Kumbakonam stands testimony to the crumbling glory of Tamil Nadu

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Government Arts College, Kumbakonam

We are reproducing excerpts from a facebook post on Kumbakonam by Ram Ramkumar, a Tamil NRI settled in United States of America for more than 3 decades. He has deep roots in Tamil Nadu. His father was among the first to represent Madras in Parliament when India became Republic.

View from college

“Kumbakonam on the banks of the Cauvery River. The college at Kumbakonam  produced greats like Math genius Srinivasa Ramananujan and U. V. Swaminatha Iyer. Kumbakonam is in the rice bowl ‘Delta region’ of Tamil Nadu, surrounded by verdant paddy fields.

Town Hall

Kumbakonam became an educational center in the late 19th century and was called the Cambridge of South India (Nehru called Poona the Oxford & Cambridge of India). 

The town dates back to the Sangam period and was ruled by the Early Cholas, Pallavas, Medieval Cholas, Later Cholas, Pandyas, the Vijayanagara Empire, Madurai Nayaks, Thanjavur Nayaks and the Thanjavur Marathas.  

There are several 1000+ year old magnificent temples within a 30-mile radius, including Airavatesvara Temple near Swamimalai. This UNESCO World Heritage temple is one of the three Chola masterpieces built around 1000 years ago.  

Airavatesvara Temple

Like everything else, Kumbakonam is long past its glory days. It’s just one more crumbling, dirty Indian town. What must have been a spiritually uplifting and serene view of rice fields, the Cauvery, and beckoning gopurams in every direction, is a thing of the past. We can only imagine how it might have been. Oxford, even today, leaves no doubt in a visitor’s mind as to why it is called the City of Dreaming Spires. Only in India do we have no respect for the past, our history. And it shows.

Thiruvaiyaru, a town 41 km upriver on the Cauvery’s banks, is the spiritual home of Carnatic music. town is known for its association with Saint Thyagaraja, who, along with Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Sastri, comprised the Trinity of Carnatic music.

Thiruvaiyaru is considered as holy as Varanasi and bathing in the Cauvery here, it is believed, is guaranteed to rid devotees of sins as bathing in the Ganges.”


While I am proud of the rich legacy, the utter neglect of this heritage pains without end. Union HRD Ministry and Department of culture should be asked to intervene and ensure the DMK regime acts and acts in the right direction. There should be no compromise on this front.

Dilapidated college building

Author’s response

High hopes my friend! The Dravidian parties hate everything associated with brahmins and Hinduism. Kumbakonam is a town full of temples, mutts, veda Pathshalas, etc. They denigrate even poet Bharathi as a ‘brahmin poet’.

There is a Tamil saying which roughly translates to ‘how can a donkey appreciate the aroma of camphor’…

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