Visalur – Margasahayeshvara Temple


Visalur is a small town in Pudukkottai district. The gazetteer1 mentions that in the past the place had long been famous as the meeting place of the meetings of the Senkilinattu Kallars. Under an old banyan tree, these Kallars had been meeting and planning for their dacoities and depredations from long time. The gazetteer also mentions a tradition that Visalur was originally a Vellala village. When a Kalla of a neighboring village asked for the hand of a Vellala girl, his father kept him away till all the Vellalas migrated to some other place. Only one Vellala remained as he was in love with a local dancer. He was soon discovered and put to death and the girl committed suicide. They both are worshiped in the village as Pattavars. Along with these Pattavars, a Karuppar is also worshiped, the latter was a deity from Malabar who settled here.

The place was known with its present name, Vislaur, in earlier times as attested from its inscriptions of the Cholas and Pandyas. A Pandya inscription at Kudumiyanmalai mentions Visalur in connection with a land grant. The inscriptions of king Jatavarman Vira-Pandya2 at Kudumiyanmalai talks about transfer of a land at Visalur, by the assembly of Visalur, to the temple of Kudumiyanmalai to accommodate their unpaid dues.

Margasahayeshvara Temple –  The temple is enclosed within a large compound entered through the east. While various additions have been made at different periods, the original temple belongs to the early period of the second half of 9th century CE. The temple was originally built with its garbha-grha attached to an ardha-mandapa.

Adhisthana of the vimana rests above an upana and is of type padhabhanda, composed of five mouldings, from bottom, jagati, tripatta-kumuda, kantha with a top and bottom fillet kampa, pattika and a recessed prati. All these mouldings are plain and devoid of any decoration.

Vimana is built as eka-tala (single storey) model and its Bhitti (wall) is vertically divided into three different sections by four pilasters. At some later point in time, a mandapa is attached to the bhadra division of the southern wall to accommodate a temple for Dakshinamurti. Shikhara (tower) is built directly above the wall, separated from the latter through its prastara (base) formed by a kapota (arched cornice) topped with prati-kantha. Over the prati-kanta runs a vyala (yali) frieze. The regular bhuta-gana frieze below the kapota is missing in this temple. Each side of the prastara is decorated with kudu arches, two on each side.


The prastara supports a square griva (neck) above. On the corners are placed Nandis. Unlike to Panangudi, griva here does not have niches enclosed within pilasters. However, a large kudu (mahanasika) decoration over the cupola allows to accommodate a statue beneath it. Among the deities over the griva, Subramanya 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 with large kudu (mahanasika) decoration on its four sides. It is surmounted by a four-sided stupi. The stupi is resting on two stone slabs, known as ratna-pitha and padma-pitha.

Ardha-mandapa follows the same design as that of the garbha-grha. Some time later a pillared maha-mandapa was added to the structure. Apart from its main entrance in the east, the maha-mandapa has two extra entrances, one in the north and other in the south. A Nandi facing the garbha-grha is placed inside the maha-mandapa. The outer wall is left plain, similar to the garbha-grha and ardha-mandapa.


The temple was built with ashta-parivara sub-shrines to house eight deities belonging to Shiva family. These eight deities are Surya, Ganesha, Kartikeya, Sapta-matrikas, Chandra, Chandikeshvara, Jyeshtha and Nandi or Bhairava. Images of Chandikesvara, Bhairava, Jyeshtha have been found at the site. The Lord of the temple is referred as Vasukisvaramudaiyar-Mahadeva in the Chola inscriptions and Varadukasuramudaiya-Nayanar in the Pandya inscriptions.

Inscriptions – Earlier, six inscriptions were reported and published in various accounts. Additionally 18 more inscriptions were discovered during the cleaning of the paint and stucco at the temple, as published in a report in The Hindu. These inscriptions were dated in the period of the Chola king Rajaraja I, Rajendra II, Kulothunga III and of some chieftains. The inscription of Kulothunga III, dated in 1222 CE, mentions installation of statues of the king and his queen in the temple by a local chief, Adhitan Thenkarai Nadalvan.

  1. No 217 of the Annual Report on Epigraphy 1940-413 – On the north wall of the temple – Written in Tamil – dated to the twelfth regnal year of the Chola king Rajarajakesarivarman (Rajaraja I), who destroyed Kandalursalai, approximately in 997 CE – Records grant of lands, made tax-free, to the temple of Vasukisvaramudaiya-Mahadeva, by the assembly of Visalur in Misen-gili-nadu for providing worship and offerings to the deity.
  2. No 231 of the Inscriptions in the Pudukkottai State4 – On the south wall of the temple – Written in Tamil in 11 lines – damaged and incomplete – dated to forty-seventh regnal year of the Chola king  Kulottunga-Choladeva (Kulothunga I), approximately in 1117 CE – Records provision made for burning sandi lamp in the temple of Va…..suisvaramudaiya-Nayanar in Visalur in Misengili-nadu, a sub divison of Jayasingakulakala-valanadu by Andan Aliyadan of the village.
  3. No 598 of the Inscriptions of the Pudukkottai State5 – On the south wall of the gopura entrance to the temple – Written in Tamil in 14 lines but incomplete – dated in the fourteenth regnal year of the Pandya king Jatavarman alias Sri Vira-Pandyadeva – Records a gift of land by the residents of Puliyur in Misengili-nadu, a sub division of Jayasingakulakala-valandu, for offerings to Varadukasuramudaiya-Nayanar of Visalur in the same nadu.
  4. No 609 of the Inscriptions of the Pudukkottai State6 – On the wall to the left of the gopura entrance to the temple – Written in Tamil but incomplete – dated in the fourteenth regnal year of the Pandya king Vira-Pandyadeva – mentions Misengiliyur-nadu

K R Srinivasan7 places the temple under the early Pandyas mentioning that it is among the early survivals of the Pandyan tradition which was mostly influenced from the Pallavas with slight admixture of the Chalukyan traits. Douglas Barrett8 assigns the temple to the Muttaraiyars to the period of the second half of the ninth century CE. K V Soundara Rajan9 tells that  though the temple has an inscription assignable to the period of the Chola king Parantaka I however the temple appears to be earlier than his time. He dates this temple in the second quarter of the 9th century CE during the reign of the Muttaraiyars of Nemam and Sendalai. Describing similarities with the Agastyesvara temple at Panangudi, S R Balasubrahmanyam10 places this temple under the early Chola period, to the reign of Vijayalaya (848-871 CE).

1 Venkatarama Ayyar, K R (1944). A Manual of the Pudukkottai State vol II part II. Sri Brihadamba State Press. Pudukkottai. pp 1124-1126
2 No 360, 361 of Annual Report on Epigraphy for year 1906
3 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
4 Ayyar, K R Srinivasa (2002). Inscriptions in the Pudukkottai State part II. Commissioner of Museums. Chennai.
5 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
6 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
7 Srinivasan, K R (1964). Archaeological Remains Monuments & Museums part II. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 222
8 Barrett, Douglas (1974). Early Cola Architecture and Sculpture. Faber and Faber Limited. London. pp 46-47
9 Meister & Dhaky (ed.) (1983). Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture South India: Lower Dravidadesa. American Institute of Indian Studies. New Delhi. p 128-130
10 Balasubrahmanyam, S R (1966). Early Chola Art part I. Asia Publishing House. Bombay. pp 57-58


  1. @ Shash, yes to the best of my knowledge Vishnu should be on west. Just now while writing this comment, I thought why Brahma on north? It could be that as Brahma holds Ganga in his kamandalu, Ganga comes from north and water outlet from sanctum faces north. So position of Brahma on north makes some sense, anyway its just a theory of my wondering mind 🙂


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