In search of imprints of Buddhism: Puthur

by Dr B Jambulingam, The Buddhist Channel, Feb 24, 2014

Chola, India -- Of all the field trips the one which stands in my mind was that of Puthur. During my two decade old research that was the very first time that I pedalled nearly 25 kms to see a Buddha  at Puthur in Tiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu. The pains which I faced during that trip left me when it - the news of the finding of a Buddha - was informed through media.

<< Puthur Buddha.  Photo: Jambulingam

APRIL 1999

During my field work at Puthakaram and Pushpavanam I had the chance of going to I.Sengatti-Kaduveli. At that time Mr Govindaraj from the area enquired about my research. Then he asked me if I had seen the Buddha at Pushpavanam. When I told him that I would be going there to see it he informed me that there was a Buddha in Puthur. He also gave me the location of the place in detail. At that time only I came to know about the Buddha. Though I tried my level best to go over there, due to want of time I could able to go upto Pushpavanam only.   So many Buddhas were found in Tiruvarur district. I was eagerly waiting for the chance to see the new Buddha.

JUNE 1999

When I went to Mannargudi to see the Buddha found in the Jain temple, I planned to go over to Puthur. I enquired about the route from Mannargudi. The information pertaining the location of the area differed with that of Mr Govindaraj. Anyway I proceeded on a Mannargudi-Tirutturaippundi bus and got down at Vadivaikkal.

There I met Mr Singaravelan of Malavarayanallur, who voluntarily came forward to find the Buddha. During my earlier trip to this area I visited the library - Siddhartha Library - maintained by him  in his village. His involvement on Buddhism and on my research impressed me much. As we could not able to know the distance and fix the time limit, we took bicycles so as to reach the spot. On the route to Alathur through Vikrapandiam we reached Alathur.

We saw some other statue there. My primary aim was to see the Buddha. Mr Singaravelan was also on the same thinking and we did not thinking anything else. After a long journey we reached Tirunellikkaval. Though no Buddha was found there, we were informed that there was a Buddha in Puthur. Now we were nearing the spot. When we enquired about the Buddha, one villager asked us: "Do you go to see the Buddha which was worshipped by the women in order to get married?". We came to know the beliefs the locals had on the Buddha. After crossing Tirunellikkaval railway station we reached the spot at Puthur where the Buddha was found. During my Seeyatthamangai-Tirumarukal field work I covered the area of 16 kms by walk and on bicycle. But this was a different journey on bicycle only.

We arrived the spot and found the Buddha in sitting dhyana posture. We started asking the locals about the Buddha. Mr Viswanathan said, "While digging for tank the statue was found and that place was called as Buddhankuttai. As the nose of the Buddha was found deshaped and with the help of sculptor some touch up was made on the nose of the Buddha. Later a small shrine was built for keeping the Buddha and offered worship. After some time the temple was ruined. During Vaikasi Purnima special pujas are done to this Buddha".

Mr Sivagurunathan of that place said. "The girls who were not in a position of getting married, would get married after worshipping the Buddha". He also show the photograph of her daughter who got married after worship. Sacred ash was found over the forehead and chest of Buddha. Regular iconographic  features of Buddha of Chola country such as ushnisha, smiling face and elongated ears - were found. The villagers started to offer us water, buttermilk and so on. Their devotion to Buddha and their involvement on our research were touching. 

After sharing some more time with time, we left from that place and reached Vadivaikkal. Mr Singaravelan who accompanied me during this 25 km journey said that he felt very happy and thanked me.  After my reciprocation I started to leave. The shop owner who gave us bicycle for hire enquired about our trip and wondered about the distance we covered. After completing the journey I felt some irritation and pain in my legs.  Later I arrived Thanjavur.  The pain which I suffered became lesser when the news about the finding of the Buddha in Puthur was widely published in the media. 


While I went to Nilappadi to attend the marriage of my relative I went to Puthur. Now Mr Ramachandran of Historical Enthusiasts Association accompanied me. Same Buddha. Same worship. Same belief. Same villagers. Now I met Mr Sivagurunathan, who reminiscenced our earlier trip. When I looked into the Buddha I found a dollar shaped ornament, which I missed to see last time. While giving finishing touches to the nose the dollar might have been added, I felt. I also met the villagers and left that place. Puthur is one of the places where Buddha is worshipped even now, which was vouchsafed through the field study.

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