The Thousand Pillar Hall is the home of the museum of the temple. As we learned, there are not many museums in India – museums are something that is not part of Indian culture. Some of the museums trace back to the effects of British colonialism, so there are relatively few treasure filled museums, especially considering the heritage and age of Indian civilization and history. Here is a description of the Thousand Pillar Hall, along with some pictures I took in there. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts – I’ll have to move on to something else next.
“Adjoining the Viravasantarayar Mandapam is the Thousand Pillar Mandapam which was built in 1569 by Dalavoi Ariyanatha Mudaliar. It originally had 1,000 pillars, but now there are only 985. The missing pillars were most likely removed to make space for two small temples in the hall. This mandapam is 250 feet long and 240 feet wide. It has been built to look like a huge chariot drawn by two elephants. Look at that figure of a wheel at the top of the entrance; see how graphically the features of the sixty Tamil years are described there! At the entrance is the majestic Ariyanatha Mudaliar on a horse, and the statue of Kannappan Nayanar close by. Kannappa was such an ardent Shiva bhakta that he did not hesitate to gouge out his own eyes and offer them to the Lord! Then come the statues of Satya Harishchandra and his wife Chandramati (with her holding her dead son in her arms). And over here are the well-known gypsy couple Kuravan and Kuratti. Their stone figures show their rugged physical features, poverty, and their travails; as well as the monkey on a leash and the couple’s unruly children. Another figure is of a stern-faced, resolute Shiva trampling a demon beneath his feet. He has an ineffable smile on his lips and the profound quiet of his face. The other creations on the pillars of this mandapam are a woman playing on a vina, Murugan riding his peacock, the figure of a eunuch, and the exquisite Rati, Manmatha’s consort. The images on the whole present a refined commentary on the science of erotics. Thus the Thousand Pillar Mandapam lays out a delightful sculptural repast to genuine connoisseurs. In the olden days, it also used to be the venue of the royal court.”