Therazhunthur, a small town in Mayiladuthurai district, means different things to different people. For the Vaishnavites, it is the abode of Amaruviappan, one of the 108 Vaishnavite shrines, sung by Thirumangai Alwar. Saivities remember it for the Vedapuriswarar temple, sung by Thirugnanasambandar. For the Tamils cutting across religious faith, it brings to mind Kambar, one of the greatest Tamil poets who penned Ramayanam, as it is his birthplace. There is also a place called Kambar Medu, not associated with Kambar, but a megalithic site with later Neolithic remnants.
Though Kambaramayanam, a Tamil epic, consists of over 10,000 songs, its author Kambar, unlike many ancient Tamil poets, nowhere drops a hint at his birth place. Therazhunthur also finds no reference to his other works, including Sadagopar Andhathi, written in praise of Nammazhwar, the Vaishnavite saint.
“There is no literary or archaeological evidence, except a later period poem which asserts that it is the birth place of Kambar,” said D. Gnanasundaram, a Tamil scholar and an authority on Vaishnavite literature.
In the poem, a dancer says she is from Therazhunthur. She qualifies her statement by saying it was the birthplace of Kambar, the place where the Cauvery runs and the place where the curse of saint Agathiyar was removed ( Kamban pirantha oor, Cauviry thangum oor, Kumbamuni sabam theertha oor…)
Ramabadrachariyar, the author of the book, Thirumal Thigazhum 108 Divya Desangal, asserts that the presence of separate temples in Amaruviappan temple is the proof that it is the birthplace of Kambar. “The Ranganatha temple and Govindarajar temples are also associated with the legends of Kambar,” he has argued.
According to a legend, Therazhunthur gets its name after the wheels of a King struck ( azhunthiathu) there. It is also called Thiruvazhunthur. Tamil writer Kalki wrote a novella, Therazhunthur Sivakolunthu, a story of a nagaswaram player. The prefix Ther in the name Therazhunthur seems to be a later addition. Thirumangai Alwar’s pasuram addresses the place as Azhunthur or Azhunthai and praises the lord as Azhunthur Melthisai Nintra Ammane.
Mr. Gnanasundaram said Therazhunthur was very ancient and according to Nachinarkiniyar, who penned the commentary for Tholkappiyam, the Vellalas of Therazhunthur, Nangur and Sikkil had marital relationship with the Chola kings. Nachinarkiniyar refers to the place as Azhunthur. In the 20th Century, Tamil writer Bhaskara Thondaiman also wrote about Therazhunthur.
Therazhunthur, which has a prominent place in the cultural and spiritual history of Tamils, remains a pale shadow of its glory. Kambar medu, the archaeological site, now under the custody of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), is covered with vegetation. Kambar Kottam, constructed in the memory of Kambar in 1984, is also not maintained properly.
“Late Congress Legislature Party leader P.G. Karuthiruman used to organise festivals every year and I have participated in them. Late actor and theatre personality S.V. Sahasranamam had staged plays during the festival. A lot of people participated. But local people, who were involved in literary and spiritual activities, are no more or left the place long ago and their departure has resulted in Therazhunthur’s neglect,” said Mr. Gnanasundaram.