Saturday, March 28, 2015

Vettuvan Koil (Tirunelveli - Tamil Nadu)

From the Jain abode of Kalugumalai, my next stop was a few steps downwards the same hill at Vettuvan Koil. 
Its was excavated in 8th C CE by Pandyan Maran Chadaiyan Varaguna I, according to the inscriptions we find here. The inscriptions also mention Parantaka Nedunchezian & Parantaka Veera Narayanan.

The placement of this temple, very much reminded me of Vijayalaya Choleeswaram. Just a top of the temple is visible from a distance, as you go nearer, you see more of the temple. The shikara is almost a sphere, with a lotus petal shaped detailing atop. 

The Gopuram is beyond exquisite! The sculptures are just gorgeous. The east facing side has an incredible, very romantic Uma Sahitha atop. The south facing side, has a fantastic Dakshinamurthy. Why fantastic? He's looking so laid back with one hand on his thighs and one leg folded. On the layer atop was another Dakshinamurthy, which very much reminded me of Kailasanatha Dakshinamurthy.
On the western side was a very comfortably seated Vishnu and atop was a seated Yoga Narasimha with 4 hands! On the northern side were Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma. But these are just the beginning... 

Their bootha ganas are just impeccable! The sheer number of bhoothaganas were astounding. Their reactions and styling were just not repeated. They were some playing musical instruments, some making faces, some playing with snakes, some wearing skull hair accessories, one wearing a turban & sporting beard, one with a spiked hair accessory, some eating. 

I did spot a couple female boothaganas, showing us their back holding the 'tala' atop them!

The corners intrigued me as well! Very intricately done, a more extravagant version of Uthiramerur. 
Rishabams were at the corners and some seated women as well! One lady was very stylishly seated with a leg folded and another placed atop a monkey seated beneath!!!
Btw inside the sanctum sanctorum was Lord Vinayaka, a modern sculpture and is been in worship by the locals!!!


Dedicated to Prof. Swaminathan & Co...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Kalugumalai (Tirunelveli - Tamil Nadu)

Kalugu Malai literally means Eagle Hill. The hill has 2 main sections, a Hindu temple and a Jain abode. The Jain abode is the just spectacular. 
It is a series of several relief sculptures done on a monolith rock!!! These were sculpted during the period of Paranthaka Nedunchadaiyan Pandyan king.
Right at the centre is a newly built temple of Chenniyamman. Behind is a small locked up chamber having 1 scene made of relief sculptures, depicting Parswanatha with Padmavathy & Dharnendra & Kamdan. Sadly there is a concrete structure around it and the relief itself has been covered with plaster. Gladly everything else is left untouched and protected by the ASI.

To the left is the section that has all the Thirthankaras depicted in several rows with a couple of words about them below each of their sculpture.  
Apart from the Thirthankaras, there are a couple more scenes. One is of Ambika. Ambika is a Yakshi of Neminatha, who also had a parellel life in the earth as a human being, as a wife of a man. The man doubted her and asked her to show her heavenly self to him and she did, with her tall, golden body that sent him awe-struck. Accompanied are her 2 children and lion in the scene.
Another scene is of Parsvanatha with his yakshi Padmavathy. Atop him is the yaksha Dharnendra as a hooded snake, protecting him. Beside him is Kamdan, a character that tries to kill him earlier but later surrenders to him. Both time frames are shown in the same frame!

There is one seated Thirthankkara with triple umbrella. Sadly he's been beheaded. There's another standing Thirthankara with 2 yakshis on either sides.

To the right is another section that has few thirthankaras in rows and a 3 scenes. They are shown seated on lion thrones and one has an elephant hood.
Further atop, climbing a few flights of stairs is another, single scene. Here the Thirthankara is much larger. From here the view was spectacular and the next destination, Vettuvan Koil was visible. That's coming up in the next post.

From Tirunelveli: 53 km towards Sivakasi
From Sivakasi: 38 km towards Tirunelveli

Dedicated to Prof.Swaminathan & Co...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Malayadikuruchi Cave Temples (Tirunelveli - Tamil Nadu)

When we went looking for this place, we couldn't find it. What we found was little village primary school. Behind it was a little concrete building which we assumed, was a part of the school. 

However a couple of us, went to it, to check it and it turned out to be the cave temple we were looking for. This was much much simpler, much more basic than the earlier 2. 
This temple was probably built in 637 CE. Quite unusually this temple was in worship. There are 2 shrines, one for Lord Shiva and one was His Consort and was called Mahadevaswami Koil.

There is a space for the Dwarapalas. However now, there are just traces of their existance. Also on the left, after the dwarapala, there's traces of a sculpture, that mostly looks like Indra on an elephant or Lord Muruga as warrior on elephant . There is a similar sculpture on the other side, which I have no clue what it is.
The things that are intact here are the beautiful medallions on the pillars the fluted cornices atop the pillars.
Some medallions had a human figure in them, some had animals or mythical creatures and some were pure decorative. The pillars were very basic, simple and plain. 

Some of the slabs there, had inscriptions on them. However this temple, has been dismantled and assembled once again, so the inscriptions are discontinuous. Some are even inverted. However this had happened atleast 40 years ago, coz when I spoke to a few locals, they do not remember this temple being dismantled and assembled in their life time.
Atop the entrance of sanctum sanctorum are makara thoranam. On it on either sides and in centre of it are 3 sculptures. The centre was a cute little Gaja Lakshmi.

From Thirunelveli: 70km via Thirumalapuram, Sankarankoil 

Dedicated to Prof.Swaminathan & co...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thirumalapuram Cave Temple (Tirunelveli - Tamil Nadu)

After Virasigamani our next stop was Thirumalapuram aka Varunachi Malai. It was in a very perfect setting. A big, absolutely slopey, smooth hill with a little cave temple on one of its facets! With a few plam trees in front, the view was magnificent.

This is in a bit better condition than Virasigamani. There are 2 pillars and 2 pillars attached to the walls. This was excavated by Pandyan Kings in 750 CE.
The medallions here are many more than Virasigamani and the fluted cornices look more beautiful. 
Similar to the Lower Cave of Trichy, here too there are 3 sections with 3 relief sculptures. The first one is a beautiful dancing Siva with a bhootha gana and rishabam on either sides!!! 

Second a standing Lord Vishnu with 4 hands and 2 seated bhootha ganas on either sides. At last is a seated Lord Ganesha. 
On one side is the sanctum sanctorum with a Siva Lingam. On either sides of the entrance of sanctum sanctorum are dwarapalas. 
On the opposite wall in another relief sculpture of Brahma with 4 hands and 3 visible heads.
On the centre of the whole hall, facing the Siva Linga is a monolith Nandi. Its completely broken and all that's left are a couple of legs!!!

All the sculptures in this cave were painted and even the ceiling was painted like Sittannavasal. All we see today is a hint of a few strokes and small painted patches. 

Quite weirdly at the corners were these patterns. Fish shaped on one corner, leaf shaped on one corner, white in 2 corners, black in 2 corners, all embossed... Are they fossils, or painted, is it natural or man-made or what are they??? I have no clue!
Atop the hill was a modern church. I dunno how was it constructed in this ASI preserved hill! 

From Tirunelveli: 43km towards Sankaran Koil
To reach Tirunelveli - Buses & Trains are available from several cities. 
Check out Redbus coupons here.

Dedicated to Prof. Swaminathan & gang.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Veerasigmani Cave Temple & Jain Beds (Tirunelveli - Tamil Nadu)

Recently I ventured to Tirunelveli, fondly called Nellai. Of course the specific places I visited were mostly the roads less traveled. This is gonna be a series, and here it begins with Veerasigamani, a cave temple.

Its a tiny little cave temple, similar to Mandagapattu. There are 2 pillars in the front and 2 pillars along with the walls on either sides. Right at the centre is the monolithic Sivalingam and a Nandi in front of it. The Sivalingam has a square base.
On its door, on either sides, there's the relief on the wall of 2 dwarapalas. Further on the side walls are 2 disfigured men. On the right, after dwarapala is another man.

The dwarapalas were similar to Mandagattu, not having protruding incisors, with just 2 hands, with a hint of smile. One of these guys has mustache and a clubbells. 
Of the 2 disfigured men, 1 just has a bearded face, and the whole body is disfigured. The other guy has even the face disfigured, by the whole body outline is obvious. The 5th person is next to the right dwarapala.
Between the pillars are fluted cornices to attach to the ceiling and some circular medallion reliefs on pillars. On one of the pillars is the Chola Pandya inscriptions on 7th C CE. Who are these Chola Pandyas??? I'll tell you about them in the upcoming posts.
On the outer walls, out of the excavated cave, on either sides are small excavated shrines. On the left is a Lord Vinayaka and on the right is Lord Vishnu. 
Quite unusually, here the Vishnu has 3 hands!!! There seems to be no mutilation, infact no space for the 4th hand at all. 

Just like Dalavanur, here too, a climb upon the boulders atop the hill from behind the cave temple, leads to the Jain Beds above!!! The view from atop, as always is mind blowing. Down below was a Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest. 

There were about 8-9 Jain beds with inscription on one of them. I was told that there's another set with a Vishnu Padam (later addition) on the other side of hill which sadly I couldn't access...
Coming up with more places, esp. more caves soon. Wait n watch!!!

64 km from Tirunelveli Railway Station
30 km from Tenkasi

Tirunelveli has hotels in all price points.
You could also consider staying at Coutrallam.

Dedicated to Prof. Swaminathan & Gang
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