The Oldest Temple in Tamil Nadu

Now we are able to piece together the history of the oldest temple discovered in Tamil Nadu which is located near Mahabalipuram. The original temple made of brick and dedicated to Muruga was built during the Sangam era (200 BCE to 300 CE). This temple was destroyed and the Pallava kings rebuilt it as a granite temple during 800 – 900 CE. This temple was destroyed as well. What is discovered now is remains of that temple.

The Frontline article describes the discovery in detail and has numerous pictures. It also talks about the various scripts and languages found at the site.

There are bilingual inscriptions in Pallava-Grantha and Nagari scripts in Sanskrit language on the walls of this temple. On the floor are found inscriptions in Tamil belonging to Raja Raja Chola, who built the Brihadeeswara temple in Thanjavur around 1,000 A.D.

ON the beach, about 300 metres to the north of the cave temple is a rock with three inscriptions on its sides. The inscriptions in Tamil on the western and southern sides belong to Parantaka Chola and Kulotunga Chola. The inscription on the eastern side was revealed after the tsunami washed away the sand around it.

S. Rajavelu, Epigraphist, ASI, found that the inscription in Tamil belonging to Rashtrakuta king Krishna III who ruled the area in 9th century A.D. praised him as the “conqueror of Kachi and Thanjai”, that is Kancheepuram and Thanjavur, and spoke about the existence of a Subrahmanya temple at Thiruvizhchil in “Aroor kottam (division)”.[Another surprise in Mamallapuram]

If Karunanidhi was alive in 800 CE, he would be walking with a bucket of cow dung, flinging it on the Sanskrit inscriptions. But he would find that it was already blackened by the enlightened folks running the Tamil Protection Movement.

This new temple has a vimana (tower) like the Shore Temple and it has been suggested that this temple was part of the seven pagodas which existed in that area

THE discovery of the temple complex has strengthened the arguments of those who believe that a string of Seven Pagodas (temples with vimanas) existed on the Mamallapuram coast. Although many dismiss it as a fanciful imagination, the discovery in February 2005 of the remains of a massive temple, dedicated to Siva, close to the Shore Temple at Mamallapuram, revived the debate about whether the Seven Pagodas did exist after all. After last year’s tsunami washed away the beach sand and revealed dressed rock in a square area close to the Shore Temple, the ASI excavated the spot and ran into the remains of a temple, which would have rivalled the Shore Temple in size and grandeur (Frontline, May 7, 2005). The Shore Temple, which is on the fringes of the sea, is said to be one of the Seven Pagodas and it is the only one that exists.[Another surprise in Mamallapuram]

7 Responses to The Oldest Temple in Tamil Nadu

  1. Ravages November 1, 2005 at 8:49 pm #

    Hi JK,
    What I find difficult to believe is that the 7 temples on the shore were supposedly built from scratch by the pallavas. but the current story says the pallavas only rebuilt it.
    Some kind of info mismatch.

    Thanks for the whole report.

  2. JK November 2, 2005 at 8:42 pm #

    Ravages, Atleast we know that one temple was re-built by the Pallavas. Don’t know if it holds true for the others.

  3. Ravages November 2, 2005 at 10:14 pm #

    The front line pictures are good.
    I couldn’t believe my eyes – I actually saw “Paranthakan” on a stone tablet!

    Is anything being done to preserve it?

    I had been to Kanceepuram, visited teh Kailsha nathar temple, which predates the mamallapuram complex by about 100 years, according to our esteemed friends at the ASI. There too, inscriptions – but in Pali/Brahmi and a kind of caligraphic writing called “Poo ezhuthu”

    This is what I found there -


    Also frescoes, wall paiting and sculptures that were plastered over to conserve

  4. Ravages November 2, 2005 at 10:21 pm #

    for some reason those images didn’t turn up. sorry (I aint spamming you I think…)

    http://static.flickr.com/21/25054063_f5c641f1b6_o.jpg
    http://static.flickr.com/22/25195363_036d624971_o.jpg
    http://static.flickr.com/21/24877345_ac46fcfc4d_o.jpg

  5. JK November 5, 2005 at 10:13 pm #

    Ravages, feel free to spam. Maybe you should make a post on your visit to the Kailsha nathar temple. If you want to guest post here, let me know.

  6. The Palm Leaf January 20, 2006 at 7:00 am #

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