தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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HomeTamils - a Trans State Nation > Culture & the Tamil Contribution to World Civilisation > Dravidian Temple Architecture  > The Disappeared Mandapam - Annakkulzi Mandapam of Madurai

The Disappeared Mandapam
- Annakkulzi Mandapam of Madurai

Dr.S.Jayabarathi (JayBee), Malaysia
published here with permission
[see http://www.geocities.com/arthur_avalon/annakulzi_mandapam11.html ]

This is a story about a Mandapam - a stone pavilion; a mandapam which had found a place in history, heritage, religion, architecture, and mythology. It was a land-mark of a beautiful city and was also an integral part of a festival based on a beautiful legend. It was called 'annak kulzi mandapam'  Let me tell you that beautiful legend.

This legend is found in 'Thiru ViLaiyaiyaadal PuraaNam'. Siva Perumaan is purported to have done some sixty-four divine deeds, miracles, pranks, etc., in and around Madurai City. This particular legend is associated with the Divine Marriage of Minaatchi and SivaPerumaan who is known here as Sundaresvarar.

The ruling Pandyan king, Malayadhvajan did not have a child. So he performed a yaagam. Out of it came out a beautiful girl. She was an incarnation of Shakthi. She had one abnormality.

She had three breasts. On seeing this, everyone was perplexed. But a voice announced that, when the Girl met her proper suitor, the third breast will disappear. She was named as 'Thadaathagai Piraatti'. Because of Her fish-shaped eyes, She was also known as Miinaatchi. The Girl advanced in age, beauty, all the arts of statecraft including warfare.

When She was of age, She started on a Digviyjaya - war carried out in all directions. She fought and became victorious. Nobody could stop Her. Finally Siva Peruman came in front of Her. On seeing Him, Thadaathagai's third breast disappeared. She was overcome with shyness which She had never experienced before. Siva conquered Her without fighting. Thadaathagai, as was Her resolution, wanted to marry Siva. But the mother of Thadaathagai was sad because she had hoped that a handsome and accomplished prince would marry her. So she asked miinaatchi about Her decision; the words have been immortalised in a beautiful song.

 Because Siva was a dweller in the crematorial ground; adorned with erukku, uumaththai, and kondrai flowers, vilvam leaves, snakes, a cloak of elephant skin, a loin cloth of tiger skin, and with matted locks of hair. He also had garlands of bones, skulls, tortoise shell, wild boar's tusk. He was carrying a staff of bone and skull together with a thirisuulam trident. In addition to this, His body was smeared with ashes from the crematorial ground. But however Minnatchi was adamant.

The marrigae was fixed. Vishnu from AlzagarMalai - KaLLalzagar was supposed to have done the 'thaarai vaarththal' ceremony - 'kannika dhaanam'. But He was late. And so the Alzagar from Madurai - Kuudal Alzagar - officiated in the ceremony in His place.

Siva came to the marriage as the bridegroom. But He was totally transformed. He was adorned in the finest of ornaments and looked best and handsome in His form as Sundareswarar. The Bridegroom was accompanied by only one person. He was KundOdharan - one of the bhutha ganam of Siva. When He was asked whether He had other bridegroom's people, He answered "No, this is all".

The marriage took place. After it was over, the marriage banquet was laid out. The bride's people looked on quizzically. Sundarar told them, "Just feed him".

So they took him to the banquet hall. Siva transferred a tiny part of one of the Divine Fires that He had, into the stomach of Kundodharan. Immediately he started screaming with hunger and thirst. He ate all the food and drank all the water and asked for even more. Siva pressed a spot on the ground, and out came a river. KundOdharan was commanded to hold out his hand to catch the water to drink - ‘Vai Gai’ were the words. And the spouting water became a river bearing that name.

As the bride's people could not provide more food, Siva stopped KundOdhara's hunger. This event is held as a festival in Madurai. All the parts of the Marriage ceremony are enacted during the festival.

The feeding of KundOdhara was held in a special mandapam called 'annakkulzi mandapam'. Nobody knows how old the mandapam was. Just as many parts of the Miinaatchi Temple were destroyed by the Turko-Afgans, an older structure could have been destroyed as well. The hall that was in existence must have been built during Thirumalai Naayakkar's time. Annakkulzi Mandapam was situated in West Chiththirai Street in its southern half. It was just a few metres away from the West Gopuram.

The mandapam was fairly big and beautiful. It ran north to south, extending from West Chiththirai Street. There was a garden surrounding the mandapam. At the fron,t was a palisade of steps. On both sides there were two beautiful statues of elephants. They were ornately adorned with fineries. At the other end of the mandapam was a depression. This was a big depression and there were steps leading downwards. It was large receptacle for cooked rice. This was the famous 'annakkulzi' - the rice pit. Thus the mandapam earned its name - 'annakkulzi mandapam'.

During the Chiththirai festival, Miinaatchi ThiruKalyaanam is celebrated. After the Marriage ceremony is over, anna dhaanam - free food - is done in the annakulzi mandapam. Cooked rice is heaped into the depression and the side dishes are also there. Pandhi rows are put along the length of the mandapam and everybody is given banquet food. After that, the festival continued in the Vagai River.

During the rest of the year, the annakkulzi mandapam was used as a school. The school was known as the 'annakulzi mandapam school'. The mandapam had a very conducive atmosphere and environment for studying, teaching, learning, and playing. About thirty years ago, this historic, festive, legendary, and archeological monument was demolished. They built a multi storeyed travellers lodge in that place. There was a hue and a cry. But the authorities told that the mandapam will be reassembled at a different location. But that never took place. By and large, people forgot about the mandapam and annakkulzi mandapam passed into oblivion.

Not quite. Those two elephants of the palisade. I think these are the two elephants. Or what remains of them.

These remains are found in the Aadi Viidhi of the Miinaakshi Sundareswarar Temple.

 

 

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