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Puliyur Kottam was the ancient administrative unit of Chennai from over 2,000 years ago. Like Egmore, Mylapore, Triplicane, Adyar, Thiruvanmiyur, Saidapet, Pallavaram, Tirunirmalai, Kundrathur, Mangadu, Poonamallee, Tambaram, Somangalam, Manimangalam, Pozhichalur and other areas, Tirusulam too was an integral part of Puliyur Kottam.
Tirusulam today may be known for its proximity to the Meenambakkam airport and has all the modern trappings including a Metro station and suburban railway station. It is also well known for quarrying. Granite from Tirusulam quarries are known to have been used during construction of temples in the past.
Tirusulam is an ancient place, with recorded history of over 1,000 years. The earliest epigraphs at Tirusulam go back to the Chola period from Kulottunga I’s time (1070-1118 AD). Tirusulam was a suburb of Pallavaram in Churathur nadu in Puliyur Kottam (SII VII. 538, 541, 542, 543, 547 etc.).
Various inscriptions refer to other historical places in and around Chennai like Sembiyan-Tirumangalam, Manimangalam, Pammal, Pallaapuram, Manarpakkam, Pundamalli, and so on.
The Churathur Nadu, named after Thiruchuram, extended from Tambaram in the south to Adambakkam and Alathur (Alandur) in the north and included Pammal, Pallavaram and Tirunirmalai, and was part of Puliyur Kottam.
Ancient Urns found in Tirusulam
After the Stone Age, Chennai had thrown up relics of the Iron Age. A number of urns and tombs, generally regarded as Megalithic, were found in and around Chennai. They probably belong to the Iron Age.
Archaeologists report that many varieties of such burial sites were found.
Archaeologist Rea discovered similar burials in Pallavaram and Tirusulam (G. O. No. 1135 dated 12th August 1887). Significantly, ancient Tamil literature of the Sangam period like the Purananuru makes a clear reference to the custom of urn-burials. G. U. Pope, the renowned Tamil scholar from the West, in his commentary on the Purananuru, says that the vessels discovered by Rea at Pallavaram correspond to the description found in the lyrics. (Indian Antiquary, vol. xxxix, p. 285. Also see Ancient India, No. 2, July 1946.)
Nilagangaraiyans in Chennai:
Inscriptions of Chennai in the 13th century make frequent references to certain chieftains or officers called Nilagangaraiyans and their philanthropic activities.
Nilagangaraiyans served the Chola kings like Rajadhiraja I, Kulottunga III, Rajaraja III, the Kadava king Kopperunjinga, the Telugu-Chola king Vijayagandagopala and the Pandya kings like Jatavarman Sundara Pandya II and Maravarman Kulasekhara I, all of whom held sway over Tondamandalam at various times.
The dates of these epigraphs, featuring the Nilagangaraiyans , ranged between the 11th and 14th centuries AD.
Inscriptions from the Vishnu temple at Tirunirmalai speak about the various gifts made by Nilagangaraiyan chieftains at different times. One of them (535 of 1912) records the gift of two lamps to the same temple made by Thiruchur-Kannappan Abayampukkan Nilagangaraiyan Kadakan-Cholagangadeva, in the sixth year of Rajaraja III’s reign -1222 AD (it is significant to note here that another member of the Nilagangaraiyan family is mentioned in an inscription as coming from Thiruchuram in Puliyur Kottam, i.e., Tirusulam near Pallavaram, Chennai –275 of 1909 from Thirukachur, Chengalpattu taluk).
Chola period inscriptions in Tirusulam temple
The township of Tirusulam has its origin in the Tiruppurasundari Tirusoolanathar temple which is believed to have been constructed in the 12th century AD by Kulothunga I. The walls of the temple have inscriptions from the Chola period. The temple has many legends attached to it. There is a story of a hiding place for precious metals and jewelry beneath the earth, where a secret path is said to exist. Kulothunga I is said to have hidden treasures somewhere here, instead of inside the temple. There exists a subway under the temple that connects the temple to the nearby hills known as “Panchapandava’s Hills”, where the king had his palace. Tirusulam is in Kancheepuram District. The Tirusulam Hills have been witness to the shooting of many Tamil movies and TV soap operas. Some of the movies that have been filmed here are “Bhairavi”, “Oor Kaavalan”, “Indru Poi Naalai Vaa”, “Gentleman” and “Theeradha Vilayattu Pillai”. The central government has also set up a research centre on the hill.
This is the tallest hill in the city and has many places of worship. Tirusulam has five temples on its 4 sides, known as Santhiyamman Kovil (Located in the Airport), Mukkaniyamman Kovil, Pachaiyamman Kovil, Vempuliyamman Kovil and Thulkathamman Kovil.
Even though Tambaram is close to Perungalathur. it belongs to a different Nadu called Churathur Nadu, named after Thiruchuram, the modern Tirusulam village near Pallavaram. The Churathur Nadu extended from Tambaram in the south to Adambakkam and Alathur (Alandur) in the north and included Pammal, Pallavaram and Tirunirmalai.
The inscriptions of Kulothunga I (1070-1120), the hero of Kalingathu parani, are found at Tirusulam near Pallavaram. There are several inscriptions of Kulothunga III in this area.
Pandya inscriptions are found at Kunrathur, Tirusulam and Tirunirmalai. Temple building which started during the Chola period continued during the Vijayanagar era in this area and inscriptions of the Vijayanagar kings of the 14th to the 17th centuries are found here.
The inscription of the time of Rajaraja (III) is incomplete. It refers to an endowment for burning a lamp at a temple at Pammal which was said to belong to Churathurnadu.
As usual, there is an array of historical names and spellings for the place and the temple at Tirusulam, including Thirusoolam, Thiruchuram, Thirusoolanaadhar, Trisulanathar, Sri Tirusoolanathar Nathar Temple, and Arulmigu Thirisoolanathar Aalayam Temple.
Kulothunga I’s decision to build the temple at Tirusulam is said to be in honour of Lord Brahma’s association with the place. Tirusulam Temple was later renovated by Sundara Cholan.
In the sanctum, Sri Thirusoolanaadhar, in linga roopa, is facing the east, while his consort Thiripurasundhari is facing south, from her position just outside the sanctum. There is another deity of Thiripurasundhari inside the main sanctum, just in front of the moolavar (main deity). During a Muslim invasion, the original deity of Devi from outside the sanctum was damaged by intruders, thus the new murti was installed in its place. A temple priest then dreamt that the Lord wanted him to place the damaged deity next to the main deity itself. So, the damaged deity of Devi found a place just next to Thirusoolanaadhar, and a new deity of his consort was placed outside the sanctum door.
Though Thirusulam means the weapon (Thrishul) of the Goddess Parvathi, the temple legend has an interesting background attached to it. As Brahma, the creator worshipped Lord Shiva here; it was called as Brahmapuri originally. According to the stone inscriptions found in the temple, Tiruchuram was part of Vaanavan Maadevi Chathurvedhi Mangalam., also known as Pallapuram, and Pallavapuram (today’s Pallavaram). Vanavanmadevichaturvedimangalam was so named after Rajendra I’s queen.
In Tamil, the place between the hills is called ‘Churam’ (சுரம்) and hence this place was called as ‘Thiru Churam’ (திருச்சுரம்) which had later become Thirusulam.
According to the legend, originally, Brahma was 5 headed. As Brahma was inordinately proud, Lord Shiva cut one of his heads off to bring down his ego. He prayed to Shiva that he couldn’t concentrate on his duty because he was disturbed at losing a head. Shiva then blessed him and granted him peace of mind after which Brahma continued his duties peacefully.
Later, Brahma created one of the most beautiful dancers of Devaloka, called Thilothama. After creating her, Brahma himself lusted after her, because of her divine beauty. Thilothama refused to accept him saying that Brahma himself being her creator, he was in the position of her father.
Knowing this, the Siva Ganas (Lord Shiva’s parivar) chased Brahma, to punish him for the sin he committed. Brahma hid int the hills in this place, but then and also realized his sin. To make amends, Brahma installed a Shiva Lingam here and started worshipping Shiva.
Shiva was pleased with his prayers and accepted the apology of Brahma.
This very ancient temple is beautifully located amidst four hills at Tirusulam. It is believed that these four hills denote the four Vedas.
The inner Praakaaram has Ganapathi facing the south. Here Ganapathi is seen as ‘Naaga Yagnopaveetha Ganapathi’, as he is wearing the Naagam (snake) as his sacred thread.
Pradhosham and Maha Shivarathri days are celebrated in a grand manner at this temple.
The Dharmapurishvara temple at Tirusulam is a typical Chola temple. It is situated about a mile to the east of Pallavaram railway station. This small temple doesn’t have a gopura at its entrance. The vimana on the sanctum is of a beautiful shape. Just like in Tiruvottriyur, Thirumullaivayil and Padi, it is apsidal in form, built in Gajaprastha style or Thoongaanai Maadam (தூங்கானை மாடம்) shape. The 7.62 metre high vimana has exquisitely designed kudus and sculptural representations. To the north is the smaller vimana of the Amman shrine. It is like the vimana of the main shrine but much smaller. The Chola origin of the temple is further confirmed by the Chola inscriptions, the earliest belonging to Rajadhiraja I (and Kulottunga I.
The earliest epigraphs at Tirusulam date back to Kulottunga I’s time (1070-1118 AD). Tirusulam was a suburb of Pallavaram in Churathur nadu in Puliyur Kottam (SII VII. 538, 541, 542, 543, 547 etc.).
INSCRIPTIONS OF TIRUSULAM, as recorded in Inscriptions of Kanchipuram district – Vol V, State Archaeology Department:
747/2017 . On the south wall of the Dharmapurishvara temple. Chola – Koraajakesarivarman alias Udaiyar Sri Rajendra Chola deva (Kulottunga –I) r.y. 3 (1071 AD). Registers of 150 kalam of paddy Mannikondachola-Pallavaraiyan of Chembur-nadu in Chembur-Kottam for services; worship and food offerings to the temple of Tiruchuram-udaiya Nayanar at Chola Divakara-chaturvedimangalam in Surattur-nadu a sub-division of Puliyur Kottam the Sivabrahmanas undertook to do the needful including the offer of mandirapushpa to the deity of the temple. The record was drawn by Anantan-turruvan, the madhyasthan of the village.
748/2017. On the south wall of the Dharmpurishvara temple. Chola – Koviraajakesari panman Tribhuvana Kulottungachola deva (Kulottunga I ) r.y. 38 (1108 AD). Records gift of 24 sheep for twilight lamps by vellaalan Bhattan-Chorudaiyan to the god Tiruchuramudaiya-Mahadeva at Vaanavan-Mahadevi-Chaturvedimangalam in Surattur-nadu a sub-division of Kulottunga chola valanaadu in Jayangondachola mandalam.
749/2017 On the north wall of the Dharmapurisvara temple. Chola – Sungantavirtha Kulottunga Chola deva (Kulottunga I), r.y. 39 (1109 AD). Records a royal order of Kulottunga chola making a gift of land in Munnalur consisting of 41 veli of wet and dry lands as iraiyili devadana to the temple of Tiruchuram-udaiya Nayanar at Pallaapuram alias Vaanavan –Mahadevi-chaturvedimangalam inSurattur-nadu a sub-division in Puliyur Kottam alias Kulottunga Chola Valanaadu in Jayngondachola mandalam, for the Vaikasi festival. Certain taxes and dues including paddy and cash were made payable to the temple. The gift village was renamed Tirunittru-chola-nallur. The record is attested by Kulottunga chola Muvendavelan, a tirumandira-olai officer of the king.
750/2017. On the south wall of the Dharmapurisvara temple. Chola – Kulottunga-I, r.y. Nil. (1070-1120 AD). Registers a sale deed made by the local mahasabha of Sembiyan-Tirumangalam in Puzhal-nadu, a sub-division of Rajendrachola Valanaadu. The land was purchased by Tirumangalakkilaan Siyaarur-Velaiyan alias Tennavan Pallavarayan of the same village and he gifted it to the temple for the Ardhayaama services to the god. The land was exempted from payment of certain taxes and dues.
751/2017. On the south wall of the Dharmapurisvara temple. Chola – Vikramacholan r.y. 6 (1124 AD). Records on agreement made by Nurrenmapattan, Siraala pattan and others, Sivabrahmanas of this temple of Tiruchuram-udaiya Mahadeva at Tiruchuram alias Vaanavan-Mahadevi-Chaturvedimangalam of Surattur-nadu, in Kulottunga chola valanaadu in sub-division of Jayangondachola mandalam to burn a twilight lamp in the temple for 12 sheep received by them from Durgai sani, a brahmin lady wife of Kesava pattan of Pulipuram.
752/2017. On the west wall of the Dharmapurisvara temple. Chola – Vikramacholan r.y. 9 (1127 AD). Registers sale 970 kuli land in Manarpakkam in Perur-nadu in Kulottunga chola Valanadu in Jayangondachola mandalam by the ur of the village to Saattai Selvan alais Tondai-naaattaiyan for the food offerings to the temple of god Tiruchuram-udaiya Mahadeva at Pallaapuram alias Vaanavan Mahadevi-chaturvedimangalam.
753/2017. On the south wall of the Dharmapurisvara temple. Chola – Vikramacholan r.y. 14 (1132 AD). Registers a sale deed made by the ur of Kachavampakkam in Perur nadu in Puliyur Kottam. The land was purchased by Kannappan Pon-thambi Mukuntan alias Vikramachola-Malaiyaraiyan of Tiruchuram to the temple of god Tiruchuram-udaiya Mahadeva for certain services to the Palliyarai-Nambiraattiyar in the temple.
754/2017. On the south wall of the Dharmapurisvara temple. Chola – Tribhuvana Sri Rajadhiraja deva-II r.y. 4 (1167 AD). Registers gift of three cows for a twilight lamp to the temple of god Tiruchuramudaiyar at Pallaapuram alias Vaanavan –Mahadevi-chaturvedimangalam in Surattur-nadu, a sub-division of Kulottunga chola valanaadu in Jayngondachola mandalam by Nayakan, grandson of Nurrenma mudavariyan and son of Arulaalan alias Kalingattaraiyan of the village.
755/2017. On the south wall of the Dharmapurishvara temple. Chola – Tribhuvana. Rajadhiraja II r.y. 4 (1167 AD). Registers gift by Arulaala-perumal alias Rajaraja-Malaiyaraiyan, son of Tiruchura-Kannappan of 31 cows and one bull for a perpetual lamp in the temple of Tiruchuram in Pallaapuram alias Vanavan-Mahadevi-chaturvedimangalam of Surattur-nadu, in Puliyur Kottam alias Kulottunga chola Valanaadu in sub-division of Jayangondachola mandalam.
756/2017. On the north wall of the Dharmapurisvara temple. Chola – Tribhuvana. Kulottunga Chola deva (Kulottunga III) r.y. 31 (1201 AD). Registers gift of ten buffaloes for a perpetual lamp by Tiruchura-kannappan Adinathan Manaavaliya-mugundan alaias Chittiramezhi munaiyadaraiyan to the temple of Aludaiyar Tiruchuram-udaiyar in Pallaapuram in Surattur-nadu.
757/2017. On the west wall of the Dharmapurisvara temple. Chola – Tribhuvan Viradeva (Kulottunga III) r.y 37 (1215 AD). Registers gift of tiruvadinilai (pedestal for image), tirivaalatti-tatti (plate) and kombu (trumpet) to the god of Aludaiyar Tiruchuramudaiya Nayanar by the merchants of the city of Pundamalli alias Uyyakondan cholapuram.
758/2017. On the south wall of the Dharmapurisvara temple. Chola – Tribhuvana Sri Rajadhiraja deva – (Rajaraja III) r.y. 16 (1232 AD). Registers gift of 6 cows to the temple of god Aludaiyar Tiruchuramudaiyar for burning a twilight lamp by Kudipalli Saattan Mahadeva of Manimangalam in Surattur-nadu.
759/2017. On the south wall of the Dharmapurisvara temple. Pandya – Maaravarman Tribhuvana Sri Kulasekhara deva (Kulasekhara –I) r.y. 38 (1306 AD). Registers gift of 32 cows for a perpetual lamp by Tondaimaanaar one of the mudalis of Pillayar Nilagangaraiyar for the Tiruchuramudaiya Nayanar at Pallaapuram alias Vaanavan-Mahadevi-Chaturvedimangalam. The Sivabrahmanaas of the temple took charge of the gift.
760/2017. On the south wall of the Dharmapurisvara temple. Chola – Vikramacholan r.y. Nil. Registers to the god Tiruchuramudaiya Mahadeva. Other details are lost.
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