadhiraja II however both the rulers have been assigned less than 12 years of rule, in this case it is difficult to accommodate twenty-seventh regnal year for the king – “Hail ! Prosperity ! In the 27th year of Sri Rajadhiraja Devar, also called Kovirajakesaripanmar: I, Tuditaraiyan Kalla Kannan, made a provision to meet one fourth of the expenses of maintaining a lamp, for the mahadevar of Tirukkunrakkudi, as a dedication for the benefit of Karpakan Perran Aravan. For this provision for a fourth of the expenses the amount that I endowed are 16 (kasu)……………”
  6. On the wall of the northern rock-cut cave10 – Language Tamil – refers to the fortieth regnal year of the Chola king Kulothunga I, corresponding 1110 CE – seems to record gift of money by different persons for conducting Chittirai festival in the Mahadevar temple at Tirukkunrakkudi in Vadapanangattunadu of Jayasingakulakalavalanadu
  7. On the wall of the southern rock-cut cave11 – Language Tamil – refers to the fortieth regnal year of the Chola king Kulothunga I, corresponding 1110 CE – mentions an endowment to the Mahadevar of Tirukkunrakkudi in Vadapanangattunadu in Jayasingakulakalavalanadu by Pallikondan, of Sirrambur in Tiruvelundurnadu in Jayankondacholavalanadu
  8. On the wall to the north of the second gopuram12 – Language Tamil – refers to the second regnal year of the Chola king Rajaraja II, corresponding 1148 CE – records an agreement made by the nagaram of Virudharajabhayankarapuram alias Perungudi to pay annually 1000 kasu to the temple of Kunrapperumal as perpetual tax (vadak-kadamai) becoming the tenants (kudimakkal) of the temple lands. The araiyars Vadappanangattunadu were invoked to protect the charity.
  9. On the wall to the south of the second gopuram13 – Language Tamil – refers to the third regnal year of the Chola king Rajaraja II, corresponding 1149 CE – “Hail ! Prosperity ! In the third year of Sri Rajaraja Devar , we the nattom of Vadapanangadu, hereby resolved that if any one commits an offense against property or person in the village of Ambanavar-nal-Vayalur, its fields, or highways, we shall confiscate, as fine payable to Kunrapperumal, one ma of cultivable land , and shall not accept anything else by weight or measure as equivalent hitherto.”
  10. On the wall of the central rock-cut cave14 – Language Tamil – refers to the second regnal year of Rajadhiraja II, corresponding 1168 CE – “Hail! Prosperity ! In the 2nd year of Tribhuvanaccakravartikal Sri Rajadhiraja Devar: Whereas, I, Kannan Avayampukkan of Kadambadi, a merchant in Kulanguttai in Kiliyur nadu of Pandikulasanivalanadu of Jayasingakulakalavalanadu, the following lands, which He had purchased from Periyarri, a native of Vetci in this nadu and Adavalan  Colan, namely – two pots of wet-land called Taccavetti, measuring five mas in the Kannanmagalamvayal, and two plots of wet-land called Mummudiccolavayakkal and the nursery, measuring mukkani, in the Kalvayal land – that amount that I paid into the temple treasury for these lands, meausring all five mas and mukkani, which I bought as Tandesvarapperuvilai, is two-hundred kasu. Having paid full these 200 kasu, I hereby give these lands as an endowment for the provision of sandal paste to annoint the Nayanar, agreeably to the request of the merchants, who suuply fine perfumed sandal paste, …….”
  11. On the wall of the northern rock-cut cave15 – Language Tamil – refers to the third regnal year of the Chola king Rajadhiraja II, corresponding 1169 CE – the available portion mentions king Tribhuvanaccakravartikal Sri Rajadhiraja Devar and Mahadevar of Tirukkunrakkudi in Vadapanangattunadu in Jayasingakulakalavalanadu.
  12. On the left wall of entrance on the second gopuram16 – Language Tamil – refers to the thirty-ninth regnal year of the Chola king Kulothunga III, corresponding 1217 CE – Records a gift of land for providing a daily allotment of paddy for a vadayam service in the Tirukkunrakkudi-Nayanar temple by one Angarayan of Perumbuliyur in Vadapananagadunadu. The gift was made out of lands granted previously to the donor’s son Cholan as udirappatti. The musician who performed the service was Parasivan Pongalakkudaiyan, the munrukurru-vajyamarayan of the temple.
  13. On the cross wall of the east prakara17 – Language Tamil – refers to the twelfth regnal year of the Pandya king Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I, corresponding 1263 CE – This is a royal order to the residents of Tenmalai-nadu and the tanattar of the temple of Tirikkunrakkudi-Udaiyar in Vadapanangadunadu, a subdivision of Jayasingakulakalavalanadu, dated in the twelfth regnal year of the king, endowing 101 pon, out of the savings of the temple, as capital for the provision of a service called Rajarajan Sundara Pandyan sandi instituted after his name in the temple. It also orders necessary deductions in tax and revenue accounts of the nadu (nattukkanakku and variyilar-kanakku).
  14. On the rock, south of the cave-temple18 – Language Tamil – Refers to the twelfth regnal year of the Pandya king Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I, corresponding 1263 CE – refers to a gift of a land
  15. On the cross wall of the east prakara19 – Language Tamil – Refers to the twelfth regnal year of the Pandya king Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I, corresponding 1263 CE – Records that the araiyars of Irandumalai-nadu gave assurance to the headman of Kunnandarkoil that during the time of enmity among themselves they will in no way molest the tenants and other inhabitants eother resident or itinerant, of the villages which they have been guarding. If, however, any person is so injured, they agree to pay a fine pf 100 panam and if a village is destroyed they agreed to pay a fine of 100 panam. Doing this they still agreed to protect (the villagers and cultivators) though there may be cutting, piercing and dying (in their communal fights).
  16. On the north wall of the mandapa in front of the cave-temple20 – Language Tamil – Refers to the eighteenth regnal year of the Pandya king Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I, corresponding 1269 CE – seems to record a gift of land as padikaval
  17. On the north wall of the mandapa in front of the cave-temple21 – Language Tamil – refers to the third regnal year of the Pandya king Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I, corresponding 1271 CE – Records gift of the village of Nangur by Valattuvalvitta-Perumal alias Tondaimanar for offerings to Tirukkunrakkudi-udaiyar-Nayanar and for the brahmins reciting the Vedas at the service called “Valattuvalvitta perumal sandi” instituted in his name. So many as thirty kinds of taxes are mentioned including those on elephant stables and horse stables.
  18. On the right of entrance on the second gopuram22 – Language Tamil – Refers to fifth regnal year of the Pandya king Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I, corresponding 1273 CE – seems to register the gift of a number of taxes
  19. On the cross wall of the east prakara23 – Language Tamil – Refers to fourteenth regnal year of the Pandya king Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I, corresponding  1282 CE – Records gift of money for offerings during the service Sundara-Pandyan-sandi so called after the king
  20. On the east wall of the mandapa in front of the cave-temple24 – Language Tamil – Refers to fourteenth regnal year of the Pandya king Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I, corresponding 1282 CE – Records gift of money for offerings during the service Sundara-Pandyan-sandi so called after the king
  21. On the east wall of the mandapa in front of the cave-temple25 – Language Tamil – the date portion is damaged – registers an agreement between the residents of Perungoliyur and Irandumalainadu to protect each other against loss at life and property during times of adversity.
  22. On the north wall of the mandapa in front of the cave-temple26 – Language Tamil – date lost – registers the building of the Nritta-mandapa and another by a certain Alagiya-chola-nadalvan
  23. On the north side of the gopura27 – date lost – registers the employment in the temple of a washerman and his wife
  24. In the hundred-pillared mandapa28 – Language Tamil – unfinished and mentions Kunran Koppili Singadeva, son of Perungalur-nadalvan
  25. On three pillars of the vahana-mandapa29 – records the names of the persons who had made a gift of three pillars
  26. On the sixteen pillars of the hundred-pillared mandapa30 – records that the pillars were gift of private individual mentioned therein

 


References:
1 Ayyar, K R Venktarama (1944). A Manual of the Pudukkottai State Vol II, Part II. Sri Brihadamba State Press. Pudukkottai. p 1054
2 Ayyar, K R Venktarama (1944). A Manual of the Pudukkottai State Vol II, Part II. Sri Brihadamba State Press. Pudukkottai. pp 1055-56
3 Latha, V (2005). Cave Temples of Pandya Country: Art and Ritual. New Delhi. Sharada Publishing House. ISBN 8188934224
4 Dayalan, D (2014). Cave-temples in the regions of the Pandya, Muttaraiya, Atiyaman and Ay Dynasties, in Tamil Nadu and Kerala part I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp 129-138
5 No 8 of Srinivasa Ayyar, K R (2002). Inscriptions in the Pudukkottai State, Part I. Government of Tamilnadu. p 12
6 Pk:311 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. pp 76-77
7 No 41 of South Indian Inscriptions vol. XII
8 No 46 of South Indian Inscriptions vol. XII
9 No 142 of Srinivasa Ayyar, K R (2002). Inscriptions in the Pudukkottai State, Part I. Government of Tamilnadu. p 118
10 No 177 of Srinivasa Ayyar, K R (2002). Inscriptions in the Pudukkottai State, Part I. Government of Tamilnadu. p 163
11 No 227 of Srinivasa Ayyar, K R (2002). Inscriptions in the Pudukkottai State, Part II. Government of Tamilnadu. pp 197-198
12 No 184 of Srinivasa Ayyar, K R (2002). Inscriptions in the Pudukkottai State, Part II. Government of Tamilnadu. pp 168-169
13 No 186 of Srinivasa Ayyar, K R (2002). Inscriptions in the Pudukkottai State, Part II. Government of Tamilnadu. p 170
14 No 202 of Srinivasa Ayyar, K R (2002). Inscriptions in the Pudukkottai State, Part II. Government of Tamilnadu. p 184
15 No 203 of of Srinivasa Ayyar, K R (2002). Inscriptions in the Pudukkottai State, Part II. Government of Tamilnadu. pp 184-185
16 No 175 of Srinivasa Ayyar, K R (2002). Inscriptions in the Pudukkottai State, Part II. Government of Tamilnadu. p 161
17 Pk: 322 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. p 79
18 Pk: 323 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. p 79
19 Pk: 324 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. p 79-80
20 Pk: 325 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. p 80
21 Pk: 326 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. p 80
22 Pk: 327 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. p 80
23 Pk: 328 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. pp 80-81
24 Pk: 329 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. p 81
25 Pk: 330 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. p 81
26 Pk: 331 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. p 81
27 Pk: 332 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. p 81
28 Pk: 333 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. pp 81-82
29 Pk: 334 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. pp 81-82
30 Pk: 335 of A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. p 82