The Big Nataraja of Konerirajapuram

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.

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Priest Gnanaskandan next to the idols of Nataraja and Mangalanayagi

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.

The unpretentious entrance to the temple is simple and devoid of the typical Gopuram towers. Who would believe what priceless treasures are housed within!
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Daily Annadanam or feeding of the poor is held in the main hall [Pugazhabharana Mandapam] of the temple.

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Sri Gnanaskandan is the hereditary priest in charge. He is a friendly soul, enthusiastic about showing off his temple to those who are interested. Here he is in front of the Sivalingam.
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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.

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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.

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The Nataraja remains where it is but the smaller idols are taken out on ceremonial occassions.

Here is Gnanaskandan with a niche sculpture of Agasthya Rishi
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Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi in prayer before the Lingam. Observe the inscription below the frieze.
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Exquisite niche sculpture of Lord Siva as Nataraja
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Ancient Inscriptions
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The Konerirajpuram temple is also well known for its beautiful frescoes. Sadly most are not well preserved with obvious signs of deterioration.

These are on the roof of the main hall
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Some of the frescoes from the later Nayaka period are painted over the earlier frescoes. This one depicts a scene from daily life
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Damaged frescoes on the roof of the main hall. The temple lamp is also seen in this picture, along with bikes casually parked amidst these priceless treasures ….
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More frescoes
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This is an interesting depiction of the British official making an offering to the temple in gratitude for being cured of leprosy.
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The Vaidyanathar sannidhi within the temple is locally well known as a healing centre for those afflicted with skin disease.

A small Gopuram within the courtyard
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Small Vimanam
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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.

39 Comments

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Gita,
    Very interesting and informative post supported with beautiful pictures. Thanks for taking us to see worlds biggest Nataraj idol.

    Mukesh Bhalse

  • Nandan says:

    Thanks Gita.

    As you rightly noted, the entrance is not grand but the fact that it has artifacts as old as 10th century AD is really remarkable. Would ASI not want to take it over and add to to heritage list and may be formalize the preservation.

    Looking fwd to read more abouu Cauvery Delta.

  • Arvind says:

    Looks like you got a guided tour by the priest. Excellent photos.

  • VELUSAMY says:

    Gita, thanks for your nice post..60 days back, i have a two day visit to kumbakonam, and i spend one day in dharasuram…i will add this temple in my next visit..

  • very good keep it up dear . keep posting

  • Unni Menon says:

    Thank you for a fascinating write-up. Preservation and restoration of the frescoes should be done as soon as possible. It is a blessing that the temple authorities have not overpainted with enamel paint.
    keep up the good work1
    Regards,
    Unni

  • injamaven says:

    Dear Gita,
    May I add your fine murthi photos to our early Indian Sculpture project website? We’re collecting
    all images of sculpture of sites 11th cent. and older. You will of course be credited.
    Kathie Brobeck

  • injamaven says:

    what an amazing collection of bronze masterpieces. Thanks for sharing them.

  • Gita,

    Very good collection of photos…

    Please see http://www.shivshankar.in/ – we would like to publish your photos with due credit.

    Thanks !

  • Maha says:

    Thanks for the excellent photos and writeup. I had a trip to this great temple recently. God bless you !

  • Gita says:

    Thank you everyone for your comments and appreciation.

  • Praveen Wadhwa says:

    Your way of writing made this place a magnificent otherwise it may be a sleeping place.
    Nice description pretty and colorful pictures.

    • Gita AM says:

      Thanks Praveen.

      Believe me, Konerirajapuram may be a sleepy village [and may it always remain so] but the huge bronze of Lord Siva – Nataraja – is more than magnificent. It is the largest such bronze in the world, bigger than the one at Chidambaram. There may be some modern replicas now which are larger.

      The entire Cauvery Delta is filled with such ancient treasures, some obvious such as the Brihadeeswarar at Thanjavur, some hidden such as Konerirajapuram. I have been spoilt with the living heritage of the Cauvery Delta, this is why I do not get too impressed with monuments of more recent vintage in other places.

  • Loganathan G says:

    Hi All,

    Thanks for every one.. I m really appericate and its glad.. Its very powerful god in this world… Konerirajapuram Natraja… truly i felt that happy my life to change….

    Regards

    Govintharaj Velar ( son’s)

    • Gita AM says:

      Thank you for your comments. Are you from Konerirajapuram?

      • Loganathan says:

        Yes..

        I m in konerirajapuram.. Now i m staying in chennai, I gone for every month in my native konerirajapuram should be seems to nataraja.. Every month I saw the natraja and umamageswarar.. Its getting my life totally changed – ( Powerful god in the world) – Thirunallam

        Please once again Million’s of thanks to Natraja and Umamageswarar , Subramaniar, Vaithiyanathar, angalamman, (Ragu)Durgai amman, Guru Bhagavan, Magalakshmi…

        Regards

        LOGANATHAN G ( Govintharaj Velar son’s) from konerirajapuram

      • Loganathan G says:

        Yes i am from konerirajapuram Village.

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Very good photos nice description. In north India hard to see Natraj Temple. Thanks.

  • Loganathan says:

    5

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Gita,

    The photos look like million bucks. The colours have come alive in them.

    Let me know if i can buy your camera?!

    Nice account too.

  • Abheeruchi says:

    Interesting post with beautiful pics….Seeing your post and temple pics, I started missing Chennai more and more…

  • Loganathan says:

    Nice photos really amazing the lord natraja.. view is very nice nice…
    I love that place and location of the nataraja

    Regards

    Loganathan G ( Govintharaj’s (Jothider) son – Konerirajapuram

  • M S Chandrasekar says:

    The place where I was born (Mela Agalangan) is on the way to Konerirajapuram from S.Pudur. I have visited Konerirajapuram number of times during my childhood. A few years back when I read “Ponniyan Selvan” Konerirajpuram known as Thirunallam occurred. I planned to visit during Thiruvadhirai but could not make it. Tomorrow we have planned to visit my birth place to perform Abhishegam in the temple and also visit K.puram .Even though the schedule is very tight I am hopeful of visiting Konerajapuram. I am extremely thankful for giving me an opportunity to see the “Moorthies” today itself. Will share the experience after my visit.

  • NPGOPALAN says:

    I was told that Nataraja statue has an interesting story behind it. Can I request for it if any one knows it?

  • Veemanathan Ramachandran says:

    We have been told that this place was our native place by our grand parents. We left this fertile locality 300 years before it seems. One day I took my car and decided to travel with my wife to that village I never had seen in my life.By that time we reached there at 11.30 AM the priest had already left the temple. We had seen the Natarajar through the gate only and tatally stunned by the lively face. I plan to go there again within a week, this time when the priest is present.

  • sitharaman.s@sridhar says:

    super ancient temple . this is my village temple. i am very happy to see this site

  • Thank you very much for the photos and many interesting stories about this temple. Some devotee asked about making a puja in this temple and some nearby people may kindly guide by providing him with any contact number, etc.

  • Thank you very much for the inspiring article. The accompanying photos are of professional quality prompting the reader to an immediate visit to this treasure house. The Karuveli Sarguneshwara temple near is worth visiting.

  • Srinivasan says:

    Very Good temple. always like the Natrajar in the soul

  • A.Swaminathan says:

    yesterday had oppertunity to have dharsan of famous Suyambu Natarajar , white dressed Sani, Umamaheswarer, Devi, Sri Vaithianathar ,Mummurthies at kostdam ..im Konarirajapuram. Very Nice experience.One has to visit at least once in life time

    A.Swaminathan, Trichy

  • Loganathan G says:

    good to hear.. I hope you enjoyed

  • Prakash Rajendran says:

    Actually Neyveli(Cuddalore district) is famous for the world’s largest metal statue of Shiva as Nataraja. http://www.marvelmurugan.com/2015/01/neyveli-natarajar-temple.html

  • Sudha says:

    I learned the story behind the Nataraja after i visited the temple first. In order to save the sculpter from the King’s anger, Swami himself drank the boiling metal and stood as Nataraja with Sivagami. This is a slightly smaller version of the original story. The idol is so life like, that we can see mole, veins, etc on him.Arudhra Darisanam is very important for Nataraja.
    Our network people should telecast such beautiful temples with great history on those special occasions, so everyone can see the festival.
    I’ve visited this temple a few times. And it always brings me great joy and peace to see “Thiru Nallamudayar”, uma maheshwara, Vaidyanatha. Ambal is called Dehasoundari or Angavalanayaki.

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