Tirumalai Jain Complex, Arani, Thiruvannamalai
Tirumalai Jain Complex is a Jain temple and cave complex dating from at least the 9th century that is located northwest of Polur in Tamilnadu. The complex includes 3 Jain caves, 3 Jain temples, and a 16 meter high sculpture of Thirthankar Neminathar thought to date from the 12th century that is the tallest Jain image in Tamilnadu. Since 7th Century AD Jains has been living this village. Anciently this place was called as Vaigavur & Srisailapuram and the hill area is Tirumalai.
Tirumalai is a small village and an important historical place for Jains. It is situated at about 4 Kms from Vadamathimangalam (a spot in Arani – Polur Road). Thirumalai Jain Complex is under the control of Archeology survey of India. A Jain Math called Arahanthgiri Jain Math was established near Tirumalai in August, 1998. The Math is headed by Bhattaraka Dhavalakeerthi.
At the foot of the Thirumalai hill, there is separate sannidhi for Mahaveera. This seems to have been built during Vijayanagara period in the 16th century. This Temple was built to the west of the Kunthavai Jinalaya. There are paintings at the back of the main deity – which probably belongs to Vijayanagara period – possibly later.
The Temple has a three tier Rajagopuram and surrounded by walls on all sides. It has a Panchaparameshti shrine near the entrance. A well called as Moondradi Kinaru, was used by the nearby people in ancient times. The story of Shri Dharmadevi indicate that she had been used the well for feeding her children on her previous life.
Next, the complex has Shri Mahaveerar Jinalaya with Garbhagriha, Arthamandapam, Mahamandapam (with steps to reach) and Mugamandapam on the floor level. The sanctum has lime mortar idol of Shri Mahaveerar about 4 feet high on the plinth. Art of fresco paintings are located on the back of the idol.
It was crowned by three stage vimana, consists of twenty four Thirthankar idols without lanchan on four directions. Apart from, a granite carving of Shri Mahaveera with eight features placed in the Arthamandapam porch. Two inscriptions of King Rajaraja Chola and King Rajendra Chola period are also found on this Temple.
Jain Caves are located little above in the Thirumalai Hills. It is the most interesting place in this Jain Complex. The caves are with unique fresco paintings. It is amazing place with breathtaking paintings. The paintings on the walls were supposed to be from Vijayanagara period. The ones on the ceiling are from Chola period.
It consists of three or four compartments. The outer side of the cave is about 6 – 7 feet high but inner side it’s about a foot. The large cavern at the base of the site is thought to have been built around the 9th century. In the 10th century it was converted into 30 separate chambers, possibly to accommodate figures of Thirthankars and a Yakshi.
The entire ceiling was painted with beautiful pattern, which when lying on the floor and looking up gives the feeling of a carpet above us. The patterns are fantastic and the colour combination depicts the artist vision. The smaller compartment also sports beautiful paintings on the ceiling.
It is interesting to note that they have taken effort to paint even where ceiling is no more than two feet high. Paintings are thought to have been added to the site between the 15th - 17th centuries. Some of these still survive. Medical-pits are ditched there for treating the people by the Jain monks.
Adjacent to the paintings, just below there are carvings of Ambika Yakshi, Gommateshwara, Parshwanath and Adhinathar all belong to Chola period. The place is pretty narrow, photographing is difficult.
There is an 18 feet tall Neminathar statue engraved on the hill located to the northern side of the Caves just below the summit. Neminathar is also called as Shikamaninathar and is facing south. It belongs to later Chola period. It is enormous, simple and plain. There is no ornamentation, unlike the one at the lower caves.
The statue looks like the image of Shri Gommateshwara at Shravanabelagola, Karnataka. It was made to commemorate the Emperor Rajaraja Chola Victory against his nemesis by his sister Kunthavai Piratiyar. The protector goddess of Shri Neminathar Thirthankar called as Shri Kooshmandini (Dharmadevi) freezes with the hill.
On the previous birth, she was abandoned by her husband with two daughters for devoutness among Jain munis. After getting demise she became a Yakshi named as Shri Kooshmandini, on her rebirth. But the previous birth husband wants to resume his married life with her. Then she explained that she acquired the state of Yakshi.
After hearing the story, he was unconscious and demised. Suddenly he got rebirth as lion and become a seat for the Yakshi. A beautiful carving of Shri Dharmadevi on the rock influences the story. It belongs to 10th Century AD art. It is located on the western side of the Thirumalai Hill.
The steps are provided with hand rails to reach the top, which was made by the donations given by Shrimathi Jayavathi ammal w/o Sathanna Chettiar, Kumbakonam and Shri Bhoobala Upathiyayar, endowment board member, was known by two inscriptions incised near the steps and adjacent to the hill-spring. There is a carving statue of Shri Neminathar in a shrine and Shri Parswanathar mini Jinalaya were present.
Kunthavai Jain Temple:
The Kunthavai Jinalaya temple is a 10th century Jain temple, said to have been commissioned by queen Kunthavai. It is one of two such sites commissioned by her, though the other site Dadapuram, has not survived. Shri Neminathar Jinalaya was built by Shri Kunthavai Nachiyar, sister of Rajaraja Chola. It was adjacent to and few feet above the Mahaveerar temple. It has few steps to reach.
The Temple complex is surrounded by walls on all sides. A Chadhur mugi vimana-model and altar are placed in the corridor. The 11th Century AD Jinalaya consists of Gharbahriha, Anthralam, Arthamandapam, Maha Mandapam and Mugamandapam porches. On top of sanctum has hexagonal basement structure, might be the residuals of demolished vimana.
The sanctum got Shri Neminathar idol on the plinth. Another idol of Shri Neminathar, stone carving, with Mukkudai is seated on the porch. Bamboo leaves etch on the back of the idol indicates the enlightenment-tree of Shri Neminathar Jinar. It might be the first installed Moolavar idol because it belongs to 11th Century AD.
Shri Brahmadevar and Shri Jwalamalini idols were also established in the Jinalaya. The front porch was built in 16th Century AD. On the southern corridor of the temple a peetam is installed on a platform, to commemorate the Moksha of Shrivatheebha simmar Muni. He attained moksha after taking fast up to demise at Tirumalai hundred years back. He also dedicated a Jain sithantham named as Kshetra Sinthamani.
Along the northern side of temple, bas-relief sculptures are on the top surfaces of the rock. Then it was closed by wall and made as shrines. There were staircases to reach Shri Kooshmandini Shrine. Kooshmandini is of 4 feet high mounted on lion and with two girls and a maid carved beautifully.
Bhagavan Bahubali relief has bunch of hair on head and crawling vein over body. Two sisters of Brahmi and Sundari carvings are on either side. Shri Adhinathar bas-relief with Mukkudai over the head and Shamara maids are on either side in the sitting posture.
Shri Parswanathar Bhagavan relief is 4 feet high carving with five-headed snake on the back in the standing posture. Kamadan, Shri Dharanendrar, and Shri Padmavathy are also in the cluster. The bas-reliefs belongs to 10th Century AD.
Hill Top Jain Temple:
Atop the hill, there is a small sannidhi for Shri Parswanathar. This Temple consists of Sanctum, shikhara and Kalasha. The Thirthankar idols are seated in four directions on the Vimana. A Stone plate carving of Shri Parshwanath, in standing posture and a five headed snake is upon the head, was established inside the Sanctum plinth.
Three Jain monks have done called ‘vadakiruthual’ on top of this hill. There are three sets of foot-prints of these monks on the peak of the Hill. On the west is for Shri Virushabasenar, on east is for Shri Samanthapadra Ganadharabahavar and on north is for Shri Varathatthachariar, engraved to commemorate the saints. The looks of the plains and Vaigai Lake from here are breathtaking.
A rare variety of Devaalari tree is present on the peak have a grand look. The hill has many ‘temple trees’ which withers sweet smelling flowers regularly, giving a serene atmosphere. There are few inscriptions near the padams, all belonging to very late period. There is one inscription by ASI itself done in the year 1932.
There was Statue of the King below the hills adjacent to the road. Villagers believe that the statue was Rajaraja, but it doesn’t look like Rajaraja. It clearly belongs later period may be Vijayanagara or Nayak. It might belong to the local chieftain.
Arahanthgiri Jain Math:
Arahanthgiri Jain Math is a Jain Math that established near Tirumalai in August, 1998. The Math is headed by Bhattaraka Dhavalakeerthi. It is an ancient Jain Math in Tamilnadu. This Jain Math is also known as Shri Kshetra Arahanthgiri Digambar Jain Mandir. Tirumalai popularly called as Arihanthagiri among the people is a Jain pilgrim centre having a history of over 2,300 years. History of Arahanthgiri Jain Math starts from the period of 322–185 BCE as the Last ‘Shrutakevali’ Bhadrabahu expected to stay at this place. He stayed at this place to practice meditation and “Swadhyaya” along with 8000 other saints.
The Village Thirumalai where this Jain Math is located is also known as Arhatsugiri or Arahanthgiri. Various schemes have been undertaken here with an intension of propagating Jainism. The most important among them is the Acharya Akalanka Vidyapeetha Gurukula. The complex is now managed by Archaeological Survey of India.
An inscription found on a buried rock in front of the gopuram at the base of the hill from the late 10th century refers to the site as Vaigai-Malai or “the mountain of Vaigai.” Two other inscriptions found on a piece of rock at the top of the hill and buried on a piece of rock underneath the steps between the gopuram and the painted cave refer to it as Vaigai-Tirumalai or “the holy mountain of Vaigai.” The name Vaigai is thus thought to be connected with Vaigavur, the historic name of the village at the base of the rock.
Daily Pooja is run by the assistance given by Arahanthgiri Jain Math. Also a special Pooja and ritual has been celebrated in the Tamil month of Thai. The nearby people of Tirumalai of all sects are attending the function every year regularly.
This place can be reached via Arani, the nearest town. This place is located on the Arani to Polur, Thiruvannamalai Road. The place is located at about 25 Kms from Chetpet, 20 Kms from Arani, 48 Kms from Thiruvannamalai and 55 Kms from Vandavasi. Nearest Railway Station is located at Arani and Nearest Airport is located at Pondicherry and Chennai.