Panchavanmadevi Pallippadai – Rajendra I’s Tribute to his Step-Mother

While the inscriptions of Paravai Nangai Isuvaram are still being studied, I thought the other distinct deed of Rajendra Chola I, constructing a Pallippadai Temple for his Step-mother, Panchavanmadevi, could be discussed in this post.

Pallippadai in Tamil denotes a Memorial Temple. The verb, ‘Pallippaduthal’ is ‘to lay a person on fire’, or a ‘burial’. Hence, Pallippadai could be a place, as per Saivite rituals, where the ashes of the person were buried, and a deity for worship- a Shiva Lingam -would be consecrated. With the Primary Deity of worship installed, it becomes a Temple, in honour of the loved one.

The purpose of a Pallippadai, is neither the elevation of the person as a God or Goddess; nor the worship of the loved one, by the society. It is a representation of the profound affection, one had for the Deceased. This act of Deification of a loved one, is purely an ultimate portrayal of respect and love.

Three Pallippadai Temples that belong to the Medieval Cholas, have been found, in the United Thamizhagam under the mighty Cholas.

Adityesuvaram – Pallippadai Temple of Aditya Chola, father of Paranthaka I and the son of Vijayalaya- the victorious King, who revived the ancient glory of the Chola Empire in Tamil Land, is situated in today’s Andhra Pradesh, near Thirukkalathi (today’s Kalahasti). The temple was built by his son, Paranthaka I. It is called ‘Kothanadarameshwara Temple’, now.

Arinjaya Choleesuvaram – Pallippadai Temple of Arinjaya Chola, father of Sundara Chola/Paranthaka II and the son of Paranthaka I, is situated in Melpadi, in Vellore district of Tamilnadu. The temple was built by Rajaraja I, in memory of his grand father.

Panchavanmadevi Isuvaram – Pallippadai Temple of Panchavanmadevi, Queen of Rajaraja I, lies near Patteesvaram, in the district of Thanjavur, Tamilnadu. The temple was built by Rajendra I, in memory of his step-mother. Like several other temples, those have lost their original names, this temple is called ‘Ramanathan Koyil/ Temple’, now.

Why Panchavanmadevi Pallippadai is important in the history of Temple Construction of Thamizhagam- today’s Tamilnadu?

Panchavanmadevi Isuvaram

The temple stands tall, in its representation of Love – Love for a Mother.

 As mentioned in one of the earlier posts, It is normal for a King to build a Monument in memory of His Queen, or a Son for his Mother; But building a Temple in long lasting memory of a Step-mother, is never heard of.

This is a Unique Temple, showcasing Unique Love.

Panchavanmadevi, a Pazhuvettaraiyar Princess, who became the Queen of Rajaraja I, was an eminent Patron of several temples, during the reign of her husband. Several inscriptions in the Thanjai Peruvudaiyar Temple, Thiruppugalur, Melapaluvur temples and several more, mention her contributions. The noteworthy contributions of the Royal Ladies of the Chola Empire, is a well documented fact. Panchavanmadevi, was one among them.

But, what makes the Consort of Rajaraja I exceptional, seems to be her immense affection for Rajendra I, her husband’s son and the heir to the Chola Throne. It is beyond one’s comprehension, how deep should’ve been Rajendra’s attachment towards Panchavanmadevi, that he constructed a Memorial Temple, in her honour.

Such a phenomenal temple, can neither be found in the entire sub-continent nor in other parts of the world. The selfless warmth, Panchavanmadevi must have showered upon her step-son, is still reflected on the walls of the temple, beyond a thousand years.

A Neglected Monument – Failure of a Society?

Temples of Tamilnadu, that stand as Stone Documents of our bygone Eras, face several threats. Reclaiming Temples, Preserving the idols, Saving the documented inscriptions on the walls, have all become challenges. The plight of the documented inscriptions is yet another tragic story. In such case, the society is under a great threat of losing its History. What happens when the common man doesn’t realise that his everyday temple is a store house of historic documents? Tamil Land seems to be leading by example.

The arduous story behind the retrieval of the Temple of Panchavanmadevi, and the struggle to bring out the inscription in the temple, which stands proof of the Temple’s unprecedented identity, is painfully recorded by Dr. R. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. M. Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historical Research, Thiruchirapalli, in his article in ஒரு காலக் கனவின் கண்ணீர்க் கதை (click for link).

The year, the article was published in, was 2009. The undigestible truth behind this article, is yet another 10 years of laborious attempt (prior to 2009) to bring the temple to light. A total of 30 years, to rescue a monument from Human Negligence. Truly Tragic.

A very recent re-broadcast of Dr. R. Kalaikkovan’s Radio Talk, in All India Radio, was a stunner, in terms of the plight of exceptional temples, in today’s world.

After reading the article, one takes some time to come to terms with reality. Additionally, Deciphering inscriptions, doesn’t seem to be a Herculean task. Protecting the inscriptions, seems to be one.

Due to the relentless pursuit of Dr. Kalaikkovan and his team, the inscription of Rajendra I, in the temple, has been deciphered and documented.

Rajendra I’s inscription of Panchavanmadevi, which mentions the Temple as a Pallippadai.

The unfinished long inscription starts with Rajendra Chola I’s Meikeerthi – ‘thirumanni valara’. The year of the inscription, is the seventh regnal year of Rajendra, 1019. We are talking about a document, which was inscribed more than a 1000 years ago.

Thirumanni valara irunila madanthaiyum……………………….




varmarana sri Rajendra chozha devarkku yaandu

ezhavathu kshatriyasigamani valanaattu thirunaraiyur

naattu pazhai

yaaraana mudikonda chozhapurathu pallippadai

panchavan madevi isuvarathu madevarkkum

The temple is mentioned as ‘Kshatriya Sigamani Valanaattu, Thirunaraiyur Naattu, Pazhaiyaaraana Mudikonda Chozhapurathu Pallippadai Panchavan Madevi Ishwaram’ and the principal deity is Panchavan Madevi Ishwarathu Devar.

The inscription, stands as an illustration of the Administerial Excellence, which the Cholas documented through their Temples. It refers to the Deities of Worship in the temple and the names of temple officials, religious functionaries and workers, employed for the temple. Clear specifications of duties of personnel, the exact amounts of land and grains allotted for the temple activities, oil and food to be offered to the deities – are all unambiguously recorded.

When compared to two of the other Pallippadai Temples of the Chola Era, Panchavanmadevi Pallippadai has noticeable details of attention, the King had registered while constructing the Special Premises.

Important details recorded in the inscription, reveal interesting particulars of the Temple Administration. They are also evidences of transparency in regulations under the Chola Empire, certainly a Golden Era for Temples and Architecture, and Historic Documentation at its Apex.


The shares of land, from which grains would be given for the usage of Temple and Temple Officials and Workers, would be received from the village of Sitraadi, under the district of Thirunaraiyur.

The temple officials are cited in these verses–

Under the Orders of – Uyyakondar valanaattu vennaattu keralandhaga charuppethi mangalathu maaraayan Arumozhiyaana Uthamachozha Brahmaraayan,

kallil vettuvikkavendru uyyakond

dar valanaattu vennaattu keralanthaka saruppethi

mangalathu maaraayan arumozhiyaana uthamachozha

brahmaraayan solla

Under the Supervision of Chief Administrative Officer – SriKaryam Seikindra Kshatriya Sigaamani Valanaatu Setroor Kootrathu Maruthathurudaiyan Venkaadan Kovandhai and Pontiff – Madapathy Laguleesa Pandhithar,

iththevarkku srikaryanj

cheikindra kshatriyasigaamani valanaatu setroor

kootrathu maruthathur

rudaiyaan venkaadan kovandhaiyum immadapathi

laguleeswara paditharum kankaaniyaaga kallil


The Inscription has been documented, under the orders of the General, Uthamachozha Brahmaraayan, under the supervision of Chief Administrative Officer, Venkaadan Kovandhai and Pontiff Laguleesa Pandithar.

Apart from the Principal Deity, Panchavanmadevi Isuvarathu Maadevar, the deities in the temple are Umasagithar, Ganavathiyar and Chandrasekara Devar.

…………….Umasagitharkku moondru sandhikkum thiruvamuthu

arisi arunaazhiyum Gana

vathiyaarkku sandhi ondrukku thiruvamudhu arisi oru naazhi

yum Chandrasekara devarkku sandhi ondrukku thiruvamudhu

arisi irunaazhiyum

Below are the offerings of Food to deities of the temple. Amudhu is a generic word for ingredients to make different offerings of Food. Thiruvamudhu, mentioned in temple records, stands for a Meal offered to the Deities. It has been seen from other inscriptions, that the Grand Meal or a Feast Meal offered in temples, is mentioned as Perunthiruvamudhu.

What we know from this inscription, is the supply of several ingredients, needed to cook different offerings of meals to the deities of Panchavanmadevi Isuvaram.

Thiruvamudhu – Meal

Neiyamudhu – Clarified Butter

Paruppamudhu – Lentils

Kariyamudhu – Vegetabes

Thayiramudhu – Curd/Yoghurt

Uppamudhu – Salt

Adaikkai Amudhu – Betel Nut

Vetrilai – Betel Leaves

The exact amounts of rice grain, clarified butter, lentils, vegetables, yoghurt, betel leaves and betel nuts have been recorded. With the main ingredients, salt for seasoning and pepper as spice, have been used.


milagu iru sevidaraikku nel iru naazhiyum uppa

mudhukku naal 1kku nel uriyum

Precise description of all essential ingredients for the Temple Offerings, recorded a 1000 years ago, baffles our imagination.

Also, wood used for the cooking stove, for the deities – Udaiyar Panchavanmadevi Isuvarathu Maadevar, Umasahithar, Chandrashekara Devar and Ganavathiyar- is mentioned, in the inscription.

After food, the inscription mentions the lighting of Lamps in the Temple.


moondrukku ennai muzhakkum sandhi vilakku siru

kaalai ettum uchampodhu ettum iraapathinarum


sandhi vilakku muppathirandu

  1. Thirunandha vilakku -3
  2. Sandhi vilakku – 8 in the morning, 8 in the noon and 16 at night- which makes up to 32 lamps
  3. Small lamps -8 in number, for Sribali (offering of holy food), to be lit 3 times a day.
  4. Bigger Torch Lamps – 2 in number, for Thirumanjanam- (sacred bath) and Thiruvolakkam (public exhibit of the Deities, which is done on a special place in the temple)

Such impressive attention on details.

After providing specifications on grains and ingredients for Food and Oil for Lamps, Sandalwood for Thirumeipoochu -sacred smearing on idols and Kunguliyam (the aromatic sal dammer ) for Thiruppugai – burning incense, is stated.

thirumeipoochchukku naal ondrukku sandhanam………..



…………..thiruppugaikku naal 1 kku kungulium……………..

To put it in concise –

Ingredients list of nei amudhu (clarified butter), paruppu amudhu (lentil), kari amudhu (vegetables), thayir amudhu (yoghurt), uppamudhu (salt), milagu(pepper), viragu (wood), adaikkai amudhu (betel nut), and vetrilai (betel leaves) – for Thiruvamudhu (food)

Ennai (oil) for Lamps – for the Deities, Temple premises, offering of Holy Food, the Sacred Bath and Public Exhibit of Deities

Sandhanam (Sandalwood) for Smearing on Deities

Kunguliyum (Sal Dammer) for burning incense

have been specified, and the amounts of grains allotted for these purposes are described in detail.

Instructions on the special celebrations, to commemorate the respective birth-stars of Rajendra Chola Deva, and his wife Nampirattiyar (name not mentioned) are specified.

……………..Udaiyar SriRajendra Chozhadevar

thirunaalaana thiruvathirai thirunaal 1kku thiruvizha ezhun

tharula thiruppallithamamum thiruvamudhu thiruvilakken

naiyum thiruppalli chivikai kaavuvarukku nellu

irukalane iru naazhi uzhak

kaga aanduvarai thiruvadhirai thirunaal 12 um nampiratti

yar iraivathi thirunaal 12 um aaga thirunaal 24 sku

There are two facts that are note worthy, in this part of the inscription-

  1. A Festival to be organised on Thiruvathirai (the birth-star of Rajendra I); and
  2. Monthly ceremonies on Thiruvathirai and Revathi (birth-star of Nampirattiyar – wife of Rajendra I) respectively, which counts to a total of 24 days of celebrations a year.

For these special occasions, grains have been systematically allotted for-

  1. thiruppallithamam – Flower Garlands
  2. thiruvamudhu – Holy Food
  3. thiruvilakkennai – Oil for Lamps
  4. thiruppalli chivigai kaavuvaar – Palenquin Bearers of the sacred Deities
  5. thiruvilakku seelai, thirupparisattam, thirunamanigai, thiruvuthiriyam, thirumelkattu and thiruvidhanam- sacred clothes for different purposes in the temple

This list, is exclusively for the Festival and Celebrations in the name of Rajendra Chola I and his Consort.

The fascinating details of the persons employed with their names, for different services of the temple, are provided.

The persons on duty in the Temple of Panchavanmadevi Isuvaram-

One person to recite Tamil Hymns (probably Thevaram)- Pidaaranthiruvaradhinai seyyum pidaran 1vanukku – for the Agamic Rituals

Two Saivite Brahmins – Siva Brahmanan Kousikan Bharathan Thiripuranthakan and Kousikan Bharathan Narayanan – for the Vedic Rituals

Accounts Officer – Kanakku Araiyan Madhuranthakanaana Chozha Perunkavithi

Treasurer – Pandaari Maruthoorudaiyan Venkaadan Kovanthai

Temple Guard – Thirumeikkaaval Venkaadan Ponnambalam

and – Sivannan Sandilyan Narayanan Pattadhithan

Panel of 6 instrumentalists headed by – one Uvachu koothan

Another panel of 6 instrumentalists headed by – Uvachu Aravanaiyaan Ekaveeran

Deputy to the Accounts Officer – Araiyan Madhuranthakanaana Chozha Perunkavithikku Kaavithimai seivaan

Potter – Kusavan Kannan Thiruvadigal

Maintenance – cleaning and washing – Thiruvalagu Thirumezhukku ida Bharathan Thiripuranthakan and Bharathan Narayanan

The inscription talks in detail, the quantities of grain to be provided to these staf, for their services.

What an extensive Inscription! Who said a research article shouldn’t display emotions? One is fascinated by the sheer lucidity that the inscription exhibits. Every Chola Temple, draws the same amount of inquisitiveness and admiration, with its captivating diverse elements. The restriction of adjectives, in a research article, wouldn’t hold good, while writing about Tamil Temples, as a whole.

While every Chola Temple, is a Unique Treasure Trove… What makes Panchavanmadevi Pallippadai, an Exceptional One?

The other two Pallipadai Temples of the Chola Era, are dedicated to Kings. Panchavanmadevi Pallipadai is the only one, dedicated to a Lady. This is a Temple, constructed in memory of a Son’s love for his Mother. What makes it even more distinct, is that it is a Memorial Temple, in honour of a Step-Mother.

The devoted affection of Rajendra for his Step-mother is amplified multifold, by the construction of this Temple. The Dynamic King has displayed his fondness for Panchavan Madevi, in an unprecedented way.

The inscription of the temple, is yet again Unique, as no other Pallippadai inscription, both Parantaka I’s and Rajaraja’s, are as explicit and elaborate as Rajendra’s. Having a Festival observed in the King’s auspicious day, and special celebrations in the names of Rajendra and his wife, highlights the honour that the Son wishes to provide his mother, in the future years too.

An equivalent of the Love and Affection, that a mother would give her children, is next to impossible. But, the recognition and honour that Rajendra I has showered in reciprocity of the Affection received, also seems next to impossible.

Panchavanmadevi Pallippadai, is not only Rajendra’s Display of Honour for his Step-mother, It is also a Grand Recognition of the selfless warmth and many more extraordinary qualities, the Lady possessed. It is a portray of what Rajendra I wanted the world to recognise – Deification of Motherhood and Glorification of Womanhood.


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