Places to see in Central Tamil Nadu, India - Part III

Partial version article was published in the IN magazine, Thailand. Complete article can be read in this blog.
 
PUDUKOTTAI - 2nd C BCE to 19th C CE

WHERE IS PUDUKOTTAI?
Pudukkottai is a small land locked town, located almost at the centre of Tamil Nadu State in India. Not a very touristy place and it has no beaches or waterfalls or theme parks or any other regular attractions, but for the one who loves to explore the unexplored, and for the one who takes the road less travelled, untrodden path Pudukkottai has too much to offer!!!

Megalithic burials in Pudukottai
 
Let’s begin with as old as we could get – Neolithic era i.e., the New Stone Age era, several thousands of years ago! It was the ‘Sangam age’ (3rd C BC – 1st C AD) here and the deceased were placed in huge terracotta urns and were buried. There are a several such megalithic burial sites all over the town, and a few thousands of such urns seen everywhere. These spots are generally seen as huge circle of laterite blocks, with granite slabs in the centre. These granite slabs, are kept in a form of a square of about 3 feet per side, with a partition at the centre, forming 2 rectangles for the deceased and their possessions.
 
Stone Jain Beds in Pudukottai

Jain Sculptures Pudukottai
 
Moving forward in history by a few centuries to 2nd C BC, we reach a period when Jainism flourished and one such spot is Ezhadipattam. Its located close to Sittannavasal. It is a Jain Cavern with 17 Jain Beds. Jain Beds are extremely smooth granite rectangles with a pillow like slightly heightened section on one side. I couldn’t believe how such a smooth surface was achieved in 2nd C BC without any modern machinery and tools! Ancient Tamil Inscriptions are around these beds. Around one of these beds is the inscription that says 'Erumi Naatu Kumuzhuur Pirantha Kavuti Eethendru Sithuppovil Ilaiyaar Seitha Adhittanam'. This informs that the beds were carved by Ilayaar of Thenku Sithuppovil.
Jainism so flourished in this part of the country that even later on, for quite a few centuries. Stand alone Jain sculptures of various degrees of erosion can be seen scattered in several places. Though not prayed to as a Jain Thirthankara, these sculptures are almost like village deities here!

In the next couple of centuries, temples started appearing all over the place of both Hinduism & Jainism. The earliest form of temples were rock cut cave temples. There are quite a few, such cave temples here, incl. Thirumayam, Kudumiyanmalai, Brahadambal temple etc. These were excavated during 7th – 9th C. Amazingly beautiful relief sculptures in huge panels can be very much seen here! Think of it, huge hillocks of granite, dug up to create a room like space and sculpted with intricate relief sculptures, without machinery or electricity, with pure human artistry and strength, withholding all nature’s fury, more than a thousand years ago! Later on till 19th C, the rulers of various kingdoms kept on expanding these temples!

Another speciality of Kudumiyanmalai is Musical inscriptions. There are just 3 ancient musical inscriptions and guess what, all three are in Pudukottai and one of it is in Kudumiyanmalai.
 
Sittannavasal Paintings
 
In the same era, in Sittannavasal a Jain cave temple called Arivar Koil was also excavated, atop the hill. This too has relief sculptures of Thirthankaras inside. But then it’s not the sculptures that's celebrated here, it’s the paintings, the frescoes, belonging to the 7th-9th C. These frescoes are all over, the pillars, their cornice, the ceiling, walls, everywhere!!!
Just beyond this era earliest form of very small constructed temples came into being and the best example is Narttamalai located close to a huge lake. Being there early in the morning and enjoying the sunrise is one of the best experiences!!! A walk atop the rocky hill and the descent on the other side, takes you to the compact, cute little temple of Vijayalaya Choleeswaram.

Around Narttamalai is a nature’s haven!!! This is where one of the biggest Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests is located! Another nature’s haven located very close to Pudukkottai is Viralimalai where there’s a Peacock Sanctuary, where peacocks walk by on road like hens & crows in other villages!!!
 
Vijalaya Choleeswaram

Viralimalai
 
Close to Narttamalai is Kadambar malai where temples of 11th to 13th C are situated. Close to it is Alurutti Malai where again, 2nd C BC Jain Beds are located. But more than the Jain Beds, all the more important here is the relief sculpture of Thirthankaras sculpted at a very high altitude. Its indeed mind blowing to even think of how any sculptor with such an artistic capability, climb such a height, without fear and sculpt there!!! First of all, how was the scaffolding done in that sloppy, rocky terrain without much machinery in 7th – 8th C???
Madathu Koil is another very important temple. It was re-built by Nayaks in 16th – 18th C. The most astonishing factor here is the awesome, intricate, very detailed, very extensive sculptural marvel. In all these temples, inscriptions are found that gives us info upon who built this temples and when and for what? 

Well, this is just a brief account to introduce Pudukkottai. There is a lot more history & nature associated with Pudukkottai and many more places to see, with standing examples from 2nd C BC to 19th C AD standing side by side with sanctuaries & forests too!!! When you take the untrodden path, you never know what you’ll stumble upon and what will surprise you!!! 

PLACES TO SEE IN CENTRAL TAMIL NADU
Part 2 - Madurai & Dindigul 
Part 3 - Pudukottai 
Part 4 - Karur & Namakkal (coming soon)

Bhushavali

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

7 comments:

  1. Did u visit Chettinad areas/?

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  2. This is certainly fascinating - especially the megalithic burial sites. It's always amazing to imagine for how long these landmarks have been there - and will be after we are gone.
    I appreciate it that you are introducing a spot that's not that touristy and popular.

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  3. Pudukkottai might not be a touristic attraction but it offers interesting sites like those sculptures, and other carvings. It is amazing how they still preserve these many wonders away from modernization. You are so lucky to be able to visit these places :)

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  4. I've to admit that I had no idea about Pudukkotai before! Can't believe that its sites are 1000 years old! How far is Pudukkotai from Chennai & what is the best mode to travel? Is a day trip possible from Chennai? If not, are there accomodations available near Pudukkotai?

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  5. Its amazing how many historical sites can be found in India. I have only been to Tamil Nadu once but never explored it at leisure. Its interesting to know about the megalithic burials in Pudukottai (again, a town I have never heard of!). It definitely sounds like an off beat but an intriguing place to explore.

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