For those who know about this place, the mention of Madhurantakam will immediately remind one of the temple of Sri Kodanda Rama and he is known as “Eri Kaatha Ramar” (E in Eri to be pronounced as ‘A’ in ‘ace’ and ‘ri’ as in river). Eri means lake or water reservoir in Tamizh and this Rama is said to have protected the town from inundation due to flooding of the reservoir. This reservoir is indeed huge – it is two thousand four hundred acres in area today! Could have been larger two centuries ago.
Madhurantakam is about one hundred kilometres from Chennai and this temple of Rama is more than a thousand years old. It is believed that the Cholas patronized this town and temple. It is possible that the water reservoir was constructed by them since they were well known for their excellent administration and interest in creating agricultural prosperity.
It is in this temple the great Vaishnavite saint Sri Ramanujacharya was initiated by his teacher Periya Nambigal.
Ma Seetha is known by the name ‘Janakavalli Thaayar” in this temple and she has a separate shrine in this temple. The story of today is of this shrine.
In the years 1795-1799, Madhurantakam came under the jurisdiction of the British Collector Colonel Lionel Blaze. During the monsoon season, the reservoir near the temple used to get filled up and sometimes would breach causing great flooding of the city. It had happened a couple of times and the Colonel had had a terrible time arranging to repair the breach braving the torrential rain and this time, he wanted to be extra cautious and decided to camp at Madhurantakam during the rainy season.
While staying there, he happened to visit the temple of Sri Kodanda Rama. He was received with honours by the priest and was shown around the temple, when he noticed that granite stones were stacked in a corner in the temple compound.
Looking enquiringly at the priest he exclaimed, “What are those stones kept for? They could be used for raising the bund of the reservoir.”
The priest said “Sir, we have planned to build a temple for Seetha Matha and those stones are for that. Due to paucity of funds we have not started the construction”.
The Colonel looked at the priest with scorn and said, “Funds for building a temple? What is the need for a separate temple for your Goddess? There is need of fund for more compelling things like repairing the bunds of the reservoir. Or will your Rama prevent the bunds from being breached?”
His voice was full with contempt, seeming to mock the faith of the believers.
“Yes Sir, if one has steadfast belief in Rama and offer sincere prayers, he will surely prevent the bunds from being breached” the priest replied in a soft but firm voice. Colonel Lionel Blaze observed the priest but did not say anything.
That night it started raining. Within a short while it started pouring heavily accompanied by deafening thunder and flashes of lightning. It was becoming stronger by the minute and it was as if the water was falling in sheets. Colonel Lionel Blaze had set up his camp with a team of people in a makeshift tent, a little farther from the banks of the reservoir to monitor the situation. They were supposed to check for breaches in the bund every now and then and had kept sand bags ready in case the bunds were breached. But considering the size of the tank, it was going to be an extremely difficult task if there was a breach.
The night was advancing and there was no respite from the rain. The Colonel was worried and he had been going out of his tent every now and then, assessing the situation. The terrible thunder and lightning was also continuing and the members of the Colonel’s team were also going out with him and assessing the intensity of the rain and the level of water on the ground.
It was past midnight. Now, the Colonel went out once again with a few people from his team. The moment he went out there was a streak of lightning so bright, and there was this miraculous sight! Colonel Lionel Blaze could see the figures of two young men walking along the banks of the reservoir. They who were looking majestic and had the gait of lions. Both had bows in their right hand and a quiver full of arrows strung to their shoulders. The Colonel had goosebumps. The lightning flashed once again and he saw them again. There was a radiant glow around them and the Colonel could not take his eyes off them. Then, the rain suddenly stopped all of a sudden and the men vanished.
The Colonel then turned around to his team only to find that they were totally unaware of what the Colonel saw.
The Colonel was filled with deep bliss and slept peacefully. He realised that he had seen Lord Sree Rama and Lakshmana in person.
The day dawned with a bright sun and the Colonel whose anxiety had vanished went to the temple. He told the priests and people what he had witnessed and to the joy of all present undertook the building of the shrine of Janakavalli Thaayaar.
This incident is recorded in the temple in an edict and can be seen even this day.
Thus Lord Kodanda Rama earned the name of “Eri Kaatha Ramar”