Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bring Light to Nellikuppam Kailasanatha!

A view of the Nellikuppam Kailasanatha Temple that is currently being renovated

The Kailasanatha Temple at Nellikuppam dates back to over 1400 years. Originally built during the Pallava time, this temple has received patronage from the Cholas, and Nayakas. Over the last sixty years, the temple had become neglected, impoverished and finally started crumbling. In recent years, efforts have been taken by the residents of Nellikuppam to renovate this temple and restore it to its lost glory.

History of the temple:

A number of copper plates and inscriptions that belonged to this temple have not been found and whatever information that is currently available is from the damaged/partial inscriptions that are still found all through the temple.

From these inscriptions, we can understand that the temple was originally constructed during the period of Mahendra Varma I (600-630 CE). When Mahendra Varma converted to Saivaite faith from Jainism due to the influence of Tirunavukkarasar, he built Shiva temples in Tirupadhiripuliyur, Tiruvadhigai and Nellikuppam where Jain shrines had originally existed.

To date, we find that these three temples are equidistant from one another set apart by 12 kms. An ancient Jain Theerthankara statue dating back before 1400 years was found in the Kailasanatha Temple tank and has subsequently been installed in the temple.

Inscriptions belonging to Vikrama Chola's time (1130 CE) mention that this temple had been renovated during Rajendra Chola I's time. The inscription refers to the temple as " Kaileswaramaana Rajendra Choleswaram". Nellikuppam has been referred to as "Raja raja vala nattu Sozhavalli nallur" in the inscriptions.

Subsequently the temple has received further patronage from the Nayakas which is evident from the walls of the temple and the Veera Anjaneya in the temple.  There is another inscription in the temple that talks about " Irandaairam Mudaligal" who have renovated the temple in the 17th Century.There are ten Chola inscriptions, one Nayaka inscription and three other more recent inscriptions in the temple.

Inscription above the sanctum sanctorum

There is one inscription above the main sanctum sanctorum which speaks about the patronage of Kundavai Nachiyar, elder sister of Raja Raja Chola I to the temple.

Mr.Deivanambi, the very dedicated priest at the temple and Mr Kannan one of the trustees of the Kailasanathar Arappani Mandram, speak about the sad plight of the temple a few years ago. Trees had sprouted over the Vimana, with the roots penetrating below and totally covering the Lingam, they say. The door facing South had got jammed and for several years, the Lord stayed inside with no worship.

All that has changed now with the sincere efforts of the volunteers. The Nayaka Mandapas that had collapsed are being reconstructed, the shrines have been repaired and the idols replaced, the flooring and tiles having recently been added.

The Moorthis at the temple:

There are three temples in this area that denote Kailasa, Shivaloka and Bhooloka, the three places where Lord Shiva is worshipped. Apart from the Kailasanatha temple, the Bhoolokanatha temple also at Nellikuppam and  the Shivalokanathar temple at Vellappakkam about two kilometres away. All three temples are in different levels of restoration and can be visited at the same time.

The temple is a treasure trove of wonderful moorthis. On entering the temple from the Southern entrance, one can see the Navagrahas lined up in a single file.

Navagrahas in a single file
Apart from these, Navagrahas are also found in the regular setting in an open shrine between the shrines of Lord Kailasanatha and Goddess Akilandeswari.

Ayyanar at the Nellikuppam Kailasanatha Temple
There is a line up of some unique idols alongside the Navagrahas probably waiting for their turn to be installed in the right shrines around the temple once the reconstruction is complete, such as the Ayyanar above and the Vishnu Durgai with a Prayoga Chakra. The bison head  at her feet is missing though.

Goddess Durga with Prayoga Chakra. 
As we move around the temple, our attention is drawn to the almost lifelike Rishaba Vahana which dates back to 1947. This is probably the only Vahana that could be saved from among the ruins.

The beautiful Rishaba Vahana at Nellikuppam Kailasanatha Temple
The Dakshinamoorthy is a delight to watch.  He smiles from his newly installed shrine without the Banyan tree behind him.

The Dakshinamoorthy at the Nellikuppam Kailasanatha temple with his beautiful locks and enchanting smile
Apart from this, the Vishnu,Veerabadra, Subramanya, Chandikeswara and Jyeshta Devi idols stand testimony to the ancient nature of the temple begging for attention and restoration to shrines in their natural positions in the temple.
Jyeshta Devi at the Nellikuppam Kailasanatha Temple
It is not very common to see Lord Anjaneya in a Shiva temple. A Veera Anjaneya is found in an alcove on the prahara around the temple.

Veera Anjaneya at Nellikuppam Kailasanathar Temple
Goddess Akilandeswari stands magnificiently in a seperate shrine. Over six feet tall, she radiates compassion. Her compelling presence makes you difficult to move away from her.

Goddess Akilandeswari

Finally the magnificient Lord Kailasanatha sits in the newly renovated sanctum sanctorum. It is painful to think how such a vibrant Lord stayed neglected under roots of the tree that had sprouted from the Vimana for several years.
Lord Kailasanatha of Nellikuppam
The renovation has been happening at a slow pace with the funds trickling in through local visitors and contacts. The temple currently needs support for electricity charges. For this the temple plans to place fixed deposits the interest from which would pay the electricity charges over time. A humble contribution of Rs.200 per day is all that is required for this purpose. 365 donors contributing Rs.200 each would help in ensuring the temple is lit and the Lord is restored back to his glory.So far the temple has been able to raise around Rs.30000/-  which has been placed in fixed deposits. Your support is required in helping the temple raise the remaining funds.

By contributing a humble sum of Rs.200 you will be instrumental in ensuring the temple is lit up for a day for a entire lifetime.To support please send in your contribution by Cash/Cheque/DD/MO/NEFT to Aalayam Kanden Trust payable at Chennai or through Account Number 6028000100005596, Punjab National Bank, West Mambalam Branch. IFSC Code PUNB0602800. All donations are exempt under Sec 80G of the Income Tax Act.

Updated on April 21, 2014:

With an initial contribution of Rs.25000/- made by the Aalayam Kanden Trustees, and public contributions of Rs.30302/- a total sum of Rs.55302/- was raised towards electricity deposit and handed over to the trustees of the temple, M/s. Kannan and Raja. We do hope this deposit will help the temple to take care of its electricity charges without any difficulty. Aalayam Kanden wishes to thank all those who contributed towards this noble cause!

Handing over cheque to the trustees of Nellikuppam Sri Kailasanatha temple!

How to reach here:

Nellikuppam is a town in Cuddalore district. When you reach Nellikuppam through Panruti, take the second left after the Nellikuppam Police Station. This street is called Gandhi Street. Drive right down this road for about half a kilometre till you turn right at Sivan Koil street. The temple is found right here.

Temple Timings: 

Morning -6 am to 10 am
Evening - 5 pm to 7 pm

Contact Details:

Deivanambi - Priest at the temple - 77088 41065
Kailasanathar Irai Narpani Manram
 Mr Kannan - 93676 46591
Mr Raja - 94428 32200


  1. Yet another beautiful and informative post about an ancient Shiva temple.The photos are very beautiful especially Lird Shiva and Dhakshinamurthy.I will send my humble contribution to Aalayam Kanden trust towards this temple maintenance.Thanks for the oppurtunity.

  2. dear Shrimati PadmaPriya,

    very nice article. i was trying to locate the temple using google maps/bing imagery. I could not locate the temple.

    recently i found the feature called map maker in google: http://www.google.com/mapmaker?tab=MM

    I was able to create my 1st google marker at thiruvidaimaruthur:

    my humble suggestion to your monumental effort: If you know the locality, you can create a marker - you can also point it to your photo collection and your blog right there.

    Creating the point is very intuitive - it is very easy.

    thanks a lot for your nice blogs and keep up the good work.


  3. The place has been marked when I wrote the article. It takes one or two days for review and aporoval before it appears on google maps. Please try again after a couple of days. This temple is not very difficult to locate as it is in the town of Nellikuppam itself.

  4. Like to read about old temples..they are our heritage and govt. must restore them..

  5. Nice to know about this temple. Loved the small shrines.

  6. Great work and nice photos and article. Actually placing a Google map marker short link would be great help. Other suggestion is to create a Aalayam Kanden maps using Google maps and share it with your followers.

  7. I am delighted to view this temple here since I knew this temple from my childhood days and I have also heard about it from my family members.
    All of our family members convey our sincere thanks to Aalayam Kanden Trustees to have brought light to Lord Kailasanathar.
    I request all viewers and followers of this blog to light up this temple.