Chithirambalam-Hall of Paintings in Coutralam Temple, Tamil Nadu

  • By Shefali Vaidya
  • August 30, 2023
  • ShefVaidya
  • Know about the lovely paintings and see their pictures in the Chithra Sabha Coutralam temple of Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu.

There are five great Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu with five mandapams or great halls where the devotees believe that Lord Nataraja danced his cosmic dance. These are, the golden hall, or Kanaka Sabha at Chidambaram, the silver hall or Rajat Sabha at Madurai, Copper hall or Tamra Sabha at Tirunelveli, Gem Hall or Ratna Sabha at Tirualangadu and the Chithra Sabha or the paintings hall at Coutralam.


The Coutralam temple is an ancient temple located right next to the Coutralam Waterfalls. Because the entire temple complex is in the shape of a coonch, it is known as the Shankha Kshetra. The temple was built by the Chozhas and added to and expanded by the Cheras, Pandyas and Nayakas. Most of the woodwork appears to be the legacy of the Cheras.


The Chithirambalam or the Chithira Sabai, as the hall of paintings is locally known as, is a separate hall located about 500 metres from the main temple. There is a beautiful, serene Pushkarini right opposite the hall. While the main temple is busy with devotees, stalls selling knick-knacks and people who have come to enjoy the falls, the stunning Chithira Sabai is surprisingly quiet.


The exterior of the Chithira Sabai is deceptively simple! It is simple rectangular wooden structure with a sloping roof, a style that owes more to the influence of Kerala than Tamil Nadu. Not surprising, considering the proximity of Coutralam to Kerala.


Once you cross the simple outer Mandapa and enter the main dancing hall, the glory of paintings reveals themselves. Each painting tells its own story.


There is a stunning painting of Bhikshatanar Shiva outside the main entrance of the inner hall. There are paintings of Srichakra, Lord Shiva as Nataraja, the entire story of Lord Sundareshwara and Meenakshi’s wedding, Shri Vishnu as Ananthashayanam, Ashta Durgas, Ashta Bhiravas, 16 forms of Ganesha, Bala Murugan and many more. The paintings are most likely a Chera legacy, because they carry a strong influence of the Kerala murals. 


Originally painted in vegetable colours, the paintings have been retouched, but continue to wow the viewer with their delicate lines and intricate patterning.


You can spend hours deciphering the paintings if you are artistically inclined. It is a wonderful experience to walk around the inner hall of the Chithira Sabhai and imagine the cosmic dance of Lord Nataraja amidst such picturesque settings!


Temple is in Tenkasi district of Tamil Nadu. To see album of Kasi Vishwanathar Temple in Tenkasi and read Tamil Nadu Tourism site on temple paintings.


Here are some pictures of paintings. Pics by Diwakar AS.

View of entrance from one end.  Entrance door.  Inside hall.Inside hall, note ceiling.  Left Sri Chakra, right Nataraja.  Right Sri Vishnu. Sri Vishnu on Garuda.  Ganesha – 16 forms of Ganesha.  Shesh Shahi Vishnu.  Think this is Lord Sundareshwara and Meenakshi’s wedding. 

Photo captions by Editor.  

To see author album on Bhojpur Shiv Mandir


Also read 

1. Paintings in Brihadesvara Temple  

2. To see all albums of Tamil Nadu Temples on esamskriti

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