Hundreds of years ago, King Mahendra Pallava had built small mandapams all over his kingdom and tasked royal bards to regale his citizens with stories from Mahabharatam. Thanks to the influence of Bhudhism and Jainism in these parts, many people had embraced peace and passivity in their life. Anticipating an imminent Chalukya attack, the King wanted to remind people of the glories of war and victory and he erected many small mandapams all through his kingdom to make story tellers to recite Mahabharatam and other war stories. Since then these small mandapams were called ‘Bharatha mandapam’. Even during the Chola age, Mahendra Pallava’s edict of reading the great epic of Mahabharatam continued unbroken. Every evening, people thronged to these ‘Bharatha Mandapams’ to listen to the glorious story of this war epic. Some bards even sang beautiful songs composed in the honour of the great heroes of the epic.
One of the stories that were oft repeated was that of Aravaan – the son of Arjuna and Chitrangi, the Princess of Manipur. When Arjuna was on a pilgrimage, he marries Chitrangi and has a son by her, called Aravaan. A brave warrior, Aravaan sets out to battle along with the Pandavas at the Kurushetra. On the eve of the battle, it was customary to sacrifice a young warrior to propitiate the Gods so that they grant them victory. Aravaan, offers himself as the sacrifice and willingly loses his neck for Pandavas. The story of brave Aravaan captured the imagination of many and temples were raised for this glorious warrior all over the Chola Kingdom. Next to Draupadi, who was venerated as a goddess, Aravaan was most glorified among the Cholas.