A cue from my mom about a Shiva Temple with a special Avudaiyar, set me off to Kovalam in ECR. Me, my bike and cam and I was off to Kovalam. Tucked up within the little streets of Kovalam, I spotted this temple.
As usual, it was closed. I enquired a lady doing her household chores nearby, and she directed me to the road opposite to the temple, across the main road, beyond a tank, to a tailors shop, where I can find the priest of the temple. Yes, I found him, in his house, attached to that tailor's shop. A very frail, weak, old man - my first thought was "Oh my God, how is he gonna show me the temple!". I asked him if he could send someone with the keys but he volunteered to come himself, provided I arranged for his transport (Ok, the temple was hardly 250m from his house, but he was way too frail to walk!). I got him an auto and there we were at the temple...
The Lord Shiva here is Kailasanathar. His consort here is Kanakavalli Thayar. So what's the specialty in the Avudaiyar (Avudaiyar is the base of the Shiva Lingam)? It has inscriptions! Perhaps, the only temple with inscriptions on the avudaiyar itself! Its says 'Sri Satheruman Murthiper'. 'Sat' means trade guild and this refers that the place served as a port. According to the ASI (Archeological Survey of India) the script on the inscription is Palaeography Script which again is not very common. The temple & its inscriptions belongs to 13th C AD.
The base of the maha mandapam has a 3 line inscription throughout. At certain places they have been painted red recently to enable easy reading of the inscriptions. At one spot I could spot the word 'Kovalam'. Its a 13th C inscription and this place has been called Kovalam ever since then!
The ardha mandapam has some exquisite bronzes - Shiva Parvathi with Somaskandha with a cute little Nataraja on the arch with a (isn't the priest innovative to do that!), Standing Vinayaka, Ambal etc. The Maha Mandapam has 3 shrines of 3 Vinayakas - Kubera Vinayaka, Vijaya Vinayaka & Siva Sakthi Vinayaka.
In the external circumambulation passage are Dakshinamurthy, Navagraha, Brahma, Sathya Narayana etc. The mandapam that housed Navagraha was visibly very old and almost dilapidated with roots of creepers all over them. The little shikara and stupi atop the Rishaba Mandapam and the Vimanam were so eroded, thanks to the construction made of lime-sand bricks unlike the sturdy granite, with which the huge temples are usually made of! Remember Mambakkam Muruganatheeswarar Temple? Its construction was also made of this, hence the severe erosion!!! May be those small area kings would have afforded only this or may be these were trials before they built the granite temples!!! The erosion is further enhanced with cracks due to creepers growing on them.
The temple needs renovation, a big time renovation, with the intervention of archaeologists. Why? The sanctum sanctorum has tile flooring while the vimana is withering!
From here, my next stop was Siruthavur near Thiruporur in search of some Megalithic Burial Sites. What's Megalithic Burial Site? I've told you about that already here! Half an hour drive on the long, absolutely deserted Chengalpet - Tiruporur Road, and reaching Siruthavur did not help to spot a Megalithic Burial Site. Totally disheartened, when I started back I did manage to spot the Blue Board of ASI, somewhere behind some State Govt. Building near a school, near the Thiruporur Junction, yeah a Megalithic Burial Spot!!! Have to go there again, with more details, to spot some more and better sites!!!!!
TO REACH HERE:
To Kovalam / Covelong in Chennai:
From Tambaram: 30km via Vandalur, Vandalur-Kelambakkam Road,
From Thiruvanmiyur: 24km in ECR towards Mahabalipuram
From Mahabalipuram: 19km in ECR towards Chennai
From Pondicherry: 125km in ECR towards Chennai
To the temple:
From the Kovalam Junction on ECR, turn right (if you're coming from Chennai in ECR) and go on till you reach the Kovalam Bus Stand. At Kovalam Bus stand turn left and you won't miss the temple, it at your left. The Temple tank is just opposite to the temple. At Kovalam Bus stand turn right and after some 10 buildings, you'll spot a tailor shop to the left. Attached to his shop is the priest's home.
Google Co-ordinates: http://g.co/maps/yf3va