On August 24 & 25, 2019, Emmanuel Francis (CNRS) and Babu N. Ramaswamy (EFEO, Pondicherry) surveyed the site of Uttiramērūr உத்திரமேரூர் or Uttaramērūr உத்தரமேரூர், focussing on the Vaikuṇṭhaperumāḷ temple (12°36’55.19″N, 79°45’29.63″E; Fig. 1), which, rather than a usual temple was in fact the seat of the local assembly (sabhā) of Brahmins during the Pallava and Cōḻa periods.
Due to its epigraphical wealth the site has attracted scholarly interest. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri wrote an important contribution (chapters V and VI of his Studies in Cōḻa History and Administration, 1932), while F. Gros & R. Nagasawamy revisited the site in 1970 (Uttaramērūr: Legendes, Histoire, Monuments). Noteworthy also is the chapter V in K.V. Subrahmanya Aiyer, Historical Sketches of Ancient Dekhan: Volume II.
The 2.5 m high and 100 m long platform of the Vaikuṇṭhaperumāḷ temple is literally covered with inscriptions, dated in years of Pallava and Cōḻa kings. The total amounts to approximately 100 inscriptions, that is half of the entire corpus of Uttiramērūr, where several other ancient temples today remain and are under worship, such as the Sundaravaradararājaperumāḷ temple.
A temple, later than the platfom, is built on the platform (Fig. 2).
The platform is in fact constituted by three architectural elements:
- A larger platform, almost square, on which the later temple stands.
- A smaller platform fitted on the east of the larger platform.
- Stairs fitted on the east of the smaller platform.
This is evidently not the original lay-out of the monument. Besides the addition of a later temple on the larger platform, the smaller platform covers part of the inscriptions of the larger platform (Fig. 3).
The stairs have also been rebuilt. On the North balustrade, the assemblage of various stones is clearly visible on the right portion. One stone built in bears the figure of Hanumant (Fig. 4).
The light conditions were not optimal for all the sides of the “temple” to be photographed with good results. Another visit at another time of the year is thus to be scheduled. The goal of this first fieldtrip was to locate, document and read the more than 20 Pallava records (Fig. 5‒7), which we were able to do.