Sunday, December 13, 2015

Melakkoil Cave Temple, Kudumiyanmalai

Melakkoil Cave Temple, Kudumiyanmalai
Excavated on the eastern slope of low rising hillock, this cave temple would have been excavated in early seventh century. Originally this cave temple was attributed to Pallavas, however now it has been seen as an early Pandya shrine. As per Scholars, Pallavas were never in this region hence it is hard to assign this to them. However though Pallavas were not directly ruling this area, but it was with Mutharayars who were vassals of the Pallavas.

The oldest part of the Kudumiyamalai temple is the rock-cut cave shrine called Melakkoil or Thirumetrali. It may be pointed that the cave temple in Sittannavasal was also originally considered to be of Pallava origin.
Temple Architecture
The original rock-cut temple, facing east, measures twelve feet by thirteen in the sanctum and an ardha mandapam twenty three feet by eight. The two pillars and the two pilasters here are different in style from all the cave pillars in Tamilnadu in their being of the Chalukya prototype.

In front of the cave, is a maha mandapa, which was built in the reign of Kulottunga Chola I (1070-1120). The mandapa in front is built during the reign of Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (1686-1730) and his minister Kurundha Pillai. Later Vijaya Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (1730-1769) built the steps to this mandapa.
The pillars of the ardha mandapa are very different from Pallava pillar style as they resemble more to Chalukyan style of Badami. Inside the main sanctum is a Shiva linga, carved out in situ from the original rock of the cave. Above the sanctum door lintel are four dwarf figures. Two figures are in opposite direction just above the sanctum door, while two figures are shown moving away are placed at the corners of the door lintel. All the four are shown in flying profile.

There is a Ganesha, Valampuri (referred if the trunk is curled to right), figure carved on the inner wall of this temple. He is shown with two hands; left hand is holding a rosary while the left hand is holding some unidentifiable object. He is wearing karanda – makuta on his head and a yajnopavita across his waist. There are two free standing images inside this cave, one is of Chandikesvara and another is of Somaskanda.

The Dvarapalakas are two – armed, and while both wear Rudraksha beads, only one wears the yajnopavita. They may be portrait sculptures.

To south of the rock-cut shrine, by the side of the celebrated musical inscription, is a large, about five – foot high figure of 'idampuri' (trunk curled to left) Ganesa cut in bas relief. Rishabha Rudha with 63 Nayanmars relief was cut in the vertical hillock.

Far above this shrine, but a little to the north of it, cut in the vertical surface of the hillock and approached by a narrow and dangerous ledge are figures of sixty three Nayanmars and of Siva and Parvathi on the bull have been carved.