Maada Koil and Kochchenga Cholan

Maada Koil (or Maada Kovil) represents a type of temple construction in Tamil Nadu from the early Chola period, and specifically those built by (ie during the reign of) Kochchenga Cholan (variously spelt as Kochchenkannan, Kochchenganan, Kochchengat Cholan, Sengkannan, etc).

The term maada koil comes from maada – Tamil for an elevated level. It refers to a temple design and layout where virtually the entire temple (ie, including the ardha mandapam, mandapam and moolasthanam) is elevated by a few feet, with steps either at the front of the structure or to its side, to reach the ardha mandapam. Also, typically (but not always), the entrance to the ardha mandapam is narrow and/or short (low height).

Kochchenkannan

The name Kochchenkannan derives from the Tamil ko-chen-kannan, or the king with red eyes. The legend is that his mother, when pregnant with him, hung herself upside down in an effort to ensure the child was born at an auspicious time. As a result, the child was born with red eyes.

Kochchenkannan is said to have built 78 maada koils, in addition to some other temples.

In his previous life, Kochchenkannan was a spider, who worshipped Siva at Tiruvanaikka (near Trichy). As a king, he remembered his previous birth, including the legend of the competitive bhakti between the spider and an elephant (see Sthala Puranam of the Jambukeswarar Temple in Tiruvanaikka. As a result, when he built temples as a king, they were elevated, and reachable only by steps – often narrow and individually steep – such that no elephant could climb them to worship the Lord!

There are also other temples built in the style of maada koils, ie, they are elevated in their design. These include the Brihadeeswarar temple at Thanjavur, Brihadeeswarar temple at Gangai Konda Cholapuram, and the Airavateswarar Temple at Darasuram – all of which were built by the Medieval and the Later Cholas.