Published On: Wed, Mar 1st, 2017

A Shiva temple from the Cholas in Ayanavaram

CHENNAI: Ayanavaram is home to three temples, one enshrining Vishnu and two dedicated to Shiva, known as Kasi Vishwanatha and Parasurameshwara. While the former is about 200 years old, the latter belongs to the Chola times. The Parasurameshwara temple is east-facing and medium in size with a fi ve-tiered gopuram at the entrance studded with small sculptures. The main sanctum enshrines a large Shiva Linga, worshipped as Parashurameshwara or Parashurama Lingeshwara.

It is entered through a stone mandapam between which structure and the gopuram are the dwajastambham (fl ag-staff), bali-pitham, and Nandi. The processional images of this temple, a shrine for Balasubrahmanya and a sanctum for the four great devotees of Shiva, namely Appar, Thiruganasambandar, Sundarar and Manikkavachakar (collectively known as Nalvar), are in worship here. Goddess Parvati, worshipped here as Parvatambika is in a separate shrine with a mandapa in front, the pillars which have many small sculptures including Parvati worshipping a Shiva Linga and Kanappa Nayanar.

A significant feature clearly proclaiming this temple’s Chola connection is the shape of the main sanctum, designed as an apsidal structure. These types of sanctums, traditionally called Gajaprishta in Sanskrit, meaning ‘back of an elephant’ due to the shape, are seen in various areas in Chennai.


In the Parashurameshwara temple, the niches (devakoshta) on the walls of the central shrine have images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Mahavishnu, Brahma and Durga. A broken monolithic pillar called deepastambham, on which a lamp used to be placed to illuminate the temple premises is next to the dvajastambham.

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