Vallam Caves - Theevanur (Kanchipuram, Villuppuram - Tamil Nadu)

Recently the climate in Chennai became a bit pleasant, unlike the usual boiling temparatures. That triggered a bunch of friends and I to go on a 'Mahendra Trail!!!'. So what's this Mahendra Trail??? Well, the first king of Pallava Kingdom was Mahendra Varma Pallava. And the concept of building stone temples started with him. In fact he was the one was started constructing Mahabalipuram (My posts on Mahabs - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).
Our first stop was at Vallam. Vallam was one of the first ever cave temple of Mahendra Verma. Its high above on a little hillock and on the hillock, its in 3 different caves at 3 different altitudes. The first and lowest one being of Lord Vishnu's, the middle one of Lord Shiva and the topmost one of Lord Shiva again. 
The lowest one is first one we saw as soon as we climbed up the hillock. It has Lord Vishnu inside with 2 consorts and on the outside are 2 Dwarapalas on either side and Durga! On top was the ancient Tamil inscriptions. The 2 Dwarapalas, Jyeshta and inscriptions are of Mahendra's period and the Vishnu inside is of a later era. These are some of the earliest forms of Dwarapalas that we have till date. Unlike the later era, these 2 here are so elegant, peaceful, very simple with basic jewels, not gory with 4 hands and tusker teeth!!!
The middle section has a Shiva Lingam at the sanctum sanctorum and has no pillars. The specialty here in this section is the shallow relief of Lord Vinayaka seated on a lotus, at the left wall.
The topmost section is a more elaborate one. The previous 2 are single room temples. This one has 3 sections and several inscriptions both in ancient Tamil and Grantha scripts on 2 pillars. Several stand alone scupltures of later era has been placed inside these sections, of which a Vishnu Durga is considered special. There are a few Mahendra Era's relief sculptures as well. 
The first one to be spotted outside the 3 sections is of a seated Jyeshta. 
On the other end of the 3 section is a very very elegant, beautiful relief of a seated Ganesha. Very stylishly seated with a small tummy, unlike later eras!!! However this Vinayaka alone is believed to have been sculpted later than the Jyesta & Dwarapalakas! 
Again here the Dwarapalas are elegant and poignant, and not gory with just 2 hands and closed mouth with no teeth peeping out! 
The sad part is that though its maintained somewhat and is in regular use, its not maintained well enough to protect one of the earliest ever cave temples!!! Btw, on a different note, this is how the temples look in 2012. Exactly 5 yrs ago, in 2007, any idea how the caves look like? Check that out at Megarajan's travelogue...
From there, our next stop was Theevanur. There is a temple here at Theevanur called Poyyamozhi aka Nerkuthi Vinayakar Temple. Its said to be a Swayambu Vinayaka temple with a Ganesha that looks like Siva Lingam, but the present construction is a very modern one, so I'm skipping that part.

So, what's the specialty here? Its right behind the temple. A banyan tree - or should I say 3??? Well, its one that's split as 3 right at the base and has grown huge and there are no aerial roots!!! Its called 'Kal-Alamaram' and the 3 parts of the tree depicts Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, who came here together to pray Lord Ganesha. The tree was strong but flexible and that's me trying if I could climb a branch....
The Mahendra Trail will continue.... Coming back soon with more.....

To Chengalpattu / Chengalpet: 
From Chennai: 58km via Guindy, Tambaram, Guduvanchery, Maraimalai Nagar
From Tindivanam: 65km via Melmaruvathur, Maduranthakam
Chengalpet to Vallam: approx 4.5 km from the junction at Chengalpet on NH32, that turns towards Mahabalipuram (SH 58). The road is presently bad due to some road, rail laying process. A right turn at 4.5 km leads to the caves. Just opp. to the caves are the Vallam Govt. School, a Public Overhead Water Tank and a huge waterbody. If you reach Chengalpet - Thirupporur Junction, you've overshot by 1 km.
On Google maps:
Contact no. of temple priest: Mr.Chellappa: +91 94431 72894

From Tindivanam: 10-15km enroute Gingee
A board that says Theevanur is present as you enter the boundary of the village on the highway NH 66. A small ganesha temple on the right can be easily spotted. A dirt track just beside it, leads to the main temple. Behind the temple is the tree.
Contact no. of the temple priest: +91 94427 80813

Dedicated to Prof. Sivaramakrishnan, Gopu, Siva, Siddharth


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. I envy your ability to find such unexplored places. Awesome post Bhusha. Looking forward to more.

    1. Oh my!!! Don't envy!!! :) Thank you so much Niranjan!!!
      Its all your appreciations that keep me going!!! :)

  2. wow all spiffed up since our friends visited last winter. That front is all new, don't know why they painted the Sula behind the dvarapalaka's head, oh well. . .

    1. Ha! Wish I knew!!! And wish I knew why they painted every inch in blue except the inscriptions part, in the name of renovation! Sad!!!

  3. nice post! looks like you all had fun at the tree!!!! have heard of these places, but havent been able to visit till now

    1. Thank you so much Anuradha!
      Yes, we had a lot of fun at the tree, trying to climb, n all!!!
      You must visit Vallam for sure..

  4. Nice account. It is so close to Chennai and had been evading me.

    1. Thank you PNS Sir... You must visit the place soon!!!
      Looking forward for your account on this place...

  5. Thanks for sahring my area pic, Am from chengalpet only but i dont know much details abt this but after seeing your photos i got shocked and suprised.... :) i ha ve been on the way but didnt get inside to see :(

    1. Glad to know its your area!!!
      Do get inside next time, when you're on that way!!!


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