July 16, 2017

The Historic Melpadi

Melpadi is a historically significant town. It is located at a distance of around 130 kms from Chennai and around 22 kms from Arcot in Tamil Nadu state of India. This article focuses on the Chola period temples of the town as well as its historical connection.

During the Chola period, the town was called as Rajasrayapuram (named after a surname of Raja Raja Chola I). In 959 CE, the Rashtrakuta King Krishna III encamped in this town (as per the Karhad plates). This town acted as a garrison to guard the Chola lands from the attack of the Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas.

There are two Chola period temples found in this town, Somanatheswara temple and Choleswara temple. Somanatheswara temple is bigger in size and has many interesting architectural features. Cholesvara temple is a Pallipadai temple.

Somanatheswara Temple

Somanatheswara temple is the main attraction of Melpadi. It is a huge temple complex. As per the inscription found in this temple which belongs to the period of Raja Raja Chola I, the presiding deity was called as Cholendra Simhesvara in those days.


On the south wall of the sanctum, the inscription dated in the 14th year of the reign of Raja Raja Chola I is found. It talks about the conquest of Kudamali region and Pandyas. It also mentions about the Chola officer named Irayairavan Pallavayan, who served under Rajaraja.

It is assumed that this temple was built by Raja Raja Chola I in the 10th century CE.

Temple Layout

The temple has south facing entrance. The outer entrance does not have tower. The inner entrance has a three tiered tower, which is a later addition. The entire temple complex is surrounded by wide fortress walls.

The sanctum faces the east direction and it enshrines a big sized Shiv Linga, who is the presiding deity. He is named as Somanatheswara. The vimana is made of stone completely, which is a notable feature.

Two huge figures of Dwarapalas at the entrance of the sanctum are very attractive. The flagstaff, bali peetha and Nandi are found facing towards the direction of the sanctum, but they are separate by the wall from the sanctum. The Mukha Mandap has the beautiful vratta stambha (round pillars).

Ganesh, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Vishnu Durga are found as the niche images. They all look very attractive for sure. However, they do not belong to the original Chola period. They appear to be later additions.

The Goddess Tapaskruta Devi is found in a separate south facing shrine located in the outer prakara. The shrine has an attractive vimana and a mukha mandap. This is  a later addition probably done by the Vijayanagaras.

The Chola period Kalyana Mandap as well as few other mandaps that are found in the temple have beautiful sculptures depicted on the pillars. There are few small sized attractive and interesting bas relief images on the outer wall of the temple.

The south eastern mandap has many sculptures that include Ganesha, Sapta Matrikas, Veerabhadra, Naga Yagnopavita Vinayaka, Kankalanatha, Gangadhara, Rishbhantika Murti, Bhairav, Surya, Chandra, Nagas and Ayyanar. Some of them belong to the Chola period and the others to the later period.

The southern outer wall in the second prakara has a small shrine of Ganesh.

Outside the temple complex, there is a  soldier's sculpture found. He holds spear and shield in his arms.

Cholesvara Temple

Cholesvara temple is located in the opposite direction of Somanatheswara temple. This is comparatively a small temple.


Three stone inscriptions dating the 29th year of the reign of Raja Raja Chola I and one inscription of the 9th year of the reign of Rajendra Chola I are found in this temple.

As per the inscriptions, the temple was originally called Arinjigai Ishwara or Arinjishwara.

This temple is a Pallipadai temple. Raja Raja built the Pallipadai temple of his own grand father, Arinjaya Chola. (We can assume that Shiv Linga was installed on memory of Arijaya Chola or built atop the samadhi of the Chola emperor.)

Temple Layout

I have heard and read about the niche images, dwarapalas and the other aspects of the temple. But, I could not get a chance to enter into the temple. ASI or God only knows when the temple is opened. I could see only the outer wall and the beautiful stone vimana.

Happy travelling.

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