Kalugumalai Jain Complex, Kalugumalai, Thoothukudi – Inscriptions
The Jain caves of this place are facing northeast, north and west. It seems to have flourished as a centre of worship for Jains as well as an educational institution for monks and their disciples. The epigraphs mention the name of the donors, of the figures, of the provisions made for the offerings, etc. The main deity of the hill was called Araimalai Alwar. The other figures were caused to be made by the followers of Jain faith from a number of villages nearby. The sculptures were caused to be made in memory of the departed souls. There are approximately one hundred and fifty relief sculptures.
Among the donors were the carpenters, potters, smiths, cultivators and other workers. A number of others were high ranking persons bearing the titles of Enadi, Etti and Kavidi. Provisions are also recorded for expounding Jain Siddhanta a Gunasagara bhattara a great Jain ascetic lived here. The sculptures and the epigraphs are to be assigned to the reign of Pandya, Parantaka Nedunjadaiya (A.D768-800). From different epigraphy’s it is found that they belong to different era and the place became extinct after 13th century due to loss of patronage after Pandya kings.
Kazhugumalai is also famous for its surfeit of Vatteluthu inscriptions. There are inscriptions below many bas-reliefs – they are called label inscriptions. This is evidenced by the depictions of hundreds of images of the Tirthankaras with ‘Vatteluthu' records below the figures.
There are 102 epigraphs inscribed on the rock of the monastery here. Of them, only one is engraved on a single stone. They belong to different centuries. Three epigraphs bear the regal years of the early Pandya ruler Maranjadayan and other records mention the events only. Two records were issued during the third year of the king and the remaining one was engraved in his 42nd year. Paleographically, they belong to the 9th-10th century A.D.
There were three kings - Varaguna I alias Parantaka Nedunjadayan (A.D.765-815), Varaguna II (A.D.912-985) and Parantaka Viranarayana (A.D.866-911) - who had assumed the title Maranjadayan. It is not certain as to which king that this inscription is to be attributed. Of these records, two are assigned to the third regal year of the king, found on the rock east of the Ayyanar temple. Paleographically, these inscriptions may be assigned to the third year of Parantaka Viranarayana (A.D.869). It is evidenced by the occurrence of ‘Viranarayana Eri' in one of these records. They also refer to Kuluvanai Nallur established by Gunasakarappadarar.
Some scholars attribute the remaining record, engraved in the 42nd year of Maranjadayan, to Parantaka Viranarayana (A.D.908). But it is not acceptable, for, this record paleographically seems to be earlier than the two records mentioned above. Further, the area in which this record is engraved seems to be the earliest of the cave structures bearing epigraphical records and sculptures of the same period. Hence, the record may be, as rightly said by T. V. Sadasivapandarathar, attributed to the 42nd year (A.D.807) of Parantaka Nedunjadayan alias Varaguna I.
As early Pandya records, starting from the 9th century, are found in the Kazhugumalai Jain ‘palli' (monastery) one cannot ascertain that this centre was instituted only during the 9th century. There are a few ‘Vatteluthu' records assignable to the later part of the 8th century. Hence the origin of this Jain ‘palli' may be taken back to the last quarter of that century. The process of engraving the inscriptions in ‘Vatteluthu' characters was in vogue between the 7th and 11th centuries in the Pandya country.
From the days of Rajaraja I, the Chola monarch, to the 12th century, both ‘Vatteluthu' and Tamil scripts were used to inscribe on temple walls in the Pandya region. This probably is the transition period indicating the shifting of the mode of writing to Tamil script from ‘Vatteluthu.'
From the above observations, one cannot ascertain that all the epigraphical records of Kazhugumalai Jain ‘palli' belong to either 8th-9th centuries or 10th-11th centuries. The earliest of the Kazhugumalai records belong to the later part of the 8th century. Some of them belong to the 11th century and all others, probably a major part, belong to 9th-10th centuries. It reveals that this Jain ‘palli' flourished for a long span of 350 years.
After the 13th century, it seems to have become extinct in the absence of patronage from Pandya rulers. The Chola rulers also supported the Jains here for a long period till its extinction. However, during the rule of the succeeding Vijayanagar-Nayak kings, stray references are traceable as to the existence of this sect in this area.