|The rustic beauty - Soundara Pandeeswara Temple at Karuvelankulam|
|The temple car of Soudara Pandeeswara Temple, Karuvelankulam|
|Somaskanda Murthy on the temple car. The pen shows the dimensions|
|The various forms of Shiva found on the car of Soundara Pandeeswara Temple|
After having spent considerable time with the temple car, we decided to explore the temple. There was a temple tank nearby with clean water, and a tower right in the middle. Intrigued, we went into the temple and spoke to Mr Nellai Nayagam and Nambi Krishnan of Karuvelangulam village as well as Thavamani Bhattar, the priest of the temple. The discussions revealed many more interesting facets of the temple.
|The temple tank at Karuvelangulam with the small tower in the middle|
This temple is said to have been built by Jatavarman Sundara Chola Pandyan, the son of Rajendra Chola I (study of the inscriptions that remain here might confirm the fact). While he was the viceroy of Madurai, his daughter is said to have been afflicted with a chronic mental ailment. Treatment by the physicians from far and wide did not yield any results. The prince, a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva, is said to have sought his divine intervention to cure the young girl.
One day, a Nampoothiri visited the Prince, and asked him to take his daughter around the Pandya Kingdom. He was asked to stop at a tank where elephants would be found circumambulating it, and bathe the young girl in its waters, after which her chronic ailment would be cured. The Prince did as he was instructed. When he reached the place that is today called Karuvelan kulam, he found elephants circling a tank of water. His daughter bathed in its waters, and was immediately cured of her chronic mental ailment.
Wanting to show his gratitude, he built this temple. The Lord is named after Sundara Pandya and also because he helped the young girl regain her beauty (Soundaryam) he is called Soundara Pandiswara. A tower was built by Sundara Pandya in the temple tank where the young girl bathed and got rid of her disease.
The place came to be known as Kari Valam Kulam (the pond that was circumambulated by elephants). Over time it has come to be known as Karuvelam Kulam.
|Lord Soundara Pandiswara!|
|A demo of the rotating pillars at the Soundara Pandiswara Temple|
We were told that the Nataraja at this temple was one of the oldest in the region and said to have been made by the same person who made the Chidambaram Nataraja. The same Sthapathy is said to have made five such Natarajas with the first being in Chidambaram and the others in Sepparai, Kattarimangalam, Karisoozhndha Mangalam,and Karuvelankulam.
|The Nataraja at Soundara Pandiswara Temple Karuvelan Kulam|
|Dakshinamurthy at Soundara Pandiswara Temple|
The Goddess is named Gomathi Ambal as in many temples in this region and emanates compassion and grace in a separate shrine.
|Goddess Gomathi Ambal at Soundara Pandiswara Temple|
|Goddess Parama Kalyani|
We had seen the beauty of wood and stone earlier and now it was the turn to see beauty in colours. The whole Kootambalam is painted with murals of different Gods and Goddesses. It is sad that most of them have faded and it is difficult to even identify the figures in some of them. However, it is heartening to note that the walls have not been painted over or redone in gaudy acrylic colours.
|A mural of Sankara Narayana - the Sankara and Narayana differentiated|
by the Green and white colours at Soundara Pandiswara Temple
|Mural of Nataraja at the Koothambalam of Soundara Pandiswara Temple|
|Nataraja Mandapa at the Kootambalam of Soundara Pandiswara Temple|
The temple has been last consecrated in 1944. At this time, several stones have been removed and relaid and we find inscriptions both of Rajendra Chola I as well as Jatavarman Sundara Chola Pandya and others at odd locations. A study of these would clealy help in knowing more about this wonderful temple.
|Inscriptions laid on the floor at the time of renovation|
How to get here:
The temple is about 37 kms from Tirunelveli. One can reach here via Kalakkad or Seramadevi. Google Map Coordinates: 8.530669, 77.564083
Morning : 6.30 am - 10 am
Evening : 5.00 pm - 7 pm
Thavamani Bhattar : 99447 35288
Nellainayagam : 99437 58928
Nambi Krishnan : 94864 83033