Keelamathur Village Heritage walk

by Dr.Vasudevan Ganapathy On 26/02/2014 - 11:03 AM

Not many who pass through Keezhamathur village, situated 10 km from Madurai city, take note of a roadside temple in the village. But the Manikandeswarar Uma Maheswari temple in the village is 1,200 years old and one among the early Pandiya age temples that existed on the Vaigai river bank. After villagers were sensitised about its historical significance during a heritage walk here on Sunday, they have decided to restore the temple to its old glory.According to stone inscriptions found in the temple, the Manikandeswarar Umamaheswari temple at Keezhamathur with the chief deity as Lord Shiva is about 1,200 years old.
In the year 954 AD, Thennavan Tamilvel, a minister of Pandiya king Veerapandian (946 AD - 966 AD), converted the brick temple in the village into a stone temple. The stone inscriptions also state that the temple was bestowed with a lot of land in villages like Vamadevamangalam, Koneri and Birundaiyur and many rituals and festivities were conducted. But as the dynasties changed, the land offered to the temple disappeared as the villages vanished, or their names were altered over the years. Losing its ancient glory, the temple was in a dire status and was reconstructed in the year 1926. It now stands as a small temple on the road side and is under the control of the Hindu Religion and Charitable Endowment.
Archaeologist V Vedachalam, who guided the heritage walk, said when the temple was reconstructed in 1926, most of the stone inscriptions were lost as the villagers then did not realise their value. "They could have been buried in the construction. But the 10th century idols are still present in the temple. The details of the stone inscriptions were recorded in South Indian Inscription volume - 14, published by the Archaeology department, during the British period. However, the idols of Dwarabalagas, Lord Lingodhpava and Sandikeswarar in the temple belong to the early Pandiya age and some of the idols from the village are placed in the Tiurmalai Nayak Mahal Museum in Madurai," he said.
Now, villagers who participated in the heritage walk have decided to renovate the temple. C Duraipandi, one of the village elders, said they would start mobilising funds for the renovation. "We will seek funds from the villagers and mobilise money from sponsors to bring our temple back to its glory," he said. Vedachalam said the villagers had been asked to restore the stone inscriptions if any were found during the renovation work.
K P Bharathi, programme leader, Tourism for Development of DHAN said that in many villages where the heritage walks were held, the villagers turned out spontaneously to restore their temples after being sensitised of their historical significance. The response from the villagers is very encouraging, he said.
Heritage walks that visit historically significant places surrounding Madurai are undertaken by the DHAN Foundation along with INTACH, Madurai Chapter and Travel Club every second Sunday of a month.