Narttamalai

Narttamalai (நார்த்தாமலை) is one of the sites of national renown. There are two rock-cut temples, Pazhiyili Isvaram (பழியிலி ஈஸ்வரம்) and Samanar-kudagu (சமணர் குடகு), and one magnificent structural temple called Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram (விஜயாலய சோழீஸ்வரம்), which is a marvellous piece of art, on the hill. There is a famous living temple of Mariamman (மாரியம்மன்). The Kadambar temple (கடம்பூர் கோயில்) at the foot of a hill nearby is another beautiful temple. The natural cavern of Aluruttimalai contains polished stone beds and other Jaina vestiges.

Approach

Narttamalai is situated on the western side of the Tiruchirappalli (திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி) – Pudukkottai (புதுக்கோட்டை) highway. One can reach the Narttamalai village by taking a diversion from the Tiruchirappalli – Pudukkottai highway at Narttamalai bus-stop. The village is about 2 kilometres from the high-way, on the western side.

Narttamalai village is 17 kilometres from Pudukkottai and 14 kilometres from Kiranur (கீரனூர்) which is an important junction in Tiruchirappalli – Pudukkottai highway.

Narttamalai also has a railway station where the metre-gauge passenger trains running in Tiruchirappalli – Karaikkudi route have a stop.

The Narttamalai village

Narttamalai is the name given to a group of low hills and a village that lies nestled at their foot. The hill group consists of nine hills, and the hills are called Mela-malai (மேலமலை), Kottai-malai (கோட்டைமலை), Kadambar-malai (கடம்பர்மலை), Paraiyan-malai (பறையன் மலை), Uvachchan-malai (உவச்சன்மலை), Aluruttimalai (ஆளுருட்டிமலை), Bommadi-malai (பொம்மாடிமலை), Man-malai (மண்மலை) and Pon-malai (பொன்மலை). Mela-malai or Western hill is also called Samanar-malai (சமணர்மலை) and some times Sivan malai. To the south-east of the village is a reserved forest.

Origin of the name (Etymology)

There are at least two mythological stories currently connected with the name of the village. A legend declares that the group of the hills is actually fragments of the Sanjiva Parvatam (சஞ்சீவ பர்வதம்) that fell here when Hanuman flung it back from Lanka. The Narttamalai hills are said to contain many rare medicinal herbs – which fact explains the currency of the story. The Perungalur (பெருங்களூர்) Sthala-puranam derives the name Narttamalai from the sage Narada, and calls it Naradar-malai (நாரதர்மலை).

More probable is that the name was derived from the word Nagarattar-malai (நகரத்தார்மலை), or the hill of the Nagarattar-s. Nagarattar-s is the name of the mercantile community called Nattukkottai Chettiyar-s (நாட்டுக்கோட்டை செட்டியார்), or simply Chettiyar-s. It was a centre of the ancient south Indian merchant guild – the Nana-desi (நானாதேசி) 500 – and was a nagaram (நகரம்) or a mercantile centre.

The Chettiyar-s, also known as Nagarattar-s of the present day are their lineal descendants, and they inhabit now, what is known today as Chettinad (செட்டிநாடு), an area beginning from Pudukkottai and extending southwards till about Sivaganga (சிவகங்கை).

Historical background

These hills were in early times the abode of Jaina ascetics. The natural cavern at Aluruttimalai (ஆளுருட்டிமலை), one of the Narttamalai group has traces of ‘beds’ similar to those at Ezhadippattam (ஏழடிப்பட்டம்) in Sittannavasal (சித்தன்னவாசல்), where Jaina monks practiced austerities. More of such Jaina caverns and Jaina vestiges are to be found on the southern flank of Kudagu-malai. Kudagu-malai (குடகுமலை) is in front of Alurutti-malai, on the east across the high road and nearer the railway track. Mela-malai with its caverns and caves is, in fact, also known as Samanar-malai (‘hill-of-the-Jaina-s). Narttamalai appears to have been an important Jaina centre with temples and monasteries and also a mercantile centre (Nagaram) as attested by inscriptions. The local merchants were Silaya-chetti-s (சிலையசெட்டி), according to the inscriptions.

During the 7th to 9th centuries Narttamalai was part of the Pallava Empire, but was directly administrated by Muttaraiyar-s (முத்தரையர்). The cave temple known as Pazhiyili Isvaram (பழியிலி ஈஸ்வரம்) appears to have been excavated during the time of the Pallava Nandi-varman III (மூன்றாம் நந்தி வர்மன்) (about 826-849 AD) by a Muttaraiyar chief Sattan-pazhiyili (சாத்தன் பழியிலி), son of Videl-vidugu Muttaraiyan (விடேல்விடுகு முத்தரையன்) as stated in the inscription on this temple dated in the seventh year of the Pallava emperor Nripatunga Varman (நிருபதுங்க வர்மன்) (about 849-875 AD). This region was apparently been disputed by the Pandya-s and the Chozha-s till about the middle of the 9th century when Vijayalaya Chozha (விஜயாலய சோழன்) incorporated it in the Chozha empire after defeating the Muttaraiyar.

During the reign of Raja Raja I (முதலாம் இராஜராஜன்) (about 985-1014 AD) Narttamalai was called Telungu-kulakala-puram (தெலுங்கு குலகாலபுரம்) after one of the titles of the king. The Kadambar-koil (கடம்பர் கோயில்) was built about the close of the 10th century. There are inscriptions here of the reigns of Rajendra II (இரண்டாம் ராஜேந்திரன்) and Kulottunga I (முதலாம் குலோத்துங்கன்). During the last years of the reign of Kulottunga III, Narttamalai came under Pandya rule. Rajendra III probably recovered it, since there is an inscription of his reign relating to this temple building, activities, but very soon it again passed into the hands of the Pandya-s.

Narttamalai could have come under the rule of the Madurai Sultans (மதுரை சுல்தான்கள்) for about 50 years in the 14th century until the Vijayanagara dynasty reconquered the south. The only Vijayanagara inscription here, however, is dated 1431 AD and is in the reign of Devaraya II (இரண்டாம் தேவராயன்). Narttamalai came later under the direct rule of the Madurai Nayak-s.

Akkalraja (அக்கல்ராஜா), a Vijayanagara nobleman was persuaded on his way to Rameswaram to settle in this tract and put down the lawless Visengi-nattu Kallar-s (விசெங்கிநாட்டுக் கள்ளர்). He lived in a fort on the Narttamalai hills. We hear of Akkachi, a Pallava-rayar princess, employing a Kallar warrior of the Kachiran sect to slay Akkalraja and bring his head. When Akkalraja was thus killed, his seven wives committed sati by throwing themselves into a pyre prepared near Nochik-kanmai (நொச்சிக்கண்மாய்) by the side of the Narttamalai hills. The decedents of these Nayak-s or Raja settlers live in the adjoining place called Uppilikkudi (உப்பிலிக்குடி), even today and are called Uppilikkudi Rajas.

The Tondaiman-s (தொண்டைமான்) acquired Narttamalai from the Pallava-rayar-s. Owing to its natural advantages for defence it was for long used as a military station, and traces new exist of fort walls and citadels.

The Local Assemblies (Nagaram-s)

The earliest references to local assemblies are in the period of 7th-9th centuries. The Nagaram of Narttamalai came into prominence in about the 10th century, and, as a unit of local administration, it flourished for many centuries. It controlled the temples, received and managed gifts for them, controlled taxation, effected sales and other modes of conveyance of land, exempted land from tax, distributed among its members the revenue-survey and accounts work of the village and functioned through an executive body of its own creation. Silaya-chetti-s, who often bore the names of Chozha or Pandya kings, seem to have been the chief mercantile class in this.

The Vishnu shrine in the Mela-malai cave is called Padhinen-bhumi Vinnagaram (பதினென்பூமி விண்ணகரம்), evidently after the ‘eighteen towns’ of the ‘Ainnurruvar’ (ஐனூற்றுவர், assembly of five hundred), and we may conclude that this Nagaram was associated with or affiliated to the great corporation of Ainurruvar. By 14th and 15th centuries, from the inscriptions mentioning only about Ur or village assembly, it is possible that the mercantile community had at that time migrated from this place.

The Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram

The temple Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram is a marvellous piece of art built by a Muttaraiyar chief, Ilango Adi Araiyan (இளங்கோ அடி அரையன்). This is inferred from an inscription under one of the dvara-palaka-s (துவாரபாலகர்). The inscription says that the temple was originally built by one Sembudi (செம்பூதி), also called Ilango Adi Araiyan, and that is suffered damage by heavy rains and was repaired by one Mallan-viduman (மல்லன் விதுமன்) also called Tennavan Tamil Adi Araiyan (தென்னவன் தமிழ் அடி அரையன்).

The Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram surrounded by the parivara shrines, Narttamalai

The Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram surrounded by the parivara shrines, Narttamalai

The temple obtained its present name after Vijayalaya Chozha (விஜயாலய சோழன்), the founder of the imperial Chozha line (second half of 9th century AD). This name was referred to, for the first time, in a 13th century, Mara-varman Sundara-pandya (மாரவர்மன் சுந்தரபாண்டியன்) inscription and it has survived obscuring the fact that the temple was erected by the Muttaraiyar-s (முத்தரையர்). As far as the dating of the builder Ilango Adi Araiyan is concerned there are two opinions. Some are of the opinion that he belonged to the time of the Pallava king Nandi-varman II (இரண்டாம் நந்திவர்மன்) or even to that his predecessor (8th century AD). Other experts opine that he belonged to the time of Vijayalaya Chozha (second half of 9th century AD).

Located on the top ledge of the hill, there is a sombre magnificence about this Siva temple as it stands in its loneliness. As one approaches the site, the sighting of this temple edifice among the sparse vegetation and shingled rock, is breathtaking.

The shrine is an important one in the history of temples of the Tamil country. According to K.V. Soundararajan (in his book titled Studies in Indian Temple Architecture) this is ‘one of the important temples of the early Muttaraiyar-s, entirely circular from the ground tala (தளம்) up to the sikharam (சிகரம்), constituting a single Vesara (வேசரா) example’.

In the opinion of S.R. Balasubrahmanyam (in his book titled Early Chozha Art I) ‘it is unique in many respects. It is four tiered, and is the earliest and grandest of the early Chozha temples. It is built of stone. It has a circular garbha-griham (in Pranava form) and a wonderful vimanam. …. Above all it is the fore-runner of the glorious monuments of the Chozha-s’.

Temple Architecture

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This is an interesting Muttaraiyar temple constructed in Vesara style and with ashta-parivara-s. The west facing main shrine would have been at the centre of a large courtyard and surrounded by the eight sub-shrines within the courtyard. These sub-shrines are in various stages of ruin. The complex is surrounded by a prakaram.

Beautiful dvara-palaka-s, Narttamalai

Beautiful dvara-palaka-s, Narttamalai

The door to the shrine is on the west, has a pleasing floral design, and is guarded by a pair of two-armed Dvara-palaka-s (துவாரபாலகர்), one arm resting on a club and the other held out in the vismaya pose, and with legs crossed. Excepting these doorkeepers, figures and portraits adorn only the upper terraces. The main temple stands on a double lotus base with walls running round the sanctum and ardha-mandapam. These are embedded with elegant pilasters topped by palagai-s (பலகை, ‘stone-planks’).

The ardha-mandapam (view from the sanctum), Narttamalai

The ardha-mandapam (view from the sanctum), Narttamalai

The covered ardha-mandapam stands on six pillars that are square at the top and bottom but octagonal in the middle. These monolithic pillars are crowned with bracket capitals. Over the pilasters and palagai-s and the corbels, is the curved roll cornice with its chaitya arches and decorated with kudu-s (கூடு), containing figures of human heads and animals and surmounted by trifoliate finials. There are usual rows of bhutha-gana (பூத கணம்).

The garbha-griham (கர்ப கிரகம், sanctum) is circular and is enclosed within a square hall. Around the circular inner wall and the outer square wall there is a narrow pradakshina (circumbulatory) passage.

The upper part of the vimanam, Narttamalai

The upper part of the vimanam, Narttamalai

The vimanam is a hollow superstructure made up of four tiers, each separated from the next by a cornice. The lowest is rectangular and built over the ardha-mandapam and the garbha-griham, the rest are over the garbha-griham only.

On every tier under and over the roll cornice are rows of frolicking gana, vyali-s (யாளி), Apsara-s (அப்ஸரா) and god-s. The first two tiers have broad parapet walls running over the edge. These are topped by domical cell-like roofs.

The vyali frieze, Narttamalai

The vyali frieze, Narttamalai

The parapets contain recesses and adorned with Apsara-s in dancing poses. Here one can see some of the most graceful poses of Indian Classical dance. The circular top tier is topped by a round sikharam (சிகரம்). At the base of the sikharam on four coordinal directions are four beautifully moulded nandi (நந்தி)-s with broad shoulders and with rippling muscles.

In between the bulls are four elaborate chaitya-arches with the niches containing superb portraits. One is Vina-dhara Dakshina-moorthi (வீணாதார தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி). He wears a look of supreme serenity. Another is a portrait of Siva seen with Parvathi in a tender mood caressingly tilting her chin with his right hand.

Traces of painting in the ardha-mandapam, Narttamalai

Traces of painting in the ardha-mandapam, Narttamalai

Very faint traces of paintings can be seen inside on the walls of ardha-mandapam. A Bhairava (பைரவர்) with eight arms is seen on the north wall, and what is probably Durga, on the south. These paintings are ‘modern’ and not earlier than the 17th century, according to the Manual of the Pudukkottai State (1944).

Though badly battered by weather over more than a thousand years, the entire effect of Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram from its base to its terraced top is one of breath-taking beauty. Modeled with loving care, graceful figures and rollicking elephants and gana-s emerge continuously from the granite surface. The Apsara-s of the recesses have an alluring charm about them, their graceful pose offering unending delight.

 One of the sub shrines, Narttamalai

One of the sub shrines, Narttamalai

As mentioned earlier, presently, only six out of the original eight sub-shrines remains around the main shrine. Each of them has a small square garbha-griham and a closed rectangular ardha-mandapam in front. They are all one-storied (ஒற்றைத்தளம், eka-tala).In front of the main shrine there is a nandi-mandapam (நந்தி மண்டபம்) with four pillars and without a roof. There is a stone Nandi inside.

The nandi mandapam, Narttamalai

The nandi mandapam, Narttamalai

The Samanar-kudagu (சமணர் குடகு)

Opposite to the structural temple Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram (விஜயாலய சோழீஸ்வரம்) there are two cave temples, excavated on the steep slop of the rock. Of these, the one on the northern side is popularly called Samanar-kudagu (‘cave-of-the-Jains’).

This cave temple is also called Padhinen-bhumi Vinnagaram (பதினென்பூமி விண்ணகரம்). ‘Padinen’ refers to the ‘eighteen regions’ (seats of the corporation of Ainurruvar-ஐனூற்றுவர்). Vinnagaram means temple for Vishnu.

The Samanar-kudagu, Narttamalai

The Samanar-kudagu, Narttamalai

The Samanar-kudagu

Perhaps, it was originally a Jaina cave in the 7th century AD, but converted into a Vishnu shrine in 12th or 13th century AD. The date of this conversion is still under debate.

After this conversion it came to be called as Thirumer-koil (திருமேற்கோயில்) or Merrali (மேற்றளி) and Padhinen-bhumi Vinnagaram. Presently it looks like a Vaishanavite shrine.

The garbha-griham, Samanar kudagu, Narttamalai

The garbha-griham, Samanar kudagu, Narttamalai

It consists of a rectangular garbha-griham (கருவறை) and an ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த மண்டபம்) in front, both excavated from the living rock.

Presently the garbha-griham is empty, except for a broken stone pitham (பீடம்). This pitham is also carved out of the living rock.

The ardha-mandapam has two massive pillars and two pilasters in the front, also carved out of the rock. It houses twelve identical but wonderful relief sculptures of Vishnu on the walls.

The ardha-mandapam, Samanar Kudagu, Narttamalai

The ardha-mandapam, Samanar Kudagu, Narttamalai

Each of them is six feet five inches tall and carved on the rock. The sankhu (சங்கு, conch), chakra (சக்கரம், discuss), the garments and the ornamentation deserve praise. One of the lower hands is in the abhaya-mudra (அபய முத்திரை, pose indicative of protection) and the other touches the thigh. The twelve figures perhaps represent those of the twelve common names of Vishnu – Kesava (கேசவன்), Narayana (நாராயணா), Madhava (மாதவன்), Govinda (கோவிந்தன்), Trivikrama (திரிவிக்கிரமன்), Vamana (வாமனன்), Achyuta (அச்சுதன்), Sridhara (ஸ்ரீதரன்), Padmanabha (பத்மநாபன்), Damodara (தாமோதரன்), Vasudeva (வாசுதேவன்) and Madhu-sudhana (மதுசூதனன்).

 The plinth of maha-mandapam with beautiful dynamic frieze of vyali-s, elephants etc, Samanar Kudagu, Narttamalai

The plinth of maha-mandapam with beautiful dynamic frieze of vyali-s, elephants etc, Samanar Kudagu, Narttamalai

In front of this cave temple is a stone plinth of the maha-mandapam (மகாமண்டபம்). Judging from the remains, this mandapam must have been a closed one supported by square pillars, with walls ornamented with pilasters crowned with capitals.

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The dynamic friezes

On the plinth of this mandapam, above the kumudam (குமுதம்), runs a beautiful frieze of lions, elephants, and vyali-s (யாளி). At the corners are projecting makara (மகரம்) heads, with human figures sporting inside their gaping mouths. Carved with loving care, these graceful figures of elephants, lions and vyali-s in playing are one among the finest in existence in this region. They exhibit high levels of creativity, artistic skill and imagination of the sculptors.

A dvara-palaka, Samanar Kudagu, Narttamalai

A dvara-palaka, Samanar Kudagu, Narttamalai

There are a number of loose sculptures broken parts sculptures kept on this plinth and also inside the ardha-mandapam. Those on the plinth include two dvara-palaka-s (துவாரபாலகர்), a Sapta-matrika (சப்த கன்னியர்) group and an Ayyanar (அய்யனார்). Those inside the ardha-mandapam include two Ganesa-s. All these sculptures are excavated in and around Narttamalai.

There is an inscription on the moulded basement dated in the 45th year of the Chozha king Kulottunga I (முதலாம் குலோத்துங்கன்) (1115 AD). This inscription registers a sale of land by the Nagarattar (நகரத்தார்) to thevan-periyan (தேவன் பெரியன்) also called Mudikonda-chozha (முடிகொண்ட சோழன்) Telungai-araiyan (தெலுங்கை அரையன்) for the conduct of daily worship to the arumanikka-azhvar (அருமாணிக்க ஆழ்வார்) of Thirumer-koil.

There is also another inscription dated 1228 AD on the rock, north of the cave temple (PSI 281) of the reign of Mara-varman Sundara-pandya I (முதலாம் மாரவர்மன் சுந்தரபாண்டியன்) mentioning that the ‘western temple’ was consecrated and in it were installed the idols of Vishnu and those of his consorts.

So the date of conversion of the Jain cave into the Vishnu shrine is still under debate.

narttamalai_sk_mahamandapam

The Pazhiyili-isvaram (பழியிலி ஈஸ்வரம்)

It is another rock-cut cave temple, dedicated to Siva, opposite to the Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram (விஜயாலய சோழிஸ்வரம்) temple, about 30 feet south of Samanar-kudagu (சமணர் குடகு).

This Siva cave temple was excavated in the seventh year of the Pallava king Nripatunga (நிருபதுங்கன்) (862 AD.) by a Muttaraiyar (முத்தரையர்) chief, Sattan-pazhiyili (சாத்தன் பழியிலி), son of Videl-vidugu Muttaraiyan (விடேல்விடுகு முத்தரையன்), whence the temple gets the name. An inscription on the basement, states that the temple was excavated by Pazhiyili (பழியிலி). It also states that his son built the front mandapam and installed a nandi, while his daughter Pazhiyili Siriya-nangai (பழியிலி சிறிய நங்கை) made a gift of land to the temple.

The Pazhiyili-isvaram cave temple, Narttamalai

The Pazhiyili-isvaram cave temple, Narttamalai

It has a garbha-griham, measuring 8 feet x 7½ feet, and about 7 feet in height, cut out of the rock. There is a lingam inside with a cylindrical yoni-pitham (யோனி பீடம்).

 

A dvara-palaka, Narttamalai

A dvara-palaka, Narttamalai

Two dvara-palaka-s, belonging to this temple, have been excavated from the site and now placed on the platform.

In front of the garbha-griham (கருவரை) is a moulded basement of a mandapam referred to in the foundation inscription. On the basement, above the kumudam (குமுதம்), is a frieze of dancing bhutha-gana-s (பூதகணம்). There is a fine sculpture of Nandi (நந்தி) placed on the basement.

 

The nandi and the beautiful bhutha-gana frieze

The nandi and the beautiful bhutha-gana frieze

Other interesting sites on Mela-malai (மேலமலை)

There are a few other interesting sites around Mela-malai.

Natural cavern & tomb of Mohammed Masthan

The tomb of Mohammad Masthan, Narttamalai

The tomb of Mohammad Masthan, Narttamalai

A natural cavern at a short distance south of the Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram temple contains a tomb of a Muslim saint called Hazrat Noor Muhammad Masthan.

Talai-Aruvi-Singam sunai (தலை அருவி சிங்கம் சுனை)

Talai-aruvi-singam sunai, Narttamalai

Talai-aruvi-singam sunai, Narttamalai

Talai-aruvi-singam is a tarn (sunai) on this hill. In this there is a submerged cave-temple with a lingam cut out of the same rock named Jvara-haresvara (ஜுவரகரேஸ்வரர்) ‘destroyer-of- fever’). According to an inscription dated 1857 AD, Ramachandra Tondaiman (இராமசந்திரத் தொண்டைமான்) had the water baled out and, in the company of his junior Rani and his guru Sivarama Swami, worshipped this lingam.

There is a small Vinayaka- shrine, with a front mandapam and flat roof, near this sunai.

A beautiful small lake

On the southern side of the Mela-malai, at the foot, there is a small but beautiful lake. There is a small shrine for the village deity, Ayyanar (அய்யனார்), on the western bank of this water spread.

The small lake near the Mela-malai

The small lake near the Mela-malai

The Kadambar-koil (கடம்பர்கோயில்)

The Kadambar-koil is another beautiful temple complex in Narttamalai, situated at the foot of the Kadambar-malai (கடம்பர் மலை), north-east of Mela-malai (மேலமலை). In fact the rocky hillock, Kadambar-malai, is named after this temple. The temple has an air of simple grandeur, with its background of hills and beautiful natural scenery.

The Kadambar-koil complex with its background of Kadambar-malai

The Kadambar-koil complex with its background of Kadambar-malai

There are four monuments in this complex that attract the visitors. They are the main Siva shrine, the Amman shrine, another Siva shrine called Nagarisvaram (நாகரீஸ்வரம்) and a large inscription on the rock surface.

The main shrine is ascribed to the reign of Raja raja I Chozha (முதலாம் இராஜராஜ சோழன்) (985-1014). The earliest inscription in the temple belongs to the 22nd year of Raja raja Chozha (1007 AD). The presiding deity is called Malaik-kadambur Thevar (மலைக்கடம்பூர் தேவர்). The other two shrines belong to the reign of the Pandya King Mara-varman Sundara-pandya I (முதலாம் மாரவர்மன் சுந்தரபாண்டியன்) (first half of 13th century).

Here, there is a plethora of inscriptions. The inscriptions range over the entire Chozha period starting from Raja raja I Chozha till Rajendra III (மூன்றாம் இராஜேந்திரன்), the last of the Chozha rulers.

Approach

At about a kilometre from the highway to Narttamalai village a mud-road branches off on the right, which leads to the Kadambar-malai and Kadambar Koil.

Kadambar-malai lies within 500 metres from the Narttamalai road and on the western side of the village road. The Kadambar-koil complex is located on the south-west of the hillock. One needs to get down at the foot-hills of the hill and walk along a footpath through bushes to the temple complex. Presently one enters the temple complex from the eastern side. There are traces of a compound wall, surrounding the temple complex, on the southern side.

 

The remnants of the compound wall, Narttamalai

The remnants of the compound wall, Narttamalai

Immediately after entering the premises one can see a Siva temple called Nagarisvaram, an Amman shrine to its south-west and along the hill the Kadambar-koil. Near to the Kadambar-koil, on the rock surface exists a very large area is covered with inscriptions.

The Kadambar-koil

The Kadambar-koil, Narttamalai

The Kadambar-koil, Narttamalai

Assigned to the period of Raja raja Chozha I (985-1014 AD), this main shrine in the complex is called Tirumalaik-kadambur Isvaram (திருமலைக்கடம்பூர் ஈஸ்வரம்). It is situated at the north side of the temple complex. Apart from the name Malaik-kadambur Thevar referred to in the Raja raja inscription, the presiding deity is also called as Thirumalai-Kadambur-Udaya-Nayanar (திருமலைக் கடம்பூர் உடைய நாயனார்), Sri Kailasam Udaiya Nayanar (ஸ்ரீ கைலாசம் உடைய நாயனார்), Kooththadum-thevar (கூத்தடும் தேவர், Nataraja) and Thiru-anaikka-udyaiya-nayanar (திருவானைக்கா உடைய நாயனார்) in various other inscriptions.

Most of the inscriptions found in Narttamalai are on the mandapam walls of the Kadambar temple and on the rock-face adjoining to it. Eleven of these are of the Chozha-s and ten of the Pandya-s. These relate to gifts and conveyance of land by Nagarattar-s (நகரத்தார்), instituting of festivals and sandhi-s (சந்தி) (worships) and rewards for services to the temple.

The Architecture

The temple faces the west. It consists of a garbha-griham (கருவறை), an ardha-mandapam (அர்த்தமண்டபம்), a maha-mandapam (மகாமண்டபம்), and a prakaram (திருச்சுற்று மாளிகை). A part of the hill serves as the northern wall of the temple prakaram.

In front of the temple are a fine sculpture of nandi and some broken parts of bali-pitham and dhvaja-sthambham.

The nandi and broken parts of bali-pitham, Kadambar-koil, Narttamalai

The nandi and broken parts of bali-pitham, Kadambar-koil, Narttamalai

The nandi and broken parts of bali-pitham

Through a door, one enters to the western prakaram. Beyond this is the maha-mandapam. It is pillared structure with flat roof supported by eight pillars.

The entrance to the temple , Kadambar-koil, Narttamalai

The entrance to the temple , Kadambar-koil, Narttamalai

Beyond this are the ardha-mandapam and the garbha-griham. It is an imposing structure of well-dressed stones, showing great artistic skill. It resembles in some aspects to those of the Balasubrahmanya temple (பாலசுப்பிமணியர் கோயில்) at Kannanur (கண்ணனூர்), in this district. It is, however, later in date.

The garbha-griham is a plain structure and has a moulded plinth. On the outer wall of the garbha-griham there are deva-koshtam-s (தேவகோஷ்டம்) surmounted by kudu-s (கூடு) with miniature shrines inside. The southern niche contains a sculpture of Dakshina-moorthi (தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி).

The Dakshina-moorthi in the southern niche, Kadambar koil, Narttamalai

The Dakshina-moorthi in the southern niche, Kadambar koil, Narttamalai

The pilasters are polygonal and have idal-s (இதழ்) and palagai-s (பலகை) at the top. Above the cornice (kodungai, கொடுங்கை) is a vyali (யாளி) frieze. The vimanam is of single tier. The grivam has niches (griva-koshtam, கிரீவகோஷ்டம்) on four sides and they are surmounted by simha-mukham-s (சிம்மமுகம்). The sikharam (சிகரம்) of the vimanam (விமானம்) is bell shaped. Further up over a base of lotus petals (பத்ம பட்டிகை, padma-pattikai), stand the stone stupi (ஸ்தூபி).

The Grivam and sikharam of the vimanam, Kadambar koil, Narttamalai

The Grivam and sikharam of the vimanam, Kadambar koil, Narttamalai

In the recess between the garbha-griham and the ardha-mandapam are two pilasters carrying a pancharam (பஞ்சரம்) surmounted by a kudu.

 The pillared prakaram, Kadambar koil, Narttamalai

The pillared prakaram, Kadambar koil, Narttamalai

In the pillared-prakaram of this temple are kept the idols of the attended deities of this and idols brought from the adjoining temple. They include the Sapta-matrika group, a Vina-dhara Dakshina-moorthi (வீணாதார தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி) and Ganesa holding in his upper arms a piece of sugarcane and a sheaf of paddy.

At the north-east corner of the prakaram, on the rock surface is a relief sculpture of Chandikesvara.

The tank in front of the temple is called Mangala-theertham.

The Siva temple called Nagarisvaram

The Nagarisvaram-koil, Narttamalai

The Nagarisvaram-koil, Narttamalai

The Nagarisvaram-koil

To the south of Kadambar-koil is a Siva temple, called Nagarisvaram. According to an inscription (PSI 283) this temple was built in the 12th year of the reign of Mara-varman Sundara-pandya I (1228 AD).

This east-facing shrine consists of a square garbha-griham and an ardha-mandapam. It has a flat roof. The walls of the garbha-griham and the ardha-mandapam have pilasters and deva-koshtam-s. There are no sculptures in the niches.

The shrine is rather plain, and the usual dvara-palaka-s are absent. There is no lingam in the sanctum now.

The Amman Shrine

The Amman shrine, Kadambar malai, Narttamalai

The Amman shrine, Kadambar malai, Narttamalai

Towards south-west of the Siva shrine is a beautiful Amman shrine. The goddess is called Mangalambikai.

Two inscriptions (PSI 279 and 325) in the reign of Mara-varman Sundara-Pandya (1st half of 13th century) refer to the building of this shrine by one Periya-thevan (பெரியதேவன்) (called Marududaiyan Periya-devanudaiyan (மருதுடையான் பெரியதேவனுடையான்) in the first inscription and Paluvurudaiyan Periyan (பலுவுருடையான் பெரியன்) in the second).

The shrine consists of a garbha-griham, an ardha-mandapam and a small mandapam in front with two pillars. All these have a common moulded plinth. The approach into the front mandapam is from the sides by a flight of steps having rolled-balustrades.

There is a Devi idol inside the garbha-griham.

 

Beautiful pilasters and kumbha-pancharam at the Amman shrine, Kadambar malai, Narttamalai

Beautiful pilasters and kumbha-pancharam at the Amman shrine, Kadambar malai, Narttamalai

The walls of the garbha-griham and the ardha-mandapam are adorned with polygonal pilasters with idal-s and thin palagai and corbels (போதிகை, potikai). There are deva-koshtam-s on the walls. They are flanked by circular pilasters and surmounted by pancharam-s with wagon shaped tops (சாலை, sala). Presently there are no sculptures inside these niches, but traces of their existence can be seen.

On the west wall of the garbha-griham is a small relief sculpture depicting a cow performing the abhishekam on a lingam with its milk.

The shrine has a flat roof and no superstructure remains above the sanctum.

The Inscriptions on the living rock

To the east of the main shrine and north of the Nagarisvaram temple, on the surface of the living rock is a rectangular area which hosts inscriptions. A rectangular area of about 6 feet by 20 feet is carved in and then inscribed on the rock surface.

The large inscription on the hillock, Kadambar malai, Narttamalai

The large inscription on the hillock, Kadambar malai, Narttamalai

It contains two inscriptions. The older one is an 11-line long Tamil inscription (PSI 91) is executed in the 28th year of Raja raja I (1012-1013 AD). This incomplete inscription records a grant of land by the people of Telungu-kulakala-puram (தெலுங்கு குலகாலபுரம்) in Annavayil-kurram (அன்னவாயில் கூற்றம்), a sub-division of Konadu in Keralantaka-valanadu (கேரளாந்தக வளநாடு) for uvachchu (உவச்சு) service in the temple.

The other is a 28-line Tamil inscription (PSI 170) belongs to the 37th year of Kulottunga Chozha III (1214-1215 AD). This registers a sale of land by the residents of Telungu-kulakala-puram in Irattapadi-konda-chozha-valanadu (இரட்டைப்படி கொண்ட சோழ வளநாடு), to two merchants of the same place.

Other interesting sites on Kadambar-malai

Here you can see some other attractions at Kadambar-malai (கடம்பர் மலை).

The lake

There are two tanks near the hillock. The smaller one near the temple is the Mangala-thirtham (மங்களத் தீர்த்தம்) mentioned earlier. The other one is a bigger one, which is little west of the first.

The big tank on the western side , Kadambar malai, Narttamalai

The big tank on the western side , Kadambar malai, Narttamalai

The big tank on the western side

The fort wall

The traces of fort wall on the west side, Kadambar malai, Narttamalai

The traces of fort wall on the west side, Kadambar malai, Narttamalai

On the northern side as well as on the western side of the Kadambar-malai are traces of a fort wall. Both of them are starting from Kadambar-malai and extend up to Kottai-malai (கோட்டை மலை). The one on the northern side is bigger and built using bigger granite boulders dressed in to rectangular slabs.

There is a tarn on the Kadambar-malai, on the western side. It has a brick wall on the west side. According to the ‘Manual of the Pudukkottai State’ (1944), there are two tarns on this group of hills. One of them Kannimaar-sunai (கன்னிமார் சுனை) takes its name from the shrine of the Kannimaar or Sapta-matrika-s (சப்த கன்னியர்) close by. The other is Pozhutupadaa-sunai (பொழுது படா சுனை), which is situated under an overhanging rock so that the sun does not shine on it even at mid-day. But our team could not identify them.

The sunai on the Kadambar-malai, Narttamalai

The sunai on the Kadambar-malai, Narttamalai

Adventurous people can climb the hill, for it is steep in certain places and there is no clear-cut path. One can start climbing from the northern side, near the fort wall mentioned earlier, and go up to the top. It is advisable to seek the help of local boys to act as guides.

Those who manage to reach the top will be rewarded with excellent view of the Narttamalai village and hills like Uvachchan-malai (உவச்சன்மலை), Paraiyan-malai (பரையன்மலை), Kottai-malai (கோட்டைமலை), Aluruttimalai (ஆளுருட்டி மலை) and, a long-shot of Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram (விஜயாலய சோழீஸ்வரம்) on the south.

The sunai on the A view of the village and the surroundings from the top, Kadambar-malai, Narttamalai

The sunai on the A view of the village and the surroundings from the top, Kadambar-malai, Narttamalai

Kadambar-malai complex offers an excellent location for picnic and trekking.

The Aluruttimalai (ஆளுருட்டிமலை)

The Aluruttimalai, also known as Ammachatram (அம்மாசத்திரம்) hill, is one among the Narttamalai group of hills. It is situated north of Kottai-malai (கோட்டைமலை) and is the northern most among the Narttamalai-hill group. It is famous for a natural cavern with polished stone beds and other Jaina remnants.

The Aluruttimalai (notice the natural cavern on the right hand side), Narttamalai

The Aluruttimalai (notice the natural cavern on the right hand side), Narttamalai

The name Aluruttimalai means ‘man-rolling-hill’. This is an elongated mass of rock with continuous steep incline on the northern side and a sheer drop of over a hundred feet high on the south. According to a local tradition, in former times criminals were rolled over the edge of this steep cliff so that they were dashed to pieces on the rocks at the bottom. Some say they were tied up in sacks and rolled down the steep slope.

Aluruttimalai from the west, Narttamalai

Aluruttimalai from the west, Narttamalai

Approach

One can reach this place by taking a diversion from the Pudukkottai – Tiruchirappalli (திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி) highway at Ammachatram bus stop, the next stop after Narttamalai, when you come from Pudukkottai. A mud road branches off the main road to the west, near a beautiful pond with well-laid stone steps and containing full of lilies. This pond is called Ammachatram urani (அம்மாச்சத்திரம் ஊரணி). A walk/drive of about one kilometer takes the visitors to the vicinity of the Aluruttimalai.

The natural cavern and Jaina vestiges

On the eastern side of the Aluruttimalai, at the bottom of the hillock, is the natural cavern, facing east. One can see this natural cavern from the main road itself.

A close-up view of the cavern, Aluruttimalai, Narttamalai

A close-up view of the cavern, Aluruttimalai, Narttamalai

On the rock over-hanging the cave are two relief sculptures of Tirthankara-s sitting in dhyanam (தியானம், meditation). Both of them have mukkodai (முக்கொடை, triple umbrella) above them, indicating them to be Tirthankara-s (தீர்த்தங்கரர்). The one on the northern side has two attendants holding fly-whiskers, flying vidhya-dhara-s (வித்யாதாரர்).

The relief sculptures of Tirthankara-s, Aluruttimalai, Narttamalai

The relief sculptures of Tirthankara-s, Aluruttimalai, Narttamalai

One of the polished stone beds, Aluruttimalai, Narttamalai

One of the polished stone beds, Aluruttimalai, Narttamalai

On the floor of this cave are four polished stone beds similar to those in the Ezhadippattam (ஏழடிப்பட்டம்) in Sittannavasal (சித்தன்னவாசல்). Two of them have been so hewn as to form a double bed, and two others are single beds.

The broken sculpture of Tirthankara, Aluruttimalai, Narttamalai

The broken sculpture of Tirthankara, Aluruttimalai, Narttamalai

There is also a broken sculpture of a Tirthankara, sitting in dhyanam (meditative). The Tirthankara is flanked by two attendants holding fly-whiskers and there are two flying figures of Vidhya-dhara-s on the top.

There is a damaged Tamil inscription (PSI 474) in front of the cave, towards south, on the sloping rock. It belongs to the reign of an unidentified Mara-varman Sundara-pandya (மாரவர்மன் சுந்தரபாண்டியன்). The inscription calls this hill Thiruppalli-malai (திருப்பள்ளிமலை, ‘hill-containing-palli’), palli meaning a Jain temple, and mentions two Jaina acharya-s, Dharma-deva Acharya (தர்மதேவ ஆசிரியர்), and his guru Kanaka Chandra Pandita (கனகசந்திர பண்டிதர்).

In the bushes and among the granite boulders, in front of the cavern are a few broken parts of some granite structure. All these evidence the great antiquity of the cave as a place of resort for the Jain-s.

The Kottai-malai (கோட்டைமலை)

The Kottai-malai, view from the north, Narttamalai

The Kottai-malai, view from the north, Narttamalai

The hill adjacent to Kadambar-malai (கடம்பர்மலை) on the west is Kottai-malai. Traces of two different fort walls are seen starting from the west side and north side of the Kadambar hill and covering Kottai-malai. The name Kottai-malai perhaps owes to this fort. The remnants indicate that the area must have been originally fortified.

Parts of fort wall on the eastern side of the kottai-malai, Narttamalai

Parts of fort wall on the eastern side of the kottai-malai, Narttamalai

Parts of fort wall on the eastern side of the kottai-malai

The Paraiyan-malai

The Paraiyan-malai – a view from the east, Narttamalai

The Paraiyan-malai – a view from the east, Narttamalai

The Paraiyan-malai – a view from the east

On this hill stood once the barrack of the paraiya (drummers) watchers of the Kottai-malai.

The Uvachchan-Malai (உவச்சன்மலை)

The Uvachchan-malai – A view from the west, Narttamalai

The Uvachchan-malai – A view from the west, Narttamalai

On this hill were situated the quarters of the Uvachchan-s (temple-drummers). In an inscription of the reign of Raja raja I (முதலாம் இராஜராஜன்) (1013 AD), there is a reference to their services.

The Bommadi-Malai

To the south of the branch-road to this village taking off from the Pudukkottai-Tiruchirappalli (திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி) road is the Bommadi-malai (பொம்மாடிமலை) on which there was a Jain monastery. It was known as Then-thiruppalli-malai (தென் திருப்பள்ளிமலை, ‘south-Jain-temple-hill’).

The other two hills Man-malai (மண்மலை, ‘mud-hill’) and Pon-malai (பொன்மலை, ‘golden-hill’) are of little interest.

The living temples & festivals

Thiru-vanaikkaaveesvaram

In the middle of the village is a Siva temple called Thiru-vanaikkaaveesvaram (திருவானைகாவீஸ்வரம்). The god is called Kailasa-natha (கைலாசநாதர்).

The Siva temple called Thiru-vanaikkaaveesvaram / jambukesvaram, Narttamalai

The Siva temple called Thiru-vanaikkaaveesvaram / jambukesvaram, Narttamalai

The Muthu-Mariamman temple

The Mariamman temple, Narttamalai

The Mariamman temple, Narttamalai

The Mariamman-koil of Narttamalai is one of the important temples of the district. The car festival in March-April attracts a large concourse of pilgrims and sightseers from far and near. The alagu-kuththal (அலகு குத்தல்), sharp needles jabbed into the body and other modes of self-torture form some of the vows still performed here on this occasion. This annual festival is preceded by what is known as poochchorial (பூச்சொறியல், ‘showering-with-flowers’) or the covering of the Goddess with flowers, for which flowers come to the temple from all over the district.

narttamalai_shot

Malayadippatti

In Malayadippatti (‘ma-la-ya-dip-pat-ti’, village-at-the-foothills-of mountain), there are two cave temples hewn out of same rock, similar to that of Thirumayam (திருமயம்). The bas-relief sculpture of Mahishasura-mardini (மகிஷாசுரமர்தினி ) in the Siva shrine is very impressive. The Sapta-matrika (சப்த கன்னியர்) frieze here will interest iconographers. Practitioners of Kundalini yoga may also find it worth studying this group of sculpture for it is an authentic 1200-year old composition. There are paintings on the walls, ceiling and sculptures in the Vishnu shrine. Also there are some prehistoric burial sites near to Malayadippatti village.

Approach

Malayadippatti is a small village in the northern half of the Pudukkottai (புதுக்கோட்டை) district. In the early inscriptions the place was called Thiru-valattur-malai (திருவாலத்தூர் மலை).

It is 40 km away from Pudukkottai, in the Killukkottai–Kiranur (கிள்ளுக்கோட்டை-கீரனூர்) route, 3 km away from Killukkottai and 20 km from Kiranur.

One can reach this place by taking the diversion either from Adhanakkottai (அதனக்கோட்டை) on the Thanjavur (தஞ்சாவூர்)-Pudukkottai road or from Kiranur (கீரனூர்) on the Tiruchirappalli (திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி) -Pudukkottai National highway. Town Bus facility is available from Kiranur and Killukkottai.

The Monuments

Malayadippatti is noteworthy for its two rock-cut temples. One is dedicated to Siva and the other to Vishnu. Similarly one can also find twin rock-cut temples, one dedicated to Lord Siva and the other to Lord Vishnu, in Thirumayam in this district.

The two shrines are hewn out of the same rock. These twin temples are ascribable to the later half of the 8th or the early half of the 9th centuries.

The Siva temple is older and contains the sculptures of Mahishasura-mardini (மகிஷாசுர மர்தினி) and the Sapta-matrika (சப்தகன்னியர்) relief sculptures, which are impressive and noteworthy. There are painting on the walls and ceiling of the Vishnu shrine.

Also there are some prehistoric burial sites near to Malayadippatti.

The Vishnu cave temple

This is the shrine, which is nearer to the road. This shrine has a marvelously carved image of Vishnu as Seshasayi (சேஷசாயி, ‘God- lying-on-the-serpent-Sesha’). All the sculptures in the cave temple, including the dvara-palaka-s (துவாரபாலகர்) and main idol are covered with stucco decoration and painted.

Vishnu temple: an outside view, Malayadippatti

Vishnu temple: an outside view, Malayadippatti

The Temple Architecture:

The shrine is surrounded by a compound wall, which seems to be very recently renovated. The entrance gopuram has a flat roof and has friezes of vyali-s (யாளி) and bhutha-gana. Perhaps it belongs to 13th century and was renovated in the 15th century.

On the compound wall, on the right side of the gopuram, is a small sculpture of Ganesa inside a niche, which is under worship by the local people.

As one enters the temple compound, on the right hand side, there is a structural shrine of Goddess. It consists of a sanctum, with a flat roof, measuring about 9 feet long and 8 feet wide and an ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த-மண்டபம்) of the same size. According to an undated Tamil inscription, in 17th-18th century characters, one Mangan Tenkondan (மங்கன் தென்கொண்டான்), a devotee, built this shrine.

On the north-east corner is a structure, which might had been the kitchen (மடைப்பள்ளி).

Dhvaja-sthambham, Malayadippatti

Dhvaja-sthambham, Malayadippatti

In front of the main shrine, there is a dhvaja-sthambham (கொடிமரம்) and sculptures of a goddess facing north and a Garuda facing south. The sculptures are loose sculptures and seem to be recent additions.

The north facing rock-cut shrine has a structural addition in front, which forms part of the front mandapam. There are two inscriptions on this structural addition. They may be dated to the 10th century. There are three entrances, of which the middle one is bigger.

The front mandapam is a kind of a hall, running east to west, formed partly by the structural addition and partly by the rock-cut cave. This hall measures 37 feet long and 8 feet wide.

The lion pillar, Malayadippatti

The lion pillar, Malayadippatti

The dvara-palaka-s in this mandapam are carved out of the living rock and seems to be portrait sculptures. They are covered with stucco.

Dvara-palaka, Malayadippatti

Dvara-palaka, Malayadippatti

The rock-cut ardha-mandapam measures about 32 feet long, 6 feet wide and 8 feet high and has two pillars and two pilasters. They are more elegant than the ones found in the Siva temple. The base is carved in the shape of beautiful lion sitting erect and carrying the pillar on its head.

On the side walls of the ardha-mandapam there are large panels in high relief. They depict Nara-simha (நரசிம்மர்), Varaha-moorthi (வராகமூர்த்தி) and Vishnu in the standing pose along with Lakshmi. The image of seated Vishnu with his devi-s on the eastern wall is a sculpture in the round.

 

Nara-simha, Malayadippatti

Nara-simha, Malayadippatti

Maha-vishnu, Malayadippatti

Maha-vishnu, Malayadippatti

 

Varaha-moorthi, Malayadippatti

Varaha-moorthi, Malayadippatti

To the right of the Nara-simha sculpture is a painting of a dancing lady. There are platforms of one to two feet height, in front of these sculptures in the ardha-mandapam. The Dasavatharam (தசாவதாரம்) of Vishnu is beautifully painted on the ceiling.

The Garbha-griham

Above this is the garbha-griham, the floor of which is about 2 feet above that of the ardha-mandapam. It has got two pillars and two pilasters, which are round and ornamented.

The principal idol in the garbha-griham (கர்பகிரகம்) is a marvelously carved 11-foot long image of Vishnu as Seshasayi. The five hoods of the serpent are spread out like a canopy over the God’s head. From his navel rises a lotus stalk crowned with a lotus flower on which Brahma is seated. The feet of the God rest on another lotus. The theme depicted here is similar to that of Thirumayam (திருமயம்).

The legend that is associated with this group of sculptures is similar to that depicted in the Vishnu temple of Thirumayam. When the demons Madhu (மது) and Kaithabha (கைடபர்) approached in an aggressive attitude, Brahma, Lakshmi and Bhumi-Devi were frightened. Adisesha, in his sudden wrath, spat poison, which consumed the demons. He was immediately stung with remorse at his hasty action of acting without his Lord’s permission. But the passionate God comforted him with an assurance of his approval of the act.

The paintings

There are paintings on the ceiling of the reclining Vishnu idol which are badly damaged.

A piece of painting on the ceiling of ardha-mandapam: Balarama, Malayadippatti

A piece of painting on the ceiling of ardha-mandapam: Balarama, Malayadippatti

A piece of painting on the ceiling of ardha-mandapam: Balarama

The idols in the garbha-griham and the sculptures on the ardha-mandapam are all covered with stucco decoration. The paintings in this cave temple are now considerably defaced. According to the Manual of Pudukkottai State (1944) these paintings belong to 16th century or later. Some point out its resemblance to the Lepakshi paintings of Andhra.

The Siva cave temple

The Siva temple is adjoining to the Vishnu shrine, in the eastern side. It is considered to be older than the Vishnu temple.

It is ascribed to the 8th century on the basis of epigraphical and architectural evidences. An inscription dated in the 16th year of the Pallava King Danti-varman (775 – 826 AD) mentions that Videl-vidugu Muttaraiyar (விடேல் விடுகு முத்தரையர்) also called Kuvavan Sattan (குவாவன் சாத்தன்) cut this temple out of the Thiru-valattur-malai (திருவாலத்தூர்மலை), and installed a lingam.

In the 11th century Veera Rajendra-chozha (வீரராஜேந்திர சோழன்) inscription, the deity is called as Vagisvara (வாகீஸ்வரன்).

There are a number of inscriptions here, which mention about grants and donations by various chiefs.

The Temple Architecture:

There are remains of a ruined compound wall for this temple complex. The temple complex includes a structural sub-shrine of the Goddess Vadivulla-mangai (வடிவுள்ள மங்கை), facing south and another structure, on the north-west corner, which might had been the kitchen.

The front mandapam, as one enters the main temple, has slender pillars in characteristic 15th century Vijayanagara style. There are a few Chozha inscriptions on the outer side of the northern wall. In side the mandapam, on the western wall, near to the cave facade is one Adithya-Chozha I (ஆதித்ய சோழன், about 871-907 AD) inscription. Perhaps, the original 9th-10th century Chozha construction was renovated during the Vijayanagara period (15th century AD).

There are a few loose idols, which have been kept very recently and are under worship by local people. There is an arch in front of these sculptures, which is also a recent one.

The rock-cut shrine

Siva cave temple, Malayadippatti

Siva cave temple, Malayadippatti

Beyond this mandapam, to the right is the rock-cut shrine of Siva. It measures 22.5 feet long, 15.5 feet wide and 8 feet high and in typical Pallava style. There are two massive short pillars and two pilasters of same type on the northern facade of the cave. The upper and lower parts of the pillars are cubical, while the middle is octagonal.The front part of the cave is a narrow hall running east to west. The rear part has the garbha-griham (கர்ப கிரகம்) with an ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த மண்டபம்) in front.

The west facing garbha-griham is in the form of a cubical cell measuring 7 feet long, 7 feet wide and 7 feet high and its floor reached from the ardha-mandapam by a short flight of steps. Unlike in the Thirumayam (திருமயம்) Siva cave temple, the lingam inside the garbha-griham is not carved out of the living rock.

The Dvara-palaka-s (துவார பாலகர்) are two-armed. The one on the south side bears a bull’s horn, on his head. It seems to be portrait sculpture, probably of the chief who built this temple.

The nandi carved out of living rock, Malayadippatti

The nandi carved out of living rock, Malayadippatti

The ardha-mandapam measures 12.5 feet long and 13.5 feet wide and has a nandi placed on a pedestal. The nandi is carved out of the living rock.On the walls of the ardha-mandapam are some interesting panels with figures in bas-relief. On the southern wall is the Sapta-matrika (சப்தகன்னியர்) frieze with Ganesa and Veerabhadra (வீரபத்திரர்) at each end.

The frieze of Sapta-matrika, Malayadippatti

The frieze of Sapta-matrika, Malayadippatti

The Sapta-matrika sculpture here will interest iconographers and those interested in it from religious and tantric aspects, because it is at least 1200 years old.

On the western wall are much-defaced figures, probably of Gangadhara (கங்காதரர்), Vishnu, eight-armed Durga in standing pose and Mahishasura-mardini (மகிஷாசுர மர்தினி).

The Mahishasura-mardini panel is of particular interest. The goddess here, as at Mahabalipuram (மகாபலிபுரம்), is represented with a benign countenance, eight-armed, astride on her lion, and aiming a spear at the asura (அசுரன்). This is, unfortunately, much disfigured.

Defaced Mahishasura-mardini panel, Malayadippatti

Defaced Mahishasura-mardini panel, Malayadippatti

There is another bas-relief figure of Chandikesvara (சண்டிகேஸ்வரா) on the north-east corner, facing south.

Chandikesvara (சண்டிகேஸ்வரா), Malayadippatti

Chandikesvara (சண்டிகேஸ்வரா), Malayadippatti

Madattukoil

Madattukoil (மடத்துக்கோயில்) – The deserted Siva Temple is a beautiful ruin. Known by the name Madattukoil the site contains remnants of an old (probably Chozha) outer Prakaram in dark Granite, enclosing a younger (most probably Vijayanagara) structure in pink gneiss. The architecture and sculptures exhibit consummate artistic skill and delicacy.

Approach

Thirty-eight kilometres from Pudukkottai and close to Marudhampatti (மருதம்பட்டி) village. The deviation at Kolattur (கொளத்தூர்) on Pudukkottai-Tiruchirappalli (புதுக்கோட்டை-திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி) Highway leads to Pakkudi (பாக்குடி) village via Madattukoil.

The monument: Ruined Siva Temple

The Siva temple in Madattukoil is a beautiful ruin or, more accurately, two ruins. Particularly graceful in style, it combines Chozha robustness with Vijayanagara lyricism.

From the art historian’s point of view, what is truly remarkable is the Vijayanagara appearance of a temple, which is basically Chozha in style. The temple contains remnants of an old (Chozha 10th century AD) outer prakaram in dark granite, enclosing a younger (Vijayanagara 14th-16th century AD.) structure in pink gneiss. The latter has evidently built on the spot of an earlier structure that existed conterminously with the earlier prakaram.

The freestanding temple in pink is bereft of a vimanam and the sanctum with a lingam inside is, in fact, open to the sky. The impression conveyed by the central structure is of incompleteness. It is not inconceivable that the builder of this shrine to leave his work half finished owing to the passing of the territory into other hands. Whatever be the reason, the structure appears unfinished or as it was stopped, a fact that adds poignancy to the temple’s beauty.

Temple Architecture:

The temple is an exquisite monument. It faces west. There is a Lingam in the square sanctum. The mandapam in front is rectangular. There is nothing remarkable in this, but the outer walls are a sheer delight to examine. Three porches branch off, as it were, one from behind the sanctum, the others to the north and the south of it. Each porch is a dainty composition, using the delicate resources of architecture and sculpture. Two pillars and two pilasters form each. The recess, which is quite deep, is flanked by half-pilasters.

Very characteristic are the kumbha-pancharam-s (கும்ப பஞ்சரம்) with bulging kumbham-s (கும்பம்) with beaded ornamentation; the festoons on each side of the shafts above them and the brackets of the kapotam on top and the upa-pitham of plinth with the grooved kumudam (குமுதம்) and kudu-s (கூடு) with central rosette and the flowing foliage on each side reveal an intricate sensibility. The features belong to the Vijayanagara style (1350-1600 AD). The petals of the idal, the cornice and the decorated panels exhibit consummate artistic skill and delicacy. The panels depicting the five great Puranic rishi-s, Pulastya, Visvamitra, Bharadvaja, Jamadagni and Agasthya; the Devi worshipping a lingam; the Bhutha-gana (பூதகணம்) reveling in music and dance; Subrahmanya on his peacock; Krishna dancing on the serpent Kaliya and the elaborate scroll are of exceptional merit. There is no image in the northern and western porches; in the southern there is a beautiful sculpture of Dakshina-moorthi (தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி).

Above the entrance to the mandapam there are panels of Ganesa, Lakshmi and another goddess in a row. The adhishtanam (அதிஷ்டானம்) below is fine and full and carries animal relief.

A covered cloister ran around the main shrine at a distance but only parts are surviving today. The gopuram is too lost except for its lower portion. There is a covered nandi mandapam (நந்தி மண்டபம்) with four pillars.

An Amman shrine stands to the northwest of the Siva shrine. It consists of a garbha-griham (கர்பகிரகம் ) without a superstructure and a closed ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த மண்டபம்). The idol of the Amman is missing.

Note by M. Krishnan, wildlife photographer:

Bhairava, Madattukoil

Bhairava, Madattukoil

M. Krishnan, the well-known wildlife photographer visited the site in 1975 and studied an idol of Bhairava available in the temple. According to him Bhairava of this temple has no parallel in the excellence of its proportions, the assured and forbidding alertness of its stance, and the superb realism of the hunting dog depicted.

Regarding the dog depicted he opines that it was the pure ‘pariah dog’ without any trace of exotic blood. These dogs, he remarks, were used for hunting pigs and herding cattle. According to him this breed is of far greater antiquity than indigenous hounds (such as the Rajapalayam (ராஜபாளையம்) or Poligar (பாளையக்காரர்), the Kombai (கோம்பை) and the Sippipari (சிப்பிபறி) in the South, the Mutdhol hound in the Deccan and the Rampur hound in the North, and the Banjara dogs), and naturally it was comparatively recently within the last 4 centuries that exotic hounds as such the gray hound and the Saluki, were known to India. And finally about the sculpture he comments as ‘a masterful depiction of the animal – the short prick ears, the short-coupled body, the rather straight hocks and the short tail carried in a gay curve, are all authentic and characteristic’.

Kunnandarkoil

Kunnandarkoil (‘kunn-naN-daar-kO-yil’) has a rock-cut temple belongs to
8th century AD, which in course of the centuries developed with
structural addition in to a big complex. Unlike other temples this
temple has a number of portraits sculptures. The hundred pillared
mandapam is of the Vijayanagara style,

A view of the temple complex, Kunnandarkoil

A view of the temple complex, Kunnandarkoil

and is designed to the present a
chariot on four wheels drawn by a pair of horses. A temple has a number
of important inscriptions also.

Kunnandarkoil is about 35
kilometres from Pudukkottai in Pudukkottai-Andakulam-Killukkottai
(புதுக்கோட்டை-அண்டக்குளம்-கிள்ளுக்கோட்டை) route. Also It can be reached
from Kiranur and Adhanakkottai. Frequent city bus and taxi services are
available from Pudukkottai.
A view of the temple complex

The monument: cave temple

Kunnandarkoil,
referred to in inscriptions as Thiruk-kunrak-kudi (திருக்குன்றக்குடி),
has a rock cut temple, which may be assigned to the time of Nandi-varman
II Pallava-malla (நந்திவர்மன் II பல்லவமல்லன்) (C. 710-775 AD). In the
course of the centuries, it developed, with structural additions, into a
big complex. In plan it is similar to the Gokarnesvara temple
(கோகர்னேஸ்வரர் கோயில்) at Thirugokarnam (திருக்கோகர்னம்).

It is a
fascinating monument to study. Its main artistic gifts are a hundred
and one pillared ‘ratha’ (ரதம், chariot) mandapam, and two splendid
portrait sculptures doing duty as dvara-palaka-s (துவாரபாலகர்) before
the main shrine.

The temple has some fine bronzes also.

The Temple Architecture:

The
rock has been excavated in two sections. In the bigger is the shrine of
the principal deity, Parvatha-girisvara (பர்வத கிரீஸ்வரர்). To the
left, separated by wall, is a smaller section in which there are three
shrines dedicated to Thandavar (தாண்டவர்), Subrahmanya (சுப்பிரமணியர்)
and Ayyanar (அய்யனார்). Facing them, on the side, is a fourth small
excavation containing an image of Chandrasekhara (சந்திரசேகரர்). These
images of sub-deities are later additions.

Valamburi Ganesa, Kunnandarkoil

Valamburi Ganesa, Kunnandarkoil

In
the main shrine, on the rock face, to the south of the cave is a figure
of Ganesa with his trunk curled to the right, and to the north is a
Somaskanda group (சோமஸ்கந்தர்) in which Subrahmanya, who is generally
placed between Siva and Uma, is placed to the left of Uma. The
Dvara-palaka-s are portrait-sculptures. The figure to the south is that
of a chief, probably the Pallava king himself, or a Muttaraiyar
(முத்தரையர்) vassal of his.

Dvara-palaka, Kunnandarkoil

Dvara-palaka, Kunnandarkoil

A
small oblong ardha-mandapam (அர்த்தமண்டபம்) fronts the shrine. The
facade has not been worked upon. Nor there is a prakaram around the
shrine. The structural Maha-mandapam, of later construction, contains a
number of portrait sculptures. The image of a Pattavan (பட்டவன்) here
represents a man who lost his life fighting some robbers, while watching
the temple property, and offerings are occasionally made to him.

Beyond
the gopuram stand several structures. The shrine of the Goddess
Umayambigai (உமையாம்பிகை), is here. Opposite to it, and facing the
shrine of the Lord, is a nandi mandapam (நந்திமண்டபம்). Adjacent to it
is a small mandapam with four pillars.

Ratha mandapam, Kunnandarkoil

Ratha mandapam, Kunnandarkoil

A
little farther off is the striking Ratha (chariot) mandapam. It is of
the Vijayanagara style. On an elevation stands a big hall with hundred
and one pillars in six rows. To the basement are added stone wheels to
simulate a running chariot.

The Inscription

There are nearly forty inscriptions in the temple.

The
two oldest inscriptions in the temple belong to the reigns of
Nandi-varman (நந்திவர்மன்) and Danti-varman (தன்டி வர்மன்), and refer to
the feeding of Brahmins and other persons during the Aardra festival
(ஆருத்ரா தரிசன விழா). The other inscriptions belong to the reigns of the
Chozha-Chalukya after Pandya-s and Vijayanagara kings. One of the
Pandya inscriptions is a royal order instituting a daily service in the
temple called Rayarayan Sundara Pandyan Sandhi (இராயராயன் சுந்தர
பாண்டியன் சந்தி). Another relates to a sale of lands to Vyapaka Siva
(வியாபக சிவன்), a disciple of the spiritual head of the Naduvil-matham
(நடுவில்மதம்) at Tiruvanaikovil (திருவானைக்கோவில்). There is a record
here, which related to a covenant among Araiyar-s who agreed not to
cause any damage to the villagers, and not to molest wayfarers and
tenants whenever they were engaged in internecine feuds. An undated
inscription on the unfinished gopuram in modern script relates to a toll
of 1/16 panam levied for the benefit of the temple on every package of
goods coming from or going to Thanjavur (தஞ்சாவூர்) and Tiruchirappalli
(திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி).

Kunnandarkoil is one of the earlier
Karala-Vellalar (காராள வெள்ளாளர்) settlements in the state. It is also
an important Kallar settlement. It is said that the northern part of the
village belongs to the Kallar of the Vadamalai-nadu (வடமலை நாடு), and
the southern to those of the Temmalai-nadu (தெம்மலை நாடு). The joint
meetings of the Panchayats of the two nadu-s are held in the
Kunnandarkoil temple. An inscription in the temple dated about 1394 AD
tells of a joint meeting of assemblies, artisans and agriculturists to
which learned and influential men were invited from Srirangam
(ஸ்ரீரங்கம்) and Tiruvanaikovil (திருவானைக்கோவில்) to consider the loss
of life and property that the Kallar-s (கள்ளர்) had caused and to afford
protection to the people, who in return were asked to make to the
temple an annual payment, and an offering of a ring for every marriage
celebrated.

Kudumiyamalai

Kudumiyamalai (குடுமியாமலை, ‘ku-du-mi-yaa-ma-lai’) is an important site in the district famous for a few old temples of considerable beauty as well as archaeological interest. It is one of the oldest historic townships in the tract. The township was called as Thiru-nalak-kunram (திருநாலக்குன்றம்) in earlier inscriptions and Sikhanallur (சிகாநல்லூர்) in later ones.

The village had extended all around a hillock, at the foot of which, on the east, is the famous Kudumiyamalai temple complex.

On and near a hillock there are four temples including a fine cave temple and a very large Siva temple, called Sikhanathasvami-koil (சிகாநாதசுவாமி கோயில்), containing exquisite sculptures.

The musical inscription found on a face of the cave-temple is important in the musical history of India. There are nearly a hundred and twenty inscriptions in Kudumiyamalai.

Approach

Kudumiyamalai is located on Pudukkottai-Kodumbalur-Manapparai (புதுக்கோட்டை – கொடும்பாளூர்-மணப்பாறை) road about 20 Kilometers from Pudukkottai.

Following the road off the main road one reaches the foothills of the hillock where the temple complex is situated.

Town Bus facility is available from Pudukkottai.

Historical background

The 120 inscriptions in Kudumiyamalai, some of which are of great importance, help to trace the history of both of Kudumiyamalai, and of the region.

The musical inscription and other early Pandya (7th–8th century AD.) inscriptions take the origin of the temple and the township to the beginning of the seventh century AD.

The presence of the musical inscription of seventh century script suggests that the rock-cut Siva shrine of Melak-koil could be one of the early monuments erected after the revival of Saivism. Siva was said to be a god revelling in playing Vina and in one of his poses he is depicted as holding the instrument in hand (Vina-dhara, ). The place should have been a centre of culture and much frequented by practitioners and students of music, for this unique musical inscription to be engraved at this place.

It was not until the Imperial Chozha time that the continuous epigraphic evidence of the growth of the Temple, and the intense activities connected with the Township commences. The early Chozha inscriptions (9th-10th century AD) are either in the Melak-koil or the walls of the second prakaram, but not in the main shrine, Sikha-natha. This suggests that the shrine was remodelled. Tradition ascribes the remodelling to the time of Mara-varman Sundara Pandya I (முதலாம் மாரவர்மன் சுந்தரபாண்டியன்). For half a century from about 1215 to 1265 AD, the old mandapam-s were renovated, and additional structures were put up with the co-operation of the nadu (நாடு, territorial assembly covering number of Ur-s, ஊர்) -s, nagaram (நகரம், guild of merchants)-s, ur (village assembly)-s and padaip-patru (படைப்பற்று, cantonment)-s of Konadu (கோனாடு) as well as private persons. A quota to be paid by every person living with 24 adam-s (one league) of the village was fixed and the temple collected contributions in money and in kind.

A significant measure of support came from a deva-dasi Umaiyalvi-Nachchi (உமையாள்வி நாச்சி) also referred to as the daughter of Durgai-aandar (துர்கை ஆண்டார்) who bought some of the temple’s lands for 73,300 gold coins. This woman was clearly a philanthropist, building the Amman shrine adjoining the cave temple and consecrating the goddess Malaiya-mangai (மலையமங்கை) or Soundara-Nayaki. The temple acquired lands, gardens, and wells in the villages of Visalur (விசலூர்), Pinnangudi (பின்னங்குடி), Marungur (மருங்கூர்) or Marunguppatti (மருங்குபட்டி) and Karaiyur (காரையூர்), in addition to Melama-nallur (மேலமநல்லூர்). During this period the nadu to which Kudumiyamalai belonged seems to have been administered by Gangaiyaraya-s (காங்கேயராயர்) and Vanadarayan-s (வானதரையர்) of Bana chieftains as vassals of the Pandya kings.

On the gopuram of the temple are inscribed verses in Tamil; five of them are in praise of a Pandya king, and the others in praise of a Bana chief. One of these verses is attributed to the famous poet, Pugazhendi (புகழேந்தி).

Kudumiyamalai felt the influence of the Vijayanagara administration, its prince Vira-Kampana-Udaiyar (வீர கம்பண உடையார்) figuring in inscriptions. Another Vijayanagara viceroy mentioned here is Gopa-timma of the Saluva family.

During the period of the Madurai Nayak-s (மதுரை நாயக்கர்) and afterwards, the Marungapuri (மருங்காபுரி) chiefs owned territories, which extended to within a few miles west of Kudumiyamalai, and the Vaiththur – Perungalur Pallava-rayar-s (வைத்தூர் பெருங்களூர் பல்லவராயர்) extended their conquests westward and brought the village of Kudumiyamalai under their rule. Sivendezhunta Pallava-rayar (சிவந்தெழுந்த பல்லவராயர்), who was a devout Saivite, is said to have added to the temple, gopuram-s, mandapam-s, halls, flower gardens, and groves, and built ther-s (temple cars) for it.

Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (இரகுநாத ராய தொண்டைமான், 1686-1730) and his minister Kurundha Pillai (குருந்த பிள்ளை) built the front mandapam of the rock-cut cave shrine, and Vijaya Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (விஜயரகுநாத ராய தொண்டைமான், 1730-1769) built the steps to the mandapam. His chief military officer, Raghunatha Servaikar (ரகுநாத சேர்வைகாரர்), son of Lingappa Servaikar (லிங்கப்ப சேர்வைகாரர்), dug the tank to the north of the temple known as Sengala-nirodai (செங்கால நீரோடை), and built steps on its banks.Pacchai Tondaiman (பச்சை தொண்டைமான்), who disputed in 1730 the succession of Vijaya Raghunatha Raya, took shelter within the walls of the temple and was besieged by the latter’s force until he surrendered. Vijaya Raghunatha Raya was crowned in this temple. The mandapam in front of the Bhairava shrine is said to have been built by Ramaswami Iyer, who was Karbar of the Pudukkottai State. In 1865, Raja Ramachandra Tondaiman (இராமச்சந்திர தொண்டைமான்) celebrated a kumbhabhishekam (கும்பாபிஷேகம்) in this temple.

The MONUMENTS

Another view of the Raja-gopuram, Kudumiyamalai

Another view of the Raja-gopuram, Kudumiyamalai

There are four temples on and near a rock hill. At the foot of the hillock, in the east side, is the famous Kudumiyamalai temple complex.

The temple complex includes three temples. They are the cave temple called Melak-koil (மேலக்கோயில்) or Thiru-merrali (திருமேற்றளி), the Sikha-natha (சிகாநாதர்) or Kudumi-natha temple (குடுமிநாதர் கோயில்) and the Soundara-nayaki Amman (சௌந்திரநாயகி அம்மன்) temple.

What began in the early Pandya times (7th century AD) as a simple cave temple developed in time to one of the largest temple complex in the district.

There is another temple dedicated to Murugan (முருகன்), on the top of the hillock.

There is plethora of inscriptions here and the musical inscription found on a face of the cave-temple is important in the musical history of India.

The cave temple called MELAK-KOIL

The rockcut temple, Kudumiyamalai

The rockcut temple, Kudumiyamalai

The oldest part of the Kudumiyamalai temple is the rock-cut cave shrine called Melak-koil or Thiru-merrali. Once thought to be of Pallava authorship, this rock-cut temple is now considered as early Pandya, belonging to seventh century. It may be pointed that the cave temple in Sittannavasal (சித்தன்னவாசல்) was also originally considered to be of Pallava origin.

Temple Architecture

The original rock-cut temple, facing east, measures twelve feet by thirteen in the sanctum and an ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த-மண்டபம்) twenty-three feet by eight. The two pillars and the two pilasters here are different in style from all the cave pillars in Tamilnadu in their being of the Chalukya prototype.

Dvara-palaka, Kudumiyamalai

Dvara-palaka, Kudumiyamalai

Dvara-palaka

The Dvara-palaka-s (துவாரபாலகர்) are two-armed, and while both wear rudraksha beads, only one wears the yagnopavita (யஞ்ஞோபவீதம்). They may be portrait sculptures. Over the entrance to the inner shrine are four figures representing flying gods. There are also a valamburi (வலம்புரி, the trunk curled to right) Ganesa carved on the rock and two free standing, loose sculpture of the early Cholas period (9th-10th century) one representing the Chandikesvara (சண்டிகேஸ்வரர்) and the other the Somaskanda (சோமாஸ்கந்தர்) group.

The maha-mandapam (மகாமண்டபம்) in the front of the cave temple was built up in the reign of Kulottunga Chozha I (முதலாம் குலோத்துங்கச் சோழன்) (1070-1120) and the front mandapam was built by a Tondaiman (தொண்டைமான்) ruler.

To south of the rock-cut shrine, by the side of the celebrated musical inscription, is a large, about five-foot high figure of ‘idampuri’ (இடம்புரி, trunk curled to left) Ganesa cut in bas-relief.

Rishabha-rudha (ரிஷபாரூடர்) with 63 Nayanmar-s (நாயன்மார்கள்) relief on the cut in the vertical hillock.

Relieves of 63 nayanmar-s with Siva, Parvathi on the bull, Kudumiyamalai

Relieves of 63 nayanmar-s with Siva, Parvathi on the bull, Kudumiyamalai

Far above this shrine, but a little to the north of it, cut in the vertical surface of the hillock and approached by a narrow and dangerous ledge are figures of sixty-three Nayanar-s and of Siva and Parvathi on the bull have been carved.

The main structural temple of SIKHA-NATHA

Sikha-natha temple, Kudumiyamalai

Sikha-natha temple, Kudumiyamalai

The structural Kudumi-natha temple is a growth of ages. It consists of the sanctum, the ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த-மண்டபம்) and four other mandapam-s, called maha-mandapam (மகாமண்டபம்), the sabha-mandapam (சபா மண்டபம்), the anivetti-k-kal-mandapam (அணிவெட்டிக்கால் மண்டபம்) or vasantha-mandapam (வசந்தமண்டபம்)and the ayirakkal-mandapam (ஆயிரக்கால் மண்டபம்) . The sanctum and the ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த-மண்டபம்) as at presently existing are of a later age than other structures.The original sanctum and the ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த-மண்டபம்) could have been built towards the beginning of the tenth century. They were renovated twice, one in the Pandya (13th century AD.) and then in the Vijayanagara times (15th century AD.). Some scholars think that there was a third renovation in Nayak-s days. (17th century AD.)

Temple Architecture

Ayirakkal-Mandapam, Kudumiyamalai

Ayirakkal-Mandapam, Kudumiyamalai

The ayirakkal-mandapam (‘the-mandapam-with-a-thousand-pillars’) is what the visitor enters first. The form and features of the inner mandapam are characteristic of the architecture of the Vijayanagara period. The pillars contain a great number of sculptures, many in the folk or popular tradition. Above many of them there are sculptures of the ‘avatars of Vishnu’ and of the warriors of the Ramayana, Hanuman, Sugriva, Vali, etc. There are some portrait sculptures also.

Massive pillars with sculptures, Kudumiyamalai

Massive pillars with sculptures, Kudumiyamalai

The visitor passes from this to another larger mandapam called anivetti-k-kal-mandapam, or vasantha-mandapam. On both sides of which are pillars which bear large sculptured figures of Ganapathi, Subrahmanya, Ravana, Ugra-narasimha in the act of tearing the entrails of Hiranya, Rama, Mohini, the enchantress, some samhara (‘destructive’) forms of Siva, Veerabhadra (வீரபத்திரர்), Kali, Nataraja in the Urddhva-tandava (ஊர்த்துவதாண்டவம்) pose, two images of Vishnu, one on Garuda and the other on Hanuman, Rati, Manmatha, and portrait sculpture of Nayak or Pallava-rayar (பல்லவராயர்) chiefs and their ministers or vassals. The portrayal here of figure of horsemen treading over the foot soldiers is of particular interest. One can see here weapons used respectively by the horseman and the foot soldiers and the method in which the foot soldiers defended themselves from the attacks of the horsemen.

Dvara-palaka, Sikha-natha temple, Kudumiyamalai

Dvara-palaka, Sikha-natha temple, Kudumiyamalai

Passing between two huge four-armed Dvara-palaka-s (துவாரபாலகர்) with tusks, who are guarding the way, and ascending the Gangairaya-koradu (annex-built-by-Gangaiyaraya) (காங்கேயராயன் கூராடு), one enters a sabha-mandapam built in the Pandya style. It houses idols of Nataraja (நடராஜர்), about 6 feet in height, and Sivakama-sundari (சிவகாம சுந்தரி) as well as bronzes of Somaskanda (சோமாஸ்கந்தர்) and Chandrasekhara (சந்திரசேகரர்), all belonging to the late Chozha or Pandya period (12th – 13th century AD.).

The next is the maha-mandapam, a late Chozha structure (12th century AD.) containing other bronzes – Ganesa, Subrahmanya, Chandikesvara (சண்டிகேஸ்வரர்), Sastha, Manikka-vachakar (மாணிக்கவாசகர்), Sundara-moorthi (சுந்தரமூர்த்தி), Sambandar (சம்பந்தர்), Bhikshatana-moorthi (பிக்ஷாடனமூர்த்தி) and Pidari (பிடாரி).

The garbha-griham containing the principal idol of Sikha-natha (Kudumi-natha) and the ardha-mandapam in front of that, belong to a much later epoch than the maha-mandapam and sabha-mandapam. It appears to have been renovated. Two images in the first prakaram are significant. One is the pair of two-armed Dvara-palaka-s in the ardha-mandapam, which resemble those of the Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram (விஜயாலய சோழீஸ்வரம்) at Narttamalai (நார்த்தாமலை) (9th century structure). And the other is a Pallava Valamburi Ganapathi.

shnu’ and of the warriors of the Ramayana, Hanuman, Sugriva, Vali, etc. There are some portrait sculptures also.

The temple prakaram, Kudumiyamalai

The temple prakaram, Kudumiyamalai

This first prakaram encloses a covered pradhakshina pathway. Against this wall are sculpture of the Sapta-matrika, Lingodbhava, Saiva saints, Jyeshtadevi, Subrahmanya, Gajalakshmi, etc., dating to different periods. It is heartening to note that the later renovators appear to have carefully preserved the sculptures of the earlier periods.

In niches in the walls of the sanctum are Dakshina-moorthi, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga. A pillar on the rear, on the shrine’s west contains a sculpture of some chief, probably a Pallava-rayar who renovated the shrine and the ardha-mandapam.

The shrine of Akhilandesvari

The shrine of goddess Akhilandesvari (அகிலாண்டேஸ்வரி) is in the second prakaram. It is also developed from time to time. The garbha-griham and the ardha-mandapam belong to an earlier period than the present Sikha-natha shrine. The vimanam could have been built in the late Pandya period (13th century AD.). In front of this are a maha-mandapam and an outer mandapam. The latter belongs to the ‘Madurai Nayak’ style. There is a hexagonal stone slab in this mandapam on which the Pallava-rayar and the Tondaiman Rajas used to perform their coronation ceremonies.

Mythological story connected with Sikha-natha (Kudumi-natha) shrine

The principal idol worshipped in the temple here is named Sikha-natha (‘Lord-with-the-tuft’). This strange name is explained by a local legend. A temple, priest, according to the story, once gave his sweetheart the flowers intended for divine worship. The ruler of the place, who came unexpected to the temple shortly thereafter, was given as prasadam (பிரசாதம்) the flowers that the lady had worn. The Raja, discovering some locks of hair among them, asked the priest how they got there. To conceal his offence the priest asserted that the hair must be the deity’s all the while praying that he might not be proved untruthful. His prayer was heard and a lock of hair in the form of kudumi (குடுமி, ‘tuft’) miraculously appeared on the lingam for the Raja’s inspection.

A small protuberance on the idol is still shown to the visitor as the kudumi that originally appeared to save the priest-lover. It must be remembered here that the God of Kalahasti whom Kannappa-nayanar (கண்ணப்ப நாயனார்) worshipped was called Kudumi-th-thevar (குடுமித்தேவர்).

The Soundara-Nayaki Amman Koil

Soundara-nayaki Amman shrine, Kudumiyamalai

Soundara-nayaki Amman shrine, Kudumiyamalai

The Soundara-nayaki Amman (சௌந்திரநாயகி அம்மன்) temple is also a part of the temple complex. It stands south of the cave-temple and belongs to late Pandya style and built by a danseuse of Kudumiyamalai in the thirteenth century. The temple consists of a garbha-griham (கர்பகிரகம்), an ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த-மண்டபம் ) and a bigger mukha-mandapam (முக மண்டபம்).

The Murugan Temple

Up the hillock, there is a Murugan (முருகன்) temple. It was built in late Pandya times (13th century AD). The sanctum is quite small. The image is that of Dhandapani (தண்டபாணி). There exists an ardha-mandapam and a mukha-mandapam.

The celebrated musical inscription

Famous musical inscription on the rock, Kudumiyamalai

Famous musical inscription on the rock, Kudumiyamalai

Famous musical inscription on the rock.

On the living rock to the south of the cave temple is the famous inscription on music in Pallava Grantha script. Fortunately it is in a good state of preservation.

The script resembles more or less that of the inscription of Mahendra-varman (மகேந்திரவர்மன்) period at Tiruchirappalli (திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி) and in the South Arcot district (Vellore, வேளூர் District presently). It has consequently, been generally assigned to the early seventh century.

This inscription was discovered by Mr. Krishna Sastri in 1904. The area covered by the inscription is 13′ x 14′. The wall and basement of the mandapam in front of the Melak-koil hide parts of the last section of the inscription.

In the history of Indian music this inscription is very important. It is the only treatise on music now extant between the earlier natya-sastra of Bharata (4th century AD) and Sarangadeva’s Sangita Ratnakara (13th century AD). It may be mentioned here that Natya Sastra, while defining different jati-s, does not give actual examples of notation. Sangita Ratnakara includes notation, but it is so much later than the work of Bharata. Bandarkar in Epigraphica Indica writes: “In these circumstances it is easy to imagine the great value of the discovery of any notated music belonging to the period earlier to that of the Sangita-Ratnakara.”

The Authorship

The author of this inscription is still unknown. Experts like Prof. Jouveau Dubreuil, T.N. Ramachandran, K.R. Venkatarama Iyer, C. Meenakshi suggests that it was Mahendra Pallava who wrote it.

The Inscription:

The inscription commences with an auspicious term ‘Siddham’ followed by ‘ Namah-Sivaya’ meaning salutation to Siva.

The body or the text of the inscription, i.e. the treatise on musical notation (svara-s) is divided into seven sections. Each section has a heading, namely,

(1) Madhyamagrame Chatushprahara Svaragamah,

(2) Shadja grame chatushprahara svaragamah,

(3) Shadave Chatushprahara Svar(a)gamah,

(4) Sadharite Chatushprahara Svaragamah,

(5) Panchami Chatushprahara Svaragamah,

(6) Kaisikimadhyama Chatushprahara Svaragamah , and

(7) Kaisike Chatushprahara Svaragamah.

Each section ends with the same words meaning ‘end of notation’ (samapthah svaragamah).

On the extreme right end of the bottom of the inscription is a colophon reading as ‘Rudracharya-sishyena-parama-mahesva-re-na-ra(jna)-sishya-hitartha(m)-kvatah (kritah)-svaragamah’ means ‘composed by the king, who is a great devotee of Mahesvara and who is disciple of Rudra-charya (ருத்ராசார்யர்), for the benefit of learners or students of music’. Just below this colophon is written ‘(E)ttirukum elirkum (I)vai-Uriya’ in Tamil characters. This phrase means ‘belonging to eight and seven’. Various authors have interpreted this as referring to the main body of the inscriptions being common to both the seven-stringed and eight-stringed instrument. Some have also associated this with the word ‘Parivadini’ inscribed inside the cave temple.

Understanding the Inscription

Dr. C. Meenakshi renders the word jati as taala – and sankirna jati as a new kind of tala invented by Mahendra-varman. Prof. Sambamurthi translates jati as raga and points out that jati was used wherever raga was meant. The Kudumiyamalai text, according Sambamurthi, “is the first record to mention the solfa names of the seven notes, sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, dha and ni, where the sruti-s are designated by resorting to the vowel changes in the name of the note and reduced to a ‘mnemonic system of absolute notation.”

Other Inscriptions of Kudumiyamalai

There are nearly a hundred and twenty inscriptions in Kudumiyamalai, some of which are of great importance, help to trace the history of both of Kudumiyamalai, and of the region.

A Chozha inscription on the wall of Melak-koil, Kudumiyamalai

A Chozha inscription on the wall of Melak-koil, Kudumiyamalai

A Chozha inscription on the wall of Melak-koil.

It is interesting to note that all the early Chozha inscriptions in this temple are either in the Melak-koil (மேலக்கோயில்) or on the walls of the second prakaram, and not in the main shrine of Sikha-natha. This suggests that, as mentioned before the shrine was remodelled, and tradition attributes the remodelling to the time of Mara-varman Sundara Pandya I (முதலாம் மாரவர்மன் சுந்தரபாண்டியன்). Prince and devotees, who remodelled the temple, have re-inscribed on the prakaram and kitchen walls some of the more important grants of the earlier sovereigns that they had to remove or obliterate in the course of reconstruction.

Vira-pandya Inscription on the outer wall of Sri Akhilandesvari amman shrine., Kudumiyamalai

Vira-pandya Inscription on the outer wall of Sri Akhilandesvari amman shrine., Kudumiyamalai

Vira-pandya Inscription on the outer wall of Sri Akhilandesvari amman shrine.

There are two early Pandya inscriptions belonging to 7th century AD describing about some donations to the temple.

There is another interesting Pallava Grantha inscription on the east wall of the cave temple reading ‘Parivadinidaa’ (பரிவாதினிதா). The word can be split into Parivadinidaa. Parivadini is commonly considered as a seven stringed instrument like harp type Vina (வீணை). The ‘dhaa’ at the end may indicate that the notes are applicable to that kind of instrument.

It may be mentioned here that this word ‘parivadini’ occurs in a few other inscriptions in the district, like the cave temples in Thirumayam (திருமயம்) and Malaiyakkoil (மலையக்கோயில்). Two sculptural representations of a stringed instrument can be seen in the Vishnu cave-temple at Thirumayam, and in the Mahishasura-mardini (மகிஷாசுர மர்தினி) temple at Killukkottai (கிள்ளுக்கோட்டை). Perhaps this instrument was known as ‘parivadhini’ during that period.

Team Pudukkottai @ Kudumiyamalai

Team Pudukkottai @ Kudumiyamalai

Kodumbalur

Kodumbalur (கொடும்பாளுர்) is the site of some structural temples of great beauty. Their merit marks them out as among the most outstanding monuments in India. Two monuments alone are survived. They are the celebrated Muvar-koil (மூவர் கோயில்) and Muchu-kundesvara-koil (முசுகுந்தேஸ்வரர் கோயில்). There are survivals of an Aivar-koil (ஐவர் கோயில்) and of another Siva temple. It is Muvar-koil, which is the centre of attraction. These temples are considered to be the forerunners of the great Imperial chozha temples. Some important inscriptions are also found here.

Approach

Kodumbalur is located on Pudukkottai-Kudumiyamalai-Manapparai (புதுக்கோட்டை-குடுமியாமலை-மணப்பாறை) main road about 35 kilometres from Pudukkottai. And it lies 5 kilometres away from Tiruchi – Madurai highway. Bus facility is available from Viralimalai (விராலிமலை) and Manapparai (மணப்பாறை).

Historical background

Kodumbalur (கொடும்பாளூர்) is one of the most ancient places in Pudukkottai  and perhaps the oldest historically recorded site. The Silappadikaram (சிலப்பதிகாரம்), the earliest Tamil epic, mentions Kodumbai (கொடும்பை)  as lying on the highway between Uraiyur (உறையூர்), the Chozha  capital and Madurai (மதுரை), the Pandya  capital. It is through this road did Kovalan (கோவலன்), the hero of Silappadikaram  (சிலப்பதிகாரம்) and his wife Kannagi (கண்ணகி), along with a Jaina acetic, travelled from Uraiyur  to Madurai. The Periya-puranam  (பெரியபுராணம்) also mentions about this place and calls it the Konattu-k-kodi-nagaram  (கோநாட்டுக் கொடிநகரம், ‘apex-town-of-Konadu’).

The Kodumbalur  tract was mostly under Irukkuvel  (இருக்குவேள்) chiefs (a short note on the Irukkuvel-s is given below) from the middle of the 6th century AD to the middle of the 9th century AD. During the same period the Muttaraiyar (முத்தரையர்)-s had been ruling the adjoining areas falling in Pudukkottai (புதுக்கோட்டை), Tiruchirappalli (திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி) and Thanjavur  (தஞ்சாவூர்) tracts. Both these ruling chiefs constantly changed their allegiance with one or the other of the greater powers, the Pallava-s and the Pandya-s. The monuments and inscriptions of this period (6th-9th centuries AD) relate to the Muttaraiyar-s, the Irukkuvel-s, the Pandya-s and the Pallava-s.

Kodumbalur  is mentioned as the scene of a few wars in the 8th century. In one of them, the Pandya  King Mara-varman Raja-simha (மாரவர்மன் இராஜசிம்மன்) (740 – 765 AD) defeated the Pallava  King Nandi-varman Pallava-malla (நந்திவர்மன் பல்லவமல்லன்). The Sendalai  (செந்தலை) records attribute a victory at Kodumbalur  to Perumbidugu Suvaran-Maran  (பெரும்பிடுகு சுவாரன்மாரன்) (first half of 8th century), a Muttaraiyar  chief, who is mentioned as having defeated the Pandya-s and the Chera-s. It is not known whether these were two different battles or only two different but contradictory versions of the same war.

After the famous battle of Thirup-purambiyam (திருப்புரம்பியம்) (880 AD), wherein the Chozha-s inflicted a crushing defeat on the Pallava-s and the Pandya-s, the territories of the Muttaraiyar-s and the Irukkuvel-s came under the Chozha-s.

The inscriptions in these areas often indicate matrimonial relations among the various kings – the Pandya-s, the Muttaraiyar-s, the Irukkuvel-s, the Pallava-s and the Chozha-s – in addition to political relations.

For a long spell between 9th and 14th centuries, Kodumbalur was under the Chozha-s and the later Pandya-s. The town must have been finally destroyed during the Muslim invasions in 14th century.

During the Chozha times Kodumbalur  was a flourishing town and had at least two nagaram-s (assembles of merchants). It had a mani-gramam  (மணிகிராமம்) (corporation of merchants or trade guild). These institutions were either associated or affiliated to the great guild or corporation known as the Ainurruvar  (ஐநூற்றுவர், ‘assembly-of-five-hundred’).

The Irukkuvel dynasty of Kodumbalur

Kodumbalur  was the seat of a flourishing state, ruled by a dynasty of Velir (வேளிர்)-s called Irukkuvel-s, who were connected by blood with the Chozha-s, but politically were subordinate to them. They have played a very important part in the moulding of South Indian history and politics.

The Velir-s claimed to be Yadava (யாதவர்)-s from Dvara-samudram (துவாரசமுத்திரம்) in Karnataka, and one of the chiefs assumed the title of Yadu-vamsa (யதுவம்சம்). Idangazhi-nayanar (இடங்கழி நாயனார்), who is revered as one of the 63 Saiva saints and mentioned in the Thiruth-thandakam  (திருத்தாண்டகம்) by Sundara-moorthi Nayanar  (சுந்தரமூர்த்தி நாயனார்) (6th – 7th centuries), was a king of this dynasty. The Chozha  king, Vijayalaya  (about 830 – 850 AD), the founder of the Imperial Chozha  line, and his son Adithya (ஆதித்தியன்), were connected with this dynasty.

The Sanskrit inscription (PSI 14) in grantha characters in the Muvar-koil gives the genealogy of the Irukkuvel-s from a king whose name is, unfortunately, illegible, to Bhuthi-vikrama-kesari (பூதி விக்கிரமகேசரி) (last quarter of 9th century), perhaps the greatest of them all.

The Irukkuvel-s would appear to have surfaced as a power at a time that is coeval with Pandya  King Mara-varman Raja-simha-I (மாரவர்மன் இராஜசிம்மன்) (730 – 765 AD) and to have continued up to the rise of the Chozha  of the Vijayalaya  line (middle of 9th century AD). They continued their independent status thus far. Later, they appear to get closely affiliated in a subservient capacity to the Imperial Chozha-s. The arrangement continued through the reigns of Bhuthi-Vikrama-kesari’s sons Parantaka  (பராந்தகன்) and Adithya  (ஆதித்தியன்) and ending with Siriya-velar (சிறிய வேளார்), a son of Parantaka  serving Sundara-chozha (சுந்தர சோழன்)  (957 – 973 AD) as general in the army. The Irukkuvel-s, as the staunch allies and vassals of the Chozha-s, helped them in all their battles. We do not hear much of the Irukkuvel-s after the reign of Rajendra-chozha-I (இராஜேந்திர சோழன்) (1012-1044 AD).

The monuments

Once a flourishing town under the Chozha-s and the Pandya-s, it was a city of temples like Kanchi  and Kumbakonam. According to tradition, this place once contained 108 Siva temples. It is supported by the discovery of a large number of lingam-s  , nandi-s and other sculptures in the area. But nothing remains now of the past glory of Kodumbalur except the beautiful Muvar-koil  (மூவர்கோயில்) and Muchu-kundesvara-koil (முச்சுகுந்தேஸ்வரர் கோயில்). These temples hold an honoured place in the evolution of both south Indian temple architecture and sculpture.

There are remnants of an Aivar-koil (ஐவர்கோயில்) which was perhaps the only one of its kind in Tamilnadu or even South-India. There is also a large stone nandi  in the village near to the road.

Monuments in Kodumbalur  :

1. The Muvar-koil

2. The Muchu-kundesvara-koil

3. The remnants of the Aivar-koil

4. A large stone-nandi

Presently, the first three monuments, that is the Muvar-koil, the Muchu-kundesvara-koil  and the remnants of the Aivar-koil, are protected monuments and under Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Also they are no more under worship.

There is an ASI counter at the Muvar-koil  and a staff will be there on duty. The monuments will be open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM. There are no holidays. There is an entry fee of Rs. 5 for Indian citizens and Rs. 100 (US$ 2) for foreigners for the Muvar-koil.

Entry to all other monuments is free.

The Muvar-koil (மூவர்கோயில்)

The Muvar-koil  (‘temple-of-three’) is a beautiful temple of early-Chozha  period, built by the Irukkuvel (இருக்குவேள்) chief Bhuthi-vikrama-kesari (பூதி விக்கிரமகேசரி). According to his inscription he built these three Siva shrines, one on his own behalf and, the other two on behalf of his wives, Karrali (கற்றளி) and Varaguna (வரகுணா).

As far as the dating of Bhuthi-vikrama-kesari  and his Muvar-koil is concerned, there is more than one opinion. Some experts date them to the second half of the 10th century and some others to the last quarter of 9th century. In any case, one can say they belong to the early Chozha  period (9th – 11th centuries AD).

In spite of inscriptional evidences, fanciful interpretations have been given to explain the term Muvar. Some claim that the Saiva saints Appar (அப்பர்), Sundarar  (சுந்தரர்) and Manikka-vachakar (மாணிக்கவாசகர்) constructed one shrine each. Others claim that the Muvarasar  (மூவரசர்) or the three kings – the Chera, the Chozha  and the Pandya  – built one each. Yet another ingenious interpretation is that the shrines were intended to house the Trimurthi-s – Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, one in each.

The first impression about Muvar-koil  is one of enchanting beauty, perfect composition in stone. The poise of the vimanam, the beauty of the supple figures that have been modelled with loving care and the refined contours of the domical terrace edgings, all indicate the Pallava  style for delicacy of structure and form. The Pallava  influence, it is believed, is due to the marital relationship of the Irukkuvel-s with the Muttaraiyar (முத்தரையர்)-s, who were the vassals of the Pallava-s.

The Temple Complex

This is an interesting parivara  type temple which had three main shrines and many (fifteen or sixteen) sub-shrines, in the same compound.

The three main shrines stand side by side in a row, along the north-south direction, facing west. Out of these three, only two, the central and southern vimanam-s are now extant. Of the third or the northern shrine, the basement alone remains. Each of the shrines had a closed ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த மண்டபம்). Now only the basement of the ardha-mandapam-s survives.

There stood once a common maha-mandapam (மகாமண்டபம்), in front of the main shrines. Only basement of these structures remains now. It measures 91 feet by 41 feet. Remains of the basement of a nandi-mandapam (நந்தி மண்டபம்) and a bali-pitham (பலி பீடம்) or a dhvaja-sthambham  (கொடிமரம்) could also be seen, in front.

Surrounding this group are remnants of the original 15 or 16 symmetrically arranged sub-shrines, or parivara  shrines. Each of these sub-shrines had a garbha-griham (கர்பகிரகம்)  and an ardha-mandapam.

The main shrines and the sub-shrines were encircled by a madhil  (மதில், compound wall). This massive stone wall had perhaps two gates, one in the west and another near the north-eastern corner.

The north-eastern gate leads to a well, approachable by a flight of stone steps. Outside the temple complex, near the road on the northern side, is a shed which is a gallery of fine sculptures.

The Temple

Makara-head

Makara-head

The plinth of the three shrines rests on a lotus base. Above it runs a frieze of vyali-s (யாளி) with makara-head-s, with human figures inside the mouths. The pilasters on the walls are tetragonal, giving the whole temple a slender effect. The niches on the walls are surmounted by makara-torana-s (மகரத்தோரணம்), while friezes of bhutha-gana (பூதகணம்) playing on different kinds of musical instruments run on the top of the walls. These impish figures, in their abandon, show the uninhibited frolics of the Siva-gana (சிவகணம்). Over the cornice are the vyali-s with projecting makara heads at the corners.

Bhutha-gana frieze

Bhutha-gana frieze

Vyali-frieze

Vyali-frieze

The vimanam of the temples

The vimanam of the temples

The vimanam is of three tiers, diminishing in size. The edging of the lower tier has a line of domical cells with an ornamental railing. The lowest has niches surmounted by ‘wagon-shaped’ tops, reaching up almost to the top of the tier above. The second tier contains pilasters on either side of the wagon tops. On the top tier is the square grivam (கிரீவம்). It has niches topped with a chaitya arch. The arch itself is embellished with scrolls and bas-relief sculpture. Four beautifully moulded nandi-s (நந்தி) adorn the four corners of the grivam. The terraces culminate in a square curvilinear sikharam (சிகரம்).

Relief Sculptures in the Niches

Decorating the niches in the walls are some of the finest sculpture of our country. The sculptor’s devotion and intensity of religious fervour are reflected in the depiction of these gods.

Ardha-nareesvara

Ardha-nareesvara

The beautiful Ardha-nareesvara (அர்த்தநாரீஸ்வரர், ‘half-woman’) is eloquent in its declaration that the male and the female principles are inseparable and found together in cosmic evolution.

Vina-dhara Dakshina-moorthi

Vina-dhara Dakshina-moorthi

The youthful Siva with an enigmatic smile depicted as Vina-dhara Dakshina-moorthi (வீணாதாரதக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி, ‘Veenai holding south facing deity’) is an arresting figure.

Rishabha-rudha

Rishabha-rudha

It is with dignity of pose and careless elegance we have Siva as the rider of the bull, Rishabha-rudha (ரிஷபாரூடர்), with his bent arm attempting to rest on His vahana.

 

Siva in sitting pose

Siva in sitting pose

A sculpture of Siva in sitting pose. He is depicted with four hands and along with his vehicle, Nandi

Gaja-samhara-moorthi

Gaja-samhara-moorthi

A figure of Siva as Gaja-samhara-moorthi (கஜசம்ஹாரமூர்த்தி), A destructive mood of Siva. The fierce ecstasy portrayed on the face of Gaja-samhara-moorthi is awe-inspiring.

Kalari

Kalari

The lord Kalari (காலாரி) is arrested in a movement of the chatura pose of dancing. One feels that at any moment he may renew the dance. There is so much suppressed action in the soft moulding of the thighs and legs. The look of sublime compassion on Siva’s face while dancing over Kala is superb.

The play and the sequel; Shiva-Parvathi on the north side of south temple

The play and the sequel - 1

The play and the sequel – 1

On the walls of the southern temple is a play in stone enacted the Pallava way. In the top niche is Siva as Gangadhara in a sportive mood and lower down its sequel. In the top we find His face is sufficed with a tender, but mischievous, smile while Parvathi has moved away in mock anger. The whole composition of the Goddess trying to edge away by squeezing Herself into the narrow space of the niche shows great aesthetic sensibility.

The play and the sequel - 2

The play and the sequel – 2

Below in the next niche, in its sequel, the Devine Couple is now reconciled and Parvathi’s face is lighted up with happiness as she is encircled by the arm of Her Lord. The touch itself is light and the gesture almost casual.

chawri-bearer

chawri-bearer

A chawri-bearer (‘flywhisk-bearer’) stands a little further away discreetly fanning the couple from behind a ledge. Her slender elongated limbs remind once again of the Pallava sculpture at Mahabalipuram. The artist has shown an exquisite sense of restraint.

Indra

Indra

The Art gallery

Outside the temple complex, near the road on the northern side, is a shed which is a small museum of fine sculptures.

Sapta-matrika frieze, Kodumbalur

Sapta-matrika frieze, Kodumbalur

 

Some loose sculptures, Kodumbalur

Some loose sculptures, Kodumbalur

 

An inside view of the gallery, Kodumbalur

An inside view of the gallery, Kodumbalur

The Muchukundesvara Koil (முச்சுகுந்தேஸ்வரர் கோயில்)

Muchu-kundesvara Temple surrounded by its parivara temples, Kodumbalur

Muchu-kundesvara Temple surrounded by its parivara temples, Kodumbalur

This is another early chozha shrine built about 921 AD by Mahimalaya Irukkuvel (மகிமாலய இருக்குவேள்). It is certain that this king belong to the Irukkuvel clan. However whether he was related to the Bhuti Vikrama-kesari (பூதி விக்ரம கேசரி) the builder of Muvar-koil (மூவர்கோயில்) is not known.

A deity from one of the parivara temples, Kodumbalur

A deity from one of the parivara temples, Kodumbalur

The temple is a parivara-temple, like the Muvar-koil and the Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram (விஜயாலய சோழீஸ்வரம்) in Narttamalai. There is no idol in the garbha-griham (கர்பகிரகம்) at present.

The main shrine consists of a garbha-griham (கர்பகிரகம்) and an ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த மண்டபம்) facing east. The closed maha-mandapam (மகா மண்டபம்) and the Amman shrine are later structures. Only four of the seven sub-shrines characteristic of early chozha temples, now stand. The walls of the main shrine are adorned with four-cornered pilasters. The arches above the figure niches are surmounted by makara-torana (மகரத் தோரணம்). Above the cornice are friezes of bhutha-gana (பூதகணம்) and vyali-s (யாளி), from the corners of the latter of which makara-heads just out. The stone dome resembles that of the Thirukkattalai (திருக்கட்டளை) Sundaresvara (சுந்தரேஸ்வரர்) temple.

The front view, Muchu-kundesvara Temple, Kodumbalur

The front view, Muchu-kundesvara Temple, Kodumbalur

The temple seems to have been repaired in the 13th century when the maha-mandapam was built. Of the stone-wall enclosing the temple only some parts now remain. There is an ancient circular stone-well to the south of the main temple.

 

The well inside the temple campus, Muchu-kundesvara Temple, Kodumbalur

The well inside the temple campus, Muchu-kundesvara Temple, Kodumbalur

There is an ancient stone well close to the pillared-mandapam of the main shrine, on the southern side. It is said to have a tunnel about 3 feet in width below, probably an in-let for water from the tank in front of the temple.

The mandapam infront of the temple complex,Muchu-kundesvara Temple, Kodumbalur

The mandapam infront of the temple complex,Muchu-kundesvara Temple, Kodumbalur

Before entering the temple complex, one approaches a stone structure which looks like a mandapam. It is situated in the south-eastern corner of the complex, by the side of the madhil (மதில்). It has walls on all the four sides and a flat roof. It consists of a large pillared hall in front and a small cell on the back-side. The entrance to this is from the east, outside the temple complex. The entrance is flanked by two hexagonal pilasters. The base of the pilaster is carved in the shape of a lion sitting erect and carrying the pillar on its back.

The Aivar-koil  (ஐவர்கோயில் The Five Temples)

The remains of Aivar-koil, Kodumbalur

The remains of Aivar-koil, Kodumbalur

A temple complex was excavated in a mound a little to the southeast of Muvar-koil (மூவர்கோயில்). The name Aivar-koil (ஐவர்கோயில்) is due to the fact there are five temples on a common plinth. The temple is also known as Ainthali (ஐந்தளி), as may be seen from an inscription found in the complex. The plan of this Siva temple is unique and interesting. It is a panchayatana (பஞ்சாயதனம்), temple that is, a temple with four shrines at the corners of a common plinth with a central shrine in the midst.

Perhaps this is the only one of its kind in Tamilnadu or even in South India. This resembles in many respects the Siva temple at Panamalai (பனமலை) and the Kailasa-natha temple (கைலாசநாதர் கோயில்) of Kanchi, both built early in the 8th century in the Pallava period.

The main shrine may be assigned to 8th-9th century AD, and the ardha-mandapam (அர்த்தமண்டபம்) and the maha-mandapam (மகாமண்டபம்) to the early Chozha period 9th-10th century.

Temple Architecture

A rear view of the complex, Aivar koil, Kodumbalur

A rear view of the complex, Aivar koil, Kodumbalur

The garbha-griham (கர்பகிரகம்) contains an inner sanctum enclosed by a narrow circular prakaram (திருச்சுற்று மாளிகை), against the square outer walls of which are four attendant shrines. All the five shrines have a common base or plinth, and now contain only the broken pedestals of lingam-s. The lingam in the central shrine is larger than those in the sub-shrines.

The remains of garbha-griham with the broken avudai, Aivar koil, Kodumbalur

The remains of garbha-griham with the broken avudai, Aivar koil, Kodumbalur

In front were a pillared ardha-mandapam and maha-mandapam of which the plinth alone now remains. The plinth is lower than that of the main shrine. The ardha-mandapam was a closed structure; the maha-mandapam which was supported by sixteen pillars had a veranda all round. Two flights of steps, one on the north and the other on the south, lead up to the ardha-mandapam, and two others to the circumambulatory passage of the central shrine.

The nandi, Kodumbalur

The nandi, Kodumbalur

The smaller sanctums at the four corners have also flights of steps leading up to them. On the railings of the steps are carved stone figures of dwarfs blowing conch shells. In the extreme west was a pillared nandi-mandapam (நந்தி மண்டபம்).

Except fragments of walls over the plinth of the central shrine, there is nothing definite to indicate what the superstructure of the garbha-griham was like. The important finds include friezes of dwarfs and of elephant, bulbous tops of polygonal pillars, corbels and corner pieces of the cornice, a nandi, an idol of Durga with four arms, one of Vishnu, also with four arms, and six of dvara-palaka-s (துவாரபாலகர்). The corbels are of the bevelled type without roll-ornaments. The kudu-s (கூடு) have scrolls of foliage inside which are two human heads – male and female – wearing a peculiar headdress.

The dwarfs, Aivar koil, Kodumbalur

The dwarfs, Aivar koil, Kodumbalur

The temple seems to have been repaired in the 13th century when the maha-mandapam was built. Of the stone-wall enclosing the temple only some parts now remain. There is an ancient circular stone-well to the south of the main temple.

The Tripurantaka koil

Tripura-sundari, Kodumbalur

Tripura-sundari, Kodumbalur

Tripurantaka, Kodumbalur

Tripurantaka, Kodumbalur

Excavations conducted in a field a few hundred meters to the south of the Aivar-koil have brought to light the basements of the garbha-griham and ardha-mandapam of another Siva temple, and a number of idols, among which is a lingam with broken parts of its pedestal. The most interesting of these finds is a group of Tripurantaka-moorthi (திரிபுராந்தக மூர்த்தி), Tripura-sundari (திரிபுரசுந்தரி) and Tripura demons.

These images are now housed in the Government Museum at Chennai. These are perhaps the finest sculpture of the region.

The Nandi

The nandi, Kodumbalur

The nandi, Kodumbalur

The large stone nandi, measuring 6 œ feet high, about 9 feet long and 10 feet round the body, is comparable for artistic skill and majesty of appearance with the nandi in the Thanjavur temple, but the latter is larger. Attempts to remove it to Pudukkottai proved futile, and it stands now near the Vattam-katcheri (வட்டம் கச்சேரி) not far from the road.

shot

Kizhanilai

Kizhanilai (கீழாநிலை), The place, Kizhanilai (‘kee-zhaa-ni-lai’)
contains a dilapidated fort. From the days of the imperial Chozha-s and
the Pandya-s upto the 19th century, Kizhanilai was an important military
station.

The name Kizhanilai means ‘the eastern gate’, as
distinguished from the adjacent village called Mela-nilai (மேலாநிலை,
‘the western gate’). Between them is Pudhunilai (புதுநிலை, ‘the new
gate’).

Approach

Kizhanilai is a village,
33 km from Pudukkottai. One can reach this place via Thirumayam
(திருமயம்) and Kanadukaththaan (கானாடுகாத்தான்).

Historical background

According
to Maha-vamsa (மஹாவம்சம்), the Srilankan chronicle, a line running from
Ponnamaravathi (பொன்னமராவதி) to Kizhanilai and thence to Manamelkudi
(மணமேல்குடி), divided the Chozha and Pandya in the 10th and 11th
centuries, before the final subjugation of the Pandya kingdom by the
Chozha-s. This line marks the northern limit reached by the Sinhalese in
their invasion of South India. Parts of the 12th-13th century strategic
road leading from Kizhanilai (கீழாநிலை) to Aranthangi (அறந்தாங்கி) in
the east and to Tiruppattur (திருப்பத்தூர்) and Ponnamaravathi in the
west can be seen even now. About the middle of the 12th century, the
Ceylonese general, Lanka-pura (இலங்கபுரம்), who was in alliance with
Parakrama Pandya (பராக்கிரம பாண்டியன்), defeated Kulasekhara
(குலசேகரன்), a rival claimant to the Pandya throne, who had killed
Parakrama (c. 1162 AD) and placed Vira-pandya Parakrama’s (வீரபாண்டிய
பராக்கிரமன்) son, on the Madurai throne. During this campaign, a
sanguinary battle was fought at Kizhanilai in which, according to the
Maha-vamsa, the slaughter was so great that the corpses of the slain
covered a space of four leagues. Kizhanilai was one of the frontier
forts of the Thanjavur kingdom under the Nayak-s. Vijaya-raghava, the
last Nayak ruler, is the reputed builder of the fort, now in ruins.

The Fort, Kizhanilai

The Fort, Kizhanilai

History of the fort

The
Statistical Account of Pudukkottai (1813) informs us that the fort,
which had an arsenal, was built about 1683 by a Sethupathi (சேதுபதி). It
is probable that this Sethupathi, who got possession of the fort,
repaired or extended it by adding an arsenal. In 1756 when Vijaya
Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (விஜய ரகுநாத ராயத் தொண்டைமான்) of Pudukkottai
temporarily occupied the place, a granary was built in which to store
provisions against sieges.

The fort passed through different
hands over a time, including Thanjavur (தஞ்சாவூர்) and Ramanathapuram
(இராமநாதபுரம்), before coming to Pudukkottai. It was afterwards part of
the debatable land, which passed from Ramanathapuram to Thanjavur in
1750 and 1763 and again in 1771.

Thanda-Thevan (தண்டத் தேவன்) of
Ramanathapuram promised the fort and district of Kizhanilai to the
Pudukkottai Tondaiman-s in 1723, if he succeeded in gaining the throne
with Tondaiman’s assistance. Tukoji, Raja of Thanjavur (1729-36) also
appears to have granted it to the Tondaiman, who sold it back to
Thanjavur on certain conditions. The conditions were violated and the
Tondaiman attempted to recapture it. In 1749 Manoji the Thanjavur
general, ceded it to the Tondaiman on his own account in return for
military assistance, so that the Tondaiman actually got possession of
it. But the Raja of Thanjavur refused to ratify Manoji’s act and ordered
its recovery in 1756.

Hider’s forces seized and occupied it for a
time in 1781, but the Tondaiman recaptured it in the same year at the
request of Colonel Braithwaite of the Madras Army. When, soon after
this, the whole of the Thanjavur territory was annexed by the British.
Kizhanilai, which originally formed part of Thanjavur but had all along
been claimed by the Tondaiman, was finally ceded to Pudukkottai
(புதுக்கோட்டை). The only condition imposed was the payment annually of
the tribute of an elephant. This, however, was never paid, on the ground
that the stipulation was inconsistent with previous treaties, and with
the rank and status enjoyed by the Tondaiman-s. It was formally waived
in 1837 by the Court of Directors themselves.

The Fort

This
extensive but now dilapidated fort, covering an area of 43.61 acres, is
built of laterite, quarried close by in the extensive Sengirai
(செங்கீரை) and Sakkottai (சாக்கோட்டை) patches. The first place of
interest that a visitor observes within the fort is a small temple of
Hanuman then he approaches the Ariya-nayaki Amman (அரியநாயகி அம்மன்),
which is the principal one. There are other temples dedicated to Vishnu
and Munisvara (முனீஸ்வரர்).

Sections of walls have fallen down.
According to the tradition, an underground passage near south gate, now
blocked, leads to a fort in Sakkottai in the Ramanathapuram
(இராமநாதபுரம்) district. A fairly large gun lying on one of the ramparts
is all that now remains of the efficient military equipment with which
the fort was once fitted.

There is a small hamlet within the fort surrounded by flower gardens.

Kiranur

A place that shows traces of occupation from very early times and has
pre-historic burial sites. There is a 9th century AD Siva temple with
many important inscriptions. It is an important Muslim centre. Presently
a business centre and also an important junction in the Pudukkottai –
Tiruchi (புதுக்கோட்டை – திருச்சி) road

Approach

Kiranur
(‘kee-ra-noor’) (கீரனூர்) lies on the Pudukkottai-Tiruchirappalli Road
and 24 km away from Pudukkottai. It is the headquarters of the Kolattur
(கொளத்தூர்) Taluk. It is well connected with Tiruchirappalli,
Pudukkottai, Karaikkudi with regular transport services.

Historical background

The
place shows traces of occupation from very early times. Near to this
place are prehistoric burial sites. It is one of the oldest
Karala-Vellalar (காராள வெள்ளாளர்) settlements. There are vestiges of an
old mud fort called Samantan-kottai (சமந்தன் கோட்டை), after Achyuthappa
(அச்சுதப்பா), a Nayak king of Thanjavur (தஞ்சாவூர்), referred to in a
Malayadippatti (மலையடிப்பட்டி) inscription as Acyuta-nayaka Samantanar
(அச்சுத நாயக்க சமந்தனார்).

During the middle ages Kiranur was an
important town, with an Ur (ஊர், village assembly) and Sabha (சபா,
Brahmin assembly) and was ruled directly by Araiyar-s (அரையர்). It was a
Padaiparru (படைப்பற்று, military cantonment). It was included in the
territory of the Vaiththur Pallava-raya-s (வைத்தூர் பல்லவராயர்), and
later was ruled by the Kolattur Tondaiman-s (தொண்டைமான்). During the
siege of Tiruchirappalli (திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி) in the middle of 18th
century by the French and Chanda Sahib, the English force camped here.
The enemies partly destroyed it when they overran it in revenge for the
help that the Tondaiman-s (தொண்டைமான்) had given to the English. In
1754, the French and Chanda Sahib’s troops camped here until they were
expelled.

The Monuments

Kiranur has a
structural temple probably built by the Muttaraiyar-s (முத்தரையர்) in
9th century AD. This probably is deduced from the name the temple it
bears, the Uttama-nathesvara (உத்தம-நாதேஸ்வரர்). Ilango Muttaraiyar
(இளங்கோ முத்தரையர்) bore the title of ‘Uthama-daani’ (உத்தமதானி) and he
might have built this temple.

The temple’s walls have no
deva-koshtam (தேவகோஷ்டம்). The grivam (கிரீவம்) and sikharam (சிகரம்)
are circular. Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (இரகுநாத ராய தொண்டைமான்)
(1769-1789) added a prakaram.

One of the many epigraphs of the
temple belongs to the eighth year of Kulottunga Chozha III (மூன்றாம்
குலோத்துங்கன்). There are other epigraphs belonging to the reigns of a
Tribhuvana-chakravarti Sri Rajarajadeva (திரிபுவன சக்கரவர்த்தி ஸ்ரீ
ராஜராஜ தேவன்), so far unidentified, a Mara-varman Sri Kulasekharadeva
(மாரவர்மன் குலசேகர தேவன்), Vijayanagara chiefs, etc.

There is a
pond opposite to the fort ruins named Krishnattu urani (கிருஷ்நாத்து
ஊரணி) after Krishna, a mistress of one of the Kolattur Tondaiman-s.

Kiranur is an important Muslim centre in the state, and has a fairly large mosque.

Kaliyappatti

Close to the village, Kaliyappatti (காளியாப்பட்டி, ‘kaa-Li-yaa-pat-ti’), is a small but interesting Siva temple built entirely of well dressed granite blocks, belonging to 9th –10th century A.D. The temple is similar to that of the famous Muvar-koil (மூவர்-கோயில்) of Kodumbalur (கொடும்பாளுர்).

The temple is one among the earliest temples of the Chozha design, and plays an important role in the study of temple architecture in Tamilnadu.

Approach

Kaliyappatti is a small village near Kunnandarkoil (குன்னண்டார் கோயில்). It is located in the Kiranur-Killukkottai (கீரனூர்-கிள்ளுக்கோட்டை) route. There are only a few buses running in this route. Taxi service is available from Kiranur, Pudukkottai (புதுக்கோட்டை) and Tiruchi (திருச்சி).

The monument: Siva temple

Siva Temple, Kaliyappatti

Siva Temple, Kaliyappatti

Situated on the foreshore of a tank, Samadhi-kulam (சமாதிக் குளம்), is a small but interesting east-facing Siva temple.

This temple belonging to 9th-10th centuries has a compact structure. The central shrine measures about 8-feet square. It is built entirely of well-dressed granite blocks from basement to finial. The vimanam (விமானம்) is simple and plain. It has a four-sided grivam (கிரீவம்) with niches on each side, a four-sided and curvilinear sikharam (சிகரம்) and kudu-s (கூடு) surmounted by simha-lalatam (சிம்ம-லலாடம்). The structural elements resemble those of the Muvar-koil (மூவர்-கோயில்) at Kodumbalur (கொடும்பாளுர்). It appears to have been originally covered with pilaster and decorated in stucco. Of the ardha-mandapam (அர்த்த-மண்டபம்) the moulded basement alone remains. There are traces of the usual sub-shrines, which are characteristics of the early Chozha temples of the 9th-10th centuries.

The temple, which was in neglected and ruined condition for a long time, has later been repaired. The idols of Brahma, Vishnu and Dakshina-moorthi (தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி) have been restored to their respective niches in the grivam of the vimanam, and two of the three stone bulls discovered at the site have been placed at the corners of the top of the shrine and the third on a pedestal in front of the temple.

There are a few inscriptions on the outer wall of the temple. One of them is dated to the 18th year of a Parakesari-varman (பரகேசரி-வர்மன்) and has been ascribed to the middle of 9th century AD.

Some of the pre-historic cists existing near Kaliyappatti were opened in 1937.

Avur

Famous for a church in the shape of cross; Father Beschi, better known as Veerama-munivar (வீரமாமுனிவர்) was looking after this church for sometime in the 18th century.

Once this was the centre for Christian mission not only for Pudukkottai (புதுக்கோட்டை) but also for adjoining places of Tiruchirappalli (திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி), Madurai (மதுரை) and Ramanathapuram (இராமநாதபுரம்) districts.

Approach

Avur (‘aa-voor’) is located at 35 kilometres from Tiruchi and 50 kilometres from Pudukkottai. City bus and Taxi services are available from Tiruchi and Pudukkottai.

Historical background

Church, Avur

Church, Avur

Avur (ஆவூர்) is a hamlet near the Pudukkottai – Tiruchirappalli border (புதுக்கோட்டை-திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி) and was the birthplace of the Sangam poet Avur-kizhar (ஆவூர் கிழார்).

The village is named as ‘a + oor’ (‘cow-village’), it is claimed, because of the large number of wild bulls and cows that came to drink water in an oorani (ஊரணி, drinking water tank) on the outskirts of a jungle here.

Avur in the 15th and 16th centuries was a sparsely inhabited spot in the territories of the Palaya-karar-s (பாளையக்காரர்) of Perambur-Kattalur (பேராம்பூர்-கத்தளுர்). Early in the 17th century Father Robert De Nobili of the Madurai (மதுரை) Mission extended its jurisdiction to Tiruchirappalli. Later Father Emmanuel Martins selected Avur, a quieter place, for his Mission. The Perambur-Kattalur Palaya-karar-s (பேராம்பூர் – கத்தளுர் பாளையக்காரர்) gifted him the site at Avur in 1686. The place came under the jurisdiction of the Kolattur Tondaiman-s (குளத்தூர் தொண்டைமான்) and later, under the Tondaiman-s.

Church & missionary activities

There is an interesting chapel built in 1747. This monument is built in the form of a cross, 240 feet in length, 38 feet in width and 28 feet in height. Its eight columns support a dome 56 feet above the pavement.

One of the first missionaries at Avur, Father Venantius Bouchet, who joined the Madurai Mission in 1688, wanted to make Avur a Christian centre of substantial importance. He raised a large compound enclosing the place for the use of the missionaries, the site of the church and shelters for the benefit of visiting Christians. The chapel in particular engaged his imaginative attention. With contributions from well-wishers and the Tondaiman, an impressive chapel stronger than mere mud walls and thatched roofs, which, until then had been the only materials used in Mission buildings, was completed in 1697. Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (இரகுநாத ராயத் தொண்டைமான்), the founder of the line of Pudukkottai Tondaiman-s, visited Avur in 1711 to meet the Bishop of Santhome, who was making his first pastoral trip to the Madurai Mission and to Avur. The king treated the visiting priest with great courtesy. This gesture by one who was not a Christian by religion is of obvious significance.

The fortunes of the church declined very suddenly in 1716. The prevailing political strife between the Nayak rulers and the Tondaiman-s, led to the destruction of the church to its foundations.

Father Homem, who worked amidst enormous dangers and difficulties, rebuilt the chapel in 1747 at a site about two furlongs to the southeast. The new one was larger, but much of the earlier plan was retained. The chapel seen in Avur today is this monument.

A poignant incident took place in 1732 when the celebrated Veerama-munivar (வீரமாமுனிவர்) was in temporary charge of the church. The incident is narrated in General History of Pudukkottai State “Some soldiers of the Tondaiman, having managed to steal some bullocks from the Mughal army not far from Avur, the Mughal soldiers became furious, and coming to the Missionary required him either to return the bullocks immediately or to surrender himself to them as prisoner.

The missionary that had to answer the charge was Rev. Fr. Beschi who was then in temporary charge of Avur. As getting the bullocks back was not in his power, he quietly submitted to the alternative proposed by the soldiers. The infuriated soldiers immediately chained him and led him to their camp amidst insult and menaces, and as they found that their prisoner bore all the ill-treatment with unruffled equanimity, they became so exasperated that they had him tied, and, stripping him of his clothes exposed him to the midday sun.

As soon as this, however, came to the knowledge of the chief, Chanda Sahib, he issued immediately orders for the prisoner’s release. The chief tenderly embraced the missionary and told him to sit by his side; then he protested that what had happened to him had been done without his knowledge. Having witnessed the honour paid to the missionary the soldiers, who, a short while before, had insulted him, began also to do him honour. As a matter of fact, the danger the Father had incurred became the occasion of his safety and that of the village.

This was the first place in the Pudukkottai (புதுக்கோட்டை) tract to be occupied by the Jesuits. Once this was the main center of Christian propaganda not only for Pudukkottai but also for Tiruchirappalli, Madurai (மதுரை) and Ramanathapuram (இராமநாதபுரம்).

Veerama-munivar

Veerama-munivar Statue in front of the church, Avur

Veerama-munivar Statue in front of the church, Avur

A grateful Tamil community has immortalised Father Constant Joseph Beschi, the Italian missionary, by calling him reverentially Veerama-munivar (வீரமாமுனிவர்) and by installing his statute on the Marina beach in Chennai as one of the twenty Tamil savants. His contributions to Tamil are many-fold.