Velachery is a bustling place now, providing a link as it were to the Old Mamallapuram Road (OMR) and the East Coast Road, and the rest of Chennai region, housing modern IT complexes and multi-storeyed blocks, yet it is as ancient as can be.
The epigraphs of Velachery which are over 1,000 years old maintain that Velachery aka Velichery was a part of Puliyur Kottam which has a history of over 2,000 years as the ancient Chennai region.
Velachery, situated a few kms south-east of Guindy, is famous for its two small Chola temples, the Dandishvara temple and the Chelliamman temple. The Dandishvara temple is in a neglected condition. The vimana of the central shrine is a medium-sized one, 6.72 metres high. The vimana, cubical in form, has a well-marked kudu on each side. Though the vimana does not contain niches or images like the Tirumullaivayil temple, it still has a beauty of its own due to its simplicity.
Almost all the walls of the sanctum have Chola epigraphs, the earliest going back to the days of the son of the Chola king Parantaka I, Gangaraditya (10th century AD) (306 of 1911 – there is also 315 of 1911 which is on the south wall). This epigraph is carved on the western wall of the central shrine. Other epigraphs of later date, belonging to Rajaraja I (on the north wall), Rajendra I (on the north and west walls), Kulotunga III (on the north and west walls), and others clearly establish the antiquity of the structure (302-305 and 307-314 of 1911).
The inscriptions of Chola king Rajaraja I (985-1014) have been found in Velachery, besides Santhome (Mayilapur), Tiruvottriyur, Padi, Velachery, Puliyur, Poonamallee and Pallavaram.
The Velachery epigraphs record the name of this place as Velicheri and as Jina-chintamani-chaturvedimangalam. The deity was worshipped by several names such as Thiru-dandishvara-deva, Thiru-dandishvaram-udaiyar, Thiru-dandishwaram-udaiya-nayanar and Thiru-dandishwaram-udaiya-Mahadeva. The epigraphs also refer to the administrative organisation of this village called sabha.
The Chennai region has about 25 inscriptions relating to successor of Rajaraja I, Chola king Rajendra I (1012-1044) including Santhome (Mayilapur), Tiruvottriyur, Thiruvanmiyur, Poonamallee, Thirumullaivayil and Velachery. Their dates range between the second and thirty second years of Rajendra’s reign.
Dandeeswarar Temple is a Shiva temple said to have been built during the Pallava reign and later repaired and rebuilt during the Chola reign. The temple complex consists of a main temple complex and a tank, and is 2 kilometers towards the east from The temple is administered by the HR & CE Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu.
Chelliamman temple is an extremely small one. Its vimana is compact but varies in pattern from that of the Dandishvara temple. It also has two early Chola inscriptions belonging to Parantaka I and Parthivendravarman on the south wall. Being a small temple, it has no mandapa or pillars to speak of.
What catches one’s eye and moves one in Velachery are the several exquisite stone images of Vishnu and his Ubhayanachimars that are lying on the streets –open to the sky, without a canopy or cover. Three of the images are nearly 1.82 metres high and are in a sitting posture. The villagers say these images had come from a ruined and empty temple in Velachery.
The Yoga Narasimhan temple here has inscriptions over 1,000 years ago.
Another eye-catching piece is a three- foot tall bronze image of Vedanarayanar in standing posture in the local Narasimhar temple. It is said to have been discovered by accident, underneath the ground some 100 or 110 years ago.
Velachery was along with Thiruvanmiyur in Kottur nadu (305 of 1911). Kottur nadu was named after Kottur, a village near Guindy. The other name for Velachery was Dinachintamnai Chaturvedimangalam (303 of 1911).
Velachery Pidari Temple
Not many of the residents know that this is one of the oldest temples of Sapta Matrikas in entire Tamil Nadu. The temple is located at a distance of around 200 meters from Dandeeswarar temple in Velachery but has a completely painted look, due to the renovation.
Sapta Matas worship is an ancient tradition in Tamil Nadu, with hundreds of temples of Sapta Matas in the name of Pidari Amman or Chelli Amman. The Velachery Sapta Matrikas temple is considered extra special as it has stone inscriptions of Parthivendra Varman dated 966 CE. (He is said to have belonged to the ancient Pallava dynasty and that he beheaded Vira Pandya).
Another inscription dated 967 CE belonged to the period of Aditya Karikalan. All the images of the temple were said to be Chola period sculptures. As in the tradition of the Grama devathai, seven bricks said to represent the Sapta Matas, reflecting an age-old tradition, can be found in this temple.
What is astonishing and shocking is that the priceless inscriptions are now missing after the temple was renovated.