The Chettinad region located in the Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu is dotted with numerous awe-inspiring temples that could interest connoisseurs of history, culture and architecture of yore. The Kundrakudi Murugan temple (also known as Shanmughanathar temple) is one such fine example built during the 8th century under the Pandyan Empire.
This ancient temple is a typical representation of fine Dravidian architecture and has a grand five-tiered Rajagopuram (gateway) that rises to a majestic 16.5m height. It is encrusted with numerous intricately carved sculptures that tell their own interesting tales. This ancient Hindu temple is dedicated to Lord Murugan who is represented here with six heads and twelve hands. He is worshiped along with his consorts Valli and Deivanai who are seated on peacocks. The temple is located on a peacock-shaped hillock and requires a dedicated climb of around 200 steps to reach the top. The hillock covers an area of 6.5 acres and rises to a height of 60m. Taking a bottle of water along is a great idea for this trip!
There are three fine examples of rock-cut temples located on the western side of the hillock which is considered as some of the best specimens of rock-cut architecture from that era. The temple is believed to have a lot of powers and is said to fulfill sincere prayers for offspring for childless couples. It’s also believed to provide a good harvest to farmers and general health, wealth and success in education for its devotees.
There are many interesting legends associated with this temple. One entrancing legend has it that the demon King Sooran decided to play a prank on the Peacock, chariot of Lord Murugan. He told the peacock that the Swan (chariot of Saraswati) and the Garuda (chariot of Vishnu) could travel faster than it. In anger, the peacock swallowed the Swan and the Garuda. Lord Vishnu then prayed to Murugan for the release of his chariot which the peacock readily accepted as it realized its mistake. To perform penance to Lord Murugan, he came to this area called Kundrakudi.
Kundrakudi is just around 14km away from Karaikudi, a major township in the Chettinad region which is well connected by excellent highways and railways with neighboring Trichy offering the nearest airport. If you are planning on visiting this historically-significant temple, do plan to stay over for a few days to enjoy the true culture and heritage of this region. You could stay over in Pudukottai at the magnificent Chidambara Vilas heritage hotel which is a renovated century-old palace.