Narttamalai Part I (Pudukottai - Tamil Nadu)

So, here continues my travelogue on Pudukottai. Proceeding with Narttamalai. This place has had several names before it got its present name. It was called Malai Kadambur, later on Telungu Kulakaala puram, then Kulothunga Cholapuram, then on Nagarathar Malai and finally Narttamalai. Our first spot in Narttamalai was Melamalai where Vijayalaya Choleeswaram is located. This one is a temple located atop a small rocky hillock. Before going there, here's what we saw at the base of the hillock.

Amazing isn't it? It was indeed a paradise!!! That too, early in the morning, before the sun rose, at 6 o' clock - absolutely heavenly!!! This enormous waterbody is called Animadha Eri. This was dug up during the 7th - 8th C. Old right! Yeah! That's what I love about India History!!! And yeah, we have an inscription that supports this fact. It says that Mallan Vidumban Muttraraiyan who was also called Thennalan Thamizhakaraiyan, dug up this one for a carpenter named Cholaa Naraiyan.

From this point, the view of Vijayalaya Choleeswaram was just way too amazing. I was speechless! This is why we reached there at 6 am, to see the sun rays fall on Vijayalaya Choleeswaram, from this vantage point. Then we started climbing the rocky terrain.

What we see here from atop the hill is one of the largest Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests! And from here is the perfect view of 5 other hills - Alurutti Malai, Kottai Malai, Kadambar Malai, Uvachan Malai, Man Malai.

One more important thing to be noted before reached the temple, is yet another temple, but easy to miss. Find the temple in this pic........ Found??? I'll wait. Take your time... Not yet. Ok. See the waterbody? That's the temple. Errr... I mean, the temple is inside that waterbody.

Its an eternal spring and beneath it at 30 ft depth is a cave temple. This spring is called Talai-Aruvi-Singam Sunai. And in the temple is a single shrine of Jvara-Hareshwara. There was an inscription beside it too!

Ofcourse, as I climbed up the hill, Vijayalaya Choleeswaram temple vanished from our eyesight. Its a blessing in disguise though. As I reached it, from behind the hill, I saw just the stupa, then the shikara as well, then little by little the whole temple. A viewer's delight!!!

Vijayalaya Choleeswaram is a west facing temple. Inside the sanctum sanctorum is a Shiva Lingam. Earlier it must have been a square Aavudaiyar (base of the lingam) in a Circular Sanctum Sanctorum. But now the Avudaiyar is circular and around the circular wall is another square wall! Renovation coupled with Innovation!

In the Ardha Mandapam were some paintings, most probably of Nayak Period, but mostly gone!

On either side of the main shrines are the Dwarapala (Door Keepers), with fabulous outfit & ornaments. A bejeweled sacred thread with bells across their chest, a lion faced armlet - I loved it! Er.. sorry, the designer in me pops out like this!

Opp. to this main shrine is the Nandi Shrine and 8 more shrines, 1 in each direction, at various stages of ruining!

To the north, is the Samanar Kudagu of 7th C. There is nothing in the sanctum sanctorum but has evidences of a Shiva Lingam which was once present which must have been destroyed during the Religious unrest in middle era (12th C).

There are some controversies about this place. This must have been a Jain temple with relief sculptures of Thirthankaras. But then, they also must have been scraped off and 12 identical Vishnu reliefs must have been done on the wall behind. The unusual depth of the base intensifies the doubt! These sculptures were painted too but now just traces of paints are seen. Some loose sculptures from this area were brought here like Saptha Madha, Dwarapala etc.

The basement of this shrine has this exquisite Yaali series along with some elephants & Purusha Mirugam. A series of 3 elephants with their natural movement on the east & west walls and a head-on elephant in the south wall need special mention. Just below this rail are some inscriptions.

Next to this is the Pazhiyili Ishwaram Cave Temple.This has only Sanctum Sanctorum with a Lingam in it. This was built by Saathan Pazhiyili. 

From this place, the hill could be still climbed to have a look at Vijayalaya Choleeswaram from atop and also the Evergreen Forest. At this I remembered a joke I read in some magazine, 'Wow, its my desktop wallpapers everywhere!!!'. Coming back soon with Narttamalai Part II with Kadambar Malai...

To Reach Pudukkottai:
From Chennai: 400 km via Villupuram, Trichy
Trains to Rameshwaram go via Pudukottai. 
Trains / Buses can be taken to Trichy and regular buses are available from Trichy.
From Trichy: 50 km. Regular buses are available.
From Madurai: 115 km via Tirupatthur
From Coimbatore: 300 km via Dharapuram, Dindigul

Narttamalai is 10km from Pudukottai via Oorapatti.

Dedicated to Prof. Swaminathan, Prof. Muthazhagan, Prof. Jambunathan, and the whole group...


An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.


  1. Wow ,what a place . thanks for sharing this place and bring to our notice, added to our places to visit list .

    1. Wait for some more time... I'm coming up with the whole bunch of places in Pudukottai and this Pudukottai series is gonna run for atleast 10 posts!!! When you go there, you'll be occupied for a week, easily!!! :) :) :)

  2. Amazing. Thanks for sharing.
    Do you know of any temples that have mathematical inscriptions/structures in them?

    1. Jantar Mantar is there obviously. I'll enquire n I'll let you know more ancient Maths stuff!!! :)

  3. There was a wonderful Bairavar and Vishnu Durgai paintings there before - i was showing them to a scholar and these icons are so classic chola signature ones - the colors even in the one you have captured at so forceful for the nayak period

    1. We did see the Bhairavar. But Vishnu Durgai was not there anymore... Yeah, right, these are very Chola styled. But Prof. Muthazhagan did point out some images in other walls which are different in styling and outline, from the rest, which might be Nayak...

  4. Beautiful place. Nice find, Bhusha.

  5. It's like doing the trip all over again ... without having to fight for a seat in the bus:):)

  6. Beautiful locale. The description is cute! I also believe that the Tirthankaras got replaced. Must have been a Jain centre. One more addition to my "yet to visit" places in Tamilnadu.

    1. Thanks Subramanian Sir. Thanks for your appreciation. Do visit. You have to put up a stay in Pudukottai on your next visit to Tamil Nadu.

  7. I missed the beautiful paint inside. Darn!

    1. Oh... Bad that you missed... :( Next time when you venture, do take prior permission from ASI, so you can see the paintings inside, directly...


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