6th Century Sri Somanathaswamy Temple @ Palayarai

As a die-hard fan of Kalki's historical novel பொன்னியின் செல்வன் (Ponniyin Selvan) I've always dreamt of visiting the places mentioned in that novel. Most of the places are near my Home town, Madurai in India. During this visit I managed to visit two top destinations, Palayarai and Thanjavur.

Palayarai, was the first capital of Medieval Cholas, until Thanjavur was built around 10th Century CE. Now, only a ruined Shiva temple is present at that place. We had to stop and ask for directions at several places, as Palayarai has lost its glory and now it is an insignificant sleepy village.

Ruins of the temple - viewed as we turned in that village

My heart sank, when I saw the locked gates of the ruined the Raja Gopuram (Tall tower) However, I got down from the car to take some shots of the tower and beautiful sculptures along the wall.

Only 2 levels of the gopuram exists

Pathetic reminder of the past glory:(

In remote villages, even now if they see a car, the villagers approach it with great curiosity! My dad asked one such villagers if there is anyone who could help us in entering the temple...'don't worry, the temple in-charge would have seen your car and anytime he would he here', before he finished the sentence, the in-charge came there with the keys!!!

Shrine of the Goddess

There is only limited online literature about this temple and town, so I tried to gather local info/folklore from the in-charge person. He said that this temple is more than 1400 years old...true it was built by the Chola dynasty in in 6th Century CE. He added that Raja Raja Cholan, the famous Chola king used to worship here before he built the Thanjvur Periya koil in the 10th Century CE.

The sanctum sanctorum of Lord Somanathaswamy

This shrine is designed like a horse drawn chariot!

Stone horse n wheel

It is unacceptable as per the Hindu customs to take pictures of the main deity...however, I did click at one of the most powerful Goddess worshiped by the kings, especially to give them moral and physical courage during war times.

Goddess Durga - carved out of single stone!

The half-gone murals behind the Goddess is supposed to be done by the Maratha rulers around 16th Century CE. Luckily, no one had tried to white-wash it!


Ardhanareeswara - is a beautiful concept where Lord Shiva manifests Himself as Half Man and Half Woman, to show that the male and female powers should co-exist! Later, on the same day, we saw similar beautiful sculptures in Thanjavur Periya Koil as well.

Yali - For SOOC

Yali, is a Hindu mythological creature, with Lion's head on a horse's body and this form is usually seen in Shiva temples.

The in-charge said that the temple renovation was underway as they were planning for Kumbabishekam. Now, I've mixed feelings, because they were sort of destroying our heritage by white-washing the precious, beautiful stone buildings and sculptures:(

Again, I've a big misgiving on Indian Archeological Dept, as to why do they fail to promote our assets? At least, can't we take care and preserve such glorious monuments of historical importance?!


Linda Jacobs said...

Very interesting!

Anonymous said...

That is a beautiful looking temple.

Loved the story about the person in charge appearing as soon as you did because he saw your car.

Rajesh said...

Very informative. I wish they had taken some care of this temple.

Arija said...

What a wonderful ly ancient temple. I am so glad that someone came with the keys and let you in. Thank you for the tour.

Luna Miranda said...

the facade is amazing! i love the plants growing on the walls.

Anonymous said...

Nice pictures :). I love to take pictures, but I also love to stand infront of the camera :)...

lakshmi said...

i like to visit this place. please advise me.

lakshmi said...


1st thanks for your information.

i need your advise to visit this temple.

VaishVijay said...

@Lakshmi, visiting this place from Trichy or Thanjavore would be ideal. We drove there (Tata Sumo) from Trichy Airport. Here is the driving direction link, from Google Maps.

Alternatively, I heard that you can go to Kumbakonam and from there you can get private cabs or Bus.

Ram Kasi said...

This is an aweseome post. As you rightly said anyone who has read Poniyin selvan will get the connect and its importance.

I was searching to gather information, esp pictures of the temple and your post was really helpful.

VaishVijay said...

@ Ram - thank you. Before writing this post I too was searching for info, am glad that this post was of help to you:)

Prabhu Pandian said...

I have recently read Ponniyin Selvan all parts, i was amazed whether this is a story or real history, and i was exploring the net to check the relevant information given in the story and i found many as real like Palayarai, Kodikkarai, Anuradhapuram, and other lakes, etc,
Thanks to this post as i found this also informative and planning to visit myself to explore further

VaishVijay said...

@Prabhu Pandian, am glad that you found this article informative. Actually, Palayarai is a MUST visit location of Ponniyan Selvan.

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