History of Temples in Tiruvanmiyur



DR S SURESH goes on a spiritual sojourn as he re-visits some prominent and lesser-known temples in and around Thiruvanmiyur.

The festival season has set in and all the temples in the city are busy preparing for special events and rituals connected with each festival.Thiruvanmiyur,which is presently a bustling residential locality on the southern fringes of Chennai city,was,for centuries,a small village with large temples and traditional tile-roofed houses.It was one of the last villages to be included within the modern city.
Thiruvanmiyur has a long and interesting history.According to the locals,the very name Tiruvanmiyur is derived from the name of the famous saint Valmiki,the author of the epic,Ramayana.He is believed to have lived here for some years,several centuries before Christ.There is a small temple dedicated to this saint in the area.

Between 300 BC and 300 AD,Roman traders frequented Thiruvanmiyur,which was then a part of the kingdom of the Sangam Cholas.The Romans came to India to buy our spices,gemstones,textiles,ivory and sandalwood.In return,India got wine,gold,silver and lead from Rome.Since the 19th century,Roman coins have been recurrently reported from the Mahabalipuram-Thiruvanmiyur coastal stretch.Thiruvanmiyur was located between two major ports frequented by the Romans,namely Mahabalipuram or Mallai and Mylapore.In Greek literature,the former port was called Malange and the latter port,Mylarpha.

After the decline of the Sangam Cholas,Thiruvanmiyur came under the control of the Pallava dynasty (fourth to ninth centuries AD).An interesting coin minted by this dynasty was unearthed from the compound of a school in Thiruvanmiyur in August,1989,when the school authorities were digging the ground for Independence Day celebrations.The coin was made of lead.It featured the bull,the royal crest of the Pallavas,on the obverse and a vase with a tree on the reverse.On typological grounds,archaeologists have assigned this coin to the fourth century AD.After the Pallavas,Thiruvanmiyur came under the rule of the Medieval Cholas or Imperial Cholas and later,the Vijayanagar empire.Subsequently,the region was passed on to the British.

The biggest and most important temple in Thiruvanmiyur is undoubtedly the Marundisvarar Temple on the East Coast Road.This temple has two main entrances – one facing east and the other facing west.Although the temple existed during the age of the Pallavas,most of the structures in the campus belong to the time of the Cholas and the Vijayanagar empire.The temple was extensively damaged when Hyder Ali,the Sultan of Mysore,invaded the area in the eighteenth century.Unlike many other Hindu temples where the main shrine faces east,the principal shrine in the present temple faces west.The vimana or tower above this shrine is over 30 feet high.The shrine of Goddess Tripurasundari faces south and belongs to the period of the king Rajendra I Chola (1012-44 AD).To the north-east of the temple is a large tank with a pillared Niradum Mandapa (bathing pavilion ).The tank has been cleaned and restored recently.It is rather strange that this beautiful temple has not got the publicity that it richly deserves.It is rarely visited by tourists.Hundreds of people pass by this temple each day,while driving to the tourist sites of Mahabalipuram and Dakshinachitra,but none of them are aware of its unique heritage.

The writer is the Tamil Nadu State Convener,INTACH and is presently in Washington DC,studying the American system of Heritage Conservation,as a Fulbright Scholar and this article appears in Times of India Chennai Edition dated 22.10.2011


The Valmiki temple in Thiruvanmiyur, which is steeped in legend, is believed to be at least 1,300 years old.
Be it a huge edifice in the centre of the road or just a small elevation beneath a tree, temples have always had special significance in Chennai.

And the Valmiki temple, sitting bang in the middle of East Coast Road in Valmiki Nagar is no exception.
Legend has it that poet Valmiki, after writing the Ramayana, was heading south along the sea shore and rested here.
Hence, the area is called Thiruvanmiyur. Although the temple looks like a mandapam, it is believed to be at least 1,300 years old.

During the Chola reign, the Maruntheeshwarar temple was constructed. Now the Valmiki temple is officially under the supervision of Maruntheeshwarar temple. But the Valmiki temple has been under threat from the development of ECR. The government planned to demolish the temple as it is in the centre of the road.
“The temple authorities have managed to get a stay order on the demolition.Now attempts are being made to widen the road around the temple, so that it will serve as a median and not be an inconvenience,” says Kuppuswamy, an officer at the Maruntheeshwarar temple.

Every year the Brahmatosav festival takes place in March and special pooja is done every month on the full moon day.

The above piece of information appears in the Chennai edition of The Hindu, dated Jan 23,2003.