A shrine dedicated to the Tamil Hindu deity Murugan, the Murugan Temple at Saluvankuppam village in Tamil Nadu is a significant Hindu temple and was discovered in 2005. Murugan is a revered Hindu deity, also known as Kartikeya or Skanda, and is worshipped by several devotees across the world, particularly in South India. The Murugan temple is believed to have been built during the Pallava period which dates to the 7th-9th century CE. After the major tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004, some rock inscriptions were left exposed which led to the discovery of the temple shrine. This Murugan temple is a major archaeological finding and according to the Archaeological Survey of India, the temple could be the oldest of its kind to be discovered in India. It consists of two layers - a brick temple built during the Sangam period (3rd-century BCE-3rd century CE) and a granite Pallava temple (8th-century CE) built on top of the brick shrine. Some artifacts dating to the Pallava and Sangam periods have also been unearthed here.
The temple has been restored to its exquisite glory and is now a major pilgrim site not only for the people of Tamil Nadu but for devotes across the country. Its religious significance, historical importance, and cultural and artistic perfection have made it an important religious site and a place for the devotees of Murugan to offer their prayers. The discovery of this ancient Murugan temple in Saluvankuppam was significant as it provided valuable insights into the history and culture of the region. It also highlighted the importance of preserving India's rich cultural heritage for future generations.
The Murugan Temple at Saluvankuppam is an excellent example of the Pallava style of architecture, which flourished in the region between the 3rd and 9th centuries CE. The temple's architecture is characterized by intricate carvings, elaborate sculptures, and a unique style of stonework. It is dedicated to the Hindu Tamil deity Murugan and faces north unlike many Hindu temples which face east. The temple is constructed on a cushion of alluvium on which a layer of man-made bricks was laid. On top of this were another four layers of man-made bricks separated by four layers of laterite.
The temple complex comprises a sanctum sanctorum, a mandapa, and several other structures all of which are made of granite. The garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum is 2 meters long and 2.2 meters wide and is made of 27 courses of bricks. It is the most important part of the temple as it houses the main deity, Lord Murugan, and is surrounded by a narrow passage, which is used by devotees to circumambulate the idol. The mandapa or the hall of the temple is supported by intricately carved pillars, each of which is topped by a unique capital. The pillars are adorned with carvings of mythological figures, animals, and other decorative motifs. The temple's walls are decorated with elaborate sculptures of deities, scenes from Hindu mythology, and other figures. The sculptures are carved in high relief and are characterized by their intricate detailing and lifelike representations. The temple's roof is also an important architectural feature and is constructed using a unique style of stonework. The roof is made up of multiple layers of granite slabs, each of which is carefully fitted together to create a smooth, curved surface.
During the excavations, a terracotta plaque representing a KuavaiKoothu, a dance mentioned in the 1st century CE Tamil epic Silappadhikaram, was also discovered. The temple is enclosed by a prakara or a compound wall dating from the Sangam period. According to archaeologists, the shrine is the biggest brick temple complex dating to the pre-Pallava period and is amongst the oldest temples in India.
There are several rock inscriptions found near the Murugan temple that has been excavated. Three granite pillars have been found near the temple inscribed in them the grants made to the temple, which then led to the discovery of the said temple itself. One pillar contains inscriptions about a donation of ten kazhanchus (small balls) of gold by one Kirarpiriyan of Mahabalipuram in 858, while the other has inscriptions of donation made of 16 kazhanchus of gold in 813 for the maintenance of a lamp by a Brahmin woman named Vasanthanar. The third pillar preserves an inscription by Raja Raja Chola I. Apart from these, there are five other pillars with inscriptions by the Pallava kings Dantivarman I, NandivarmanIII, and Kambavarman, the Rashtrakuta king Krishna III and the Chola king Rajendra Chola III.
According to archaeological findings, this Murugan temple dates to the 7th century and is believed to have been built by the Pallava dynasty. The temple was discovered during an excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and is located near Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The discovery of the Murugan Temple in Saluvankuppam in 2005 is significant as it sheds light on the history and culture of the Pallava dynasty, which ruled the region between the 3rd and 9th centuries CE. The Pallavas were known for their patronage of the arts, literature, and architecture, and they left behind several important cultural and architectural achievements, including the rock-cut temples of Mahabalipuram.
The Murugan Temple at Saluvankuppam is believed to have been built during the reign of the Pallava king Mahendravarman I (600-630 CE) and was dedicated to Lord Murugan, one of the most popular deities in Tamil Nadu. The temple complex is spread over an area of about 12,000 square feet and consists of a sanctum sanctorum, a mandapa, and other structures. The sanctum sanctorum is dedicated to Lord Murugan and contains a stone idol of the deity. It also has several inscriptions in Tamil and Sanskrit, which provide valuable information about the history of the temple and the Pallava dynasty. The inscriptions mention the names of various kings who patronized the temple and provide details about the rituals and offerings that were made to Lord Murugan.
The temple was abandoned sometime in the 9th century, and over the centuries, it was buried under layers of sand and soil. It was only in 2005, after the catastrophic tsunami in 2004, that the temple was rediscovered during an excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India. The discovery of the temple has provided valuable insights into the religious practices and architectural styles of the Pallava period. The temple is believed to have been built using the traditional Pallava style of architecture, which is branded by intricate carvings and sculptures.
The discovery of the temple has also helped to establish the importance of Saluvankuppam as a center of religious and cultural activity during the Pallava period. Today, the Murugan Temple at Saluvankuppam has been restored and is a popular pilgrimage site for devotees of Lord Murugan, and it continues to attract visitors from all over the world.
The brick temple is dated before the 6th or 7th century CE when the Shilpa Shastra, the canonical texts of the temple architecture were written. The age of the temple is estimated to range from 1700 to 2200 years.
The Murugan temple at Saluvankuppam village was discovered in 2005 after some inscriptions were left exposed in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami.
According to the timeline and date, the temple at Saluvankuppam is the oldest constructed temple of Lord Murugan.