Sunday, 5 May 2013

Rediscovering Muttam from the Ruins

The ruins of Muttam Nageshwarar temple

Read my article on ' Muttam Nageshwarar Temple' in my regular column Kovai Reconnect today ( 5.5.2013) in The New Indian Express. It's an ancient shrine located in the foot of Vellingiri Hills. I feel proud that I have recalled the mission of the late Tamil scholar and archaeologist Pulavar I Ramasamy of Ikkarai Boluvampatty, who discovered the historical shrine and brought to the notice of the archaeological department. It is glad that the temple was rebuilt and consecrated later.

Rediscovering Muttam from the Ruins

It is still a surprise to learn that the pillars of a dilapidated ancient temple, which were adorned with beautiful carvings, were used to construct drainage channels in Coimbatore!  It happened in the year 1862, when Thomas, an Englishman was the collector here. As the city badly needed construction of drainage facilities, the contractors were given permission to use the debris of the ancient temple Muthuvaliammai Udanamar Muttathu Nageshwarar Thirukovil, located at the foot of  Vellingiri Hills.

However, the shrine, which deserves great historical importance for its antiquity, was rebuilt by the measures taken by the late Tamil scholar and archaeologist Pulavar I. Ramasamy of Ikkarai  Boluvampatty, the students and teachers of Thavathiru Santhalinga Adigalar Tamil College and the archaeological department in Coimbatore. The consecration of the temple was held on 14.06.1998.

“When I came across the temple at an age of 12, I felt pained to notice the dilapidated condition of the shrine. The God’s abode was covered by wild growth of cactus. The sanctum sanctorum of Goddess Muthuvaliamman was in ruins. The temple had been in the same state even during the days of my ancestors” recalls Pulavar I Ramasamy in his book Muttam Thala Varalaru.

However, he introduced the neglected state of the temple to the Department of Archaeology and worked for decades to restore it. At last, with his labour bearing fruit, he could witness the temple’s consecration at the age of 75 before his demise.

‘Muttam’ meaning ‘A plain stretch of land, which ends at a point not to continue thereafter’ is a general term in Tamil. Thirukuranganil Muttam in North Arcot district and Eraniya Mutta Nadu of the Pandya country are other examples of  Muttams in Tamil Nadu. The one in Coimbatore is called Vellimalai Muttam, as it is located in the foot of Vellingiri Hills. The place was also called by different names like Ravi Varma Sathurvethi Mangalam, Amarabuyanga Nallur and so on when Kongunadu was under the rule of different dynasties. Located on an ancient highway leading to the west seashores, Muttam flourished as a famous trade centre.

The stone inscriptions discovered in Muttam Nageshwarar Temple contain the names of traders as Vyapari Nangan Puliyan, Muttathu Vyapari Dhanabalan Vizhamipattiyan, Mandradi Kavan Kuttan endra Vaniga Narayana Chakravarthi and so on. Another epigraph dating back to the period of king Veerarajendran of 13th century AD, records a gift made to the temple by a Thevaradiyal (A woman dedicated to the temple) by name Boomavili Enra Eazhavaar Kuzhali.

However, the residents of Muttam, later abandoned their town due to some political turmoil and natural calamities. Also, the temple, which once enjoyed the wealth of plenty of lands donated by various kings, lost everything later, as some people took away its lands. Evident to the shrine’s unpopularity, a stone inscription of the Hoisala king Veera Vallalan III (1292 - 1343) reads thus:

“Considering the poor state of Muttathu Nageshwarar Temple, the Sabhas (Courts) of Ravivarma Sathurvethi Mangalam and Amarabuyanga Nallur, allotted it a piece of land”


Compiled by: B. Meenakshi Sundaram
Source: Muttam Thala Varalaru – By Pulavar I Ramasamy.



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