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In around 1912 Gabriel Jouveau-Dubreuil, a young science teacher from French colonial Pondicherry in South India, visited the nearby town of Cuddalore in order to inspect the construction of a new Hindu temple. Since arriving in South India in 1909 he had been travelling to many temples and archaeological sites in order to understand the history of South Indian art. The modern temple that he visited in a suburb of Cuddalore at Tiruppappuliyur was not in fact new but a wholesale renovation of a nine-hundred-year-old shrine on a site sacred to Tamil Shaivas. This was just one of the many temples substantially rebuilt from the 1890s to the 1930s under the patronage of a wealthy merchant community, the Nattukkottai Chettiars, at a time of religious revival and growing Tamil cultural nationalism. The Nattukkottai Chettiars came from the villages and towns of Chettinadu, an arid region in southern Madras Presidency. This region was significant not only for being the provenance of the most prolific patrons of South Indian temple architecture in colonial Madras Presidency but also their builders, for many of the architects and craftsmen working on the temple at Tiruppappuliyur were from villages in Chettinadu. One of these men, M. S. Swaminathan of Pillaiyarpatti, was Jouveau-Dubreuil’s chief informant, one of the many ‘natives’ who were a critical and inextricable element of colonial knowledge production. The understanding of formal composition and terminology that Jouveau-Dubreuil learnt from contemporary architects and craftsmen and his observations of the evolution of architectural design contributed towards the first study of the Tamil temple for both a scholarly and wider public audience from the very earliest monuments of the seventh century through to those currently under construction. This article explores this architectural ‘renaissance’ in colonial Madras Presidency under Chettiar patronage and evaluates modern temple design through the pioneering scholarship of Jouveau-Dubreuil and his contemporaries.
This article explores the repeated renovation of south Indian temples over the past millennium and the conception of the Tamil temple-city. Though the requirement for renovation is unremarkable, some “renovations” have involved the wholesale replacement of the central shrine, in theory the most sacred part of the temple. Rather than explaining such radical rebuilding as a consequence of fourteenth-century iconoclasm, temple renovation is considered in this article as an ongoing process. Several periods of architectural reconstruction from the tenth to the early twentieth centuries demonstrate the evolving relationship between building, design and sacred geography over one millennium of Tamil temple history. The conclusion explores the widespread temple “renovations” by the devout Nakarattar (Nattukottai Chettiar) community in the early twentieth century, and the consequent dismay of colonial archaeologists at the perceived destruction of South India's monumental heritage, in order to reassess the lives and meanings of Tamil sacred sites.
The Pudu Mandapa (‘New Hall’) in Madurai is one of the
best-known monuments from the Nayaka period of
Tamilnadu (c. 1550–1700). It was built around 1630
under the patronage of Tirumala Nayaka as a major
addition to the Minaksi-Sundaresvara temple complex
that dominates the centre of this major Tamil town
and Hindu pilgrimage centre. The Pudu Mandapa is
well known in the West from the aquatint produced by
Thomas and William Daniell, but this is only one of
numerous other illustrations by Western and Indian
artists in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth
century of this single Tamil temple structure. A
discussion of the Pudu Mandapa as an example of a
major architectural type, the festival
mandapa, is followed by an
examination of the structure's architectural
sculpture. The final section discusses the Royal
Asiatic Society's collection of drawings of this
mandapa and the European
documentation of the south Indian temple more