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I had the opportunity to visit Avudaiyarkoil (or Avudaiyarkovil), a really small temple town near Pudukkottai in Tamil Nadu, some days ago. These parts are very close to the popular Chettinad region, which I unfortunately didn’t visit. Some other time, I hope!


The Avudayairkovil Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva was built by Manikavasakar, a 9th century Tamil poet who was the Prime Minister of the reigning Pandya king. Apparently, he used money meant for purchasing horses for the army, to build the temple. And then Lord Shiva had to appear in the angered king’s dream to sort things out! Additions and modifications were probably made over time, and most of the current structure is believed to date back to the 15th century. What’s special about this temple is that there is no idol of the main deity – he is called Atmanatha, which means formless! Hot pulihora (tamarind rice) mixed with bitter gourd (karela) is spread out on a stone slab and the steam that rises from it is the only offering to the deity.
The temple is a treasure trove of intricate sculptures based on Hindu mythology, but it doesn’t get too many visitors. The temple is about an hour away from Pudukkottai, which you can reach by train or road from Chennai. You could also drive down if you are visiting the Chettinad region and have a few hours to spare. We were shown around by a very knowledgeable gentleman Mr. Manikam – do ask at the temple if he is available – he will show you hidden gems that you’ll never spot on your own. Read more about Avudaiyarkovil here.
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