Thursday, 3 June 2021


Raghunatha Thondaiman had all reasons to be happy.His territories surrounding Pudukottai,his capital are well protected now and this was achieved by his crafty alliance with East india company which some thought was totally submissive and sycophantic.On the contrary,he became the most dependent ally to the British and after the defeat of the Mughals the entire south India, was now under the control of the company.Thondaiman's suffered heavy losses while fighting along with British against the French.Despite that his support to British was unwavering.
East india company allowed him to rule almost independently and infact Thondaiman, was spared from paying tributes too.
Such was his exalted and reassured position of the Pudukottai kingdom.
A quasi independent state,good astute king made the people happy too,calmness and safety prevailed in late 1790's around Pudukottai. Neighbouring kingdoms were always involved with some fight while Pudukottai was at peace which made livelihood and life better for the inhabitants of Pudukottai.

Raghunatha thondaiman,King of Pudukottai,was not happy however.His mind was restless and was irritable too.Information was passed on to the administrators that he is going to take a spiritual break for few days.His wife knew it could be for some days and Thondaiman’s favourite place to visit was Kudumiyan malai.

His  chariot had arrived by 10 am as sun was playing hide and seek with clouds. The weather was pleasant and Raghunathan informed the chariot guy to send a word for Krishnan, his confidant and friend.
Without waiting for his reply he quickly walked the pathway which had on either side mind boggling rock cut structures of nine avatars of lord Vishnu and the the inner sanctum had sculptures of lord Muruga,Ganesh,Ravanan,Vishnu,Oorthavathandavam of siva and in the end a beautiful Manmathan statue were present.
Raghunathan  quickly walked to the right and entered the shrine for the Goddess.
He took the blessings of the goddess and sat on the seven faced single stone. From there he can see two things.
On the right,the pilaster of the palliyarai(God and goddess sleeping place),a carving of two headed bird with single torso was present.
Two years before he understood the meaning of that bird which was called “Irandil paravai”.
“It means if you are not with me,I’m dead too”.
It shows the unison of the lovers a sort of siva,sakthi concept and aptly sculpted at the pilaster of
On the left stood the beautiful female statue who had built this part of the shrine and the stone on which Raghunathan  was sitting, now.
The  marriage of Thondaiman’s and also the coronation happened on this stone in front of the goddess and on the right stood silently the statue which was a Devaradiyar. Her name was Nachi, and she was standing close to one of the 24 supporting pillars of the shrine.
A wry smile from Raghunathan explained the feelings of the devaradiyar's plight till two years ago.
 Beautiful and innocent  women were chosen deliberately for god’s  work mostly without their consent and subsequently the megalomaniac kings, made them tools for their pleasure.
Generations earlier they had come of their own will and his forefathers  have changed it.
He smiled because the devaradiyar could have bedded his fore father and the same person could have chiseled out the Irandil paravai too.
During Raghunathan’s tenure,devaradiyars work was made optional  and strict instructions were given to all the administrators that devaradiyars were equivalent to goddesses.
The cave temple was just behind the shrine of the goddess.
The chariot rider had by then was there and helped Raghunathan, to climb the cliff leading to the Nayanmars ledge.He had by now walked half the hill and could see the carvings of the Nayanmars.The solitary walk up and the melancholic ledge in front of lord Siva and parvati on the holy bull flanked by the Naynamars,the mere site of it gives closeness to the god.The cliff and the surrounding wind which whistles with the clouds makes one feel the five elements of Lord Siva.Raghunathan could feel it.Sekkizhar’s, Thiruthondarpuranam came in front of him.No where in the world,carvings of this magnitude has been made.














After spending some time, he started descending.He could see the beautiful holly bull worshipping the hill. The hill is Siva and the huge Nandhi sitting half a kilometer away from the hill was quietly watching and meditating in front of Siva. 
I was unable to sit even for 10 minutes.
Walking across the grandeur of the beautiful sculptures and then the exploitation of women in the guise of devaraja cult,the one place which gives solitude and peace was sittting in front of siva.
Descending rapidly he took the blessings of lord ganesh with Mahendraverman's musical notes written on either side of Lord Ganesh sculpture on the rock. Mahendraverman was not only a great king, but also a writer, singer, builder and a musician too.
Mahendraverman also had built the cave temple.A series of side steps took him to the cave temple.
the huge nandhi made way for the smiling Dwarapalakas."Smiling assasin "- nowhere Dwarapalaka’s smile. Mahendraverman's artistic brilliance did not end here. The instrument which was invented by him was also sculpted on the left hand side of the main sanctum. "Parvathavarthini" it is called.
He started meditating and recited Sivapuranam.
Peace enveloped and engulfed him. It was however short lived. His mind started to waver and the guilt feeling sneaked in. I’m responsible. He did not ask for protection. His presence in his territory was also unknown to me till the British informed him. They had tracked his presence to the jungles of  Pudukottai.Raghunathan was tipped of and was instructed to capture him and hand over,to the East India company.The most wanted man was Kattabomman.Raghunathan did as he was told.
What took Raghu by surprise was the swift and fast execution of Kattaboman.Once again he was informed.
As he opened his eyes tears trickled down. Kattabomman was a angry but immature King.Putting valor ahead of shrewdness brought his downfall and death. Deep inside Kattabomman's death left a unhealing scar and a immense feeling of guilt.

He walked down took the blessings of the other goddess standing to the left of lord ganesh and went to the main shrine, built later.
Kudiminathar,was in front of him as Sivalingam. After doing the customary obeisance,in front of Lord siva he came out worshipped the Nataraja and came out of the temple and was greeted by his friend,Satyakrishnan who was sitting at the 1000 pillared gopuram.

Both of them hugged each other and exchanged pleasantries.
Raghunathan,quickly told all that happened to Kattabomman,and his part in his death,to his childhood friend and confidant,Sathya Krishnan.
His friend just absorbed what all he said and asked the king, “Can we go to Narthamalai”?
“Nartha malai will take one hour to go,before sun sets we can reach”.
“Yes the pleasure of seeing the sunset from the hillock after getting the blessings of lord Siva should be wonderful,we will go Krishnan”,answered king in a cheerful acceptance.
The king was escorted by his friend to the chariot.People bent down and wished the king after recognising him.
While wishing them back a sense of disenchantment,despair and Kattabomman occupied his mind and heart.
He alighted inside the chariot holding his friend’s hand.
The driver asked the king sir, “Where,we should go now?”
“Yes sir”,and the chariot was pulled by the energetic stallion.
Raghunathan was silent for the entire journey as the chariot swallowed the path with remarkable ease.
“Sir,should I stop in front of the hill with the steps or on the side of the hill lock”.
“Side of the hillock please”.
Krishnan knew why he wanted to walk on the rock so that he can drink water from the spring and also the king can recollect his young days.
As kids they used to play here.Despite being a prince Raghu used to play with Krishnan who incidentally was a lower caste too.Raghu still talked with him like a friend and never showcased himself as a king.
Krishnan used to get beautiful dresses from his friend as gift.Once they grew up Krishnan refused the gifts and told Raghu “I’m just happy to be your friend”.
Raghu’s affection to Krishnan became even more when he refused many important posts in his governing body.
His simple answer was “Happy to be your friend and happy to be a farmer”.
“I’m a king in my farm and you are a king for the people”.
Both of them walked up the hillock.
“What do you think of Vijayalayan?” queried Krishnan.
“You mean the person who built this temple”.
“He was a great king and he was the first chozha king to expand beyond Cauvery”.
“I shall tell more about him which might help you understand how kings were at that point of time,
Narthamalai Siva temple was built by him to celebrate his victory over Varagunapandiyan”.
Raghu,looked at his friend and said, “Yes”.
“The real war was between Aparajitha Pallavan and Varanguna Pandian,the Ganga king and Vijayalayan  supported the Pallava,Aparajithan finally won the war at thirupurambiyam”.
“Tanjore and Pudukottai were gifted by Aparijithan  to Vijayalayan,for his support and he was made quasi independent”.
“Vijayalayan built the temple,on the hill to celebrate his victory and independence and this temple became the template or model for the great Tanjore temple subsequently”.
”Apart from being the first architectural stone temple,so that it cannot be destroyed,this temple also is on a hill so that no one can see from the ground,this makes the temple safe from invaders and destruction”.
“Yes Krishnan I remember,Varagunan ran to Madurai and Aditya chozhan,built a temple in his name at thirupurambiyam”,added Raghunathan.
“Raghunathan,all these are good things which are in history,but what Aditya, did later”.
“I don’t know”-Raghunathan.
“The story does not end here.”
“Aditya despite being a friend of Aparajithan double crossed him,he killed him and took away his territories”.
“The worst thing was he enslaved and married his beautiful wife also,which effectively decimated the Pallavas”.
”Krishnan you are telling me history or you are talking about the vicissitudes of life”.
  Krishnan looked into his friends eyes and said “Raghunathan, Aparijithan, gave chozha part of his land,
but,Vijayalayan and his son later killed him and took his wife too”.
“He did not do this for his people,What he did was greediness and treachery?
“He can build many temples but Siva will not forgive the sin he has committed”.
“Yes Vijayalayan and his son seem to be unscrupulous”,accepted Raghu.
“Very true.On the contrary what you did was to protect your people,British are your friends,Kattabomman is not your friend too”.
“Handing over Kattabomman to the British is not wrong”,Krishnan added.
“As a king Vijayalayan,is a great king but Raghunathan you are a greater man and a better human being”.
Raghu did not speak anything.
They had by now come to the smallish spring.The gentle breeze had become little wilder and the water was glistening under the sun.
Krishnan waited for the King to sit down.
Raghu washed his face and cleaned his feet and hands.
“Chilly and tasty” he uttered as he used his hands to drink the water.
A small Muruga shrine was adjacent to the spring and after getting his blessings they reached the summit.
A man was sleeping at the entrance of the temple.
He was dark,had a small dress covering his private parts and was looking threadbare.
A stench came from him as he was full of dirt with long unkempt hair.
Raghu asked him to leave way.
The sleeping dark man opened his eyes and saw them.
“Can you move aside please”.
“You have a long way to go”,said the beggar,stared at them. “Don’t search him here”
Raghu felt penetrated as the beggar walked away from them.
He was tempted to ask him who are you but before he could ask he had wandered away.
“We shall see the Vishnu,come”,said Krishnan and took Raghunathan to the cave temple.
At the right side a cave temple with twelve identical Vishnu sculptures can be seen .
At the centre was an empty pedestal.
The empty pedestal probably had the linga.
“Could be Mallik Khafir,he ransacked our treasures,even I will kill Khafir, if I get to see him”.
“He must have broken the linga but could not do anything to the Vishnu”.
“Yes,because of it being engraved on the rock”.
“Raghu do you know,this cave temple was originally a Jain temple”.
“Trithankar,worship I have heard it”.
“You said you will kill Khafur,what Jains will do for converting their cave temple into a Hari Hara worship”.
“It’s all materialistic manifestation of inflated ego based on self centric ideas,Jains advocated equality among all living beings,Chitanavasal paintings also depict the same”.
“I don’t know who converted this cave temple to Harihara temple could be Mahendran or Varagunan”.
“Mandagapattu,is a cave temple for Trimurti,this, one is meant for Harihara”,continued Krishnan.
“At Mandagapattu, Brahma also had worship along with Siva and Vishnu,true,I knew that Krishnan”.
“Initially worship was done for Brahma,Indran and Surya”.
“You mean Vedic worship,so called high class”,replied Raghunathan.
“What is the difference,praying to god is individual preference”
“Very correct,Vedic worship was not meant for poor and the downtrodden,the poor identified themselves with Lord Siva.
“As you are well aware,poor form the majority everywhere”.
“Vedic worship faded off due to their overbearing attitude but they were intelligent and manipulative and they knew how to come back,they incorporated lord Siva into their worship so that the entire population can be under their control”.
Raghu started understanding the conundrum.
“Right opposite to this cave temple you can see lord Siva temple only”.
“Yes it looks so captivating”.
“From Trimurti worship,to Hari Hara worship and now only Siva or Hari worship - Why?
“I don’t know the answer Satya,can you finish the riddle by your answer”
“Mahendraverman and Thirunavukarasar started the Bhakti movement”.
“Very true but Mahendran was a follower of Vedic principles prior to his conversion to Shaivism”.
“Mahendraverman followed Tritankara, I mean Jain worship initially right”,queried Raghunathan.
“It’s debatable the Trichi, rock cut temple has a beautiful Gangadhara sculpture,the engravings at that cave temple says he converted himself to Siva worship, and it does not say whether he converted from Jainism or from Vedic worship”.
“His primary affiliation is debatable but my interpretation is he converted to Shaivism from sacrificial or Vedic worship”.
“Krishnan,your discourse from Vedic,Jainism,Trimurti,Harihara and then Siva worship,seems to make things confusing”.
“People change or made to change as per the religion embraced by the King.Gods, within the religion also change according to the liking of the King”.
Raghu was still looking at the Siva temple and said  “Look.”
“The beggar you mean”.
“Yes,see he is entering the Garbagraha (main sanctum for linga is housed)”.
“Come Satya we shall also see lord siva,circumambulate and get down by the time sun fully goes down”.
They worshipped lord siva,meditated and started to walk down.
“What happened to him?”
“You mean the beggar I saw him entering the shrine and after that did not find him”.
“May be he evaporated”.
It is hardly 50 meters how he could have gone out of the eyes.











As they quickly walked down the cliff the villagers started huddling themselves to their respective huts.
The seven hillocks surrounding Narthamalai, was becoming taller as they descended down.
Raghu was in a different state of mind now.
A sense of purification or may be some meaning into life,he was conjecturing.
He felt light in his heart,a sense of quietness in solitude,despite Krishnan’s presence.
Uncluttered serenity was descending on him.
Still he had lots of questions.
He looked at Sathya and he smiled,understandingly.
At the base of the hill the dark guy was sitting.
Raghu was taken aback.
How he could have come so fast. May be he floated.
Both of them were bewildered but chose to ignore.
“Sathya are you free to continue the journey”.
“Where Raghunathan?”
“Thiruperundurai,I mean Avudayar  temple”.
“Yes we shall, as the King orders”.
As they reached the chariot the driver was seen requesting the dark man to move away.
Raghu asked him not to trouble the beggar and said “We shall evade him and go”.
As they alighted into the chariot the dark man opened his eyes.
“Perundurai will welcome you,Go and meditate where Manickavasagar got Deeksha(enlightment).”
Both of them were stunned.
As they got down again from the chariot,the dark man got up and started walking.
“Who is this guy”?
The horse rider said, “Sir,he is called the dumb saint”
“He is a Brahmin, who left his wife and mother at young age and started wandering,Often he visits siva temple and people see him talking to Siva and Nandhi and at times alone”.
“He does not take bath or does not dress also,sir”
“He loves children and once he sent five children to Madurai in a second,the children played there and came back by evening and they vividly explained about Madurai temple”.
“Don’t talk nonsense,may be he has some powers”.
“But how he could say that we are going to Peru perundurai”,questioned Krishnan as he helped the king to enter the chariot.
“Raghu,now I know who he is,his real name is Sivaramakrishnan”.
“The dark guy is a wandering hermit,some call him Sithar”.
“What the driver told about him is true”?
“It’s true he does not talk,but he spoke to us, may be he spoke to you”.
From the pomp and splendour of the kings of Kudumiyan malai,to the treachery and the self centered Vijayalayan  at Narthamalai and finally the dark beggar who appears schizophrenic,Raghunathan  was having an experience of different kind.
“Go to avuduyar Kovil”,said the king.
The chariot started towards the next temple and Raghu thought they should reach there by mid night.
“We can stay at the small palace adjacent to the temple and eat fruits for the night”.
“Okay sir”.
“Are poojas regularly done at the temple”
“Yes sir they do five times now”,said the driver of chariot.
”They have started linga worship also now”,Krishnan joined the conversation.
“Why you are telling linga worship sarcastically,siva temple naturally will have a self manifested linga?”
“But the name of the temple is Aavudai”.
“It means the base on which the linga rests”.
“Yes I know that”,Raghu snapped.
“We can also change the name of the temple as Avudailingam temple”,said Krishnan sarcastically.
Raghu started to understand,the hidden meaning of his friend’s narrative.
“Manickavasagar had built this temple and installed a pedestal only for worship”.
“It did not have a hole for lingam”
“Manickavasagar’s idea was to see the omnipotent everywhere and when we concentrate above the pedestal we see nothing,Formlessness is the next real step of worship and self realisation”.
“Now a linga like metal has been installed on top of the pedestal so that it looks like a linga”.
“This temple was built in fifteenth century and whether Manickavasagar built this one is debatable may be he could have started the main sanctum”
“Some say this temple is built by goddessYogambika and some say it is built by evil spirits”.
“Even I had heard these junk stories”.
“Manickavasagar is the hero of the temple. It does not have Balipeedam,Kodimaram,Nandhi,Utchavar and also does not have lord Vinayaka,we have Manickavasagar as Nandhi and also as Vinayakar.”
“Manickavasagar gets first preference here.”
“Very correct and can you think deeper”,quizzed Satya Krishnan.
“The idea of building this temple is based on the principles of Manickavasagar and let us not dwell who built it”.
“Once some one realises god he knows god is everywhere,he has to sit idle and feel that godliness in himself and inside the heart”.
”Why one requires a form for it?”
”Though a form of god is required to start a worship the ultimate journey is to see and feel god everywhere”.
“The pinnacle and the exalted stage of worship,is God is everywhere”.
“This principle has been hijacked and now the linga like metal has been substituted so that the real essence of Manickavasagar’s dream has been sent to a primordial form”.
“Only the village still is called as a Avudayar koil”.
As the conversation between the two was going on the chariot had reached the outskirts of the village and the beautiful gopuram was welcoming them .
They reached the small palace adjacent to the temple and the maids were bewildered by the unannounced arrival of the king.
Both of them ate and slept well.
Sivapuranam woke both of them.
“Pattruthu Parrikum”,(Detachment from materialism paves way for true love)
“Avan arulale Avan thazh Vanangi”(God determines whether we are destined to reach his feet).
These two lines summarised the entire journey felt Raghunathan.
He took bath and walked to the hall where his friend was already waiting to escort him to the temple.
“Shall we eat and go”
“We shall see the Aavudai first”.
As they entered the temple,Krishnan asked Raghunathan, to look at the top of the wall.
“A monkey and a Udumbu(Monitor lizard).
“What does that mean”?
“I don’t know.”
“Monkey has a wandering mind and character,Udumbu on the contrary does not leave what it catches”.
”The meaning of this temple is to desist the temptations and wandering mind and enter the spiritual world like a Udumbu and do not deviate”.
“Pattruaruthu Parikum”.
Both of them were enjoying the beautiful sculptures like Villenthia Murugan,different types of horses mimicking Greek,Arab and Marathas.
Quintessential sculptures of Asuras.
Nayakar paintings on the roof of Manickavasagar shrine showing the 276 shrines sung by fabulous four.
They entered the main sanctum after entering the gopuram and was welcomed by the graceful horse,yet made dominant by the person sitting on it,lord siva.
Satya immediately told, “See, this depicts the arrival of lord siva in the horse to convert foxes into horses”.
“Ha ha ha”.
They heard a husky laughter.
As they walked past the carvings of Pasupatha Indran and reached the midway of the hall they saw Sivaramakrishnan,the dark beggar.
The dark beggar or Sidhar.
How he could have come here.
Even if he had walked the entire night he can cover only one third of the distance,we had travelled.
Bewildered and beyond scientific reason for his presence here both of them went near him and Raghunathan  asked him, 
“Sir,why did you laugh?”
“Sirrrrr,I’m a beggar call me beggar”.
“See those two statues who are they”
“I don’t know sir”
“Both are Manickavasagar one is when he was minister and next when he became a beggar,as per your dictionary”.
“See that horse, siva did not come to change foxes into horses”.
“ Look properly,the horse has been saddled with constraints for ears and eyes,When you resist temptations and seek the real path you will ascend to heaven,look…Both the legs of the horse are going up because the horse is able to control the temptations of life,it’s path is to god that is heaven”.
“If we are unable to do that we will be like fox roaming around to be hunted”.
”You want to be hunted or you want to reach siva”.
“See the temple and come”.
He walked away again.
The waves of the river settled down like a paper.
Both of them did not talk.
They entered the sanctum saw the Aavudai alone.
Siva was everywhere.
They circumambulated and seeked blessings of the tree where Manickavasagar attained Deeksha.


"Krishnan, he went to the back side of the temple can we go see him".
Yes, they crossed the temple pond and tried to search him.
But he was not found.
They asked about his whereabouts.
"Sidhar, will be at the Manickavasagar temple".
"We are here only".
"No king one kilometer from here there is another temple the temple built by Manickavasagar".
"What is this then?”
 "This temple could have been built for Manickavasagar"
 They walked to the that temple,by foot.
 "Raghu, why can’t we go evening time".
 "No Satya I want to see him".
 "The dark man, no he is a sidhar".
They reached the smallish temple.
He was there.
Both of them went near him.
"This temple was built by Manickavasagar.The temple which you saw just before you came here was built for Manickavasagar".
"Don’t search him he is everywhere".
"You know god is the ultimate boundless,benevolent ,effulgence".
"The light of god is powerful then sun".
 "Sun,can show all colours except darkness".
  "But god will show darkness which is our ignorance and correct that too".
   "That’s why he is boundless,benevolent,caring and cannot have a form".
"Path is the same,Trithankara,Siva,Vishnu,Buddha,Brahma all are same”.
He stood and started walking.

In two days life had come a full circle for Raghu.
What started as guilt feeling transformed into a search.
From the grandeur of Kudumiyan malai where coronation of Kings was done on the rock built by a Devadasi,the same kings devoured devadasis who were initially offered for god. The kings built a Devaraja cult around them and all of them were pompous and pretentious without understanding the reality.
My sin of handing over Kattabomman is not for safeguarding the people but it was protecting my territorial interests,once gain.
Narthamalai symbolises act of bigotry and self perpetuation.
The purpose of defeating ignorance and elevating the level of worship is the concept of Manickavasagar, and the result was Avudayar temple.
The elites installed Linga and made sure the idea of formless god,got defeated. This is  pestilence.
God is everywhere and he is formless.
Some one who understands him we call him as beggar.
"Krishnan,I'm leaving".
Raghu walked into the woods leaving Satya and the forms behind.


This blog is based on two true characters and one fictional character.
Raghunathan thondaiman was a king of Pudukottai,lived between 1759-1807,and he was close to British,he came in touch with Sivaramakrishnan and  spent 7 years with him, leaving his kingdom.
British recognised him with the title "RajBahadur".
Sivaramakrishnan is also called as “Sadasiva Brahmendra”was considered a Sidhar and he initiated Thondaiman into Dakshinamurthy mantra and also wrote that on a sand which the royal family treasures even now.
Satyakrishnan is a fictional character.
The temple where Manickavasagar got Deeksha or enlightenment was the last temple in the blog which is a km further south of the Avudayar temple.
Most of the things written in this blog are facts,though the narration is fictional.
Pattraruthu Parrikum- Kindly read Sivapuranam for the meaning and the blog is about this.
The conversion of fox to horse may look simple on paper but it has a philosophy going into it which has been explained.
All the four temples can be covered in a single day,start early and avoid summer months.
Accomodation is available at Aranthangi or Trichi,though Aranthangi is nearer.