Saturday, December 12, 2015

Shiva Cave Temple, Malayadipatti

Shiva Cave Temple, Malayadipatti
Shiva temple is located a little higher than Vishnu temple, closer to the eastern end of hillock. Malayadippatti Shiva temple is called Alathurthali. According to inscription this temple was excavated in 804 AD.

The Siva temple is adjoining to the Vishnu shrine, in the eastern side. It is considered to be older than the Vishnu temple. It is ascribed to the 8th century on the basis of Epigraphical and architectural evidences. An inscription dated in the 16th year of the Pallava King Dantivarman (775 – 826 AD) mentions that Videlvidugu Muttaraiyar also called Kuvavan Sattan cut this temple out of the Tiruvalathur malai and installed a lingam.

In the 11th century Veera Rajendra Chozha inscription, the deity is called as Vagisvara. There are a number of inscriptions here, which mention about grants and donations by various chiefs.

Built in 8th century by Pallavas, the Shiva temple is older than the Vishnu temple. Constructed by Kuvavan Sathan, the Shiva temple is named as Vakeeswarar, according to epigraphic notes. This temple, popularly known as Alathurthali is situated towards the eastern side of the granite hill.
Temple Architecture
There are remains of a ruined compound wall for this temple complex. The temple complex includes a structural sub shrine of the Goddess Vadivulla Mangai, facing south and another structure, on the North West corner, which might had been the kitchen.

The front mandapam, as one enters the main temple, has slender pillars in characteristic 15th century Vijayanagara style. There are a few Chozha inscriptions on the outer side of the northern wall. Inside the mandapam, on the western wall, near to the cave facade is one Adithya Chozha I (about 871-907 AD) inscription. Perhaps, the original 9th-10th century Chozha construction was renovated during the Vijayanagara period (15th century AD).

There are a few loose idols, which have been kept very recently and are under worship by local people. There is an arch in front of these sculptures, which is also a recent one.

Rock Cut Shrine
Beyond this mandapam, to the right is the rock-cut shrine of Siva. It measures 22.5 feet long, 15.5 feet wide and 8 feet high and in typical Pallava style. There are two massive short pillars and two pilasters of same type on the northern facade of the cave. The upper and lower parts of the pillars are cubical, while the middle is octagonal.

The front part of the cave is a narrow hall running east to west. The rear part has the garbhagriham with an ardhamandapam in front.

The west facing garbhagriham is in the form of a cubical cell measuring 7 feet long, 7 feet wide and 7 feet high and its floor reached from the ardhamandapam by a short flight of steps. Unlike in the Thirumayam Siva cave temple, the lingam inside the garbhagriham is not carved out of the living rock.

The Dvarapalakas are two armed. The one on the south side bears a bull’s horn, on his head. It seems to be portrait sculpture, probably of the chief who built this temple.

The ardhamandapam measures 12.5 feet long and 13.5 feet wide and has a nandi placed on a pedestal. The nandi is carved out of the living rock.

On the walls of the ardhamandapam are some interesting panels with figures in bas relief. On the southern wall is the Saptamatrika frieze with Ganesa and Veerabhadra at each end.

The Saptamatrika sculpture here will interest iconographers and those interested in it from religious and tantric aspects, because it is at least 1200 years old.

On the western wall are much defaced figures, probably of Gangadhara, Vishnu, eight armed Durga in standing pose and Mahishasuramardhini.

The Mahishasuramardhini panel is of particular interest. The goddess here, as at Mahabalipuram, is represented with a benign countenance, eight armed, astride on her lion, and aiming a spear at the Asura.  This is, unfortunately, much disfigured. There is another bas relief figure of Chandikesvara on the north east corner, facing south.

This cave has been referred as Vagisvara cave in the inscriptions. In a Chola inscription of Rajakesarivarman the lord of this shrine has been called Tiru Alathur Malaiutaiyar Vayicuramutaiya Nayanar, the Lord of Vagisvara of the Tiruvalathur hill. The same record registers the donation of paddy for the temple.

There is an interesting inscription which talks about a story of the donor. The inscription states that the donor was away with his paramour. On returning to his home he found his wife with a brahmana. It is not stated whether they committed adultery but the husband in a hurry killed both the wife and the brahmana. The husband lost his eye sights after this incident. He visited the Lord Vagisvara and regained his lost eye sight.

To mark his thankfulness, he donated all his property to the lord. He also added that if anyone does any harm to this endowment shall be an offender and the sin committed by him will equal to killing a fine cow on the banks of Ganga.

This north facing cave is carved on the eastern end of the rock and known as Alathurthali cave temple. There is a modern mandapa constructed in front of the cave, which entrance is from west side. Original cave has been extended with a pillared mandapa and two separate shrines in later times, most probably during Vijayanagara reign. Entrance of the mandapa is on west while the original cave faces north. There are four pillars inside this mandapa which resembles Vijayanagara architectural style. A shrine is formed by connecting two rear pillars with an arch. Two idols, Murugan and Ganesha, are placed inside this shrine.

The rock cut cave shrine is consisted of a mandapa (pillared hall) facing north. In its eastern wall, a cubical shrine has been carved out facing west. The southern wall is adorned with a saptamatrika frieze while the western wall is adorned with three panels representing various deities. In middle of the hall an image of Nandi is placed on a platform facing the shrine.

The front façade of the cave is supported on two pillars and two pilasters resulting in a three bays arrangement. The pillars are done in typical Mahendra style with cubical top and bottom with an octagonal shaft in between. Both, pillars and pilasters, are carved in same design. Corbel is in angular profile. There is a portion of overhanging rock above the corbel and beam, which is left unfinished.

A shrine is carved in the eastern wall of this cave. Adhisthana (platform) is raised about 2.5 feet above the ground level and can be reached with a flight of four steps in which last one is in form of a chandrasila (moonstone). The shrine measures about 10 feet from east to west and 11 feet from north to south. This shrine has a cubical sanctum of 7 feet side. Front façade of it is supported on four pilasters, middle two forming the entrance and extreme two forming two niches on either side of the entrance. Dvarpalas (door guardians) are carved in these two niches. There is a Shivalinga inside the sanctum. This linga has been carved out of the mother rock representing Swayambu characteristic of the icon.

Dvarapala on left niche is a representation of Trisula (trident), a weapon of Shiva. Protruding prongs of the Trisula can be seen coming out from the side and top of the crown. Prong of left side is very clear however the one on right side is almost eroded. Dvarapala of the right niche should be the representation of parasu (axe), another weapon of Shiva. However this feature is not very clear in this figure.

Both the dvarapalas are standing in similar posture. One hand of theirs is supported on the handle of their clubs. One hand of the left side dvarpalas is in tarjani mudra (one finger pointing upwards) while one hand of right side dvarapala is raised upwards in vismaya mudra (astonishing posture). There is snake seen above the shoulders on both the dvarpalas. Both are carved in front profile however left one is slightly turned towards the shrine.

Southern back wall of this cave has a Saptamatrika panel carved in. This particular frieze is very important for iconography study as this is probably the oldest such rock carving in South India. All the matrikas are shown with their respective flags which are not usually seen in other such panels. The panel starts with Veerbhadra on the eastern end and ends with Ganesha on the western end. In between Veerbhadra and Ganesha, seven goddesses are placed.

All except Veerbhadra are seated in sukhasana with one leg folded and placed on the seat while one leg hanging and resting on the ground. Veerbhadra is seated with both legs placed on the seat and joined with a yogapatta. He is depicted with four hands however the image is so worn out that it is not easy to recognize what he carries in the upper two hands. Lower two hands are rested on his thighs. He is followed by Brahmi who is depicted with her hamsa (swan) flag. She is shown with three heads and four hands. Her two upper hands are no more visible except the traces as the image is very much worn out. Next to her is placed Maheshwari with her Nandi flag. Her two upper hands are also no more visible. She is holding a parasu in one of her upper hand as seen from left tracings of the carving. Next to her is sitting Kumari.
There is a peacock flag placed behind here. She is holding akshamala in one of her upper hand. The object held in another hand is not very clear however it could be Vajra or Shakti in most probability. Next to her is Vaishnavi holding a chakra and shankha in her two upper hands. Garuda flag is shown behind her. Next to her is Varahi who is shown with her boar flag. She is holding a shankha and chakra in her two upper hands. Next is Indrani who is shown with her elephant flag placed behind her. She should be holding ankusha (elephant goad) in one of her upper hand and akshamala in another hand.
Next to her is Chamundi who is shown with her owl flag. She is holding a dagger in one of her upper hand while other upper hand is invismaya mudra. In the end of the frieze is placed Ganesha. He is holding his broken tusk in one of his hand and leaves (sugarcane probably) in his other hand. One lower hand has a modaka (Indian sweet) while other lower hand is placed on his left thigh.
Start of Ganesha worship in Tamilnadu is a matter of dispute. Some scholars have suggested that this icon came from the Chalukyas to the Pallavas as there is a Ganesha image in Badami caves which are the earliest caves of this region. In the image of Badami cave Ganesha is depicted in two hands with his trunk turned to left. Ganesha depicted with two hands is considered an earlier one in comparison to depiction with four hands. There is no Ganesha image in any of the rock-cut shrine of the Pallavas except in Ramanuja Mandapa where he is shown with other ganas.
In later structural temples of the Pallavas such as Kailasanatha Temple at Kanchipuram Ganesha image appears in niches.
Another set of scholars are of the opinion that Ganesha icon did not come from outside to Tamilnadu. A cave temple dedicated to Ganesha at Pillayarpatti has been dated to fifth century by some scholars. This cave temple has an image of Ganesha which is depicted with two hands and truck turned to his right in contrast to the Badami icon. Presence of this cave temple in Pandya region attests to the theory that Pandyas were already into rock cut shrines before the Pallavas.
Whole of the west wall is adorned with panels of different deities. There are three different icon carved in life size portraits. South most icons represent Subramanya standing in sambhaga. He is carrying akshamala and Vajra in his two upper hands. Left upper hand is placed on his waist and another lower hand is in abhaya mudra. He is wearing a channa vira across his body which depicts his warrior characteristic. Along with other regular ornaments he is wearing karanda makuta which are another characteristic of Skanda iconography.
Skanda or Subramanya is an old icon in Tamilnadu. It is seen in many of the Pallava caves. This icon assumed a special place in the cult of Somaskanda which was started by the Pallava king Parameshvaravarman (670 – 690 CE). This icon is found in Dharmaraja RathaArjuna Ratha and Trimurti Cave Temple all in Mahabalipuram.
Next to Skanda is a panel depicting Harihara. Harihara is a composite form of Hari (Vishnu) and Hara (Shiva) in which right side reflects the characteristics of Shiva and left side that of Vishnu. He is standing in sambhaga posture. Left upper hand is carrying some unidentified object (deer/tanka) and lower left arm is in abhaya mudra. Left part of the headdress shows a crescent moon with jatabhara.
Right upper hand carries a shankha while lower right arm is rested on the waist. There is kirita makuta on right side of the headdress. The lower garment on left side is worn above the knees while that of right side goes down till ankles. There are two devotees on either side. Both the devotees are holding a flower in one of their hands. There are two flying figures on either side of Harihara. These can be identified with Surya and Chandra as both of the figures have a halo behind their head.
Harihara is seen in the Pallava monuments as well such as in Adi Varaha cave temple and Dharmaraja Ratha both in Mahabalipuram. In the former he is shown standing with two devotees but in later one he is depicted standing alone. In Malayadippatti he is shown with devotees and two flying Devas. As per iconography style, this icon seems to be an evolved form from the above two mentioned Pallava examples. There are only two instances of this icon in the Pandya monuments, one here and another at Vittuvankoil where he is shown seated instead of standing.
Next panel depicts Durga as Mahishasuramardhini. Her mount, lion, is shown on her right side just adjacent to Harihara image. It is shown in rampant posture with open mouth. Durga is standing on a lotus pedestal with one straight leg and another bent at the knee. She is depicted with eight hands carrying various objects. Front two hands carry a Trisula (trident) which is pointed to a figure shown on left side of the goddess. This figure could be the buffalo demon, Mahishasura. As the image is very much worn out so the objects carries in other hands of the goddess are not clear. There are two devotees seated on the ground on either side.
Durga as Mahishasuramardhini is a very old and revered icon which is given importance in all the dynasties since the Guptas. Udayagiri cave near Vidisha is a fine example of the Gupta icon of Mahishasuramardhini. First example of this icon in South India comes from Badami caves of the Chalukyas. Later the Pallavas gave special attention to this goddess and there are many instances found in their monuments. Mahishasuramardhini caveAdi-varaha caveVaraha caveTrimurti cave all in Mahabalipuram depicts this goddess. Durga Panel in Singavaram is another such Pallava example.
The foundation inscription of this cave was engraved in the sixteenth year of the reign of the Pallava king Dantivarman (796-847 CE). This assigns the excavation of this cave to 812 CE. The inscription is as given below:
“Svasti Sri Ko Visaya Dantiparmarkk(k)ku yandu padinaravadu  Videlvidugu Muttaraiyanakiya Kuvavan Cattanen Tiruvalattur malai taliyaga kudaindu Bhatararai pradistai seydu itta(ta)liyai Kil-Sengali-nattu natta-nattarkku seyda”
Abstract – Mentions that Videlvidugu Muttaraiyan alias Kuvavan Cattan scooped the Tiruvalathur hill into a temple and consecrated the god Bhatarar in it. It mentions the region Kil Sengali-nadu.

There are many other inscriptions found in this cave. Some of those have been mentioned in the introduction of this cave.