During our journey through the Chettinad region, we stopped at many temples and shrines and listened to tales both fantastical and illuminating. We had a superb guide in historian V Sriram, who explored the culture, myths and artistic heritage of each place of worship along the way in his inimitable way of immersive storytelling, and drew for us a magical map of faith in this corner of Tamil Nadu.
This temple is said to have been built in the 9th Century AD by a fervent devotee of Shiva, Manikkavasagar, who attained enlightenment at this spot in the town of Perunthurai. Along its walls are marvellously intricate ancient rock sculptures that celebrate the different forms taken by Lord Shiva as well as those of Parvati, the goddess Yogambal, Arjuna from the Mahabharata and Lord Ganesha. Architectural details like a long snaking chain made entirely of granite, musical pillars and mammoth godly figures hewn from single stones speak of the highly sophisticated engineering and design capabilities of the Pandian empire.