Panangudi is a small village in Pudukkottai district of Tamilnadu. It is located very near to Sittanavasal Jain Caves, on Pudukkottai-Annavasal road. This small and quaint village boasts of two fine temples, a Shiva and a Vishnu temple, both are under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India.
Agastyesvara Temple – This small temple is considered as a fine example of the early Chola art of 9th century CE, however association of it with the Cholas is not on sound evidences. The temple has survived with its square garbha-grha and an attached ardha-mandapa. The ardha-mandapa was once connected to a mukha-mandapa, the latter has survived with remains of its moulded base. In front of it was once stood a Nandi-mandapa as attested by its remains. The main temple faces east and was probably designed as a parivara-temple surrounded by eight sub-shrines as evident from the traces of one of such sub-shrine.
Adhisthana rests above an upana and is of type padhabandha, consisted of five mouldings, starting from bottom are found jagati, tripatta-kumuda, kantha with its top and bottom fillet moulding kampa, pattika and a recessed prati. All these mouldings are plain and devoid of any decoration. The vimana is eka-tala (single storey) and its wall is designed in eka-ratha fashion, having central bhadra niche. Bhadra niche is enclosed within two pilasters, brahma-kantha (tetragonal) form, and crowned with double-arched makara-torana. The niches on all sides are empty at present.
The shikhara (tower) rises above the vimana wall separated from the latter with a prastara (base) moulding formed by a kapota (arched cornice) topped with prati-kantha. Below the kapota runs a bhuta-gana frieze. Over prati-kanta is running a vyala frieze, with makara heads at the corners. Each side of the prastara is decorated with kudu arches, two on each side. The prastara supports a square griva (neck) above. In the middle of the each of the four sides of griva are provided a niche. These niches are crowned with a large kudu (or chaitya) placed over two pilasters. Among the deities, Indra (or Subramanya1) is found in the east, Dakshinamurti in the south, Vishnu in the west and Brahma in the north.
Griva is topped with a square cupola surmounted by a four-sided stupi. The stupi is resting one two stone slabs, known as ratna-pitha and padma–pithas. The lower slab is decorated with lotus petals. S R Balasubrahmanyan2 reports finding of various sculptures from the site including that of four Nandi bulls of griva, an image of Jyestha, Ganesha and a naga. Images of Nandi are now placed at their respective position over the griva, while image of Jyestha and Ganesha are placed inside the temple. Balasubrahmanyan mentions that it is usual for the early Chola temples to have sub-shrine confirming to ashta-parivara devatas, including Surya, Sapta-matrikas, Ganesha, Kartikeya, Jyestha, Chandra, Chandikeshvara and Nandi. Finding of an image of Jyestha suggests that this temple was once adorned with eight sub-shrines. Remains of one such sub-shrine are identified at the site.
In the earliest inscription at the temple, the deity is referred as Panangudi Paramesvaran3. It is not certain when the deity started being referred as Agastyeshvara. S R Balasubrahmanyam assigns this temple to the period of the Chola king Vijayalaya (848-871 CE). Douglas Barrett4 writes, “The very simplicity of design may, of course, be misleading. Moreover, the loss of the main devakoshtha images and the dvarpalas and the little evidence of style to be derived from the four small, abraded images in the griva, make it impossible to insist on too precise a dating.” Barrett assigns the temple to about 875 CE, and he says if one is unwilling to identify Parakesarivarman of the inscription with Vijayalaya (848-871 CE), it may fairly be given to Parantaka I (907-950CE). K V Soundara Rajan5 assigns this inscription to Parantaka I, however he places the temple earlier than Vijayalaya, in the second quarter of the 9th century CE during the reign of the Muttaraiyars of Nemam and Sendalai. He favors that the temple would have been constructed during the Pandya reign prior to the rise of Vijayalaya.
Inscriptions – There are three inscriptions found in the temple.
- On north wall of the temple6 – Except the regnal year and the name of the monarch, nothing much can be gathered from this ruined inscription. The inscription is dated in the 14th regnal year of a certain Parakesarivarman. On paleo-graphic grounds, the inscription can be dated to 9th or early 10th century CE. In this inscription, the deity is referred as “Panangudi Paramesvaran”. Balasubrahmanyam identifies Parakesarivarman of this inscription with the Chola king Vijayalaya (848-871 CE), however Soundara Rajan favors the identification with the Chola king Parantaka I (907-955 CE).
- On the west wall of the temple – No 180 of the Inscriptions in the Pudukkottai State7 – Written in Tamil, only ten lines are extant – dated is lost, referred to the reign of the Chola king Kulothunga III (1178-1118 CE) – “Hail! Prosperity! (In the ….year of Tribhuvanaccakravartikal Sri Kulottunga Cola Devar also called Ko-Parakesaripanmar), who put on the magnificent crown, in order to protect the country for a long period of prosperity, while the rains were abundant and fertility of the land increased, while the following of the four Vedas, which are true for ever, prospered, the Goddess of Fortune and the Goddess of Victory abode in all glory, his golden parasol, white like the moon, was brilliant, the vanquished kings worshipped at is feet, the Goddess of the earth rejoiced in her heart, the Code of Manu prevailed in all glory, and the authority of his discus and sceptre spread in all diections. Who sent an army, at the request of Vikrama Pandiyan, and disfigured the face of the son of Vira Pandiyan…….(sic)”
- On the north wall of the temple8 – Written in Tamil in 28 lines but incomplete – dated in the fourth regnal year of the Pandya king Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan (1268–1308 CE) alias Sri Kulasekharadeva – Records the fixing of the assessment on a devadana land by the temple trustees and the residents of Panangudi in Konadu.
1 Meister & Dhaky (ed.) (1983). Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture South India: Lower Dravidadesa. American Institute of Indian Studies. New Delhi. p 128
2 Balasubrahmanayam, S R & Venkataranga, k Raju (1941). Panangudi Agastisvara Temple published in the Journal of the Madras University vol. XIII no. 1. pp 101-104
3 Balasubrahmanyam, S R (1966). Early Chola Art part 1. Asia Publishing House. Mumbai. pp 54-56
4 Barrett, Douglas (1974). Early Cola Architecture and Sculpture. Faber and Faber Limited. London. p 47
5 Meister & Dhaky (ed.) (1983). Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture South India: Lower Dravidadesa. American Institute of Indian Studies. New Delhi. p 128
6 Balasubrahmanayam, S R & Venkataranga, K Raju (1941). Panangudi Agastisvara Temple published in the Journal of the Madras University vol. XIII no. 1. pp 101-104
7 Ayyar, K R Srinivasa (2002). Inscriptions in the Pudukkottai State part II. Commissioner of Museums. Chennai. pp 164-165
8 Pk: 405 of Mahalingam, T V (1991). A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State vol. VI. S Chand & Company Ltd. New Delhi. p 100