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CHENNAI: Thirumullaivoyal, near Ambattur, is home to the historic Masilamanishwarar temple, praised by Sundaramurti Nayanar, one of the 63 Nayanmars or great devotees of Shiva in the 8th century AD.  The main sanctum enshrining the swayambhu lingam is apsidal in shape, resembling the back of an elephant and is called gajaprishta vimanam in Sanskrit. Two unique pillars, each of a single piece of wood of the erukku tree (Calotropis gigantea), stand on either side of the doorway to this shrine.

There are two nandis in the temple and interestingly, the one in the outer courtyard faces away from the deity. This is in connection with the traditonal story (sthala puranam) of this temple when Shiva sent nandi to drive away enemies. Goddess Parvathi is worshipped here as Kodividai Nayaki. A tall gopuram studded with stucco sculptures adorns the entrance.

Nearby is a multi-pillar mandapa of the Vijayanagara style, with numerous carvings on it. There are many Chola inscriptions, the earliest of which are dated to the 10th century AD.

They record donations by Sembiyan Madevi, the illustrious Chola queen who was the wife of Gandaraditya Chola and mother of Uttama Chola.

An epigraph  of Rajendra Chola-I’s reign records a generous donation of  44 manikkam (rubies), eight maragatam (sapphire), 32 vairam (diamonds), 21 muttu (pearls) and five kalanju (a specific weight) of gold to this shrine! There are some inscriptions of later eras as well.

(The writer is a historian who  focuses on templearchitecture)