TEMPLE ENDOWMENTS — AGNEESWARER TEMPLE AT THIRUPPUGALUR – PART I

Since the time of the Pallava, people gave donations to the temple either for their prayer or after the fulfillment of their desire. Temple endowments were given for the sake of conducting pujas and festivals, for food offerings, for making ornaments and new idols, for lighting lamps and for new constructions and repair works inside the temple premises, etc. Philanthropic people came forward to make endowments for regular worship of the deity.  Members of the royal family people made endowments in order to encourage religious activities, common folk from far and near gave endowments for the fulfillment of their desires and vows. These endowments were inscribed in the walls, pillars, floors, etc. Thiruppugalur is one among such temples where we can find many inscriptions on endowments. The study presents a narrative history of the endowments of this temple.

01(Courtesy: https://en.wikipedia.org/)

Agneeswarer temple is located at Thirupugalur village. Thirupugalur is a fairly big village in Nannilam taluk of Quaid‑ I Millat district (earlier known as Tanjore district). It is 352 kms south of Chennai. This village is flanked by the rivers Thirumalairajan and Mudikondan. Dynasties like Pallavas, Cholas, Second Pandyas, Nayaks, and Tanjore Marathas extended their rule in this region. The fact that Appar and Sundarar had visited this temple and sang hymns in praise of Agneeswarer is a proof that the temple is likely to have existed during the time of the Pallavas. Of 77 inscriptions found in this temple, there are as many as 65 inscriptions about the endowments. Taking a rough catalogue of these inscriptions, there are 7 inscriptions regarding

endowments for instituting fresh idols, mandapas and repairs of the surrounding walls, 19 inscriptions about the donation of the lands for flower gardens and general purposes, 17 inscriptions for providing lamps to the temple, 7 inscriptions for feeding, 9 inscriptions for specific festivals, 2 for artisans and the rest for daily pujas, ornaments, presents, etc. These endowments give an idea about the interest taken by the community in the maintenance of the temple and also the great reverence in which the deity was held by the Kings, nobles and common folk of that era. Most of the Chola kings and their subjects from the days of Uttama Chola (A.D. 969 to 985) to Raja Raja III (1216 A.D.to 1253) and the Pandya Kings Jatavarma Sundarapandya (1251 to 1268 A.D.) and Veera Pandya donated to the deity of this temple and epigraphic wealth makes interesting reading of the endowments during the times of these kings.

02(Courtesy: https://en.wikipedia.org/)

New Idols and Repairs

Public munificence in installing idols and repairing temple may be taken first. In A.D. 1006, during the time of Raja Raja 1, there is a reference to the installation of an idol of Thirunavukarasar in this temple. A gift of paddy and money by one Angi Kumara-vittan of Kundur, a hamlet of Virasikamukachcheri in Viranarayana Chaturvedimangalam of Rajendra simha Valanadu on the northern bank of river Mudikondan was made, for offerings to the idol of Tirunavukarasadeva during the midday and night services. In A.D. 1025 during the time of Rajadhiraja, there was a gift of land for providing offerings to the God Sivapurattudeva of Thirupugalur by a lady. In A.D.1063, during the period of Rajendra Deva II, the image of Suryadeva and his two consorts were consecrated in the temple of Thirupugalur by Devan Pattagal Pandaram and his daughter belonging to the royal household called the Sivapadasekhara-terinda tirumanjanattarvelam.

03Appar
(Courtesy: https://en.wikipedia.org/)

There is an endowment of land during the period of Rajaraja II in A.D. 1165 for the repairs and reconstruction of Thirunavukarasar shrine. Thirunavukarasar had also the name Kulichelintha Nayanar which is mentioned in the inscription. The saint Thirunavukarasar was believed to have had a holy dip in Kailash and emerged in Thirupugalur. The Kulichelintha Nayanar literally means the Nayanar who got up after taking bath.

In A.D.1221, one Rajaraja Mangaladarayar erected a new idol in the Agneeswarer temple of Thirupugalur, an image of Rishabhavaganadevar. He further purchased some land according to the inscription, from the assembly of Rajaraja Chaturvedimangalam in the Alanadu testified by the members Chandrasekara pattan, Thiruvannamalaipattan, Rajaraja pattan, Thiruvengatapattan and others of the assembly. The deed also mentions, oorkanakku (Village writer) named Alangarapriyan in attendance. The price of the land was mentioned as forty kasus and it was paid by the donor Rajaraja Mangaladarayar. The land was for the specific purpose of digging a tank to rear red lilies. These lilies were to be made into garlands used for adorning the deity Rishabavagana devar. The name of the ruler during whose reign this endowment was created is also mentioned as Rajaraja III.

In 1557, a pillar was erected by the chieftain Araiyan gangaikondan alias Sola Vichchadira Pallavaraya of Iraiyur in the Ardhamandapa of the Agneeswara temple. This construction seems to have been during the time of the Vijayanagar ruler Sadasiva Deva Maharaja. The inscription is engraved on the pillar itself. There is a mandapa in the verandah of the main shrine. In the north wall, there is an inscription on a pillar that states that the mandapa was the gift of one Sediraya who was the head man of Arkadu. The name is given as Kizharsedirayan. The Velakkurichi Devasthanam which is now one of the trustees managing the temple, undertook repairs to the temple in A.D. 1659. The name of the head of the mutt is given as Arunachala Tambiran, a disciple of Mahadeva Pandaram. There is another inscription on the wall of a room adjacent to the outer gopuram on the northern side. According to this inscription, the madil seemed to have been originally constructed with brick; it was changed into a stone wall by the munificence of the natives of surrounding villages in A.D. 1751. The villages involved are Thiruchennattankudi, Thottakkudi, Vayalur and other villages. The names of many villages in addition to the above are also given. These villages even now exist in the neighborhood of Thirupugalur. The decision to construct with the help of villages was taken in a meeting held in Kulottunga Cholan Alai near Vadapi Pillaiyar temple. There is a story that during the war against Chalukyas, Thiruthonder, who was then commanding the invading army of the Pallavas, brought the Pillaiyar from Vadapi and installed it here.

to be continued…

Dr. Rukmani Vathanam
Lecturer, Selection Grade
Department of History, Meenakshi College for Women, Chennai

 Source: Journal of Indian History and Culture, March 2003.

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