From the ground below, it is not visible. As you clamber up what looks like a tall mound, the villagers caution you. For the entire place is overgrown with dense bushes and there are depressions, quite deep, hidden by vegetation. When you pause, the skeletal remains of what looks a temple vimana suddenly looms up. The tall structure, built entirely of bricks, looks forlorn, blanketed by vegetation all round. As one gingerly steps inside, bats fly out and the stench is overpowering. Someone cautions about the presence of snakes. Darkness prevails in the sanctum where there is no deity. As a villager focuses his torch-light on the inner walls, traces of layers of what must have been wonderful murals, painted centuries ago, come into view. While the innermost layer has murals of the Pallava period datable to circa 850 A.D., above it is the layer of beautiful frescoes of the Raja Raja Chola (regnal years 985 to 1014 A.D.). Obscuring these Chola frescoes is the topmost layer of murals of circa 1520 A.D. of Krishnadeva Raya of the Vijayanagara period.
This is Veetrirundha Perumal temple (of Vishnu in a seated pose) at Veppathur village, near Tiruvidaimaruthur, about 35 km from Thanjavur. What is extraordinary about the temple is that it is the only temple in south India that has murals of three dynasties – the Pallava, the Chola and the Vijayanagara. But the heartbreaking reality is that like the sanctum and the vimana (the tower above the sanctum) which are totally in ruins, these murals exist today only in flakes, which are falling off too. The good news is that the temple itself will be restored to its original grandeur, thanks to the bold initiative of REACH Foundation, led by T. Satyamurthy, one of its founders, who was former Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).