Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Ramalingaswami||Ambal / Thayar:||Mangalambigai|
|Timing:||to & to||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Patteeswaram||District:||Thanjavur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Kumbakonam (8 km)||Thanjavur (34 km)|
|Tiruvarur (44 km)||Ariyalur (46 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
Located on the banks of the TR Patnam river, today this temple is referred to as Ramaswami Koil or Ramalinga Swami Koil. But in its heyday, the place and temple itself were called Panchavan Madeveeswaram, after Panchavan Madevi, the third queen of Rajaraja Chola I.
To appreciate this temple, we should get to know a bit more about Panchavan Madevi, who was born with the name Nakkan Thillai Azhagiyar. She she hailed from the clan of Pazhuvettaraiyars (history enthusiasts and readers of Kalki’s Ponniyn Selvan will be familiar with them, who were feudatories under the Cholas), and belonged to their hometown of Pazhvur (also called Pazhur or Palur these days).
This temple was built by Rajendra Chola, for his step-mother Panchavan Madevi, and originally, Siva’s name at this temple was Panchavan Madeveeswarathu Mahadevar. In the time of Rajendra Chola, the place was also called Mudikonda Cholapuram. Interestingly, no other queen of Rajaraja Chola has a Pallipadai temple, not the principal queen Uloka Madevi, and not even Rajendra Chola’s birth mother Vanavan Madevi – such was the love that Panchavan Madevi is said to have had for Rajendra Chola, that she is said to have consumed herbs to ensure she is not capable of bearing children, so that her husband Rajaraja Chola could make his son Rajendra Chola the heir and future king.
A Pallipadai is a burial spot – usually for some members of royal families, or soldiers – above which a deity’s sculpture has been placed. In olden times, this was almost always a Siva Lingam. Over time, these were developed into temples, many of which are in active worship today. More often than not, the deceased royal or soldier is buried in the temple premises (usually under the garbhagriham). Pallipadai temples are different from hero stones (நடுகல் in Tamil) which are almost exclusively for soldiers, and are typically a single flattish stone with engravings depicting the soldier performing a deed in battle. Pallipadai temples are almost without exception, built on the banks of a river or water body. This seems to be the only Pallipadai temple in Tamil Nadu, built for a woman.
The architecture here is superlative. In particular, the Nandi here with his necklace, and the two dwarapalakas at the entrance to the garbhagriham, is beautifully crafted. Both are said to be by the Pazhuvur craftsmen.
Other architectural and iconographic specialties here are the koshta murtis, which are in addition to the usual ones we see. These additional ones include Mahishasura Mardhini, Ardhanareeswarar, Bhikshatanar, and Siva as Ganadharar, and even the scene of Siva pacifying Parvati as seen in the koshta sculpture of Kshetra Puraneswarar at Tirumeyachur. Interestingly, other than for Chandikeswarar and Navagraham, there are no separate shrines in this temple, in the prakaram.
An interesting view held locally is that the two dwarapalakas represent Rajaraja Chola I and Rajendra Chola. This is bolstered by the depiction of what appears to be a Siva Lingam at the end of the flowing hair of one of the dwarapalakas (see pic). Further, this temple is located in Patteeswaram – the heart of the Chola empire at one time; and close to Udaiyalur, which is very intimately connected with Rajaraja Chola I.
Inscriptions in this temple are crucial to identifying this temple as what it actually is – they state that this is temple is a Pallipadai temple for Panchavan Madevi, built by Rajendra Chola. They also go on to state that funds for the temple’s upkeep, lighting lamps, and payment of salaries, will be met out of a portion of the land tax from the (what must have been a nearby) village of Sitradi. These are found at the base of the northern wall of the garbhagriham. Nobody knows why, but the Tamil word “pallipadai” has clearly been attempted to be erased, in this inscription. Inscriptions here also refer to appointments of as many as five Odhuvars, a pidara (or pandaram), Sivacharyar, accountant, treasurer, six drummers and a watchman, for the temple.
The temple is equally revered for Rajendra Chola, and there are special pujas every month on the day of his birth star, Tiruvadhirai. Similar pujas are also performed on the day of Revati nakshatram, the birth star of his queen.
Other Information for your visit
The temple is today in a significantly better state than it was in 1978 when it was discovered among thick undergrowth, in a severely neglected state.
The temple is taken care of by a devoted Vaishavite Bhattar, who encourages everyone visiting here, to read Balakumaran’s Udaiyar in advance of their visit, to better understand and experience the temple. Puja is performed only once a day, in the mornings. The temple is locked the rest of the day, and even locals are unable to help. Therefore, it is ideal that one visits before 10 am.