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.
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.
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.
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).
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 dvara-palaka-s in this mandapam are carved out of the living rock and seems to be portrait sculptures. They are covered with stucco.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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 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.
There is another bas-relief figure of Chandikesvara (சண்டிகேஸ்வரா) on the north-east corner, facing south.