--> Skip to main content

A 16th Century 80 feet high elephant statue at Azhagar Kovil Village near Brihadeshwara Temple in Tamil Nadu

A majestic 16th Century 80 feet high elephant statue is located at Thuravu Melazhagar – Azhagarkovil and Azhagapuri – temple at Azhagar Kovil Village which is around 6km from Brihadeshwara Temple at Gangaikondacholapuram. Like numerous such monuments and statues associated with Hindu religion, this one too needs urgent repair and attention. The story here too is the same there is total neglect from authorities and Hindu society.
The sheer size and the intricate designs that are part of the Azhagarkovil elephant statue would have easily placed it in the category of National Monument in any country around the world other than India. In India, government authorities spend lavishly on creating statues of corrupt politicians and of all those Tom Dick and Harry whom the politicians think has the capacity to create vote banks.
Gazing at the Azhagarkovil elephant, whose majesty even the scaffolding and the thatch are unable to obscure, one cannot help wondering at the technique behind the masterpiece. “Silpa texts describe how the plaster for these stucco figures is to be prepared, and mention 200 types of bricks. Different shapes of bricks are spoken of in the Satapatha Brahmana,” says sthapathy Umapathy Acharya.
S. Srinivasan, hereditary trustee of the temple, is determined not to use modern plastering methods to repair the elephant. He brushes aside questions on affordability, with a fierce determination, that one can’t help admiring. He did manage to hire someone to do the repair work, but the man played truant after a couple of days. A determined Srinivasan says that he will not be discouraged by all this.
But what about the fate of the Azhagapuri elephant? Lofty ideals notwithstanding, a lot of money will be needed to repair it, and financial aid from the government is necessary. As I leave the place, I learn of a stucco horse and elephant in Melakkaveri, behind the Anai adi bus stop. They are almost completely lost, due to neglect, I am told. Maybe, if it is not too late, they can be salvaged too?