May 5, 2018

Than Thondreeswar Temple - Kanchipuram

Than Thondreeswarar, which means self manifested, is an ancient Shiva temple in Kanchipuram, the city of thousand temples. The temple, which is believed to be of Pallava era, lost its glory completely.
The 16 feet tall stucco image of Lord Shiva atop the entrance  makes one wonder if it is indeed located in Kanchipuram or somewhere else in North India. This is probably put up to attract the North Indian devotees.

It does not stop with these bad looking modern day idols. The entire structure has been spoiled in the name of renovation. The walls and floor of the Pallava period temple were replaced with the mosaic tiles. The vimana has been reconstructed and painted in bright color. God only knows what happened to the original idols of the temple. What we have now are the very later period Shiv Linga and Somaskanda panel in the sanctum. Similarly, the Koshta images are also recently made. The current care taker of the temple keeps adding up a lot of new sub-shrines and big stucco images, probably to pull more crowd to the temple. In the name of devotion, the heritage value of the site is completely destroyed.

Except for the seven panels on the prakara wall, there is no sign to claim that it is an old temple. As per the legend, Upamanyu Rishi worshiped Shiv Linga in this temple. There are difference of opinions on who built this temple originally. As the Pallava period panels are found, it was probably built by the Pallavas. Else, the temple could have been built in the later period and the panels which were excavated nearby, could have been brought and installed here.

The seven panels found in the temple probably depict the characters of Mattavilasa Prahasana, the satire play by Mahendravarma Pallava, in the 6th/7th century CE. The play made fun of certain aspects of Kapalikas, Pasupatas, Buddhists and Jains.

Let me discuss about these seven panels now. (Most of the figures are partially or completely eroded.)

1) Two females are found standing, one behind the other, in the first panel. The female standing behind does not wear brassiere. She carries or holds something on her raised left arm; her right arm is around the waist of the first female. She holds flower or something else on her right arm. Both the females appear as if they are in motion. Both wear ornaments on their necks as well as waists.

2) The second panel depicts a male and a female. Both appear to be in motion. The male wears a thick thread in the place of janeu. Both hold something on their left arms. It could be a jar with liquor.

3) The third panel has a male and female, who face each other. The male carries two jars (?) in his both arms.

4) The fourth panel has three males and a female. The first male appears to take up his sword. The second person who is standing behind, stops him by holding his arm. The female faces towards the first person and she signals to stop him. Most probably, the female and the second male try to pacify and calm the first one, in order to avoid a duel.

5) The fifth panel has two males standing. One person is holding something in his both arms. Not sure what these images depict.

6) The sixth panel comparatively looks attractive. It depicts a man with matted hair and a big ear ring. He also has a thick thread in the place of janeu. He appears to move forward very fast. Behind him, a beautiful lady with good physical features, is found.

7) The last panel has a male and female. They hold each others' arms and hold liquor jug on their other arms. They appear to dance after consuming liquor.

Happy travelling.

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