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.


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.


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


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