The Spice Road ‘Vaṭakarai Zamīndāri’ Its Historicity and Architectural Remains1


  • Parthiban Rajukalidoss



The western part of the Maturai region adjoining the chain of hills is a neglected area in architectural research. It was the “Spice Road” during British Rāj for transporting spices from the cardamom hills. No thorough architectural survey has been undertaken yet. The present article presents a chip from a huge block, reflecting on the architectural remains and historical vestiges of Periyakuḷam. The dusty township is divided into two parts called Vaṭakarai and Teṉkarai, and is graced by the seasonal flow of a rivulet called Varākanati/Varāhanadī. A center of Śivaism and Viṣṇuism, it was the base of a zamindār family beginning with Rāmabhadra Nāyaka (c. 1534 CE) that claims descent from the Nāyakas of Maturai. The entire landscape is dominated by temples for the Hindu divinities, particularly grāmadevatās, and the recently emerging churches and dargaḥas. The article presents a brief sketch of architectural history; mainly concentrating on the archaeological remains and their potentiality for future research (University Grants Commission approved 2014). The article is illustrated with photographic evidences and plans of the city and temples.

Keywords: Spice Road, Periyakuḷam, Nāyakas, Vaṭakarai, zamīndāri, Ramabhadra Nayaka and successors, Rājēndracōlīśvaram, Bālasubrahmaṇya, Kailāsanātha, Mailaimēl-Vaidhyanātha, Varadarājasvāmi, architecture, drāviḍa-vimāna, iconography, Vīrabhadra.