(Last Updated on : 16-12-2015)
Narthamalai is a place situated almost 11 miles North West of Pudukkottai on the Pudukkottai-Tiruchirapalli route in Tamil Nadu. It includes a group of nine low hills with a village at the foothills.
The Vijayalayacholeswara temple here is the most beautiful structure in the Narthamalai hills. This temple was constructed in the 9th century by Vijayalaya Chola, the first king of the Medieval Chola or Imperial Chola dynasty. This dynasty came in rule after the decline of the Pallava dynasty in the region. Therefore, historically and architecturally, the Vijayalayacholeswara temple symbolizes a 'link' between the Pallava and the Chola temple styles.
Originally, the Vijayalayacholeswara temple in Narthamalai had a main shrine in the centre with eight smaller sub-shrines surrounding the main shrine. But now, only the six sub-shrines exist and only the ruins of the basement of the seventh shrine can be found. The main shrine here is facing westward. There is a circular sanctum containing a cylindrical lingat in the main shrine. A narrow circumambulatory passage can be seen around the sanctum. The paintings of deities such as Bhairava, Vishnu and Parvati are beautifully placed on the walls of the mandapa in front of the sanctum. These paintings belong definitely to the post-Chola period.
The Vijayalayacholeswara temple in Narthamalai is hardly known compared to any other Chola temples built here. Therefore, hardly any tourist or pilgrim come to visit this temple. This temple is important for the fact that it is the very first of the thousands of temples constructed by the Imperial Cholas throughout South India and Sri Lanka.