Saturday, May 20, 2017

Malaiyadikurichi Rock Cut Cave Temple, Thirunelveli

Malaiyadikurichi Rock Cut Cave Temple, Thirunelveli
Malaiyadikurichi Rock Cut Cave Temple is dedicated to Hindu God Shiva, located towards northern side at the outskirts of the Malaiyadikurichi village on a rock slope of the hillock. It is called as Mahadeva Swamy Cave Temple. Presiding Deity is called as Mahadeva Swamy and Mother is called as Marakathavalli Amman appears in a separate sanctum. It belongs to early Pandya period.

Cave Temple
The Malaiyadikurichi rock-cut cave temple consists of a rock-cut sanctum, a mukhamandapam or the rectangular pavilion (hall) resting on pillars, facade of the cave, and the structural Mahamandapam (an open pavilion (hall) resting on pillars) all arranged consecutively facing east. The cave temple is surrounded by the perimeter wall. The entrance to the Mahamandapam is seen both on the east and the south. Two Nandhis images facing the sanctum are located before the eastern entrance. Also there is another Nandhi image facing the sanctum of the consort is located at the southern entrance.

The pillared Mahamandapam or entrance pavilion (hall), 5.70 meters in the east - west and 5.17 meters in the south - north directions, was an addition made in the frontage to the rock-cut cave temple during the Nayaka Rule. The conspicuous components of the Mahamandapam basement are upanam, kantha with padha, and pattika or peruvajana. The walls sectioned by brahmakanta (square) pilasters and above the pilasters there are vettu potikas holding the prastara components such as uttira (beam), vajanam, valabhi and kapotha with kudus. 

The flight of two steps leads to the Mahamandapam was an addition made in the frontage built during the Pandya Rule. The pilasters (door frames) at the eastern and southern entrances bear small nagabandhas, lotus medallion and torana. The roof of the Mahamandapam is supported by pillars segmented as three squares with kattu in the middle. Above the pillars, vettu potikas extend its limbs to support prastara components - uttiram, vajana and valabhi. 

Marakathavalli Amman Sanctum:
South facing sanctum has Upa-peetam, wall without pada, uttiram, vajanam, valabhi and kapotham. The front wall of this sanctum shows inscriptions in fragments. Also there are inscriptions on the faces of pillars and there are few inscriptions on the northern wall. Few inscription stones were re-fixed on the wall in an inverted direction during renovation. Goddess Marakathavalli appears wearing jatamakuta and the right hand holding the flower and the left hand rested on the lap.

Facade:
Two pillars and two pilasters supports facade. Comparing the upper brahmakanta (square) the lower brahmakanta (square) and kattu are larger. Except western face of the square pillar, all the faces are decorated with circular medallions with variety of flower patterns - lotus whorls or kodikarukku (leaf pattern). One of the circular medallions is decorated with lotus flower whorls and an image at the center appears in lalithasanam posture with palm leaf coil ear ornament, haram with pendant, short robe around waist and the breast band. The image appears seated and resting its right hand on a pillow. Two chauri bearers also appear. The medallions in the eastern upper faces of the pilaster are also decked with lotus flower whorls.

The upper northern face of the pilaster at southern wall possess makara medallion surrounded by kodikarukku (foliate leaf pattern) motif. Similarly the pilaster at northern wall is decorated with medallion with swan (Annam) motif at the center. The Taranga potikas with unique coiled edges and broad median patta rest on pillars and pilasters. The coiled pattern taranga potikas appear unique and different from Tirumalapuram taranga potikas. The potikas support the prastara elements, like uttiram vajana and valabhi, running adjoining roof. The kapota extends out and joins with Mahamandapam roof.

Mukhamandapam:
The facade extends to the rectangular mukha mandapa which measures 5.32 meters in north-south and 1.91 meters in east-west directions. The unifloor (evenly paved) forms part of the facade as well as mukhamandapam. The lateral walls and roof are forming part of mother rock and they appear plain and simple. The northern part of the wall bears the inscription of the Pandya king Sri Vallabha. The sanctums are excavated from the mid-western wall and appear as the projection.

Two shallow niches (enclosed by two square pilasters) are carved on the western wall one on each side to the sanctum. The northern niche shows the traces bas relief image as a silhouette. Looks like a four armed human mounted on elephant and the umbrella and chauris are visible. The southern niche also shows the traces of bas relief image as a silhouette. Appears like a divine form and the bird seated on a stem of twiner is visible.

Sanctum:
The 41 cm high plinth (padabhanda adishtanam) with components of jagadi, vritta (rounded) kumuda, kantha flanked kampa without pada and pattika. The padas bear vedikas, vedikantha and kampa. The front wall of the sanctum bears two shallow koshtas on either side. The two koshtas bear the traces of scrapped bas relief images. Both the bas relief images could be the Dwarapalakas. The flight of steps leading to the sanctum also appears to have damaged. Hence new steps added at later date.

The rectangular sanctum cell (measurement: 1.71 meters height x 1.47 meters width x 1.63 meters length) holds a monolithic Shivalingam with square Avudayar. The sanctum is simple and plain and devoid of any ornamentation. The rectangular Avudayar measures about 0.74 meters in width and 0.41 meters in length and Vesara (cylindrical) bana measures 0.29 meters in height and the plinth of the Avudayar is composed with the elements like upana, athopadmavari (string of inverted lotus), kantha with kampa, urdhva padmavari (string of lotus), pattika with kampa. The gomukha is seen on the northern side of the Avudayar with a spout like formation.

Makara Torana: 
The ornate Makara Torana (Capricorn Arch or festoon) carved out of a single stone with four opposed fierce makara-heads (crocodile heads) adorns above the entrance of the sanctum. It reminds us the Pallava style Makara torana at the Satrumallesvara rock-cut cave temple at Dalavanur and Draupadi Ratha at Mamallapuram. Two opposing Capricorn heads, (facing north and south) are carved at the center of the door lintel and they appear spitting warriors (in miniature size) holding swords and shields. A male image seated on lotus flower flanked by two chauris is shown within the floral ring located at the center between two makara heads. The parallel pair of opposing makara heads are placed one each in the southern and northern corners of the festoon. The intricately coiled feathers appear spread across the entire door lintel.

Inscriptions:
The rock-cut cave is rich in inscriptions dating from the 7th century A.D. to 10th century A.D. A Tamil (script) inscription is carved on the eastern face of the potika of the northern pillar.  It stands as the unique record about the excavation of the cave temple by Sathan Eran of Sevur for Pandya King Ko Maran Sendan during the king's seventeenth regnal year i.e, 637 A.D. It helps us to ascertain the exact date of the cave temple. 

Two inscriptions are found on the northern wall.  The royal order was issued to Devakanmi and Sri Maheswara kankani serving in the 'Pinakkarukkum Mahadeva' temple vide inscription dated in the 3rd regnal year of the Pandya king Sri Vallabha. The inscription mentions Malaiyadikurichi as the Thenpitakai of the Sri Parantaka Chaturvedimangalam of Arinattu Brahmadesam. The royal order also mentions about the land tax exemptions to the piece of lands already gifted for the daily puja rituals of Mahadeva temple by the Sri Vallabha and his father. 

Another inscription dated in the 11th regnal year on the 143rd day registers the gift of Ammaikkulam. The inscription on the faces of the pillars in the Mahamandapam mentions the names such as Konamalai Iramanarayana Pillai, Patpanatha Pillai and Palaimutram Chittan. Another royal order was issued to Devakanmis and Shiva-Brahmins of this temple vide inscription dated in the 12th regnal year of the Pandya King Maravarman Sundarapandyan II (1238-1251). One more inscription registers the tax exemption to the village called Samanthanallur gifted already by one Chokkanar Samanthan for daily puja rituals.

It is learned from fragments of inscriptions about the land measuring stick called 'Virapandiyan kol (stick), Pannirendadi kol (12 feet measuring stick) as well as few names of the Pandya irrigation canals and tanks and the names of the officials of the Pandya kingdom. The inscription records the date as 17th regnal year (637 A.D.) and the name of the Pandya king Ko Maran Sendhan who was instrumental for the excavation of this cave temple. Hence the same date could be assignable to this rock-cut cave.
Connectivity
Malaiyadikurichi is a small village located near Dharugapuram in the Taluk of Sivagiri in Thirunelveli district of Tamilnadu. From Sankarankovil Malaiyadikurichi can be reached by traveling on the Sankarankovil - Puliangudi road and take diversion at 13.4 km and proceed to Dharugapuram via Thalaivankottai.  Malaiyadikurichi is located about 17 Kms from Sankarankovil, 9 Kms from Puliyankudi; 11 Kms from Sivagiri and 30 Kms from Rajapalayam. It is located 75 Kms towards North from District headquarters Thirunelveli. Sivakasi Railway Station is major railway station located at about 53 Kms from this Village. Nearest Airport is located at Tuticorin, Madurai and Thiruvananthapuram.

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