Veetrirundha Perumal Temple, Veppathur, Thiruvidaimarudur, Thanjavur
Veetrirundha Perumal Temple is a Hindu temple situated in the village of Veppathur in the Thiruvidaimarudur taluk of Thanjavur district, Tamilnadu, India. The temple is dedicated to God Vishnu. The stone and mortar temple is believed to have been constructed in about 850 AD by the Pallavas and was later renovated by the Chola king Raja Raja Chola and by Krishna Devaraya in 1520. The temple is built on top of an older brick temple some of whose remains have survived. The remains constitute one of the two surviving Hindu temples of the pre-Pallava period, the other being the Subrahmanya temple at Saluvankuppam, and one of the oldest ones in Tamil Nadu.
Veppathur had been a seat of learning for about 2,000 years. Vembathur Kannan Koothan and Vembathur Kumaran, two great poets of the Tamil Sangam age (2nd century BCE to 2nd century CE), belonged to Veppathur. During the Tamil Sangam age, it was called Vembattrur. Veetrirundha Perumal temple must have been built around 850 CE during the time of the Pallava ruler, Nandivarman III. He settled Brahmins in a part of Veppathur and called that area “Avani Narana Chaturvedi Mangalam” (after one of his titles) and the temple was called Avani Narana Vinnagar. “The temple with its 90-feet tall vimana formed the centre of the Avani Narana Chaturvedi Mangalam founded by Nandivarman III,” informs the expert. It was during the rule of Nandivarman III that the Pallava murals were painted (on the inner walls of the sanctum). The presiding deity at that time was a stucco figure.
It was during the time of Raja Raja Chola that the presiding deity of Veetrirundha Perumal, and his two consorts, Nilamangai and Thirumangai, all made of granite, were consecrated in the sanctum. The frescoes of the Chola period were painted over the Pallava murals during the rule of Raja Raja Chola. About 520 years later, that is, in 1520 CE, the temple was renovated during the rule of Krishnadevaraya and fresh murals were drawn over the Chola frescoes.
Archaeological Department unearthed stone carvings and rare articles which are said to have been in use more than 5000 years back. A rare historical finding is a 25 meter high Vimanam constructed wholly with brick bound by clay mortar that had stood the test of time. The Vimanam built in five tiers, in Dravidian style with a pyramid shape, reminds us of the great Brihadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur. The Mandapam in the first floor carries paintings traced to the Pallava period.
The ground floor has the idol of Lord Vishnu. Normally, in all the Vaishnavite temples, the Lord offers his holy darshan in a standing or reclining posture. But the Veetrirundha Perumal in this temple is in a commanding sitting posture. It is said that Lord Rama, on his travel in the jungle to locate the whereabouts of Sita took rest in this place with Neela Devi and Bhooma Devi offering solace with a palm fan. Thus, in this ancient temple, Veetrirundha Perumal offers darshan with the two consorts, Neela Devi and Bhooma Devi on either side.
The extraordinary thing about the temple is that it is the only temple in south India that has murals of three dynasties – the Pallava, the Chola and the Vijayanagara. But the heartbreaking reality is that like the sanctum and the vimana (the tower above the sanctum) which are totally in ruins, these murals exist today only in flakes, which are falling off too.
The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department has permitted the REACH Foundation to restore and conserve the temple. The stone images of the deities were brought down from the dilapidated sanctum and installed about 90 years ago in a shrine at the base of the mound. The worship of these deities continues to this day. “It is very difficult to re-conjecture and understand the plan and elevation of the temple complex. At present, we are clearing the debris to understand its original plan so that it can be conserved as it was in the sixth century CE,” Dr. Sathyamurthy says. He is all praise for the engineering skill of the temple architects, who had built the inner core of the sanctum with lime mortar binding the bricks. However, they had used mud mortar to bind the bricks in the outer core.
“What is interesting is that the mud mortar was ground to such a fine supple paste that it formed a thin, micro-layer between two bricks and this layer cannot be seen from outside. So it looks like a moulded terracotta temple. Once we get a grip on the temple’s original plan and elevation, we will start restoring the temple to its pristine beauty,” Dr. Sathyamurthy adds.
Veppathur Sri Venkatachalapathi Trust is acting as a link between Veppathur and the REACH Foundation for the temple’s restoration and to highlight the historical importance of the village, says S. Srinivasan, a trustee.
Veetrirundha Perumal temple (of Vishnu in a seated pose) is located at Veppathur village, near Tiruvidaimaruthur, about 35 km from Thanjavur. This village is connected to Thanjavur & Kumbakonam.
Nearest Railway Station is located at Kumbakonam & Thanjavur. Nearest Airport is located at Trichy.