December 13, 2015

Uthiramerur Vaikuntha Perumal Temple

Site Name: Vaikuntha Perumal temple
Site Type: Hindu ancient temple
Location:   Uthiramerur, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: 10th century period inscriptions indicating the democratic practices followed
Nearest Railway Station: Kanchipuram
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Kanchipuram and Chennai
Hotel: Go to Uthiramerur for mid-range hotels; for better option, go to Kanchi or Chennai
Restaurants:  Limited options in Uthiramerur

Uthiramerur town is located near Kanchipuram city in Tamil Nadu state of India . An ancient temple called Vaikuntha Perumal temple is located here. This temple has the inscriptions indicating the democratic practices that were followed in this land around one thousand years ago. Let us explore this site in this article.



History:

Vaikuntha Perumal temple in Uthiramerur was originally built by the Pallavas and later additions were made by the Cholas. The temple is popular for the inscriptions which have great historical value.

As per the inscriptions found in this temple, the village was estabilished in the middle of 8th century CE by the Pallava King Nandivarman II. He had donated this village to Vaishnaivite Brahmins. 

Uthiramerur was annexed by the Cholas in the later part of 9th century CE. The inscriptions from the period of the Chola Kings such as Parantaka Chola I, Rajaraja Chola, Rajendra Chola and Kulotunga Chola are found in this temple. From the 10th century period inscriptions, we come to know about the Kudovolai system, a democratic practice that was followed during the Chola period.

As per the inscriptions, the villagers requested the Chola King Parantaka to institute the Kudavolai system. The word 'Kudam' means pot and the word 'volai' means the palm leaf.  It is a kind of ballot system to elect the village representatives. There were elaborate rules for election process as well as for the eligibility for contesting the election. Age, educational qualification and property were some of the factors for eligibility to vote. They even had the rights and process to call back the elected candidates who failed in their duty.  Another interesting rule was about disqualifying the next seven generations of a candidate to contest had he found corrupt.

It looks like the modern democratic system has so many points to learn from the ancient democratic practice being followed by the Cholas.

Temple Layout:

Vaikuntha Perumal temple is a maada kovil, meaning the shrine is located on a high raised platform. The sanctum sanctorum enshrines the images of Vaikuntha Perumal in seated posture along with his two consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi. There is a front side mandapa. It is believed that the mandapa was built by Kulotunga Chola. There is a vimana above the main shrine, but there is no tower or flag staff in this temple.

The inscriptions are found on the outer wall around the temple and the mandapa.

Happy travelling.

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