Keezhayur Twin Temples, Pazhuvur, Ariyalur
Keezhayur Twin Temples are dedicated to Hindu God Shiva located at Keezhayur Village near Pazhuvur in Ariyalur District of Tamilnadu. The presiding deity is Sri Chozheeswarar and Sri Manonmani for the first temple and Sri Agastheeshwarar and Sri Abitha Kuchalambal for the second one. Keezhaiyur was part of the capital city of Pazhuvettaraiyar chieftains, subordinates to the Chola kings. This Temple Complex is also called as Avanigandarba Eswaragruham. Avanigandarba Eswaragruham complex here houses two temples with all sub shrines.
According to the inscriptions, the temple in the north is called Vadavayil Srikoil (Chozheecharam) and the one on the south Thenvayil Srikoyil (Agatheeswaram). These temples were constructed by the Pazhuvettaraiyar chieftains, Kumaran Kandan and Kumaran Maravan (9th century CE). These temples are excellent examples of the early Chola architecture. The twin temples built by the Pazhuvettaraiyars have enchanting sculptures. These are two early Chola temples of stone, miniscule in comparison with the Big Temple, but enchanting, nevertheless.
From inscriptions it is learnt that the temple complex was called Avani Kandarpa Iswara Griham. It was built by a Pazhuvettaraiyar chief, who was a contemporary of Aditya Chola I, and who bore the titles of Avani Gandharvan, Gangamarthandan, Kaliyuganirmoolan, Maravan Maladhalan and Araiyagal Araivuli. The Dhwajasthambham was built by yet another Pazhuvettaraiyar- Ranamukharaman.
The three tiered Rajagopuram of the temple complex is one of the oldest in Tamilnadu. Although the temple is located at a prime junction, it is not visited. The temple has been the centre for promoting art and culture. The temple has attached importance to music. This is evident from one of the idols on the Vimanam holding a musical instrument. The sculptural splendour here is beyond regular pilgrims and requires a detailed observation with a guide. Of particular mention are the Nandis and the Shiva performing on a Veena.
The deity in the Kizhapazhuvur temple has been sung of by Gnanasambandar, in the second Thirumurai, The twin temples of Keezhaiyur, however, have not been sung of in the Thevaram. The Southern shrine in the Keezhaiyur temple complex is referred to in inscriptions as Thenvayil Sri Koil. An inscription of the time of Rajendra Chola says that two persons guilty of homicide had to surrender their land to the Keezhaiyur temple. Another inscription also of Rajendra I's time shows that provision was made for paying a ‘nattuvakkani'- dance master.
The twin temples are west facing and it can be inferred from this that the temples were built for a special purpose. If there was a threat from an enemy, or if there were internecine quarrels in a community, or if there had been a famine, then a West facing temple would be built. This is true of both Vaishnava and Siva temples. Another early Chola temple complex is the one at Moovar Koil, but the difference is that in Moovar Koil, both the temples have the same type of sikhara. But in Keezhaiyur, the Southern shrines had square sikhara, while the smaller northern shrine of Choleeswaram (now called Arunchaleswaram), had a round sikhara.
Whether it is a Siva temple, or a Vishnu temple, the sikhara and pattern of the temple will depend on the type of idol to be installed. If it is a Vishnu temple, then construction will be according to whether the idol is to be Sayana, asana, or sthanaka. If it is a representation of a vibhava avatara like Trivikrama, then the rules of iconometry will be different, and the temple pattern will also be different. In the case of a Siva temple, one could have Nagara (square), Dravida (octagonal) or Vesara (circular) sikhara depending upon the Linga chosen. Usually, the sikhara will have to be in the same category as the Linga. Thus if a Nagara linga is decided upon, then the sikhara will also be Nagara.
The idol of the Nandi facing the garba griha in the Southern shrine looks reposeful. The folds of the skin at the neck make it look so lifelike, that one is almost tempted to touch it to make sure it is indeed a stone sculpture and not a real bull. In the mukhamandapa, you will find lion pillars. The lions seem to brim with energy, ready to spring on you. Outside the sanctum sanctorum are four pillars, the tops of which can be made to rotate, according to a villager. He rues the fact that while until a few years ago, the tops of all four would rotate, now only one does. It was common for sculptors to display their skills by sculpting such pillars or by making a sphere in a yazhi's mouth rotate.
In the mukhamandapa, is a beautiful sculpture of Siva and Parvati is unfortunately covered with oil & soot. There is yet another Nandi in a corner of the mukhamandapa. The northern shrine is also a two-tiered one, like the southern shrine. An inscription here shows that one of Raja Raja I's queens belonged to the Pazhuvettaraiyar clan. The inscription, of the 27 regnal year of Raja Raja, says that upon the request of his queen Nakkan Panchavan Mahadevi, the daughter of Avani Kandarpa Purattu Devanar of Pazhuvur, the king granted income from newly surveyed lands to the temple. The outer walls of both shrines have sculptures of Dakshinamurthy, Subrahmanya, and Brahma. Devotees have fixed huge bindis of vermilion and sandal on these sculptures.
The earliest inscription in the temple complex is of the 13 regnal year of Aditya Chola. This inscription records a gift for burning a perpetual lamp in the two shrines, under the orders of Nakkan Pazhuvettaraiyar Kumaran Kandan. Many other Pazhuvettaraiyars are mentioned in inscriptions in the two temples, and are also referred to as Maravar, Vadugar and Kaikkolar. (For admirers of writer Kalki, the name Pazhuvettaraiyar would have a special connotation. ‘Ponniyin Selvan' bristles with intrigue and vengeance, the Pazhuvettaraiyar Brothers behind all the treachery.)
Inscriptions in the villages of Kizhapazhuvur and Melapazhuvur, which are just a few miles from Keezhaiyur, also talks about Pazhuvettaraiyars. An inscription of the 12 regnal year of Parantaka I, seen in the Alandurai Mahadeva temple in Kizhapazhuvur, talks of the victory won by Pazhuvettaraiyar Kandan Amudanar, over the Pandyas, and their Ceylonese ally, at the battle of Vellur, in which the Pandya king lost his life. To commemorate this victory, the commander Nakkan Sathan made a gift for a perpetual lamp in the Alandurai Mahadeva temple.
You could easily miss these temples even though they are in the main road. But having entered you will be left with wonder at these two beautiful temples. They are protected monuments in the control of the Archaeological Survey of India. Keezhaiyur Twin Temples were constructed by the Pazhuvettaraiyar chieftains (subordinates to the Chola Dynasty) Kumaran Kandan and Kumaran Marayan in the 9th Century CE during the rule of King Adithya Chola and are excellent examples of Chola Architecture.
This place is located at a distance of 15 Kms from Ariyalur, 35 Kms from Thanjavur & 53 Kms from Trichy.
By Road: This place is well connected to Ariyalur which is in turn connected to major cities in Tamilnadu
By Train: Ariyalur is the nearest Railway Station
By Air: Trichy is the nearest domestic & International Airport.
Photo Credits: Ronald Dengler in 2007, on Kathie Brobeck's Photo Page.
Photo Credits: Ronald Dengler in 2007, on Kathie Brobeck's Photo Page.