Recently on a public holiday a few of us (almost 10) decided to go on a trip to Kanchipuram town. However it shrank down to half of that due to assorted reasons. But then, we decided to go on with the trip and we were there at the temple town, silk centre Kanchipuram. We visited a few temples about which I'll be writing soon. And then during the noon when the temples close down for 'Nadai Moodudhal' we were off towards Tiruvannamalai to this place called Dhusi Mamandur or just Mamandur!
So what's here. This almost deserted location, a few kilometres out of Kanchipuram town, houses centuries old rock cut monuments!
Yes, the path was almost terrible in a narrow mud road. I was apprehensive if the car would go in that narrow path, but errrrr... the car's owner didn't seem to bother and went ahead! Yes, the road was bumpy & rocky, but the car managed!!! There at our destination was this extremely beautiful Mother nature, waiting for us! The caves here are under Archaeological Survey of India and so is very well maintained with good garden and has a toilet too!!!!
That's a zoomed-in palm tree, half way climbing, that I found interesting! Well, Mamandur has 4 unfinished caves in total which were excavated by Mahendra Varma Pallava in 600-630 CE. Actually we were in the reverse, moving on from the 4th cave to the 1st.
The first cave (technically the 2nd southern cave or 4th cave) is at the southern end of the hillock. It has 2 pillars supporting the entrance of the cave. The back wall has 3 sections carved out meant to be for 3 shrines but just not completed. Why unfinished? Well, when they had started to sculpt, one of the pillars developed a crack atop!!!
The second cave (technically the 1st southern cave or 3rd cave) was also unfinished with a row of pillars at entrance. Inside are 5 shrines at the back and 2 shrines on either sides. That construction reminded me of the Lower cave of Trichy!!! However the shrines here are empty with no statues in or out as well!!! These 2 caves are technically in the boudaries of the village Narasamangalam.
The third cave (technically the 2nd northern cave or 2nd cave) was a bit more completed when compared to the rest 2. Infact the top of the 2 pillars at the entrance had remains of the painting done on them as well. There were 3 shrines inside with Dwarapala-s on either sides of all of them. There was a Shiva Linga inside the central shrine.
The most important thing in this cave is that this has a 2 inscriptions, one of Parantaka Chola I and one of Rajaraja Chola I. As per the inscription this cave was then called Vruttiravaliswaram & Valiswaram. Also the inscription talks about the presence of a large irrigation tank here called Chitrameghatalaka. However there are no Pallava inscriptions though the styling is very much Pallava-ite!
Finally the fourth cave (technically the 1st northern cave or 1st cave) is the northern most cave and perhaps the more complete of the 4, though unfinished. The pillars here, unlike the rest, are a bit more complete and the sculpting work had begun on these with some lotus design on bas relief, with some remains of the stripes done by painting too. This too has an inscription about Mahendra Varma Pallava. It denotes a play that he wrote - Mattavilasa Prahasana and also his titles Sathyasandha, Satrumalla etc. This cave has a single shrine with no sculpture or reliefs inside or outside. These 2 caves are technically in the boundaries of the village Mamandur. But the 2nd last cave's Chola inscription that calls this area Narasimha Mangalam aka Narasamangalam. So, this entire area was once called Narasamangalam, which eventually was separated into 2 as Mamandur and Narasamangalam with 2 caves in each!
Well, as usual in the middle of nowhere, I ought to have my own animal luck!!! So here it is as well!!! A couple of Wood warblers on the wires between northern & southern caves and a smart Garden lizard perfectly camouflaged with the colors of rock & dried leaves!
Yes, they're the 3
idi heroes!!! Btw, what were the temples we went in that temple town? Coming back soon with that!
TO REACH THERE:
From Kanchipuram Town: 11km on SH 116 or the Highway that leads to Vandavasi.
Dedicated to Gopu, Shiva & Jayram