Pandya & Pallava Cave Temples (Trichy - Tamil Nadu)

In my last post I promised a separate post on the Pallava & Pandya Caves in Trichy. So, here it comes.

There are 2 cave temples built by Pallavas & Pandyas here in Trichy. Both are protected by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). These 2 are the lesser-known Trichy temples to visit. One is enroute to the Uchi Pillayar Temple. The other one is at the basement of the hillock. Yeah, I missed this one at the basement first and proceeded to the Uchi Pillayar. Enroute, at the Thayumanavar Temple I enquired about the Pallava caves. Only at this point I realized I missed one at the basement. The other one was right here, well, almost here. 
Lalitankura Pallava Griham, Trichy Cave Temple

Pallava Grantham Inscriptions on Pillars - Lalitankura Pallava Griham, Trichy Cave Temple

Gangadhara Panel - Lalitankura Pallava Griham, Trichy Cave Temple
From the Thayumanavar Temple, just after some 10 steps enroute to the Uchi Pillayar Temple, the Lalitankurar Cave is located to the left. Could be easily missed, if not carefully looked for. That is its benefit also, it is not populated and the visitors of the Uchi Pillayar miss this usually!!! 

This was built by Mahendra Varma Pallava. Lalithankura means ‘Charming Off-Spring’, which is one of the titles of Mahendra Varman. This name is inscribed here. 

As you enter the cave to the left is the famous Gangadhara Panel and to the right is the Garbha Griham (Sanctum Sanctorum). The Gangadhara Panel is celebrated by all art historians. It’s such a masterpiece. It’s a high relief panel. Centrally placed is Lord Shiva as Gangadhara. Gangadhara is the Lord Shiva who holds River Ganges when she comes to the Earth from Heaven with great force, after Bhagiratha’s penance (Remember the Great Penance Panel from Mahabalipuram?). The Earth would not take this force. So Lord Shiva accepted to hold her in his matted locks, so the speed is controlled. Here in this panel, he is ready to take her in a single strand of his hair. His left leg is on ground and his right leg is on a Bhootha Gana. There is a dog atop and I have no idea of its specifics. There are 4 attendants in the scene on either sides at the top and bottom. In the background are 2 Rishis (Saints). The incredibility of the Mahabalipuram's Great Panel is understandable – Narasimha Varman was afterall Mahendra Varman’s son!!!
Gangadhara has 4 arms and is adorned with amazing intricate jewels. His sacred thread across his torso is vastra-yagnyopavitha which means sacred thread as a fabric. He has a elaborate tall head gear which somehow reminds me of the headgear of Bodhisattva Padmapani painted in Ajanta. He wears a dhoti like lower garment in a soft delicate fabric.
The lower panel of the panel has a design similar to the Sanchi Stupa. May be Mahendra Varman went there for a visit!!! Or maybe he hired a craftsman from Sanchi!!! I dunno!!!!!
Opposite to this panel is the Sanctum Sanctorum. This must have been for Lord Shiva in the form of Shiva, though there is nothing inside now. On either sides are the Dwara Balakas.
Pallava Grantham Script Inscriptions on Pillars of Lalitankura Pallava Griham

Old Tamil Inscriptions on the wall of Lalitankura Pallava Griham

Pallava Grantham Script Inscriptions

Old Tamil Script Inscriptions

The whole structure has 4 pillars in the front and 4 pillars in the interior and 2 more pillars near the panel. There are 2 types of scripts inscribed here. One is the Pallava Grantham and the other is Old Tamizh (Tamil).
Pallava Grantham is inscribed in all of the pillars. What is this Pallava Grantham? That was the script that was developed during the 7thC CE during the Pallava Reign. It is a derivative of Brahmi (Remember the Tamil Brahmi in Arnattan Malai?). Grantham was the script with which several languages of the South Asia including the languages of Java, Sumatra, Khmer, Borneo, Thai, Laos, Combodia, Vietnam etc. Amazing isn’t it? I was overwhelmed standing there in that place. I was witnessing the history in front of my eyes. The most ancient form of my language!!!
The wall was completely inscribed with Old Tamil of the 16th & 17th C CE by Chirappalli Kings. The wall was inscribed with Sathagam (100 songs). Somehow for me it looked like a diary. The whole wall with several, several words all over.

From there I proceeded to the second cave. I enquired all along. So where did I miss it? Just after the office of the temple and just before the actual entrance of the steps that lead to the Uchi Pillayar is a road. I returned all the way and at the road I had to take a right. And after some 4 to 5 homes, a tiny lane that almost looks like a private road had to be taken to the right (This is the second last right and has a water-pump at the turn). At the end of this tiny lane is the entrance to the fantastic structure of the 2nd cave. A huge ground and the majestic cave with kids playing in the ground – it was a relaxing visual treat.

This cave has 4 pillars in the front and 4 in the interiors in front of the 2 sanctum sanctorum. In the inner wall are 5 panels. This seems more incomplete when compared to the Lalithankura Cave. This was excavated by the Pandyas in 8th C AD.

The 2 sanctum sanctorum are of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Both have Dwara Balakas at the entrance. The 5 panels are of Lord Ganesha, Lord Subramanya/Karthikeya/Muruga, Lord Brahma, Lord Surya and Goddess Durga/Kotravai. All are high reliefs and are standing figures. Somehow, the structure of Lord Ganesha appeared a bit funny for me, thanks to the short stout legs. His torso is normal but from waist below its short. I haven’t seen such a styling so far.
At the entrance is a top panel which has a line of Yaalis which has some elephants and monkeys in the midst. I had seen a horizontal frieze similar to this at Kalyana Venkatramanar Temple in Thanthonimalai.
Pandya Cave temple in Trichy

Lower Cave temple (Pandyas) in Trichy

Lower Cave temple (Pandyas) in Trichy

Ganesh & Karthikeya (Pillayar & Murugan) in Pandya Cave Temple, Trichy
After spending some time there, I contemplated visiting one more of the many Trichy temples. This is the biggest disadvantage of temple tour – the timings. It has to start real early and finish off by 12 noon or max by 1 pm, coz all the temples close in the noon for Nadai Moodudhal. It re-opens at 4 pm. It was 12 pm at this point and I wondered if I should take a chance. I did and got to visit another temple as well. Coming back soon about it!!!

Click here for the presentation by Prof.Swaminathan about these caves.

Pallava Grantham & Old Tamil Inscriptions in Lalitankura Pallava Griham Trichy Lalitankura Pallava Griham & Pandya Cave Temple in Trichy


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. hey busha...nice pics and well written..

  2. Very interesting.. Thanks for the info..A must see place

  3. The entrance to the second cave looks fantastic!

  4. Dear Busha, (I hope it is okay to call you so).

    This is Ocean Girl, formerly of Live High. I apologise for not visiting you in a while. I see that your travel has taken you to amazing places. And the caves were amazing. India is one of the roots of civilisation. Thank you for sharing and I promise I will try my best (I know I use political words) to visit you more often. I do not blog much but I still do have the need to blog. And I so do miss my blog friends.

    Take care.

  5. This is the real stuff I was looking for. Its not that others have not written about these caves, but many of them tend to be too academic. Thanks for the nice info.

  6. Well i have few more places to visit next time in trichy :)
    Well documented yet again :)

  7. Hi,

    Very informative post with lovely pictures.Tamil is acknowledged as one of the ancient languages in the world.

    You post provides so much information about history,architecture etc.which is of inestimable value from the point of knowledge.

    I have learned so much from your posts.

    There is an award for you in my blog.Please pick it up,post it in your blog and pass it on to your friends.

    Wish you all the best,

  8. pallavas are natural designers, nice to see that from a designer's point of view....


  9. thanks for taking me yet to see more of pallava and pandya caves..tho been to a few

  10. Well written, well photographed and well presented. Congrats!!
    Do drop in at

  11. @Sudhir Kumar,
    Thank you so much dear.. :)
    I'll drop by for sure.. :)

  12. @Niranjan Das,
    Thank you so much dear.. :)

    Very true.. Do come to India on a long trip!!! U'll love it for sure.. :)

    Thanks dear.. Wish I could convey your compliments to the Pandya Kings!!! :)

    Welcome. Welcome. Welcome back... Sweetheart.. Missed you so much in the blogging world!!! Come to India sweetheart. I know you'll love it.. :)

  13. @PN Subramanian,
    Thank you so much for the compliment.. :) I write from my heart just as I might decribe my trip to a friend.. :)

    Thank you so much. Visit and lemme know your experiences!! :)

    Thank you so much. This is my 10th award and so its so special to me!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH DEAR!!!!!

    Ha ha.. That's a unique compliment. Thank you so much.. :)

    Do visit. I'm sure you'll enjoy!!! :)

  14. Sounds like a very interesting place and lovely pictures.

  15. Hi Mitr,
    Sorry to start on critical note, there are few modifications you may do in this post.
    1. Both the cave temples are of the Pallavas, Pandyas were not having this part of country. The lower cave does not have foundation inscription however on architectural counts this lower cave can be associated to Narasimhavarman, successor of Mahendravarman.
    2. The rail below the Gangadhara panel looks like the rails for Buddhist stupas. You are very correct in your statement, however Mahendra needs not go to Sanchi for this as Amaravati had a marvelous white marble stupa, which has not survived though. Artists from Amaravati might have been employed by the Pallavas.
    In total, a nice and concise account, very well documented. Not like long academic accounts of other people, probably I know to whom PNS sir pointing to :), I am working on that sir :)

  16. @Mridula,
    Long time No C!!! Thanks for dropping by again!!! :)
    Thanks for the appreciation too!!! :)

    Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting too.. :)
    1. Though the Lalitankura Pallava Griham is 100% Pallavas, the lower cave has the historians and archeologists still puzzled whether it is Pallavas or Pandyas...!!! For eg., the styling of the pillars itself is not the Pallava style, not even nearly!!!! :)
    2. Thanks for the info about the White Marble Stupa which I was not aware of. :)
    Thanks for your appreciation.. :)

  17. @Swami,
    Thank you Swami. So this is your first visit here. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Do drop in often!!! :)

  18. Hai Bhusha,

    Great to see ur blog.
    And i liked it very much.

    Great work .


  19. @Kamal,
    Welcome to my travelogue.
    Thank you so much for visiting my blog and commenting.
    Do visit often.
    Am glad you liked my blog... :)

  20. pray god to shower prosperous and long life


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