A pillar that was found during the ongoing work to construct a multilevel car park inside the Meenakshi Amman temple here has piqued the interest of archaeologists and public alike, following speculation that it could be part of a structure dating back to the time when the Nayaks were ruling the kingdom – or even older.
When news about the ‘ancient pillar’ spread in the city, many wondered if it was part of the structure where Rani Mangammal, the queen regent who ruled the Nayak kingdom from 1689 to 1704 on behalf of her grandson, was detained by the grandson during her last years.
Speaking to DT Next, C Santhalingam, a Madurai based retired archaeologist and founder of Pandya Nadu Centre for Historical Research, pointed out that there was a mini palace-like structure that existed inside the temple during the Nayak rule.
He said he would not be able to comment on the structure’s antiquity as he had not seen it in person, and added that there were indicators to determine this – if there are urn pieces in different colours, artefacts termed as ‘associated pottery’, that would suggest it being part of ancient civilization; or, if the structure was made of brick and lime, it could be from 16th or 17th century when the Nayaks ruled the kingdom.
When contacted, N Natarajan, Joint Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, said he became aware of the matter only after the images of the pillar were circulated on social media.
However, Madurai Corporation’s city engineer S Arasu said the pillar had no archaeological significance. It was just a 13-metre tall and 500 mm diameter structure on which pile foundation testing was done ahead of constructing the multilevel car park. Assistant engineer R Murugan added that it was built in January, but looked like an old structure after it was covered in sand.
Currently, construction of the multilevel car park by Madurai Corporation under the Smart City Mission is underway at the site.