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Brief look at the history of temples in IIT Madras

Arun Ayyar , Harish Ganapathy , Hemanth C
Alumnus of Department of Electrical Engg., Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai-600036.

Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engg., Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai-600036


Department of Electrical Engg., Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai-600036


27-February-2014, Vijaya Varsha Maha Shivaratri.

Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM) was commissioned in 1957. There are three temples in the IITM campus,
namely (i) Sri Jalakantheswara temple on the Delhi Avenue (ii) Sri Peeliamman Temple on the Delhi Avenue near the stadium
(iii) Sri Varasidhdhi Vinayaka Temple behind Taramani Guest House. These deities have been worshipped even before IITM
was established. However, no written material is available with the temples regarding their history during the pre-IITM period.
To reconstruct the history of these temples, informal interviews were conducted with the people connected to the area before
and during the establishment of IITM. In order to gain the archaeological view point we sought the help of Dr. Nagaswamy,
a renowned archaeologist and epigraphist. He served as the Director of Archaeology of Tamil Nadu state Government for 22
years. This document is a summary of the findings of this exercise.
The Jalakantheswara temple is located near the main gate of IITM on the Delhi Avenue. The main deity in this temple
is Lord Shiva worshipped in name of Sri Jalakantheswara along with his consort Devi Katyayani. Prior to the establishment

(a) Sri Jalakantheswara

Fig. 1.

(b) Devi Katyayani

Photographs of Sri Jalakantheswara and Devi Katyayani

of IITM, the Shiva linga was present under a mandapam with thatched roof near the IITM lake area and was inspiring even
by its size. Residents of the nearby villages offered daily worship to the Shiva lingam. During the establishment of IITM,
the residents of IITM then approached Mahaperiyavaa (Kanchi Kamakoti Peethadhipathi Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekharendra
Saraswathi Swamiji) about the procedure to be followed for worshipping the linga. He told them to construct a temple and
continue the puja.
When the question of naming the Lord came, He told them that there was no need to give a new name to the lingam

since it had been previously worshipped by Appaya Deekshitar. Appaya Deekshitar (1520-1593) was an Advaita Vedanta
scholar who composed the famous Margabandhu Stotram and Atmarpana stuti. Mahaperiyavaa told that the lingam had been
previously worshipped as Jalakantheswara. He also directed them to check the documents available in the nearby Raj Bhavan
for further details. According to the information furnished by the Controller of Raj Bhavan area in 1959, the precincts of the
temple once formed the route from an ancient place of worship in Vedashreni (present Velachery) to Thiruvanmiyur and had
been frequented by great saints including Appaya Deekshitar. During a recent visit to Kanchipuram, Balaperiyavaa (Kanchi
Kamakoti Peethadhipathi Jagadguru Sri Shankara Vijayendra Saraswathi Swamiji) mentioned that the then king performed the
Shastiabdapurthi (60th birthday) of Appaya Deekshitar in the temple where the Jalakantheshwara lingam had been present.
The construction of the current Jalakantheswara temple started around 1962 and got over by 1965. The vimana Kalasam
of Sri Jalakantheswara is about 300 kg. The first kumbhabhishekam of the Sri Jalakantheswara temple was performed on
18th June, 1965 in the holy presence of Puduperiyavaa (Kanchi Kamakoti Peethadhipathi Jagadguru Sri Jayendra Saraswati
Swamiji). Sringeri Sharada Peethadhipati Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Swamiji visited the temple on 7th November, 1965, while
Mahaperiyavaa himself visited the temple on 20th February, 1966. Based on the information available, the lingam is at least
400 years old.
In the souvenir printed for the Sri Jalakantheswara temple kumbhabhishekam in 1986 the following text is present:
The story of the lingam, summarized from the reading of the Kakabujander Nadi which was with the Raj Bhavan authorities
is as follows:
There was a Gandharva Kumaran by name of Vanavilangan. While he was passing through the sky, he spotted
a lovely lake with a charming swan on it. He attempted to capture and take the swan away but as the swan was
goddess Kali herself, she cursed Vanavilangan that he would become a stone. The gandharva kumaran accepted
the punishment but prayed to the Goddess for redemption. The Goddess relented and commanded him to build a
temple and perform penance as a stone, until he was redeemed by the touch of holy feet of Thrikala Gnanis and saints.
Comforted by this blessing of the Goddess, he built a temple where goddess rested and established a shivalingam at
the foot of which he lays as a stone for ages, until he regained his original form. The lingam was shifted as years
passed, and once a king (hunter) attained salvation by spotting it. Finally a Brahmin Yogi with great efforts lifted
the lingam and planted at the bank of the lake, where it was subsequently found in 1959. The nadi describes the
shivalingam as a composite whole, fusing Lord Jalakantheswara and Devi Katyayani as one cognate expression of
universal peace, prosperity and glory.
The following photographs in Fig.2 and Fig. 3 were taken from souvenir printed during kumbhabhishekam of Sri Jalakantheswara temple conducted in 1986. We have included the other photographs in the Photo Gallery section at the end.

Fig. 2. Kumbhabhishekam to Jalakantheswara temple vimanam in presence of Puduperiyavaa. The vimana kalasam is about 300 kg. Also seen in photograph
Prof Krishnamurty.

Fig. 3. Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Swamiji of Sringeri Sharada peetham visiting Sri Jalakantheswara temple on 07-Nov-1965. Also seen in
photograph Prof Krishnamurty.

Fig. 4. Mahaperiyavaa visiting visiting Sri Jalakantheswara temple on 20-Feb-1966. Also seen in photograph Prof Krishnamurty, Sri Y. S. Ramaswamy and
Sri T. R. Rajagopal. (Courtesy IITM Heritage center)


This temple is located on the Delhi avenue near the stadium. The main deity in this temple is Goddess Durga Peeliamman
who is worshipped as the grama devata/ yellai amman (the protecting goddess of the area). Before the establishment of IITM,
there was a small Devi idol which was worshipped as a benevolent goddess as opposed to the usual fierce form associated
with any yellai amman.

Fig. 5.

Sri Durga Peeliamman temple

Fig. 6.

Photograph of Sri Durga Peeliamman

The people mentioned an interesting ritual which persons with health problems used to undertake once they were cured
of the disease after praying to Goddess Peeliamman. The ritual was called Kodaikalyanam. The afflicted person would

take a shakthi karagam (pot filled with water) on their head and go around the boundaries of other villages which were near
Taramani. The journey would start from Sri Durga Peeliamman temple and go through Thiruvanmiyur, Kottivakkam, Perungudi,
Narayanapuram, Puzhidivakkam , Velachery, etc. villages and finally end at Sri Durga Peeliamman temple. The person would
visit the grama devata temples of each of these villages before returning back to Sri Durga Peeliamman temple. It was believed

Fig. 7.

Sketch of route possibly taken for the Kodaikalyanam ritual

that if a person with health problem would pray that they would perform this ritual then it would cure the person of their
health problems. A sketch of the possible route using Google maps is shown in Fig. 7. The exact route taken in those days
would be different from the one shown since we could not locate the grama devata temples of the respective villages.


Sri Varasidhdhi Vinayaka temple is situated in the hostel zone behind Taramani Guest house. The main deity in this temple
is the Varsidhdhi Vinayaka. The temple also houses two Shiva lingas.
A. Sri Varasidhdhi Vinayaka
The senior citizens whom we spoke to said that, Yen paten nukku paten kalatule irundu iruku. (The Ganesha murti has
been there since the time of my grandfathers grandfather). This easily makes it at least 200 years old.

Fig. 8.

Vigraha of Sri Varasidhdhi Vinayaka

B. Bhajana Matam and Tulasi Maadam

The people we spoke to mentioned that there was also a matam with a Mahavishnu photo next to the Vinayaka murti where
the people used to conduct bhajans in the month of Margazhi (Dec-15 to Jan-15). There was also a tulasi maadam, which can
be seen even now. As of today, the bhajana matam does not exist.

Fig. 9.

Tulasi maadam and Bhajana matam

C. Sri Adipureeshwara Lingam

The svayambhu Shiva Lingam adjacent to Sri Varasidhi Vinayaka is worshipped as Sri Adipureeshwara. There was a security
officer by name of T. N. Venkatraman who joined IITM during its establishment in 1959. He resided in the building where the
current Taramani Guest House exists. He was also affectionately called as Bullet Iyer since he rode a Royal Enfield Bullet.

At that time, the place next to the Vinayaka murti was full of thorns and dense growth. He found the svayambhu Shiva lingam
in the bushes and did the initial pujas.
When Mahaperiyavaa visited the Jalakantheswara temple on 20th February 1966, He also visited this temple and performed
pujas to both Sri Varasidhdhi Vinayaka and Sri Adipureeshwara. This information was provided to us by Smt. Shanta
Venkatraman (aged 85), w/o late T. N. Venkatraman who resides in Adyar.
Brahmashri. Somu Gurukal, who was the priest at the temple during the years (1976-2008), currently serving at Dandeeshwaram temple, when contacted gave more information about Sri Adipureeshwara. He told that Puduperiyavaa visited this
temple around 1975-1976. During his visit, Puduperiyavaa kept his dandam on the lingam and went into deep meditation for
few minutes. He then instructed Somu Gurukal to take proper care of Shri Adipureeshwara since the murti is a svayambhu
murti and also told him to establish an aavudayar (support stone structure surrounding the lingam). Due to financial constraints
at that point of time, Shri Venkatraman provided a temporary cement aavudayar. Somu Gurukal also cites several instances
when he found a snake curled around the lingam.
Later in 2000, in order to preserve the deity a copper kavacham was adorned to the lord. The kavacham is removed for 3
days in a year starting from purnima of thiru karthigai month according to tamil almanac. During this period sambrani tailam
is applied in order to prevent the formation of moths and insects etc.

(a) Sri Adipureeshwara Lingam

(b) Sri Adipureeshwara with Kavacham

Fig. 10.

D. Nandi
In front of the Adipureeshwara Shiva linga is a Nandi. Different views of the Nandi are shown in Fig. 11.

Fig. 11.

Different views of Nandi in front of Sri Adipureeshwara in the Vinayaka Temple

From an archaeological viewpoint, Dr. Nagaswamys scholarly view points about the Nandi are very interesting. According
to him, the Nandi was sculpted during the Pallava period. The Pallava period ended around 850 A.D. The Pallava sculptors
fashioned the Nandi after a variety of bull called the Nellore/Ongole Bull. The speciality of this variety was that the distance
from the hump to the tail was larger than that of the other bulls. Also this variety was characterised by a distinct hump,
short ears and small horns. The Nandis sculpted during the Pallava period had the aforementioned characteristics while those
sculpted during the later Chola and Pandya periods did not have them. The nandi is sculpted from laterite stone. It is red in
color, but years of abhishekam have made the color black. He estimated the Nandis age to be atleast 1200 years.

E. Sri Kailasanatha Lingam

This Shiva lingam is present behind the Vinayaka Sannidhi. While digging for the foundation of the Ganga hostel, this
lingam was found in the ground. The lingam was initially placed behind CCW office. In 2005, the lingam was shifted to
Vinayaka temple and placed behind the Vinayaka Sannidhi under a Bilva tree.

Fig. 12.

Sri Kailasanatha beneath the bilva tree

F. Black Stone behind Nandi

There is a tall black stone about 3 feet high behind the Nandi as shown in Fig. 13. A photograph of the stone is shown

Fig. 13.

Arrangement of Sri Adipureeshwara, Nandi and the stone in the Vinayaka Temple

in Fig. 14(a). The photograph shows some distinct inscriptions on the stone. Towards the bottom of the stone, 3 lines can be
seen which could possibly represent the symbol of a Trishul (trident).

(a) Photo of the Stone

(b) Wet paper on Stone

Fig. 14.

To read the inscriptions clearly, they had to be transferred on to a paper. This process is called stone rubbing. One of the
team members had the experience of performing the process while briefly working with Dr. V Vedachalam, a noted epigraphist.
The procedure used was as follows:
Wet unbleached thick paper is put on the stone and beaten with a brush till an impression is formed on the paper.
A specially prepared dye is then applied gently on the surface. As a result the depressed region will not be dark.
The paper is then removed carefully and dried.
Fig. 14(b) shows the result at the end of the above mentioned procedure. As seen from the figure, the visibility of the inscriptions
has improved drastically.

(a) Lower inscription- Pandya emblem

Fig. 15.

(b) Upper inscription - Vijayanagar emblem

Inscriptions on the black stone

Looking at the imprint, Dr. Nagaswamy said that it has two sets of inscriptions, (i) the lower one is the older one while the
(ii) upper one is a later inscription. He explained the inscriptions as follows:


The lower inscription contains a sun, a moon and a sceptre. In addition it also contains two curved lines on the sides.
The two curved lines are actually parts of two fishes. Hence, the complete inscription consists of a sun, a moon, a sceptre
in the centre and two fishes on the sides. This was the old royal emblem of the Pandya empire. On stone, the Pandyas
used to inscribe the fishes vertically and not horizontally. This emblem might have been engraved in the 12th century.
The inscription on the top consists of a bull. Bull was the emblem used by the Vijayanagara empire. This emblem might
have been engraved in the 15th century.
Based on the symbols present, he concluded that the stone might have been a boundary stone used to mark a geographical
area like a village. Since the symbols of two different empires are intact, it was likely that the boundary which was drawn
during the Pandya reign remained the same during the Vijayanagara reign too.

There is a small vigraha of Sri Durga Devi beneath a banyan tree near swimming pool. The vigraha is made of black stone.
Shown below is the photograph of the vigraha.

Fig. 16.

Vigraha of Durga Devi.

Dr. Nagaswamy estimates the age of this vigraha to be same as that of the Nandi present in front of Sri Adipureeshwara
shrine. Hence, this vigraha of the Sri Durga Devi is also around 1200 years old. He is also of the opinion that the vigraha
might be that of one of the 7 matrukas (7 divine mothers).
Consider the following temples : (a) Sri Dandeeswaram temple in Velachery (b) Sri Marundeeswarar temple in Thiruvanmiyur
(c) Sri Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore and (d) Karaneeswarar temple in Saidapet. Few devotees mentioned that Sri Jalakantheswara temple is in line with 2 of the above mentioned 4 temples. Some devotees also mentioned that Sri Jalakantheswara
temple is at the centroid of the triange formed by taking 3 out of the 4 temples.
In Fig. 17 we present the location of all the temples on google maps. As can be seen from Fig. 17, location of Sri
Jalakantheswara temple is not exactly on the line joining Sri Marundeeswarar and Sri Karaneeswarar temples nor is itexactly
on the line joining Sri Kapaleeswarar and Sri Dandeeshwaram temples. The location of Sri Jalakantheswara temple is also not
the centroid of any of the triangles. However, since the Sri Jalakantheswara lingam was found near the lake region, we included
a marker in the approximate location, which may seem to be at the centroid of the triangle formed by Sri Karaneeswarar, Sri
Marundeeswarar and Sri Dandeeswaram temples.


Fig. 17.

Map with location of various temples.

In this article, we have described the rich history of the temples in the IITM campus. We have also included some rare
photographs so that they are preserved for posterity. The Nandi, the black stone in Sri Adipureeshwara temple and the Durga
Devi vigraha are pieces of great archaeological importance which should be preserved with great care.
We are extremely thankful to people in and around IITM campus who spoke to us, the members of Shri T. N. Venkatramans family, Brahmashri. Somu Gurukal, Members of Temple Samajam, Sri Gnanasekaran, Sri V. Balasubramanian, Shri
Chandrashekaran, Sri Subramanian for providing us with the necessary information for compiling this document. Special thanks
are due to Shri M. J. Shankar Raman for arranging meetings with Dr. Nagaswamy. We cannot express our gratitude enough to
Dr. Nagaswamy for spending his time and giving detailed scholarly explanations. We would like to extend special thanks to
Shri D. K . Natarajan, Prof Radhakrishnan, Prof Ajit kumar Kolar and IITM Heritage center for providing us with some rare
photos. Finally we would like to thank our friends whose critical comments helped in improving the quality of the document.

Granite commemoration stones in Jalakantheswara temple.

Sri Jalakantheswara temple Kumbhabhishekam Temple souviner-1986.

We request the people with any extra information/photo about the above mentioned temples to kindly contact us on our
email ids or to contact the temple samajam office in Sri Jalakantheswara temple.



In this section, we present the photographs taken during the visit of some noted personalities such as Sri Abhinava
Theertha swamiji, Mahaperiyavaa, Puduperiyavaa and Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur, Maharaja of Mysore to Sri
Jalakantheswara temple.

Fig. 18. Photograph taken inside Sri Jalakantheswara temple during the visit of Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha swamiji. Also seen in photograph are Shri Y. S.
Ramaswamy, Prof Krishnamurthy and Prof E. G. Ramachandran. (Courtesy IITM Heritage Center)

Fig. 19. Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha swamiji planting a tree in Sri Jalakantheswara temple. Also seen in photograph are Shri Y. S. Ramaswamy, Prof
Krishnamurthy. (Courtesy IITM Heritage Center)


Fig. 20. Mahaperiyavaa welcomed with a Poornakumbham. Also seen are Krishnaswamy (with folded hands), Prof Krishnamurthy. (Courtesy Sri D. K.

Fig. 21. Harati being performed to Mahaperiyavaa. Also seen in the photgraph are Sri Y.S. Ramaswamy (Superintendent Engg), Sri Krishnaswamy (with
folded hands), Prof R. Radhakrishnan (Civil Engg) (only head is seen), Sri Ananthanarayanan (Asst Engg), Sri T R Rajagopal (Asst Registrar). (Courtesy Sri
D. K. Natarajan)


Fig. 22. Puduperiyavaa being welcomed in the IITM campus. Also seen are - Prof Radhakrishnan and Prof Shrikantakumaraswamy. (Courtesy Prof R

Fig. 23. Puduperiyavaa within Sri Jalakantheswara temple premises. Also seen are Sri Y.S.Ramaswamy, Sri Krishnaswamy and Prof Krishnamurthy. (Courtesy
Sri D. K. Natarajan)


Fig. 24. Puduperiyavaa during first kumbhabhishekam of Jalaknatheswara temple. Also seen are Mr. Krishnaswamy and Prof Krishnamurthy. (Courtesy Sri
D. K. Natarajan)

Fig. 25. Puduperiyavaa planting a tree in Sri Jalakantheswara temple. Also seen in photograph are Shri Y. S. Ramaswamy, Prof Krishnamurthy. (Courtesy
IITM Heritage center)


Fig. 26.

Puduperiyavaa in Sri Jalakantheswara temple. Also seen in photograph are Shri Y. S. Ramaswamy, Prof Krishnamurthy. (Courtesy IITM Heritage

Fig. 27. Photograph taken during the first kumbhabhishekam in 1965. Seen in the photograph are Prof Sengupto (Director IITM), Sri Y. S. Ramaswamy,
Prof R Radhakrishnan, Prof Krishnamurthy. (Courtesy IITM Heritage center)


Fig. 28. Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur, Maharaja of Mysore in Sri Jalakantheswara temple. Also seen in the photograph are Sri Y. S. Ramaswamy
and Prof Krishnamurthy. (Courtesy IITM Heritage center)

Fig. 29. Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur, Maharaja of Mysore in Sri Jalakantheswara temple. Also seen in the photograph are Sri Y. S. Ramaswamy,
Prof E. G. Ramachandran, Sri S.V. Sethunathan (Registrar), Sri T R Rajagopal (Asst. Registrar). (Courtesy IITM Heritage center)