Thirakoil Jain Complex, Thellar, Thiruvannamalai
Thirakoil Jain Complex is located in the hillock in Thirakoil Village in Thellar Taluk in Thiruvannamalai District of Tamilnadu. There are two ancient Digambar Jain Temples, 25 feet high rock boulder with Thirthankar Sculptures and three Jain Caves at Thirakoil Jain Temple complex.
It is believed that this place got its name from the word "thurugal" meaning rock. Later it modified to "thirakol" then became Thirakoil.
The picturesque Thirakoil hillock and the scattered boulders runs through the village from north to north-east direction. There are two ancient Digambar Jain Temples, 25 feet high rock boulder with Thirthankar Sculptures and three Jain Caves at Thirakoil Jain Temple complex. The most ancient among the two is the small square shaped ‘Adhinathar Shrine' located on top of the Thirakoil hillock and the second one is ‘Adhinathar Shrine’ at the foothills which came later.
There is an awesome bas-relief of Adhinathar measuring about 4 feet in height appear on one of the boulders located at the southern side of the foothills. It reminds the sculpture at Madurai Pechipallam. The entire Thirakoil Jain Temple complex is protected by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). A flight of narrow steps (carved on the highly sloping rock) leads to the top of the hill. The climb atop the hill is tremendous fun; and a bit taxing on your breathing rhythm. The view from the top is awesome.
There are three small caves present in the hill. One Cave is located at the mid-South, other two are located at the west and east side of the hill. These caves were used as Jain abodes during 8th Century. These caves were naturally formed in which Jain Monks lived. At these natural caves number of Jain monks formed "Jain Muni Sangh" (Union of Jain monks) and observed meditation, practiced for self-recognition and purification.
25 feet high rock boulder with Thirthankar Sculptures:
To the south of the Thirakoil hillock and near to the entrance of the Thirakoil Temple complex, there is a monolithic stone of 25 feet high in which idols of four Thirthankars (Mahavira, Parshva or Parsavanathar, Rishabha or Kilaku Rishabanathar and Chandranathar) were carved nicely at the four sides. This rock is called as Jinagiri Palli.
Adhinathar aka Rishabanathar first Thirthankar appears seated in padmasana (lotus posture) in dhyana mudra (meditation) on a lion throne. Above him are Praba-chakra (Divine Aura) and triple umbrella. On his two sides are figures of chauri (whisk) bearers. The image faces east.
Mahaveerar, 24th Thirthankar, appears seated in padmasana (lotus posture) in dhyana mudra (meditation) on a lion throne. Above him are Praba-chakra (Divine Aura) and triple umbrella. On his two sides are figures of chauri (whisk) bearers. The image faces east. There is a niche for lighting oil lamp.
Parsavanathar, 23rd Thirthankar, standing on lotus flower with five -hooded serpent canopy above his head. Around his shoulder level Kamada preparing to attack the saint with stone. The image of the Yaksha Dharanendrar kneeling down before the Lord and the image of Yakshi Padmavati keep spreading the umbrella and protecting the Lord from Kamadan's attack.
Chandranathar (Chandraprabha) appears seated in padmasana (lotus posture) in dhyana mudra (meditation) on a lion throne. Above him are Praba-chakra (Divine Aura) and triple umbrella. On his two sides are figures of chauri (whisk) bearers. The lotus pedestal bears crescent moon emblem. The image faces north and receives the pilgrims at the entrance.
ASI has enclosed this historical rock within iron grills.
Jain Temple at Hill Top:
The inscriptions indicate that this Digambara Jain temple devoted Lord Adhinathar on top of Thirakoil hillock as Mai Siddhappalli or Siddhaperumpalli. The present temple structure was constructed quite recently on the vestiges of the ancient hill temple. The shrine has sanctum, antarala, Arthamandapam, and mukhamandapam. The two pilasters standing between the Arthamandapam and mukha mandapam have the Pallava style Pothikai (cornice) on top. The previous rectangular shaped ancient brick structure would have constructed during 6th century AD.
The sanctum and shikhara got dilapidated over a period of time. The bricks used appear in unusual in size (L 26 cm x W 16 cm x H 7 cm). The vestiges of perimeter wall around the hill temple could be noted even now. The idol of Lord Adhinathar, the prime deity got broken into three pieces. Now this sculpture is displayed in the Government Egmore Museum, Chennai. They have replaced the broken idol with new one from the foothills temple.
This 3 feet tall and proportionally narrow idol, without the identification symbol of Thirthankar kept at Arthamandapam, is considered as the most ancient among the idols worshiped in this temple. The wide triple parasol or umbrella above the head and the thick band of divine halo behind him indicate the age of the idol. The stout hands and short ear lobes (not touching the shoulders) designate the idol to 7th century AD.
Jain Temple at Down Hill:
At the foothills there is Adhinathar temple with sanctum, antarala, Arthamandapam and Mahamandapam, built after 'Jinagiri Palli' i.e. around 11th century AD and the Mahamandapam around 13th century AD. The vratta sthamba (rounded pillars) are seen both in the Arthamandapam and Mahamandapam. The 13th century inscription on this pillar speaks about Idaiyaran Atkondan of Devapuram and his gift of rounded pillars to the temple.
The three feet high idol of the prime deity Adhinathar (in seated posture) with damaged nose is kept at Mahamandapam. The present idol of Lord Adhinathar, the prime deity is sculpted with white marble. The sculpture depicts him seated on the lions throne in the lotus position or kayotsarga.
Until the 10th century this place was called Thandapuram. Raja Raja Chola I's inscriptions of 1007 A. D. at Jinagiri Palli quotes these cave abodes as Sankaraippalli and Mai Sutthappalli. Bhagavan Mahavira's idol is worshipped at the temple which is recently built. This name Palli was coined by the scholars to address this temple. The word 'Palli' has a strong association with Jainism and the ascetics used to call their education centre as 'Palli'.
The Parakesarivarman Chola inscription is seen nearer to Adhinathar sculpture (on Jinagiri rock) speaks about the gift of sheeps made by Eranandhi for burning perpetual lamp in Thandapuram Jinapalli. The ancient name of this Jain temple was Thandapuram Jinapalli. The Rajaraja Chola I's inscription located near Parsavanathar sculpture (on Jinagiri rock) dated 1007 AD bears the name of this hill temple as 'Gangasoora perumpalli' located in Rajakesaripuram.
In spoken language this temple is also known as Kangaraiyan Palli. Another Parakesarivarman Chola's inscription nearer to Adhinathar sculpture informs about the gift of paddy by Kanakavirasithadikal to the temple. There is one more inscription not readable fully - (on the western side of the Jinagiri rock) brings out the gift of gold for burning perpetual lamp.
Thirakoil Jain Complex is located at about 15 Kms southwest of Vandavasi, 7 Kms from Ponnur Kundkundar Philosophical Center. Only private buses and taxis are available from Desur or Kilputhur. Bus commuters has to walk approximately one kilometer from main road to reach Thirakoil. Thirakoil Village is located at about 70 Kms away from Thiruvannamalai. Nearest Railway Station is located at Kanchipuram (60 Kms). Nearest Airport is located at Pondicherry and Chennai.