The Mahashivaratri festival is upon us, so I thought it appropriate to post about the World’s Largest Bronze Nataraja at Konerirajapuram.
Konerirajapuram is a sleepy little village surrounded by paddy fields in Tamil Nadu’s fertile and historic Cauvery Delta. In ancient times it was known as TiruNallam. Konerirajapuram’s claim to fame is the huge bronze cast icon of Lord Siva as Nataraja at the Uma Maheswarar temple. This is bigger than the Nataraja at Chidambaram.
Ancient inscriptions record that the temple was built from an endowment set up by the Chola queen Sembiyan Mahadevi [also spelt Chembiyan Maa Devi] in the reign of Uttama Chola.
Daily Annadanam or feeding of the poor is held in the main hall [Pugazhabharana Mandapam] of the temple.
The big Nataraja is housed in a separate enclosure constructed in such a way that the idol can never be removed without breaking the structure.
Bronze icons were made in the lost wax or cire perdue process in the Chola era. The tradition continues to this day at nearby Nachiar Koil and Swamimalai where a number of bronze and brass works turn out a variety of finely crafted, exquisite idols, lamps and other objects. The state government owned Poompuhar also has a workshop in both these locations.
Gnanaskandan proudly led us into a small ante room off the Nataraja enclosure where a smaller collection of castings of various deities were displayed. All these bronzes reportedly date prior to the tenth century.
The Nataraja remains where it is but the smaller idols are taken out on ceremonial occassions.
The Konerirajpuram temple is also well known for its beautiful frescoes. Sadly most are not well preserved with obvious signs of deterioration.
The Vaidyanathar sannidhi within the temple is locally well known as a healing centre for those afflicted with skin disease.
This was our second visit to Konerirajapuram. We had first read about it in Temples of Tamil Nadu by AV Shankaranarayana Rao. The village and the temple exude an ambience of centuries gone by, subtly urging one to return.
The Cauvery Delta is steeped in history and strewn with innumerable ancient living temples containing priceless works of art. On both visits, we stayed at Kumbakonam from where Konerirajapuram is a mere 25 minute drive on the Karaikal route.
Kumbakonam is well known as a pilgrimage centre, in particular for those on the Navagraha circuit. Once in every twelve years, the Mahamaham Kumbh is held around the tank of the same name, attracting millions of pilgrims from far and wide. Kumbakonam is also called Temple City with literally hundreds of temples of its own, most of them ancient. The big two are the Kumbeswarar Siva Temple and Sarangapani Vishnu Temple. Swamimalai, one of the six abodes of Lord Murugan is a mere 6 km away. The World Heritage Site of Darasuram is just outside the city. The Cauvery Delta is a must visit for those who enjoy ancient living monuments and stepping back in time.
More about our visits to the Cauvery Delta in future posts.