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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII No. 14, November 1-15, 2012
A Vijayanagara-Chennai connection
By Chithra Madhavan

Kadandarama (Raghunatha) Temple in Unamanjeri (Uhinai).

Aiyaswami Aiyar, Inspecting Schoolmaster of the Chingleput Taluka, found a set of very important copper-plate inscriptions in the possession of the Munsif of the village of Unamanjeri. The Thasildar of this village lent this copper-plate epigraph to Dr. E. Hultszch, the famous German Indologist who did pioneering work in the Epigraphy Section of the Archaeological Survey of India from 1886 to 1903. He in turn gave it to F. Kielhorn, another eminent Epigraphist who translated and edited the contents of this valuable inscription which was published in Volume III of Epigraphia Indica, a publication of the Archaeological Survey of India.

This inscription, found in a set of five copper plates, has the seal of the royal house of Vijayanagara, which consists of a boar with a dagger in front with the sun and moon above. This 16th Century epigraph gives valuable information about a village on Chennai's fringes. According to this copper-plate epigraph, which belongs to the Vijayanagara epoch, the name of this village was Uhinai. It is now Unamanjeri, which is very close to Vandalur, now known for its zoo. It is interesting to note that many of the places mentioned in this grant, in connection with territorial subdivisions, have more or less retained the same names for approximately five hundred years. Uhinai was situated in the territorial subdivision of Senkalanirpattu Sima (modern Chengalpattu) which was a part of Kumili Nadu (modern Kumili, 19 km from Chengalpattu) of the Amuru kota (the village of Amur, again near Chengalpattu, or the one bearing the same name near Vellore) of Padavidu maharajya (present-day Padavedu near Vellore). All these territorial divisions were located in Jayankonda Cholamandalam which was the name given to ancient Tondaimandalam, comprising erstwhile North Arcot, South Arcot and Chengalpattu Districts.

This inscription provides some interesting information regarding the grant proper. It states that on October 12, 1540 (C.E.), the Vijayanagara Emperor Achyuta Raya, younger brother and successor of the illustrious Krishnadeva Raya, while on the banks of River Tungabhadra in the Vittaleshwara temple (present-day Vittala temple in Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanagara monarchs), donated the village of Uhinai to 48 great scholars learned in the Vedas and other allied subjects. The income from the village was divided into sixty virttis or shares.

Interestingly, the epigraph states that one vritti and a quarter were set aside for the benefit of God Raghunatha, thereby referring to the present-day Rama temple, and another portion to a Siva temple, both in this village. The details given in this inscription, like many others of its kind, are mind-blowing. Who composed the Sanskrit verses of this epigraph? He was the talented poet-scholar Sabhapati. And the engraver? Viranacharya was his name. In the 16th Century, in addition to the name Uhinai, this village was also known as Achyutendara Maharayapuram as it was donated by Achyuta Raya.

The Raghunatha temple mentioned in the inscription is today called the Kodandarama temple and has clear vestiges of Vijayanagara art and architecture. There is a pillared verandah in front but, sadly, the sculptures on the pillars here as well as in the mandapa inside are hardly identifiable as they have been defaced due to weathering and sheer neglect. On the outer wall of this temple, and also on the inner wall of the main sanctum-sanctorum, are sculptures of the royal crest, or emblem of the imperial house of the Vijayanagar monarchs, just like the emblem on the ring of the copper plate. This indicates that this temple was either constructed by, or contributed to by, the emperors of the Vijayanagar dynasty. Unfortunately, this emblem, chiselled on the outside has been painted in gaudy colours by people unaware of its historical importance.

It is rather difficult to believe that this little known village of Unamanjeri was once important enough to merit an important donation from Emperor Achyuta Raya. Sadly, not many in Chennai or even in the areas surrounding Unamanjeri, know of its glorious past.

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In this Issue

'Save this landmark building'
Why is our city 'Sink'ara Chennai?
For Metro Rail success a ring line is needed
Enjoying life with Nana
The national treasure that was M. Krishnan
A Vijayanagara-Chennai connection
'Munro' arrives in Madras
We regret...

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Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
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