Sittannavasal (Pudukottai - Tamil Nadu)

I have this partiality towards Frescoes. Frescoes are wall painting, murals done in a particular technique. Here it is Fresco Buono, not Fresco secco. A well known eg. is Da Vinci's Last Supper. Here in India, I'm kinda dying to see Ajanta Frescoes. Hard luck on that yet, but as I walked towards Sittannavasal, considered the next best to Ajanta, I could feel my heart go 'Yippeee!!!'. I could write 4 to 5 posts just about Sittannavasal, but I'm restricting myself to write just 1 post...

Sittannavasal has 3 important places to be visited. The Arivar Koil which is the face of Sittannavasal, and Ezhadipattam and Navachunai about which we'll see in the next post.

Arivar Koil is located atop the hill, its ofcourse a cave temple. Inside are 3 thirthankaras in the sanctum sanctorum and in the ardha mandapa are 2 people on either sides - a thirthankara and a aasiriyar (teacher) - all relief sculptures. Its not the sculptures that's celebrated here - the paintings, the frescoes, belonging to the 7th-9th C. A 17 line , 9th C inscription here says that the paintings were done by Ilan Gauthaman, a Jain Acharya, under the reign of Pandya King Sriraman Srivillabhan aka Avanipasekhara.

As we entered on either sides are 2 pillars with 2 dancing women on them. Today only till their torso is seen, rest are gone. On the right pillar is another important painting of a Pandya King with his wife, under whom this place was constructed. 

The cornice of the pillars and the space between them are very beautifully decorated with floral designs, swans, other patterns, lotuses at different stages of blooming etc.

In the ardha mandapam atop the 2 relief sculptures are a floral carpet design. The whole centre portion is where my heart lies! I lied down on the floor to stare at this. I could just be there for atleast half a day, but time constraints... Ok, that's where the huge scene of Samavasarana is depicted. So, what's this Samavasarana? Its an important step in the sainthood of Jainism. There are 5 steps for a Jain to undergo before becoming a monk and in that the 4th step is First Sermon for which the would-be monks (bhavya) pass through a pond filled with all animals & birds & flowers called Ghatika Bhumi. That is what is depicted here. 

It shows 3 Bhavya's collecting lotuses & lillies. There are lotuses everywhere on lotus leaves and lotus stalks fills the background completely. There are elephants, bulls, fishes, swans, that fill the whole space. In Samavasarana, the complete pond and the leaves are seen in a top angle, the flowers and animals in profile, and in every individual unit in a different size scale - You thought cubism belongs to the 19th C? Sorry, you're a millenium late (or make it two as such cubist treatment is also seen in Ajanta)!!!!!

Inside atop the 3 thirthankara, is another carpet design of intertwined ribbon design with minute line drawings inside each compartment. One was of Dharma Chakra and diagonally opp. was of a cross with 2 humans and 2 lions on its 4 sections. This kept on repeated. 
I am so so tempted, right now to explain about each and every painting in detail, but that would make this post more art history class-like. So period.....
Will come back with Navachunai & Ezhadipattam.

P.S. 1: All the images in this blogpost were shot by and copyrighted to Ashok Krishnaswamy

P.S. 2: If you like the frescoes of Sittannavasal so very much, why not have it at your home. No, am not asking you to do anything illegal... Here's a much simpler way - Ashok has come up with a 2012 calender with the reproductions of 6 paintings from Sittannavasal. Here's the thumbnail and contact detail in the pic itself, if you wanna purchase the same...

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

Sittannavasal & Ezhadipattam are located about 16km from Pudukkottai in the Kulithalai - Manapparai Road towards Annavasal.

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


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. 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. i wish somehow we found a way to get back all the lost paintings....

    some of mine on the great art

  2. Wow. Interesting place and beautiful paintings.
    Good work Bhusha.

  3. I love frescoes too!And such breathtakingly beautiful pictures! I'm speechless!

  4. Oh! that was great. I am amazed! Thank you.

    1. Its mindblowing to see it in real. You have to visit Subramanian Sir...


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