Madras (India : State).

Madura (Volume 1) online

. (page 31 of 40)
Online LibraryMadras (India : State)Madura (Volume 1) → online text (page 31 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Thomas Weir, still hang in it. It is at present occupied by one of
the Sub-Courts.

The larger of the two buildings is even more impressive. It
consists of a great open courtyard, 252 feet long and 151 feet
wide, round which runs a roofed arcade of great beauty, su]:)ported
on tall stone pillars 4 feet in height connected by foliated brick
arches of much elegance of design ornamented with Hindu designs
carried out in the fine shell-lime plaster which almost resembles
marble. Round three sides of this court, at the back of the
arcade, runs a very handsome line of lofty cloisters, 43 feet wide
and upheld by three parallel rows of pillars supporting arches
some 26 feet high. In the middle of two sides of this are large
domes built on pillars of the eanie height as those of the outer


CHAP. XV. arcade, and an upper gallery runs all round it. On ttie fourth
Madcea. side of the court the cloister is much deeper and finer, being
altogether 105 feet wide, supported on five rows of huge pillars
and roofed with three great domes, the central and largest of which
measures 60 feet in diameter and is 73 feet ahove the ground. In
front of it stands a magnificent portico, the pillars of which are
55 feet high to the spring of the arches.

The vernacular MS. above referred to calls this building the
Swarga Vildsam and says —

' This pavilion is so constructed as to cause it to be said that in
no other country is theie a court eq[ual to it, by reason of its splendid
ormimeuts, their excellence, number, extent, curious workmanship,
and great beau y. To the west, in the midst of a great dome-shaped
hall, is a square building- of black stone, inside which is a chamber
made of ivor3\ In the middle of this is a jewelled throne, on which
the king is accustomed to take his seat at the great niue-nights' festival
sarroxmcled by all his banners or ensigns of royalty, and before wliiob
all kiuf;,s are accustomed to do homage.'

Behind this domed chamber are tnren other rooms which,
though small, are noteworthy for the Jall pillars of black marble
which uphold their ronfs.

The whole construction has been declared by competent
authority to be the larg;est and most perfect specimen of palace
architecture existing anywhei-e south of a line drawn from Bombay
to Calcutta.

M. Langles' volume already referred to shows that the palace
was an absolute ruin before tlie British acquired the Madura
country. He says that it was utilised as barracks, and the Survey
Account of 1821 states that part of it was occupied then by a
paper factory worked by convict labour. In 1S37 Mr. Blackburne
reported that it was used by tne weavers for their work, and
obtained leave to demolish the great walls (40 feet high, 900 feet
long on the east and west and 660 feet on the north and south)
which surrounded it and which threatened to collapse. In J 857
it was stated that almost every part of the building was so cracked
as to be dangerous aiid that the only really safe part of it was the
inner cloister. The courts of the District Judge, Sub-Judge,
Sadr Amin and MunsiE were, however, held in it and the Zilla
school occupied the north-east corner of the cloisters. The
amount required to restore the place was estimated at two lakhs.
In IS-'jS heavy rain did much damage and brought down the west
wall of Tirumala Nayakkan's bed-chamber and the Judge
reported that portions of the building fell so frequently that
approach to his court was ]:)0sitivcly dangerous and that the
Sub-Judge and Munsit had had to move elsewhere.


In 1868 Lord Napier, the then Governor of Madi-as, wrote an crr.AP. XV.
emphatic minute on the necessity of restoring- ancient ruins in RlAnuRA.
general and this palace in particular, and Mr. Chisholm, the
Governu.ent arcliitect, was sent down to report on the possibility
of saving wliat remained of the building. His. account led the
Government to decide to repair the palace to render it suitable for
the Revenue, Judicial and municipal offices of the town, and a first
instalment of Ks. 10,000 for this purpose was entered in the
bi'dget for 1870-71. Thereafter annual aUotmenta were made for
continuing tlie work. Lord Napier took the greatest personal
interest in the matter and in 1871, after visiting the place,
recorded an elaborate minute regarding- the offices which were to
be located in it. By 188:^ Es. 2,V''fii}0 had been spent, iron ties
had been inserted to hold the structure together, the ruined
portions had been rebuilt or rendered safe, the plaster-work and
painting li;id botn restored on the original linos and the entrance
on the east side of the great courtyard had been surrounded with
an ornamental gateway. This entrance had been cut through the
solid brickwork in comparatively recent times. Mr. Chisholm
found evidence to show that the original opening had been on the
west, behind the three great domes.

Various public offices were then located in the restored
portions, and to accommodate them the cloisters were partitioned
off into sets of rooms with ugly dwarf walls which quite spoilt
their appearance. The next year a committee of local officers
settled the best methods of distributino: the remainiuy- available
space and much correspondence ensued as to the desirability of
placing- the Collector's office in the building. By 1886 a sum of
Ks. 3,81,000 had been spent on, or sanctioned for, the palace, and
shortly afterwards the Collector's office was at length moved into
it. The space available was, however, found to be quite insuffi-
cient and eventually it was removed back to its former quarters.

The palace, indeed, is in no way suited for public offices.
The ventilation is insufficient, the acoustic projicrties poor, the
lighting bad and the surroundings insanitary ; while, owing to
the echoes in tlie great oourfyard, the noise maile by the crowds
who attend the various courts and offices renders it most difficult
to hear in any of them. Consequently, as already stated above,
a new court-house is to be built on the otiitr side of the Vaigai,
north-west of the Mysore cliattram, for the Judge iwho now
holds court under the great dome) and the other judicial officers
who arc located in the ])alace ; and new quarters are to be
constructed on a site to the south of the Thuiakam for the
Collector's office and its various branches, the Madura Deputy


CHAP. XV. Collector and the talisildar. The only offices then left in the
jSIaddra. palace will be those of the Registration department. These will
he located in the three rooms west of the great dome and all the
dwarf walls aud partitions will be removed from the cloisters.
This part of the old pahice will thus, after the lapse of perhaps a
couple of centuries, be restored to almost its original grandeur.

Mangulam : Twelve miles north-east of Madura ; population
8,075. To the south of it stands the Pandava-muttu hill, in the
rock on the western side of which are cut three small shrines
adjoining one another. Thej are about -^ feet deep and 7 feet
high and look as if thej had been originally intended to be
connected together so as to make a rock-cut temple of the usual
kind. I'here are no inscriptions or sculptures at the spot.

A mile east of the village is Kalugumalai, on a rock on the
top of which are some of the shallow excavations which (see
p. 75) are called Pancha Pdndava padukJcai or ' beds of the five

Fasumalai : A small hill of quartz rock, standing two miles
south of Madura, from which most of the metal for mending the
streets of the town is quarried. The name means 'cow hill,' and
the legend about the place in the Madura dhala purdna says that
the .Tains, being defeated in their attempt to destroy Madura by
means of the serpent which was turned into the Nagamalai
(see p. 7), resorted to more magic and evolved a demon in the
form of an enormous cow. They selected this particular shape
for their demon because they thought that no one would dare kill
so sacred an animal. Siva, however, directed the bull which is his
vehicle to increase vastly in size and go to meet the cow. The
cow, seeing him, died of love and was turned into this hiH.

The hill, it may be mentioned, bears no resemblance to a cow
or to any other animal. It consists of two rounded heights joined
by a lower saddle. On one of these is a shrine to one of the many
grdmodevfjfns at which sheep are periodically offered up, and
beneath the other is the extensive compound of the American
Mission, wdthin which are built the high school referred to on
p. 176 above, a church, a theological seminary and numerous
subsidiary buildings.

Siriipalai (or Siruvalai) contains 663 inhabitants and is
situated eight miles north-north-west of Madura. It is the chief
of the four villages which make up the small zamindari of the same
name. This was one of the ' unsettled pdlaiyams ' referred to on
p. 194 above and no sanad has yet been granted for it. Nor,
since it has passed out of the possession of the family of the original


holders, is it scheduled in the Impartible Estates Act of 1904. It CHAP. X7,
was sold in 1861 in satisfaction of a decree of the civil courts Madura.
obtained by creditors of the then zaraindar, Achyuta {alias
Vasuvacha) Kama Kavundan, an Anuppan by caste, and passed
successively to Marudamuttu Pillai, Tavamuiiia Pillai, Mr. T. M.
Scott (a barrister at Madura), Mr. E. Scott (his son), Father
F. Rapatel, s.j. (who bought it in 1893 on behalf of the Madura
Jesuit Mission) and Chidambara Chetti, the present registered
holder, w^ho purchased it from the mission in 1900.

Tirupparankunram : Four miles south-west of Madura ;
population 4,528 (largely Kalians) ; a station on the main line of
the South Indian Ivailway. The village is built at the foot of a
hill which rises 1 ,04-8 feet above the sea and is called Skandamalai,
or ' Subrahmanya's hill ' from the famous temple to tliat deity
which stands at the foot of it. The Musalmans, however, say that
the name is properly Sikandarmalai after a fakir called Sikandar
who is buried at t!ie top of the hill. The place was formerly a
sort of outpost of Madura, figures more than once in the wars of
the eighteenth century, and still contains traces of fortifications.
The granite of which the hill consists is a handsome variety with
pink and grey bandings which is much prized as building material,
and tradition says that it was largely employed in the construction
of the Madura temple. A flight of steps, gradually degenerating
into mere footholds cut in the rock, runs up the hill to the tomb of
the fakir. About half way up, on the southern face of the hill, on
the overhanging side of an enormous hummock of bare granite at
the foot of which is a deep cleft full of water, are carved, side by
side, two panels about 2| feet long and 2 feet wide representing
nude, standing, Jain figures in the customary position with their
hands hanging straight dovm by their sides and surrounded by
female attendants, some smaller figures and a cobra or two. They
are some eighteen feet from the ground and must have been sculp-
tured from a scaffolding. This has saved them from mutilation.

A little further along the same south side of this hummock is
a small shrine to Kdsi Visvesvaralinga. The cleft here widens out
to a considerable pool of great depth, and on the rock on the far
side of it are carved in a line, in deep relief, representations of the
lingam and certain of the Hindu gods. The pujdri has to swim
across the pool to cover them with tlie daily oblations and flowers.
The water contains numbers of small fish which come for food
when called by the bairdgis who frequent this spot.

On the very top of the hill is the tomb of tlie fakir Sikandar.
It lies in a crevice between two boulders in which the holy man is

280 maduRa.

CHAP. XV. said to have lived and died. In front of it is a new porcli sup-
Maddra. ported by pillars of JTindu style and crowned with a brick dome
and minarets constructed after the Musalman fashion which are
still unfinished. The visitors to the building are as mixed as
its architecture, tlie place being frequented by both Hindus and

.^t the foot of the southern side of the hiU is a rock-cut temple
(commonly called the Umaiyandan kovil) which must once have
been the finest of its kind in the district. It measures about 19
feet by 17 feet and 9 feet in height, and at the west end o': it is a
separate shrine 8 feet square. It was originally supported by four
pillars, but the two in the centre have now disappeared (probably
through fires having been lighted round them) and the two outside
have been disfigured by being built into an ugly waU which now
runs across tiie face of the temple. The place is dedicated to
Natardja or Siva dancing in competition with Kali (the form in
which he is worshipped at Chidambaram) and the central portion
of the back wall is occupied by what must once have been a most
spirited sculpture of the deity, flanked on either side by the
drummer and by K41i. This, howe/er, has also been almost entirely
destroyed. To the east of this group is an image of Subrahmanya
with his two wives and in the separate shrine to the west is a
representation of Siva in the uncommon form of Ardhanarisvara,
or half man and half woman. Almost all the eastern side of the
temple is occupied by a long inscription which has been assigned ^
to king Maravarman Sundara I'auuya I, who (see p. 35) came
to the throne in 1 2 16 A.D. It records the grant of lands and
endowments to this temple in the sixth year of his reign. Outside
the shrine, on the face of the rock cliff in which it is excavated,
are a series of sculptures of rishis and deities.

The big temple to Subrahmanya stands close under the nerth-
ern foot of the hill and its innermost shriue is cut out of the solid
rock. In front of this are a series of mantapams, built at different
levels, one below the other. 'J he lowest or outermost of these is
an exceedingly fine example of this class of work. Its roof is of
great stone slabs and is supported on 48 tall, carved, monolithic
pillars, which are from 2J to 24 feet high but the sculpture
on which is clogged with the usual colour wash. It has three
aisles, the middle one of which (measured from the inside edges
of the pillars) is as much as 24 feet wide, and it occupies a
total area 116 feet by 91 feet. These mantapams are said to have
been auilfc by Tirumala Nayakkan, and a statue of him stands at

^ Ep. Ind., vi, 31 i.


the side of tlie shrine. A well withia the temple, called the CHAP, XV.

Satiydstkulam, contains water which is held in such repute as a ^Madura.

remedy for diabetes and other diseases that it is carried all the

way to Madura and sold there. The building contains several

inscriptions. One of these says that in 1792 A.D. a regiment of

Europeans seized the town and were forcing their way into the

temple when the priests, ft-aring that its holiness would thus be

destroyed, prevailed upon one Kutti to throw himself down from

the gopurani, Kutti did so, the regiment withdrew, the place

was saved and Kutti (who evidently survived) was given a grant

for his heroic action. In olden days it was a not uncommon.

practice in Madura, says Blackader,^ for the constant quarrels

between the native rulers and the temple priests to be settled in a

similar way. A man climbed up one of the gopurams and vowed

that unless the quarrel was ended by a certain time he would

throw himself down. Neither side cared to be held guilty of his

blood, and each accordingly did all in its power to heal the


Velliyakundam : Eight miles north-north-east of Madura ;
population l,2.->>4. The chief of the thirteen villages whicli make
up the small zamindari of the same name. This estate, which is
some 3,300 acres in extent, was one of the ' unsettled pdlaiyams '
referred to (p. 194) above, but a sanad has since been granted
for it. It is not scheduled in the Impartible Estates Act, 1904,
as in 1882 it passed from the family of the original owners by a
court sale to the present registered holder, Mindkshi Nayakkan.

^ Archseoloc'ia, xv, 463.




CHAP. XV. Mi^LUK is the easternmost taluk of the district and slopes
Mfxi^R. gradually towards the south-east, llie southern part of it is a
flat and somewhat uninteresting plain which is now being rapidly
turned into wet land with the aid of the Periyar water, but the
northern portion is picturesquely diversified with the spurs of
the Ailiir hills, the Karandamalais, the Nattam hills and the
Alagarmalais, and is a pleasant country covered with tiny
patches of rice-cultivation under little tanks and wide areas of dry
crops growing on vivid red soil among red, wooded hills. The
villages here are usually hidden away among groves of fine trees,
especially tamarinds, and on ever)- scrap of waste land scrub aud
bushes flourish luxuriantly. The soil is apparently particularly
suited to the growth of trees, and the magnificent wlnte-barked
figs which line the road west of Nattam are the finest in all the

Over a fifth of the taluk, a higher proportion than in any other,
is covered with foreat. The soil is all of the red ferruginous
variety and is the poorest in the district. None of the dry land
is assessed at more than Rs. 1-4-0 per acre (in no other taluk
except Kodaikanal is this the case) and as much as nine-tenths
of the wet lanl (a higher proportion than in any other part
of Madura) is charged as little as Rs. 8-8-0 or less. Meliir,
however, receives a heavier rainfall than any part except the
Palni liills, and the Periyar water reaches most of the south of
it; consequently as much as two-fifths of the taluk is cultivated
with paddy and it is better protected from f;imine than any other
except Madura. The population has hitherto increased very
slowly, the proportional growth both in the decade 1891-1901
and in the thirty years from 1871 to 1901 being smaller than in
any taluk except Tirumangalam ; but as the use of the Periydr
water extends, a change in this respect may be looked for.

Statistics on other matters regarding the taluk will be found
in the separate Appendix. Below is some account of the more
interesting places in it : —

Alagarkovil : A temple to Vishnu in his form Alagarsvami,
* the beautiful god ", which stands close under the southern end
of the hiU called (after it) Alagarmalai, twelve miles north-west
of Madura town.


Round about this teuiple, in days gone hj, was a considerable C51AP. XV.
fortified town ; and the remains of the palace of Tirumala M^lub.
Nayakkan which still stand near it show that it was a favourite
place of residence of the rulers of Madnra. It is now absolutely
deserted ; owing, it is said, to its feverishness.

The spot is most picturesque. Running out southwards from
the foot of the hill and surrounding not only the temple but the
rains of the old town and palace, runs a high rectangular fort
wall, measuring some 730 yards by 400, faced with stone and
crowned with battlements of dark red brick exactly like those
shown in the picture of Madura fort above (p. 265) referred to.
A stone gateway passes tlirough this, in front of which a broad
street, flanked on either side by high mounds made of the debris of
former houses and by a rained shrine or two, runs straight to the
temple and the old palace. Tliese stand close under the Alagar
hill and the red brick of the main gopuram of the former building
contrasts effectively with the dark green of the wooded slopes
behind it.

Passing up this street one sees first, on the western side, a
carved stone mantapam wliich is supposed to have been built by
Tirumala Nayakkan and contains several life-size statues, two of
which are said to represent that ruler and his wife. The ' fair
round belly ' for whicJi ho was notorious is reahstically and
unflatteringly depicted. A little further up the street are the
ruins of his palace, an erection of brick and chuuam which wjis
roofed with the domed and vaulted structures used in the palace
at Madura and is consequently in the last state of decay. Facing
it is the temple car-stand and gorgeous new car. Further on is a
big mantapam which belongs to the Kalians of this part of the
country. It is lofty, and contains many excellently sculptured
pillars and a frieze of well-executed carvings of episodes in the
various incarnations of Vishnu, but all these are clogged up with
whitewash. Westward of it is the Udya gopuram, or ' king tower,'
an imposing unfinished mass which is said, like its counterpart at
Madura, to be due to the great Tirumala, embodies the best stone-
carving in all the place, has hitherto escaped the whitewash brush,
but is choked up with debris, covered with trees, plants and
creepers and requires only a few more years of neglect to be an
absolute ruin. AVest of it again, is the Vasnnfa manUipam or
' spring porcli,' a building forming a hot- weather retreat for the
god and containing a square central mantapam surrounded by a
stone channel designed to hold cooling streams, and a shady
cloister the walls and ceilings of which bear frescoes illustrative of
the Yaishnava scriptures.


CHAP. XV. Eetracing his steps to the Kalians' mantapain, the traveller

MfLUK. reaches at length the Alagarkovil itself. This is surrounded
with a high wall, over the main (eastern) entrance through
which I'ises a ffopuraii). In front of this entrance, however, is
a notable peculiarity. A flight of eighteen steps runs down from
it at the foot of which is a big wooden gate which is sacred to
Karuppanasvami, the most popular of aU the less orthodox gods
of the Madura district. He is known here as ' Karuppan of the
eighteen steps.' The gate and steps are held in especial veneration
by the Kalians who are so numerous in the adjoining villages.
The gate is spattered from top to bottom with sandal-paste ; on
either side of it is a collection of great iron bill-hooks and spears
(some of them 12 ft. long) which are the favourite weapons of
Karuppanasvami and have been presented to him in accomplish-
ment of vows by devotees whose undertakings he has blessed ; and
mingled with these are the cradles given him by women to whom
he is supposed to have granted otfspring. The gate is commonly
resorted to when solemn aflfirmations have to be made. It is
believed throughout the taluk that the man who swears to a false-
hood here and passes through Karuppan's gate with the lie upon
his lips wiU speedily come to a miserable end, and many a civil
suit is settled by the parties agreeing to aUow the court's decree
to foUow the affirmations which are made in this manner.

Just to the south of the gate, is a stone bearing a modem
(1842) inscription relating how Pachaiyappa MudaH (the well-
known benefactor of Pachaiyappa's CoUege at Madras and other
charities) gave the annual interest on a lakh of pagodas for feeding
pilgrims to the temple. North of it is the every-day entrance
to the spacious Alagarkovil quadrangle, which measures 90 yards
by 50. This is a striking place. On two sides of it towers the
wooded hill ; it is paved throughout with stone ; round the sides
of it stand several Little mantapams and two old circular granaries
called Kama and Lakshmana, formerly used to hold the offerings
of grain made to the god ; and in the middle of it, faced by a
long, much whitewashed, three-aisled mantapam of the Nayakkan
period, upborne by 40 pillars shaped into fearsome yalis and other
figures, is the holy of holies. This has an uncommon circular
apse lighted, it is said, by windows of pierced stone all of different
design. In it is kept the wooden image of the god, the processional
image (an unusually handsome affair heavily plated with gold),
another image, about 15 inches high, made of sohd gold and
most beautifully chased, and the temple jewels, some of wliich
are the gift of Rous Peter (see p. 259) and bear his name.


In the gods bedchamber adjoining, stands a rare and antique CHAP. XV.

bedstead, said to be tlie gift of Tirumala (whose statue stands at MEtcu.

the entrance to the room), which from all accounts (Europeans

cannot, of course, see it) must be nearly unique. It is said to be

12 feet long by 10 feet wide and about 15 feet high; to stand on

a pedestal of sculj^tured black stone, inlaid with small ivory figures,

supporting four pillars carved from similar stone and ornamented

with small detached shafts and figures in ivory ; and to be covered

with a domed wooden roof elaborately inlaid with ivor\" work

Online LibraryMadras (India : State)Madura (Volume 1) → online text (page 31 of 40)